Greg Jennings returned to practice Sunday after missing several weeks with a concussion. Megan McCormick/Press-Gazette
Greg Jennings made his long-awaited return to the practice field Sunday after sustaining a concussion during the Green Bay Packers’ Family Night scrimmage on Aug. 3.
After practice, the Packers wide receiver revealed the reason it might have taken him so long to get back on the field. Two days prior to the head injury at the scrimmage, Jennings had begun experiencing headaches following a collision during practice on Aug. 1.
For that reason, Packers athletic trainers shut him down completely for two weeks as his headaches persisted. During that time, Jennings was banned from the weight room or even walking on the treadmill until trainers felt comfortable letting him practice.
“I hit my head on the ground, split my nose open, but it probably was a little bit before that on Wednesday, because I started getting headaches Wednesday — got hit Wednesday and finished practice,” Jennings said. “The next day, (had) headaches during practice, didn’t think anything of it. Then Friday, Family Night, I probably reaggravated it or whatever. I make it sound like it was minor, but it really wasn’t, honestly.”
It was the third concussion Jennings has experienced during his six-year NFL career and first since a preseason game at Arizona on Aug. 29, 2009. This one was the most difficult to get over, evidenced by him missing seven practices and two preseason games.
Jennings spent most of his off time at home with his wife, Nicole, and their three daughters. Even there, he had to withdraw a bit.
After feeling good in his first practice back, Jennings said he’s expecting to play in Thursday’s preseason game against Cincinnati.
“You want to get back out there, but you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way,” Jennings said. “It was tough coming in here some days feeling whatever I was feeling and wanting to say, ‘You know what, I’m good,’ but knowing in the back of my mind that I really wasn’t. We fought through that for almost two weeks, and now here I am.”
Finley, others return
Along with Jennings, tight end Jermichael Finley (quad), fullback John Kuhn (ankle) and cornerback Sam Shields (elbow) returned to practice.
Finley, who missed a few days at the start of camp with a concussion, hadn’t practiced since Aug. 6 because of the strain that caused him to miss the team’s first two preseason games.
Finley said he could have played through the injury had it been the regular season, but the team was being cautious. After getting through practice without issue, Finley plans to be on the field against Cincinnati.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they’ll see how the four returning players respond to practice this week before making any promises if they’ll play Thursday, but Finley is confident he’ll be out there.
“It’s a must that I go, got to get that timing down,” Finley said. “It’s important right now these last two games, we need to get the timing, the chemistry down with the quarterback, so it’s key for us to get out there, at least a series or two.”
With only 13 nonparticipants, it was the healthiest practice the team conducted in weeks. Afterward, McCarthy had no additional injuries to report.
As Cedric Benson prepares for his first preseason game with the Packers, starting running back James Starks remains sidelined with a turf toe injury he sustained Aug. 9 against San Diego.
McCarthy said Starks still will be out a “couple weeks,” which leaves him questionable for a return before the regular-season opener against San Francisco on Sept. 9.
It also opens the door for Benson to show why he should be considered for a starting role.
After practicing in pads for the first time, Benson will get that opportunity against the Bengals, the team he played for from 2008 to 2011 before they opted to not re-sign the 29-year-old running back this offseason.
“It’s going to be fun, to say the least,” Benson said. “I’m looking forward to getting back there. I got a lot of support from the fans out there and it’ll be good to go against their defense. I’ve watched a lot of those guys come in and I’ve seen them work together, so it’ll be fun to put a licking on them.”
The eighth-year veteran’s crash course with the Packers has been admittedly tricky at times, but Benson also feels he’s grasped the key concepts. He split first-team carries with second-year back Alex Green, who’s still easing back from reconstructive knee surgery.
The team’s other injured running back, Brandon Saine (hamstring), should be back next week, according to McCarthy.
More action for starters
McCarthy is entering the Packers’ third preseason game with the plan of playing his starters through the first half.
The Packers have been cautious with their starting offensive and defensive units during the first two preseason games. During that span, the first-team offense has seen action on six total series.
“That’s our goal,” McCarthy said. “We want a full half of work. Starters as in the first group. In the second half, we have a lot of objectives we want to hit. There’s still a number of individuals that we want to see.”
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