Packers' top four D-linemen on the mend entering game vs. Bears

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers' late-season ascension to the NFL's No. 1 defensive ranking has featured a secondary that thrives on interceptions and a young, deep linebacker corps that applies a lot of pressure.

Yet the unsung group of the unit, which also has been stout in stopping the run, is perhaps the defensive line.

"You need those big guys," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. "You can't ever have enough of 'em."

Having enough of those wide-bodied defensive linemen to get through practice this week proved to be a challenge: The Packers' top four linemen are on the injury report, potentially leaving the defense short-handed going into Sunday's game at Chicago.

Coach Mike McCarthy was optimistic that the Packers will have most, if not all, of the players available against the NFC North rival Bears.

"I think it's starting to clear itself up," McCarthy said. "We feel good about giving these guys a chance to come all of the way back in the next 48 hours."

Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (hamstring) and rookie tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) are probable for the game. End Johnny Jolly (knee) is questionable.

The Packers' biggest concern is with nose tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring), who didn't practice this week and is listed as doubtful.

Pickett, the veteran run stuffer of the defense, pulled his hamstring while he chased Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco late in the Packers' 27-14 victory Monday night.

"I know, that's what I get for chasing the quarterback," Pickett said. "I know I should just end up playing the run."

Pickett has missed just two games since 2002, and he's hopeful of playing Sunday. If he can't, the Packers have been preparing Raji to make what would be his first pro start.

Raji was Green Bay's top draft pick this year, selected No. 9 in the first round. Although Raji is Pickett's backup, the rookie has been playing more at end.

"If we're in a situation where (Pickett) can't go, I feel confident (Raji) can step in and play, and play well," Capers said.

Raji missed the first two weeks of training camp because of a contract issue. Then he suffered an ankle injury during the preseason finale and missed the first two games of the season.

"Now it feels like normal. This is what I'm used to," Raji said. "I feel like I'm into a routine now."

The Packers don't have another backup at nose tackle, although converted tackle Jolly could handle that role or Green Bay could consider promoting nose tackle Anthony Toribio from the practice squad.

Jolly is confident that he will play Sunday after he tweaked his left knee in the previous game.

"This has been an interesting week because our big guys have all been somewhat limited," Capers said. "But we've worked our way through it pretty well, I think. I'd be interested between now and when we play where our health will be."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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