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Packers' shift at running back: Morency in, Jackson possibly out

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Vernand Morency is eager to make his belated season debut at running back Sunday for the Green Bay Packers.

"I'm just glad that Vernand feels good," coach Mike McCarthy said after practice Friday.

Morency's return from a knee injury that sidelined him for the preseason and first three regular-season games could help the league's worst rushing offense.

The 3-0 Packers also might be without rookie running back Brandon Jackson when they play at division rival Minnesota. Jackson, who has been the starter with Morency sidelined, didn't practice for the second straight day because of a strained shin.

Jackson injured the shin in the Packers' 31-24 victory over San Diego last Sunday and aggravated it early in practice on Wednesday.

"His shin has gotten worse. He feels worse today than he did yesterday, so we rehabbed him today," McCarthy said.

The team listed Jackson as questionable on the Friday injury report.

A potential void could be alleviated by having Morency in uniform on game day for the first time since he suffered a sprained patellar tendon in his right knee on the first day of training camp, July 28.

"Right now, it's looking good," Morency said. "I'm excited just to be around my teammates, and I'm going to go out there and compete. I'm looking forward to it."

McCarthy was encouraged that Morency practiced three straight days without any setbacks.

The third-year back previously couldn't get over what McCarthy called the final hurdle, when he would experience knee soreness a day after going through a practice and subsequently was sidelined for the games.

"It looks like he has his bounce back," McCarthy said. "It was just good to see him out there knocking the rust off. I thought he had a good day today, and he put together three full days of work."

Morency was projected to start in place of Ahman Green, who signed a free-agent deal with Houston in the offseason.

With Morency out, McCarthy went with Jackson, a second-round draft pick, as the opening-day starter.

The Packers have mustered little with Jackson and fellow rookie DeShawn Wynn getting most of the carries, averaging 57 rushing yards per game.

Morency ran for 421 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year after the Packers acquired him in an early season trade with the Texans.

He hasn't been told what his role would be Sunday, but McCarthy said Morency isn't ready to handle a full load. Wynn, Ryan Grant and Morency would split time at halfback if Jackson is out Sunday.

"We don't have a starter at running back. You guys (in the media) ask me this every week," McCarthy said. "We're a running-back-by-committee team, and I foresee us being that way every week."

McCarthy isn't sure whether center Scott Wells will start against the Vikings, whose highly rated defense is anchored by defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

Wells strained a hamstring in practice on Thursday and was limited in Friday's workout. He was added to the injury report Friday and is considered probable for the game.

Jason Spitz, who lost his starting job at right guard to Junius Coston, worked at center Friday.

Receiver Greg Jennings expects to play Sunday, although he didn't practice the last two days to allow more recovery for a sore hamstring. He is listed as probable.

Defensive tackle Justin Harrell was added to the injury report as questionable with a knee he sprained in practice Wednesday. He aggravated the injury Thursday and didn't practice Friday.

Harrell was Green Bay's first-round draft pick this year, but hasn't been activated for a game.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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