The Green Bay Packers will be lighter at the cornerback position on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
The question is how light?
Packers coach Mike McCarthy ruled out Sam Shields after he strained a knee in last Sunday's 27-24 win over Miami, but held out hope for fellow starting cornerback Tramon Williams, who's listed as questionable with a left ankle injury.
Defensive lineman Datone Jones also was ruled out after taking a step back in his recovery from the right ankle injury he sustained two weeks ago against Minnesota.
The Packers projected Williams as a limited participant because the team no longer practices on Fridays, but the true test will come in Saturday's final run-through. The 31-year-old cornerback has played in 117 of a possible 118 regular-season games since making the Packers' opening roster in 2007.
"Tramon Williams, definitely very durable," McCarthy said. "Very impressive athlete in the strength and conditioning, he's always been impressive in there, takes great care of his body. He's a pro. He's an old-school pro. I don't think there's any question when we got back here Monday that he was going to do everything that he could to play in this game."
Shields has yet to play in all 16 regular-season games in his NFL career. He missed two games with a calf injury as a rookie in 2010, one game with a concussion in 2011, six games with an ankle injury in 2012 and two games with a hamstring injury last season.
McCarthy said he didn't know the exact circumstances surrounding the flare-up, but Shields clearly injured it before falling to the ground before the first snap of a late third-quarter series. Fourth-year cornerback Davon House likely will start in his place.
"He pivoted on it," McCarthy said. "Obviously it's a knee strain, so he injured it sometime before and when he pivoted on it, it gave out on him."
Jones' injury is even more perplexing. Although he sat out against the Dolphins, he practiced on the Saturday before the game and took part in Wednesday's practice. On Thursday, though, the 2013 first-round pick was back to being a spectator when the pads went on.
Like Shields, the Packers estimated that Jones wouldn't have practiced Friday.
"I'm a little surprised at the path, but he's struggling laterally right now and until he gets that back, it doesn't make sense to push it forward," McCarthy said. "I thought he fought through last Saturday's practice but he's had a setback."
Inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore (neck) and receiver Jarrett Boykin (groin) were estimated as limited in practice and questionable to play against the Panthers. Inside linebacker Sam Barrington (hamstring) and defensive lineman Josh Boyd (knee) are probable.
Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin practiced for the first time since sustaining a concussion against Cincinnati. He's questionable to play, while running back Jonathan Stewart is expected to start for the first time since injuring a knee in Week 3.
Benjamin, a first-round pick out of Florida State, has 31 catches for 416 yards and four touchdowns in six starts this season. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Benjamin would easily be the biggest receiver the Packers' secondary would face this year if it wasn't for having Detroit's Calvin Johnson (6-5, 236) in the division.
"We play Calvin every year, so he can't be much better than him, can he?" Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt quipped on Thursday. "We go against Calvin. We go against Alshon (Jeffery). We go against big guys twice a year. He's another big guy. He reminds me of Calvin when Calvin first came out early on. … He's a talented player."
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