GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -Ryan Pickett got to skip training camp and the preseason because of a nagging hamstring injury, though the Green Bay Packers didn't exactly allow him to live a country club lifestyle during his recovery.
When the big run-stuffing defensive tackle did emerge from the Packers' indoor practice facility to watch his teammates go through drills during camp, his jersey often was soaked through with sweat - a sign that his coaches weren't taking it easy on him.
Pickett said he would rather have been practicing.
``It was SO boring,'' Pickett said. ``It was the worst. They had me locked up in the (facility) and had me running the whole time. I would come out - I'd run half the practice, basically, and do all the kind of training and stuff and just get my leg right. They made sure they conditioned me pretty good, so I'm in better shape than I've probably been in in a long time.''
Pickett returned to practice this week, pronouncing himself ready to reclaim his starting role in the season opener against Minnesota on Monday night. And the Packers will be leaning heavily on Pickett, one of only three healthy defensive tackles on their roster.
Pickett - who is listed at 330 pounds - even has surprised himself with his level of conditioning in practice this week.
``It's holding up, man,'' Pickett said. ``It's surprising. I thought I'd go out there about to die. I've been doing pretty good as far as my wind is concerned and stuff like that. I did a lot of cardio and stuff in the past month, running, so I'm in real good shape.''
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Pickett is ready to go Monday, but he doesn't know how much work he'll be able to handle.
``Ryan Pickett, I think, is definitely ready to play,'' McCarthy said. ``His feedback after (Monday's) practice was very positive, so he'll definitely be in there on first and second down, and we'll see how much more he can handle.''
That wouldn't have been much of a problem early last season, when defensive tackle was the Packers' deepest position - allowing them to rotate in fresh players and wear down opposing offensive lines.
But Green Bay traded Corey Williams to Cleveland in the offseason and has lost last year's first-round draft pick, Justin Harrell, to a back injury for at least the first six weeks.
But even with far less depth at the position, Pickett said he and fellow defensive tackles Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly - who still could face a league suspension after a drug arrest in July - will give the Packers everything they need.
``I think we still have three good d-tackles,'' Pickett said. ``As far as rotation, I think a lot of us would rather have it this way because we have more plays to play. I think it's set up perfect for us. We can roll in, roll out, we don't have any problem with it. Of course, we're going to miss a guy like Corey, and we wish Justin was healthy. But other than that, we feel pretty good about what we can do.''
If not, the Packers also have the option of moving Cullen Jenkins from end to tackle - something they already do in third-down pass rush situations.
``We do have the flexibility with that group to rotate guys in,'' McCarthy said. ``Moving the defensive ends inside in certain situations definitely helped us, so it's just how we rotate them in. How many snaps they get, that will be to be determined.''
Pickett has been sore after practice this week - not from his injury, but from going back to banging into other big guys, something he hasn't really done since January.
``Hitting people, I've got to get used to it, get my body back in it,'' Pickett said. ``It's great that we've got this long week. I feel much better today than I did yesterday.''
With Pickett on the sidelines, the Packers' defense has looked surprisingly vulnerable to long running plays in the preseason. But Pickett said it will take more than his return to stop the run - especially against Vikings standout Adrian Peterson.
``That's a big game to start off, huh? He's impressive,'' Pickett said. ``We played him a couple times last year, seen him before. We'll be ready for him.''
And even trying to chase down Peterson beats spending an entire training camp running.
``I don't ever want to go inside that center ever again,'' Pickett said. ``It feels good to be out there practicing with the guys and stuff like that. I'm happy. I've got soreness - so it finally feels like I'm doing something.''

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