Aaron Nagler speaks with Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times about the Green Bay Packers' next opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aaron Nagler/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - On Nov. 20, 2016, just when his game was starting to measure up to NFL standards, Green Bay Packers cornerback Demetri Goodson wrecked his left knee against Washington at FedEx Field.
Goodson ruptured his ACL, ripped his MCL, tore the meniscus and dislocated his knee cap when Washington linebacker Terence Garvin slammed into his leg during a punt return.
The gruesome injury led Goodson on a path of recovery that he could only hope one day would end the way it is expected to end Sunday: with the fourth-year pro in uniform playing in a regular-season game.
“It’s unbelievable that I came back from that, and I’m about to play, and playing the way I’m playing at practice right now,” Goodson said Thursday. “It’s all God. It’s pretty amazing. It really is.”
Goodson has been practicing with the defense this week and said he was told he would be activated off the physically unable to perform list in time to play Sunday against Tampa Bay. The three-week window during which Goodson could practice without a roster move having to be made ends next week, but barring any changes he should be activated this weekend.
Where and how he'll be used is still up in the air.
"One thing about Demetri is he was one of our very best special teams players, and there’s normally a correlation between that and defense," defensive coordinator Dom
Capers said. "I think it’s hard to be a good defensive player if you can’t be a good special teams player.
"(He's) very tough, very competitive. All those things. He’s going through the steps now of trying to work his way back into things. We’ll have to decide where he is in terms of making that step to come back."
Given the state of the Packers’ cornerback position, they probably would take whatever help they can get. But apparently Goodson has turned some heads in the short time he's been back.
He said he even surprised himself how well he played right away.
“From the first practice, I was out there making plays,” Goodson said. “I mean, it kind of shocked me because my knee felt a lot better than I thought it would, just getting out there and practicing again.
“Kind of shocked the coaches, too. A couple of them came up to me and said, ‘Damn, you looking good.’”
When he got hurt, Goodson was one of the team’s best special-teams players, and having him and Jeff Janis as gunners on the punt team was the main reason the Packers ranked sixth in net punting average last season.
Goodson never had been a defensive regular going into last season, but after serving a four-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy, he was thrust into the starting lineup when Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins all were injured.
There were hiccups in Goodson’s game — he gave up a 47-yard touchdown against Atlanta and a 25-yard reception against Chicago — but he played solidly and continued to get snaps on defense even when Rollins returned.
After nearly a year of rehab and training, Goodson returned to the practice field Nov. 15 and this week began practicing with the regulars. He said everything has gone smoothly and he has not suffered any pain or swelling in the knee.
Given the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Goodson hasn’t played a game in a year, the Packers aren’t going to rush him onto defense, but if they put him on the 46-man game-day roster, he will play on special teams.
"I’m ready to go,” Goodson said. “I’m looking forward to it, especially on special teams. Go out there and help. Wherever they put me at.
“I’m ready for cornerback, too, but I feel like I have to work my way in a little bit more with that. You just can’t go out there my first game and start at corner. I’m feeling good and I’m feeling confident about everything.”
The Packers will continue to monitor rookie cornerback Kevin King’s shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the Baltimore game and part of the Pittsburgh game Sunday. King has not practiced this week and if he doesn’t practice Saturday, it’s unlikely he’ll play against the Buccaneers.
King, Davon House and Randall are the Packers’ top three cornerbacks. Second-year pro Josh Hawkins is next in line and then come rookies Lenzy Pipkins and Donatello Brown.
If King has to be shut down for the season or someone else gets injured or plays poorly, Goodson could step into a role on defense. He has 294 regular-season snaps at cornerback and said he picked up a lot of things watching from the sideline the past year.
“Truthfully, coming back from this has just made me stronger physically and mentally,” Goodson said. “I feel like if I can get through this, I can get through anything. It’s been a long road.”