GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeff Janis underwent surgery to repair his fractured right hand and told reporters the time frame for recovery is four to six weeks.
Janis said he had screws inserted into his right index finger to hold the bones together after injuring the hand in practice on Aug. 10.
“It’s all fixed and everything,” Janis said Monday afternoon. “So now we’re just waiting on it to heal and take it week by week.”
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The surgery almost certainly precludes Janis from participating in the regular season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 11. More importantly, though, it halts his training camp in the midst of a deep, contentious roster battle at the wide receiver position. Janis, now in this third year, had aimed to transfer his playoff success from 2015 into a strong camp performance that could have pushed Davante Adams for the third spot on a crowded depth chart.
“Haven’t even thought about that really,” Janis said of his future. “I’m just going to focus on healing up and being ready when I’m ready. I haven’t really thought that far in the future. I’m just going to try to get better.
“I’ve always kind of prided myself on being one of the guys who is always available and ready to play. But this is something that happens and you can’t really control it. Just got to stay in the (playbook), keep going to meetings, keep paying attention and make sure I’m up with everything in the game plans and everything. Then when it is healed, be ready to play.”
The injury occurred during a ball security drill the Packers perform each day in practice. Skill-position players jog through a line of teammates, whose job it is to pull, rip, slap and smack the football out of the runner’s hands. Some interactions resemble tug-of-war matches; others look more like attempted steals in basketball.
In Janis’ case, a teammate accidentally caught hold of his index finger while trying to yank the ball free. The finger bent back nastily.
“I had my hands up,” Janis said. “He went to swipe the ball and ripped my finger.”
That he was able to continue practicing indicated to Janis the injury was likely minor, a jam or dislocation at worst. When he arrived in the locker room with a bag of ice on his hand, Janis told reporters he did not believe the injury was serious.
It wasn’t until the following morning, Aug. 11, that Janis said he knew there was a significant problem.
“It hurt pretty bad,” Janis said. “I knew something kind of was wrong.”
With the surgery behind him, Janis has been a spectator at practice each of the last two days. His right hand is covered by a cast that extends just shy of his elbow, and the whole thing is wrapped in an ACE elastic bandage.
“I think it’s really important to stay mentally checked-in. A lot of guys if they get hurt, they mess around during practice. And that’s something that you can’t do if you’re going to be back pretty soon. You’ve got to stay in the game and keep your mind in it.”
As training camp progresses, the Packers have several options to consider in regards to Janis: They could put him on injured reserve, which would cost Janis the entire 2016 season; they could put him on IR temporarily and use their designated-to-return option, of which each team gets only one; or they could keep him on the 53-man roster and hope he would be ready by the third or fourth week of the season.
In truth, Janis had shown little improvement during training camp prior to the injury, and to say he was disappointing would be neither inaccurate nor unkind. As with last season, it appeared almost certain that his largest contributions would come on special teams, where Janis served as the No. 1 kick returner, an elite gunner in punt coverage and an important member of the kickoff coverage unit.
“I was getting a lot of first-team reps,” Janis said of the first two weeks of camp. “And just getting those reps is really important with me. Getting those reps with Aaron (Rodgers) and showing him that I can be in the right place at the right time and things like that, just building that trust. I thought it was going pretty well.
“I always look forward to playing in the preseason and showing you belong here. That’s one of the things you just can’t control and you’ve got to take it and just try to heal up and stay mentally in the game. Keep going to meetings, keep listening and be ready when you come back.”