CARLTON star Patrick Cripps is firming to be available for the opening round of the season after making progress in his recovery from a serious back injury.
The Blues are hopeful that Cripps, who was laid low by a stress reaction in his back in November, will be fit to take on Richmond in round one on March 23.
However, Carlton football manager Andrew McKay said the club would have to wait and see whether ruckman Andrew Phillips can recover from a stress reaction in his foot in time to make the start of the premiership season.
"Patrick Cripps has been travelling really well actually, he's back running on the grass, which is fantastic," McKay told the club's website.
"He is still in line for round one, so we are very confident he will get to the line and play some good footy [against the Tigers]".
Defender Sam Docherty had been even more confident in December that teammate Cripps wouldn't miss any senior games, telling AFL.com.au, "He'll be fine, I guarantee he'll be ready to go."
The outlook for Phillips, however, is not so rosy.
"He saw a specialist [Tuesday] and the specialist was indicating there will be an eight-week return date," McKay said.
"It still keeps him in line for round one, but it will be tight. We are looking forward to getting Andrew back as soon as we can."
Rookie-listed small forward Andrew Gallucci is expected to be training with the squad in March following shoulder surgery.
Irish defender Ciaran Byrne, who ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in July last year, is still looking at a 12-month recovery timeframe.
"Obviously he (Byrne) still has a long way to go,” McKay said.
"He has a lot of rehab to do but he is working really hard and we will see him (in action) before the end of the year, in early July we think."
The Blues open their JLT Community Series campaign against Melbourne at Casey Fields on February 25.