St Kilda star Jack Steven won't be rushed back into the AFL, needing up to a month of training following his return from mental health leave.
Steven hasn't played since early May - his second stint away from the game this year.
The four-time club best and fairest winner resumed full-time training with the Saints this week, but coach Alan Richardson says Steven needs to complete a mini pre-season.
While naturally fit, Richardson said he still needed more running and conditioning on the training track and in the gym.
"He's been focusing on getting himself right and that's excluded the sort of training that he'd need to be ready to go," Richardson said on Thursday, ahead of their Saturday afternoon clash with Gold Coast in Townsville.
"He needs a mini pre-season - three or four weeks - and then a bit of VFL footy and then we hope to get him back in the team but we'll just see how he goes."
St Kilda, already hit hard by injury this season, suffered a fresh blow on Thursday when midfielder Jack Steele dislocated a kneecap at training.
The 23-year-old won't play against the Suns, with scans to determine how long he will be sidelined.
"We have learnt this year that there is no benefit in being frustrated by injuries outside of our control," Saints football chief Simon Lethlean said.
In some good news following their heavy loss to Port Adelaide in China, where skipper Jarryn Geary suffered a season-ending broken leg, key defender Jake Carlisle will play in the VFL this weekend.
Carlisle had back surgery in March with Richardson excited by his return.
"He's one of the better defenders in the game so for him to get back probably sooner than we thought is a real credit to the way he committed to his rehab," Richardson said.
"We're expecting him to be pushing (for an AFL return) reasonably soon.
"It all depends on how he plays on the weekend and how he pulls up but it's really pleasing to have him back."
Richardson said he would consider playing Carlisle up forward following the emergence of former forward Josh Battle as a defender this season in the absence of Carlisle and Dylan Roberton.
Australian Associated Press