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Packers injuries: Sam Shields and B.J. Raji remain in concussion protocol, offensive tackles still ailing

The Packers could face the Vikings without a cavalcade of their most important players.

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The Green Bay Packers hope to see their injured players return for Sunday's NFC North-deciding tilt with the Minnesota Vikings. However, according to Mike McCarthy, the team's top cornerback and nose tackle remain in the concussion protocol, and the starting offensive tackles look like shaky propositions to play.

During his media availability Thursday, McCarthy said both Shields and Bulaga had made progress towards a return. Shields suffered a concussion during the first half of the Packers' Week 14 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys and has not practiced since. McCarthy claimed the corner had entered " the back end" of the protocol, suggesting a return could occur soon. As for Raji, who absorbed a blow from a teammate during last Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, a return appears less likely before the season finale.

McCarthy admitted that the offensive line hasn't handled the rash of injuries well enough.

"Without getting into specifics or anything, just some things that we were trying to get done, supposed to get done, we did not," McCarthy said. "It's definitely something we'll learn from."

After expressing optimism that starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga could suit up against the Vikings, McCarthy sounded less sure Thursday. In both cases, the coach acknowledged that their playing status wouldn't become clear until the end of the week.

Still, the Green Bay coach called the unit "the most flexible group we've had in my time here," adding, "it's definitely the deepest offensive line group." The line has certainly been pushed to its limits, with Don Barclay starting at left tackle a week ago for an injured Bakhtiari and both Josh Walker and JC Tretter splitting time at right tackle in place of a hobbled Bulaga.

Jason B. Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He also serves as an NFL writer for SB Nation and Sports on Earth and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.