Joe Daniher could return to the AFL at the end of this season, even if Essendon are out of finals contention.
The All-Australian key forward has had a wretched season and osteitis pubis has kept him out of action since Essendon's round-seven loss to Hawthorn.
With the Bombers facing the Hawks again this Saturday in a massive clash, Daniher appears at long odds to resume this season.
But coach John Worsfold said on Monday if Daniher can prove his fitness, he will return.
"He's miles off being available yet - and when I say miles off, he won't play in the next couple of weeks," Worsfold said.
"He's just tracking on a program that would see him potentially available for the last round or two, if everything tracks according to that plan.
"If anything delays him, we won't cut corners."
Worsfold was asked about selecting Daniher if their finals hopes are gone.
"If he's fit and available, we'll consider him for selection, absolutely," the coach said.
More immediately, Worsfold is confident Matt Dea (concussion) and Kyle Langford (whiplash) will be available this weekend after they were hurt in Friday night's win over Sydney.
"Both appear really good - Kyle's ended up being a whiplash type injury, more muscular, which was better than it being anything bony, and Matty Dea appears to be up and going," he said.
The Bombers are at long odds to make the finals, given they are a game plus plenty of percentage outside eighth spot.
But they have won six of their last seven matches and are in much better shape this time to play the seventh-placed Hawks.
After a solid start in round seven, Essendon again wilted in the third term and were flattered by the 23-point margin.
It was one of several lowlights in a torrid 2-6 start that will probably cost them a finals berth.
But Worsfold said all he is worried about is his team's continued improvement.
I haven't really looked at the ladder or thought about what each game means," he said.
"I do know we don't have much room for error in terms of losing games, but why worry about that when that will take care of itself?"
He added in-form defender Adam Saad could play on Luke Breust, who will make the All-Australian team.
"Saad has the flexibility to play as a really tight, lock-down defender as well as give us run and rebound as well," Worsfold said.
"That's something we'll weigh up."