GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team was close to signing first-round draft pick B.J. Raji on Thursday night, potentially ending a contract holdout that has lasted nearly two weeks.
The Packers took the former Boston College defensive tackle with the No. 9 overall pick in April, but he has been without a deal since the team reported to training camp July 31.
"I know we're close," McCarthy said after practice Thursday night. "That's what I was told before I came to practice."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on its Web site Thursday that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle on contract terms. It can't come soon enough for McCarthy.
"I'd love to see him," the coach said of Raji. "I hope, I hope, I hope."
At 6-foot-2 and 337 pounds, Raji has a rare combination of size, power and quickness. He and fellow Packers first-round pick Clay Matthews III are expected to become cornerstones of the 3-4 defense being installed by new defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
Raji is considered a natural nose tackle, but he also could play end in Capers' defense.
McCarthy said he wasn't sure how quickly the Packers would work Raji into the defensive rotation once he reports to camp. McCarthy isn't even sure what kind of shape Raji is in at this point, likely ruling out an appearance by the rookie in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
"Obviously, it'll be an adjusted plan," McCarthy said. "Anytime you bring in a player this late, you have to be (really) smart because he's at a whole different level as far as his conditioning, football shape, than his teammates. So that's something we're going to have to evaluate once we get more information based on what kind of shape he's in."
McCarthy acknowledged that it won't be easy for Raji to get in shape with a month remaining before the Sept. 13 season opener against the NFC North rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
"We've obviously had a lot of padded practices," McCarthy said. "That's something we can't make up. So we've got to make sure we're putting him in position where he can achieve that frame that's needed to play in a competitive environment."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press