GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Help is on the way for the Packers' banged-up defense, and it can't come soon enough.
"They can't do any more than they've done from a rehab standpoint," McCarthy said Monday. "So it's time to cut those guys loose. I know they're excited about it, and we're excited to get them on the practice field."
Beyond that, McCarthy said outside linebacker Brady Poppinga will have arthroscopic knee surgery, and no timeline has been established for his return.
"We're getting hopefully two studs back this week on defense, three if you count Clay," Rodgers said. "We need those guys back. We need to be at full force. No excuses, obviously."
And while McCarthy has received positive medical reports about Harris, Bigby and Starks -- a sixth-round draft pick who hurt his hamstring in offseason workouts and didn't play during his senior season in college because of a shoulder injury -- he needs to see them in practice.
"When you're the head coach and you talk to players about injuries, they're always fine," McCarthy said. "They're always playing this week, and they're always good. And you appreciate that. But we'll find out about those guys Wednesday."
Bigby's hard hits and big plays energized Green Bay's defense during the 2007 season, but he has struggled with injuries since then. He skipped offseason workouts, hoping for a long-term contract, but showed up for training camp on time, only to aggravate a left ankle injury. He needed surgery.
It will be Smith's second stint in Green Bay. The Packers signed him as a free agent in 2009, but cut him before the start of the season -- a move that veteran cornerback Charles Woodson publicly criticized at the time.
"Anthony has a history with us, has played in this defense, and we think he is a good fit," McCarthy said. "It will be great to have him back."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press