Packers 'extremely fortunate' to have rookie Rashan Gary back at practice after injury

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GREEN BAY - Four days after suffering a neck injury that could have been much more serious, rookie outside linebacker Rashan Gary was back at Green Bay Packers practice Monday.

Gary, the team’s top pick, admitted it didn’t look good when his helmet crashed into a ball carrier’s leg, snapping his head back, but he said he knew quickly it wasn’t serious.

“Not at all,” he said of being scared. “I’ve been playing football since I can remember. Everyone has nicks and bruises and I ended up getting on the ground; whatever happened, happened, and I knew I was going to be fine.

“I got up, I was trying to get them to put me back in the game, because I was warming up, but they wanted to play it smart so that’s what we did.”

Aug 22, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) leaves the field after suffering an apparent injury during the first half against the Oakland Raiders at Investors Group Field.

Gary sat out practice Sunday for what he said were precautionary reasons.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have him back,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “He got healthy, so he’s back out there.”

Blake Martinez focused on one job

With all the change in the Packers’ starting 11 on defense — coordinator Mike Pettine will likely have six new faces from a year ago in his base scheme — one constant is linebacker Blake Martinez. He hasn’t missed a game in two years. He played 98.6% of the defensive snaps in 2018 and 93% in 2017. The next closest linebacker in terms of snap percentage was Clay Matthews (71.1% and 62.4%), and Martinez has had a group of over a half dozen playing inside linebackers next to him.

“I’ve kind of been used to having to play with new guys constantly,” Martinez said. “It’s just kind of been a rotation, it’s a young guy, a veteran guy, a first-time starter. I pride myself on understanding the defense, understanding where they need to be and where I need to be so I can help them as fast as I can and get us lined up.”

Such inconsistency at the other inside linebacking position over the last two seasons — largely due to injury — has continued this preseason for the Packers. Oren Burks and Curtis Bolton have been sidelined already. Second-year linebacker James Crawford is transitioning full time to the inside this spring and Brady Sheldon and Ty Summers have little, or no, game experience.

In the past, Martinez admitted such turnover the last few years has created a problem, and one he is set on fixing this season regardless of who is next to him Sept. 5 in Chicago.

“It’s basically having an understanding pre-snap and then post-snap doing what I have to do,” he said. “After that point, don’t try to overdo it and try to over-help them after the ball is snapped, just do what I need to do and we can fix it from there. If I’m trying to help someone else, then both of us are wrong. And that was the typical things that were happening.”

Elgton Jenkins looks to make up time

When the Packers elected to sit 32 players for their third preseason game (a 33rd, Martinez, didn’t travel to Winnipeg), rookie Elgton Jenkins missed valuable playing time in a preseason in which LaFleur said he’s battling for a starting job with incumbent Lane Taylor.

Jenkins played a team-high 45 snaps against Houston and then was tied for second among Packers offensive linemen with 30 against Baltimore. Then, a goose egg.

“I was really looking forward to getting him playing at least the first half of that game,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “So with them taking him out, I think that definitely set him back.

“You can’t really simulate those live reps. It’s just something he’s going to have to get later on down the road.”

That road may or may not include Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Jenkins thinks he still can make any necessary impressions in practice.

“I always approach practice just like the game, so I feel like you can get those live reps throughout the week. It’s just a different opponent you’re facing,” Jenkins said. “That was a decision the coaches made and you just gotta live with it.

“I’m just out here trying to control what I can control, just putting one foot forward.”

Bakhtiari, Gary return to practice; Linsley out

The Packers had two key players return to practice Monday in the Don Hutson Center, which was held with shoulder pads. Gary came back from the scary collision against Oakland and left tackle David Bakhtiari returned after missing Sunday for a personal matter.

Center Corey Linsley (biceps) worked on the side.

Also missing practice for the Packers were wide receivers Allen Lazard (shoulder) and Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle), cornerbacks Kevin King (hamstring) and Kabion Ento (hamstring), linebackers Curtis Bolton (knee), Oren Burks (chest) and Reggie Gilbert (knee), fullback Malcolm Johnson (groin), guard Cole Madison (lower body) and tight end Jimmy Graham (finger).

Ibraheim Campbell and Greg Roberts remain on the physically unable to perform list.

Roster shuffle continues

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst must trim his roster to 53 by late afternoon Saturday, but he continued to add players Monday by waiving/injured safety Mike Tyson and signing cornerback Jackson Porter. Tyson, claimed off waiver from Houston on May 13, was injured against the Oakland Raiders in Winnipeg, Manitoba last Thursday.

Porter did not play in 2018 after signing as an undrafted free agent with Baltimore last season. A 6-foot, 200-pound corner, he recorded 84 total tackles and had two interceptions in four years at the University of Massachusetts.

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