David Zaharakis could line up in Essendon's round one clash with Adelaide having only one NAB Cup hit-out under his belt as he recovers from a quad strain.
The star Bomber, who won the club's best and fairest in 2011, suffered the setback at the end of January, having missed 10 weeks last year with a severe quadriceps tendon injury.
This strain wasn't as serious, and Zaharakis trained away from his teammates on Friday at Wangaratta Showgrounds as the club prepared for its clash with Richmond on Saturday night.
Coach James Hird said one game – probably against Greater Western Sydney next week – should be enough for the explosive midfielder before the Crows' meeting on March 22 at AAMI Stadium.
"David's a very talented player. He's obviously got to play to a standard, he can't come in and not get near the footy," Hird said.
"But I think David's at the standard that if he puts in enough work between now and round one, he's definitely in line for selection. But no one gets a gold pass. David has to actually prove his fitness and play some good footy too."
With the Bombers unlikely to appear in the NAB Cup Grand Final, the club has organised a VFL practice match between Essendon's reserves and Bendigo Gold a week out from the Adelaide encounter.
Hird said players who need extra conditioning could play in that game if permitted by the AFL.
"I imagine anyone who hasn't got the work in through injury will be allowed to play in that," he said.
The Bombers will also be part of a VFL practice match this Saturday against Geelong, where young forward Joe Daniher is likely to play.
Despite expectations he would make his Essendon debut against the Tigers this weekend, Daniher was not picked in the 27-man squad with Hird suggesting the senior players took precedence.
"Joe played very well in our intra-club last week. We just think there's a number of players who need some game time. Paddy Ryder needs some game time, and we'd hopefully look to play Joe in the next few weeks," Hird said.
"But I think at the moment we need to play our senior players.
"If Joe's ready he'll definitely play [this year], and he's showing some signs that he will be ready. He's only a young man and we have to look after him but if we see he's ready to play, we'll play him."
Captain Jobe Watson will take on the Tigers after recovering from a slight medial ligament strain in his right knee.