GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers begin practice Tuesday, a little more than two weeks will have passed since rookie Kenny Clark went down with a back injury.
But as long as he avoids a setback between now and Sunday, when the Packers open the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it appears Clark, the team’s first-round pick, has a good chance to join them on the field.
“I’ll be practicing tomorrow,” Clark said in the locker room Monday. “I feel good. I feel good, man. Ready to go, excited for the game and ready to just play.”
Clark dropped out of practice Aug. 22 after experiencing tightness in his back. The feeling originated when Clark punched both hands into the chest of an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage.
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In the coming days, Clark was asked repeatedly about an official diagnosis from team doctors, and each time he said there had been no medical explanation and no serious issue. Just tightness.
“That was probably one of the most frustrating parts just because I’m not out there with my teammates,” Clark said. “But I learned from it. Just doing a better job of stretching, doing a lot of stuff taking care of my body.”
Though just a rookie, Clark’s presence in Jacksonville would be a welcome addition for a defensive line group that is both youthful and inexperienced. Aside from veterans Mike Daniels and Letroy Guion, whose contributions are paramount, the Packers are without a third — or fourth or fifth — defensive lineman with NFL experience. Clark and Dean Lowry are rookies; Christian Ringo spent last season on the practice squad.
With early forecasts predicting temperatures in the low 90s, the ability to rotate defensive linemen takes on increased importance. Daniels and Guion, by far the two most reliable players, cannot man the trenches on their own.
“I’m anxious,” Clark said. “(Tuesday) at practice, just have to keep working and get back into the groove of things. Build that extra conditioning just to make sure I’m good. I’m just looking forward to playing my first NFL game during the regular season. I’m just excited for it.”
It seems less likely, however, that rookie Trevor Davis will be on the active roster. Davis, a wide receiver from California, suffered a shoulder injury during the exhibition finale against the Kansas City Chiefs when he fell awkwardly after making a catch along the sideline.
On Monday, four days after the injury, team doctors had yet to identify the problem.
“They don’t really know anything yet because they’re still waiting for the swelling to go down to figure out what they want to do with it,” Davis said.
Still, Davis said his shoulder felt “way better” Monday than it did the night of the injury, when he spent the second half in street clothes and kept his arm at a 90-degree angle. He rotated his arm in circles to offer a reporter some visible proof.
“Being a football player you kind of want to rush back whenever you can really,” Davis said. “Me personally, of course I would want to play Week 1. But I have to figure out with them and with myself, really, about how much mobility I have and things like that.
“Overall it’s not that bad.”