EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have been one of the healthiest teams in the NFL this season, suffering only two key injuries all year — to receiver Percy Harvin and cornerback Chris Cook, who has returned the past two weeks.
The Green Bay Packers would be highly envious of such good fortune. Each week, Green Bay has dealt with several injuries, often to key players. The Packers are getting healthier for the third meeting between the two teams this season and are expected to have veteran defensive leaders Charles Woodson and leading receiver Randall Cobb back in the lineup for Saturday night’s playoff rematch.
Woodson, who has practiced the past few weeks but was still inactive, has been cleared to return for Saturday’s game. The eight-time Pro Bowl selection missed the season’s final nine games after breaking his collarbone Oct. 21.
“I have no doubts,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday a conference call with Minnesota reporters. “He practiced today, and if you’ve been following us, he’s been practicing the last four weeks. It’s just a matter of the doctors giving him the clearance to play, and he’s been cleared.”
Woodson was originally expected to miss only six weeks, but the team’s medical staff had not cleared him to return to game action. The three-time, first-team All-Pro had 44 tackles and an interception while starting at safety in the season’s first seven games. Last year, Woodson got to Vikings then-rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, intercepting him twice in one game.
The Packers have missed one of their defensive leaders. Last week, Ponder finished with the highest single-game quarterback rating (120.2) of his career in Minnesota’s home win against Green Bay, going 16 of 28 passing for 234 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Woodson’s return will add another dimension for the defense and for Ponder to think about.
“Charles has always played three, even the one time four positions in our defense,” McCarthy said. “So just to have the flexibility with him. Also put that with the creativity with (defensive coordinator) Dom Capers and our scheme, it’s definitely something that gives us another weapon out there.”
Cobb, who leads Green Bay with 80 catches and 954 yards, missed last week’s game in Minnesota because of knee and ankle injuries. He returned to practice Tuesday, but the Packers held out receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson injured his knee in Sunday’s game but later returned.
McCarthy was unwilling to discuss the status of Cobb or Nelson. Minnesota and Green Bay weren’t required by the NFL to file injury reports Tuesday and will follow the normal weekly protocol with a report on Wednesday.
“Randall practiced today and he looked good,” McCarthy said. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers only said “potentially” Cobb could be back Saturday.
Receiver Jarrett Boykin, running back James Starks and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy didn’t practice Tuesday. Worthy was carted off the field Sunday with an apparent leg injury, but McCarthy has not revealed the extent of the injury.