Bye helps Packers DBs Harris, Bigby get healthy

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is feeling better, too, after gutting out three straight games with a sprained right shoulder.

The combination of momentum and renewed health could add up to a potential second-half surge by the Packers, who managed to emerge from a rough stretch of injuries with a 4-3 record and tied with Chicago for the NFC North lead.

While the thrill of running two Manning interceptions back for touchdowns may have faded during the week off, Packers coach Mike McCarthy doesn't mind the potential loss of momentum if it means he'll have two defensive starters back healthy -- especially with the Packers playing at Tennessee on Sunday.

"I think anytime you get into a rhythm, you get into where you're playing well, you just want to keep going," McCarthy said. "Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off against Indianapolis. But like I said last week standing here, I thought this was a very good time for a bye week for us. Because we needed to get healthy, and it looks like we've achieved that on most fronts."

Harris and Bigby both were on the field during the portion of practice that was open to the media Monday. Should they be able to return from their extended absences Sunday, defensive lineman Aaron Kampman expects a big boost that will help the Packers wipe an earlier three-game losing streak from their minds.

"Obviously I think every team in the league has to deal with injuries," Kampman said. "How you weather that, in a lot of ways, factors into the success of your season. Now, we obviously had a little skid there. Didn't handle it the way we would have liked to. There's a number of variables for that. But that's in the past. We've got a two-game winning streak here, and we want to make it three."

Harris, coming off his first Pro Bowl last season, injured his spleen in the Packers' Sept. 21 loss to Dallas. Initially, there was concern that he might be out for the season -- but now it looks like he might play this week.

McCarthy said it was possible that Harris would be eased back into action by playing as a reserve on Sunday, but said that wouldn't be determined until coaches have had a chance to watch him practice this week.

Bigby's hamstring injury has been overshadowed by Harris' absence, but the safety's big-hitting presence was an underrated part of the Packers' success last season. Bigby has missed five games because of the injury.

And the secondary isn't the only part of the team that needed a week off to get healthy.

Rodgers has played three games with a sprained right shoulder -- and played well, despite getting very few repetitions in practice.

McCarthy said Monday that Rodgers might now be healthy enough to throw during two days of practice this week, something he hasn't done much of for the past month.

"If I could get him to throw two days, I think that would be probably best," McCarthy said. "But I'm going to let (team doctor Pat) McKenzie drive that car. We just have to be smart. But definitely the time off really helped Aaron."

Beyond that, wide receiver James Jones (knee) practiced Monday after missing three of the past four games. And defensive lineman Justin Harrell could be active this week after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list because of a back injury.

Harrell stayed in Green Bay over the bye to continue working on his strength, but said he didn't really need more time to heal. He's ready to go now.

"I was pretty much pain-free," Harrell said. "A couple days after the first practices, just working the soreness (out) and stuff, but by the weekend I was good."

But the Packers' team doctors weren't the only medical staff staying busy during the Packers' bye week.

There also was a roster addition to the McCarthy family: daughter Gabrielle Kathleen, who was born to the coach and his and wife, Jessica, last Wednesday.

McCarthy, who has a close relationship with his 17-year-old daughter from his previous marriage, said he's sleeping "periodically" but doesn't expect the new addition to affect his coaching.

"The birth of a child, it's unbelievable," McCarthy said. "I can't say enough about the experience. It's been a long time since the birth of my daughter Alex, and just to go through it again -- you talk about toughness of your football team, there's nothing that compares to what Jessica and what women go through to have a child. It was just a remarkable miracle and I enjoyed every second of it."

Given the relative lack of sleep, might the coach have to guard against being too grumpy during team meetings?

"I don't think it hurts to be grumpy as the head coach," McCarthy joked.

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