GREEN BAY - Over
the past four seasons, the Green Bay Packers have intercepted 103
passes - 17 more than any team in the league.
This season, the
Packers have just three. Only the Jets have fewer with two.
So, the anticipated
return of cornerback Casey Hayward, who missed the first six games
of the season with an injured hamstring, could add a much-needed
playmaker to a defense that's allowed just 39 points during a
three-game winning streak.
has excellent ball skills," said coach Mike McCarthy, who
listed Hayward as probable for Sunday night's game at NFC North
rival Minnesota. "When it comes to route recognition, jumping
routes and things like that, for a young player, he does it very
well. We do need a spark."
It's been a
frustrating season for Hayward, who was selected to the NFL's
All-Rookie team last season after leading all first-year players
with six interceptions, good for fifth overall. Hayward was out at
the start of training camp with a hamstring he injured during
offseason training. He came back briefly in training camp, only to
aggravate the injury during the Aug. 23 preseason game against
This time, the
Packers have brought Hayward along slowly. Last week, he was limited
at all three practices and was an inactive against Cleveland. This
week, Hayward was a full participant for three days of practice.
"Last time, I
felt good coming back and I came back as soon as I felt good,"
Hayward said. "This time, I've been feeling good for a couple
weeks. Hopefully this time, we hit it on the head and we don't have
decisions hadn't been made, it's likely the team will maintain its
cautious approach and limit Hayward's minutes Sunday in Minnesota.
anxious to see him get back in there," defensive coordinator
Dom Capers said. "He's had a good week of practice. It's been a
long time since he's been out there so it'll be a gradual
progression with Casey. But it's nice to have him back because he
brings ball skills and the ability to make plays."
ability has been missed. He picked off a pass in his one and only
preseason game. In his absence, Davon House and Sam Shields have the
secondary's only interceptions through the first six games.
"I hope I can
hit the ground rolling," Hayward said. 'Whenever I get my
opportunity to get out there, hopefully I can go out there and make
plays and be an impact player for this defense."
The Packers got
more good news on Friday with outside linebacker Nick Perry
returning to practice. He had been out since injuring a foot on a
sack just before halftime of the Baltimore game. Perry, who is
listed as questionable, would bolster a unit that got by with just
Mike Neal and rookies Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba against the
Among other key
players, receiver James Jones (knee) is doubtful after not
practicing all week, and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb)
and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) are out. Finley was released
from a local hospital on Thursday and was at the stadium on Friday
good," McCarthy said. "Looked like a dang movie star
walking in there with sunglasses. It was good to see him. Big smile
on his face. It's great to have him back in the building. My
understanding is they will continue to do more tests. That
information is being sent to the specialist and then we'll have to
make a decision."