GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was the same, frustrating drill for Packers tight end Jermichael Finley every day last week: A member of the team's medical staff would fiddle with his knee a little bit, then shake his head in disapproval.
He wasn't going to practice.
It felt even worse, Finley said, during warmups for last Sunday's critical game against the Dallas Cowboys. His team needed him, and he wasn't on the field.
"I was pretty (upset)," Finley said Wednesday. "I wanted to grab one of the helmets and put it on and get out there and go to work."
He'll likely have that chance this weekend -- as, it appears, will outside linebacker Aaron Kampman and right tackle Mark Tauscher. Already riding momentum after their biggest win of the season, the Packers suddenly are getting healthy.
Finley, Kampman and Tauscher all participated in the portion of practice open to reporters Wednesday as the Packers began to prepare for Sunday's home game against the San Francisco 49ers. All three key players missed practice last week and Sunday's 17-7 victory over the Cowboys.
In their absence, the Packers leaned heavily on unheralded young backups -- and it paid off.
Rookie tackle T.J. Lang and rookie linebacker Brad Jones started and played well. Former practice-squad member Spencer Havner continued to thrive, scoring his fourth touchdown of the season after switching from linebacker to tight end in training camp.
And while the Packers likely will try to find ways to give Jones, Havner and Lang more playing time after their impressive efforts coming off the bench, the return of three starters represents a boost this week.
Finley sprained his knee during Green Bay's Oct. 25 victory at Cleveland and has missed three consecutive games.
While Havner has been one of the season's most pleasant surprises, Finley's combination of tight end size and receiver-like speed and playmaking ability can cause matchup problems for defenses.
"Jermichael Finley definitely helps," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Anytime you have a player, whether it is a tight end, a receiver, a big back, that has the ability to win (matchups) down the middle of the field, it creates so many more positives for your whole perimeter group. So definitely, Jermichael Finley fits into that category."
Finley said he felt good after Wednesday's practice, if a little fatigued.
"That's normal," he said. "Getting a little more rust off, scraping it off day by day. So I've just got to go out there and shine."
Kampman sustained a concussion during the Packers' Nov. 8 loss at Tampa Bay. He missed practice last week and didn't play Sunday. Kampman didn't take reporters' questions Wednesday, but McCarthy said he liked what he saw from the linebacker in practice.
"I feel good about where Aaron is medically, and he looked like he moved around fine today," McCarthy said. "I'll know more once we see the tape. But yeah, I thought he bounced back like you knew he would, and he looked like his normal self out there today."
Tauscher, who re-signed with the Packers last month after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament last December and spending months out of football, started in the Nov. 8 loss at Tampa Bay but reinjured the same knee.
And while Tauscher said the injury was "pretty minor," he did admit that hurting the same knee was a little unsettling.
"Obviously, I'd rather not have it happen at all," Tauscher said. "That's kind of the price of doing business. You have to realize that every time you step out on the field, something can happen. And obviously with the history that I have, it was another kind of a fluke hit, but I feel fortunate that it was pretty minor."
Still, it was a setback for Tauscher, whose return to the Packers came after months of hard work rehabilitating the injury.
"Yeah, it was unfortunate because it's been a long road back and I was really feeling good," Tauscher said. "But that's part of the game. You have to be able to deal with it."
Notes: The Packers do have a handful of players with nagging injuries, including DL Cullen Jenkins (ankle) and LBs Brady Poppinga (quadriceps) and Desmond Bishop (ankle). McCarthy said all three had a chance of practicing Thursday. ... CB Charles Woodson was named the NFC defensive player of the week after he had an interception and two forced fumbles Sunday. ... The Packers released WR Jake Allen, opening up a spot on their 53-man roster. The Browns later claimed Allen off waivers.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press