Carlton recruit Mitch McGovern's poor fitness has left his AFL return date uncertain, with the Blues conceding they rushed him into playing before he was ready.
The axed forward is set to be put through a gruelling training block under club fitness boss Andrew Russell, having struggled with his conditioning since arriving at the end of last season from Adelaide.
AFL great Wayne Carey this week warned McGovern risked flushing away his potential but caretaker coach David Teague admits the Blues contributed to his issues by playing him when he was underdone earlier in the year.
"He came in with two ankle operations and he broke his back, so he's had a really interrupted pre-season," Teague said on Friday.
"We probably rushed him in. We played him, understanding that he wasn't quite ready to go with the hope that he'd perform.
"He's been pulling up quite sore after games. By taking him out, it's allowed him to get some really solid training in."
Whether he returns this season remains to be seen, given the Blues have just six games remaining.
"I don't know the time frame," Teague said.
"When his body's in a position that we think he can handle games and handle training, then he'll come back into the side."
Teague remained confident McGovern could have a significant impact with a solid pre-season under his belt.
"He's very vocal, he's strong with his football brain and his thoughts," Teague said.
"He's been a great leader for us this year and we've probably relied on that a little bit at times.
"(We want) to get a good pre-season under him and to have him fit and launching at his marks. And he hits hard - when he tackles, he hits to hurt.
"That's what we're looking forward to seeing from him."
Teague's Blues continued their improvement last week with a hard fought seven-point win over Sydney at the SCG.
While they are just four points ahead of bottom-placed Gold Coast, they will start strong favourites in Saturday's clash at Marvel Stadium against a Suns side that is in dire straits after consecutive 90-point thrashings.
Jacob Weitering returns in place of Hugh Goddard (fractured cheekbone), while Teague also confirmed young gun Paddy Dow would miss through illness and mid-season draftee Josh Deluca would make his Carlton debut.
"He's a competitor," Teague said of former Fremantle player Deluca.
"I think his biggest appetite is he's going to get in there, he's going to pressure and he's going to tackle and he works hard."