Nose tackle Pickett doubtful vs. Bears
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers' late-season ascension to No. 1 in the NFL for defense has featured a secondary that thrives on interceptions and a young, deep linebacker corps that applies a lot of pressure.
Yet, the unsung group of the unit, which has also been stout in stopping the run, is perhaps the defensive line.
"You need those big guys," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. "You can't ever have enough of 'em."
Having enough of those wide-bodied defensive linemen to get through practice this week proved to be a challenge: The Packers' top four linemen are on the injury report, potentially leaving the defense short-handed going into Sunday's game at Chicago.
Coach Mike McCarthy was optimistic that the Packers will have most, if not all, of the players available for the rival Bears.
"I think it's starting to clear itself up," McCarthy said. "We feel good about giving these guys a chance to come all of the way back in the next 48 hours."
The team's biggest concern is with nose tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring), who didn't practice this week and is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
"I know, that's what I get for chasing the quarterback," Pickett said. "I know I should just end up playing the run."
The 30-year-old Pickett has missed only two games since 2002, and he is hopeful of playing Sunday. If he can't, the Packers have been preparing Raji to make what would be his first pro start.
Raji was Green Bay's top draft pick this year, selected No. 9 in the first round. Although Raji is Pickett's backup, the rookie has been playing more at end.
"If we're in a situation where [Pickett] can't go, I feel confident [Raji] can step in and play, and play well," Capers said.
Raji missed the first two weeks of training camp because of a contract issue. Then, he suffered an ankle injury in the final preseason game and missed the first two games of the season.
"Now, it feels like normal. This is what I'm used to," Raji said. "I feel like I'm into a routine now."
The Packers don't have another backup at nose tackle, though converted tackle Jolly could handle that role or Green Bay could consider promoting nose tackle Anthony Toribio from the practice squad.
Jolly is confident he will play Sunday after he tweaked his left knee in the previous game.
"This has been an interesting week because our big guys have all been somewhat limited," Capers said. "But, we've worked our way through it pretty well, I think. I'd be interested between now and when we play where our health will be."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press