GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – The ordeal could after all give the Green Bay Packers one last push towards an elusive Super Bowl.
All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari has not played for more than a year, his return from a torn ACL deviated twice since returning from the 53-man roster. He missed the last two weeks of training.
After missing most of training camp with a back injury, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith played 18 snaps in Week 1, had surgery and failed. is not trained for months.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander has been out since injuring his shoulder in Week 4 against Pittsburgh. He has been training for the past four weeks and was added to the 53-man roster on Wednesday.
Center Josh Myers returned from a finger injury, only to sustain a knee injury in the Week 6 opener against Chicago. He has not resumed training.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb underwent abdominal muscle surgery for the injury sustained against the Rams in Week 12. He was nominated for the return of the injured reserve on Thursday.
Right tackle Billy Turner injured his knee in Week 14 against Chicago and has not returned to training.
After the Packers crushed the Minnesota Vikings 37-10 on Sunday night to claim the No.1 seed in the NFC playoffs, quarterback Aaron Rodgers optimistically said some – maybe all – of those players could come back for a run in the playoffs.
“We’ve had a lot of key players who aren’t playing for us,” Rodgers said. “I really feel like there is a possibility of getting a few of these guys back for this stretch race, and it’s exciting. We’ll see where these guys are at this week, but it would be fun to get them back. You think of Z and Jaire and David and Josh, that could make things really interesting for us on both sides of the ball.
Packers vs Vikings: three reasons to worry
The Green Bay Packers are the 13-point consensus favorites for Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. There are reasons to be concerned, however, led by Dalvin Cook.
Bakhtiari, Alexander and Smith are three of the best NFL players in their posts. Together, they could have played in 48 games. Instead, they starred in five. The Packers are 13-3, anyway.
The return of some players on the pitch to the roster could provide a lot of juice for a team that has thrived despite being one of the most injured clubs in the league.
Coach Matt LaFleur did not share the same optimism as Rodgers. It was not so much pessimism as it was realism.
“I would say we’ve been bullish all season long and yet we’re there, so that’s just one of those things,” said LaFleur.
Being so late in the season, timing is problematic. There’s only one game left – next week in Detroit – before the first round playoff break. Smith hasn’t done anything competitive since Week 1. Bakhtiari has been out for the past two weeks. Alexander was placed on the COVID list on Sunday, which means an abbreviated training week at best.
Can the Packers realistically bring them to the field this week for some mind-blowing shots? And if not, how much can a group of players who are not in mid-season form contribute to make-or-die playoffs? For example, is Yosh Nijman at this point a better option than Bakhtiari? At first glance, it’s a ridiculous question, but Nijman has performed well in five straight starts.
“If it was possible for these guys to come back this week,” said Rodgers, “I think it would be great to get, with the 1-seed already locked, some time in the game where it’s not. ain’t do or -pause for us. I’m not sure. I guess, given the cautious nature of this league in general, that this might not be encouraged. But I feel like, seeing Jaire from back to training, that he might come back at some point, Z, I mean, I think there is a possibility. I do. That would be exciting for sure. And then Dave. Dave has progressed, doing stuff in parallel, it seems. That would be awesome. Josh too. I don’t think I speak in turn saying that there is a possibility for these four guys. Randall is sure to come back, and he looks great. I mean he probably would have fought if this game was a playoff game to be on the pitch. So, it’s exciting that there are a lot of guys out there who are s ur about to come back and who could come back and could really help us.
Rodgers suffered as well, but his broken toe felt so good after Sunday’s victory that he raised the possibility of training Thursday and Friday next week and, despite the trivial nature of Sunday’s game, playing in Detroit. .
“There is definitely significant healing,” he said, “and we are approaching 100%, which I think we are, certainly with the week off.”