The Green Bay Packers had a trio of starters return to practice Wednesday, though it's uncertain how many will be ready in time for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
Safety Morgan Burnett (calf), receiver Davante Adams (ankle) and right guard T.J. Lang (knee) all practiced Wednesday in a limited capacity. Rookie inside linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring) also returned to practice on a limited basis after missing the last two games.
Lang, who left Sunday's game against St. Louis with a knee sprain, practiced with a brace on his right knee Wednesday. He was able to participate in the only team period the Packers conducted, which lasted about seven plays. Lang said his current ailment pales in comparison to the elbow injury he played through during the 2012 season.
“I tend to play through some small things,” Lang said. “Major injuries, to me, require surgery. Anything else is, in my mind, not too major. So I always do my best to try to be available as long as I can play through those minor injuries. The knee is feeling better than it did (Tuesday), so that’s a good sign — didn’t have any setbacks in practice. I feel like I’m on a pretty good pace to get out there Sunday.”
Burnett and Adams seem less certain. Burnett has missed four of the first five games. Adams took part in only individual drills after missing the last two. He aggravated his sprained ankle on the third offensive play against Kansas City last month. After trying to play without wrapping the ankle, Adams practiced with tape on his left ankle Wednesday for precautionary reasons.
The Packers’ passing offense, ranked 20th in the NFL right now, has struggled without the second-year receiver.
“I’m just hungry to get out there and play again,” Adams said. “It hasn’t been that long but it feels like a lifetime when you’re standing on the sideline watching your team go at it. Obviously, I want to be back in there, but I just have to take care of myself and being a team player at the same time.”
With safety Sean Richardson (neck) being placed on season-ending injured reserve, defensive tackle B.J. Raji (groin) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) were the only two players on the Packers’ 53-man roster who did not practice Wednesday.
Coach Mike McCarthy said before practice that several players would participate in the team’s “pre-practice” portion, and adjustments would be made. McCarthy also said Perry was the furthest from returning to the field.
Perry fell awkwardly on his left arm after a block from Rams left tackle Greg Robinson with 9 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second quarter, causing the shoulder to jam. He played one more series before leaving and not returning.
Perry no longer was wearing a sling in the locker room Wednesday, but isn’t expected to play against the Chargers. He was off to the best start of his career with 11 tackles and 3½ sacks. Jayrone Elliott and Andy Mulumba likely will see a boost in their reps with Perry sidelined.
“You hate to see it, especially with as well as Nick has been playing and the rotation we’ve had in keeping guys fresh off the edge in pass-rush situations,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “It’s definitely not going to go unnoticed but it’s going to require some of those other guys — Andy, Jayrone — to step their game up and probably get a few more reps and be ready when their name’s called.”
The Packers could be tempted to shut down players this week with the team’s bye looming after Sunday, but McCarthy said that won’t be a factor into any playing-time decisions.
“My philosophy is that if they're healthy, they play,” McCarthy said. “If they're not healthy, then they shouldn't play. How do you define health? I'm not going to get into that. It's an NFL season. After the first game everybody has been through how many car wrecks? What these guys do for a living is so unique. So no one is 100 percent, and won't be for some time. That's not the goal. But if you're healthy enough, they play. That's always been our status.”
Tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and cornerback LaDarius Gunter (heel) were all full participants.