GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers’ injury report is finally starting to get smaller, but coach Mike McCarthy is still waiting on the return of several key players.
Running back James Starks (turf toe) is one of nine players already ruled out of the Packers’ third preseason game Thursday in Cincinnati against the Bengals.
“James is probably a couple weeks (away from returning),” McCarthy said this week. “It depends on the swelling, and obviously turf toe can be a difficult injury.”
Starks will be joined on the sideline by fellow running backs Brandon Saine (hamstring) and Du’ane Bennett (knee).
“Brandon I’m hopeful (will be ready) for next week, is what I’m told,” McCarthy said regarding Saine’s injury.
Backup offensive tackle Andrew Datko suffered a concussion Sunday and will not be able to play. Also unavailable for the game are linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring), cornerback Davon House (shoulder), offensive lineman Ray Dominguez (ankle), wide receiver Shaky (ankle) Smithson and fullback Jon Hoese (hamstring).
That is in addition to the players on the Physically Unable to Perform list, who are running out of time in training camp to get healthy and pass their physicals before the start of the regular season. That list includes offensive tackle Derek Sherrod (leg), tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (hamstring).
“You have to understand the process,” McCarthy said of the PUP list players returning. “You have a couple different elements. You have a medical staff that by nature is conservative and probably this year more conservative than other years, in my opinion. You have these guys that are trying to get back out there.
“When those two worlds come together, decisions are made. I think all three of those guys will be at the wire. You definitely could project that it will go into the regular season, but they’re all individual cases. I wouldn’t stop one from coming back because I think all three of those guys can compete for a spot on our 53.”
Tight end D.J. Williams suffered an ankle injury in Monday’s practice but may play this week.
Two players who did return from injuries this week are tight end Jermichael Finley (quadriceps) and wide receiver Greg Jennings (concussion), both of whom will likely be available for Thursday’s game.
“I trust them and trust what the position coaches think as far as how they feel going into the game,” McCarthy said. “If we see something during the game then, yes, caution will definitely come to the forefront. But you know I’d like for those guys to go out and play and get a routine.
“It’s not like they’ll play every single play. You’re able to substitute those guys and roll those guys. We won’t just play with two receivers or three receivers with Aaron (Rodgers) or just one tight end with Aaron. They’ll definitely have the benefit of rolling in there.
“It’ll be good for them to get as much work as they can.”