Star Carlton forward Charlie Curnow's long-awaited AFL return won't be this weekend, with coach David Teague saying the Blues are not prepared to rush him back.
Curnow hasn't played a senior match in more than two years after a horror run of right knee problems.
He got through three-quarters of a scratch match unscathed on Sunday but Teague said the 24-year-old needed increased game time under his belt before being exposed to the rigours of AFL football.
"He won't play AFL this week. He'll play VFL again and then we'll progress afterwards," Teague said on Thursday.
"At this stage it's tracking well, he looked good last week and it was great to see him back out there.
"I have a lot of trust in our high performance and medical team. They will control (his) amount of game time.
"Once his form is to a state that is good enough to play AFL, then it will be whether his body can handle the intensity."
Curnow injured the medial ligament in his right knee against Fremantle in June 2019 and has since endured a dislocation, fracture and hairline stress response in the same joint.
"We're not going to rush it. Charlie's wellbeing and health is our priority," Teague said.
It means Curnow will miss brother Ed's 200th AFL match against last-placed North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
"Ed's journey is a great journey. Drafted, delisted, worked his way in, broke his leg, got onto a list, became a tagger," Teague said.
"There's so many different chapters to his story. It hasn't been easy and he's worked really hard."
Carlton have won three of their past four matches and sit just one win outside the top eight in 13th position.
Teague said co-captain Patrick Cripps, who missed the Blues' stirring come-from-behind win over traditional rivals Collingwood with a corked thigh, should return as long as gets through training on Thursday.
Veteran Marc Murphy also appears likely to make a comeback from a calf injury, provided he passes tests at training.
"We're starting to play a bit more consistently, particularly with our defence. Our offence ... has probably dropped away," Teague said.
"It's a work in progress, we've still got a lot of areas to improve."
Australian Associated Press