GREEN BAY – It took a complete rehab for Green Bay Packers safety Raven Greene to reach this point in his expedited comeback.
Physically, the ankle injury that sent him to injured reserve in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings made his odds of playing again this season long. Greene described is as “three different injuries in one,” the worst being a torn deltoid ligament that needed surgery. It was the second straight year Greene tore his deltoid.
Greene also had to tweak his mindset. When he was carted off the field during that September game against Minnesota, any potential return was so far in the future, it was unthinkable. When Greene calculated his potential return date, he realized the Packers would need to advance to the NFC playoff’s divisional round to even get a chance.
“Getting the bye,” he said, “was obviously big.”
Greene didn’t allow himself to get hopeful until a couple weeks ago. That’s when he started running, cutting, digging his foot into the turf so he could test his ankle. Even then, he didn’t know.
“There’ve always been little hints of it ever since I started running,” Greene said, “but who’s to say what’s actually being talked about.”
To keep his anxiety in check, Greene said, he spoke with a sports psychologist. He focused on the work, not the expectations. Months passed. Finally, there was Greene last week in the Packers' locker room, wearing his jersey for the first time since the injury.
“It was like, ‘Man, it’s getting real now,’” Greene said.
The Packers designated Greene to return from injured reserve this week. He’s the second Packers player to return from injured reserve this season, joining rookie tight end Jace Sternberger.
Greene used a good training camp to springboard into a starting role in the Packers' defense. He played 77.5 percent of snaps in the Packers' opening win at the Chicago Bears, lining up mostly as a hybrid linebacker in the box. The Packers like his versatility as a defender who can cover the middle of the field while being strong enough against the run to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
It’s unclear what role Greene will have if the Packers activate him to the 53-man roster. The Packers have used Ibraheim Campbell in that hybrid role since he returned from the physically unable to perform list late in the season. Greene will take any chance to contribute, especially considering how unlikely it once appeared that he could this season.
“It was a process, obviously,” Greene said. “But the training staff and everybody showed a lot of support for me, so I’m just glad to be in this position, with a chance to come back and just help contribute quite possibly.”
Eight out for practice
The Packers do not have to release an injury report this week because they are on a bye week, but they were without eight players Thursday during a short workout in the Don Hutson Center.
“Just wanted to get ‘em back in the action, get a sweat,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
Starting offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (concussion), Billy Turner (ankle) and Corey Linsley (back) worked off to the side while David Bakhtiari was not present during the open portion of the practice. Tight end Jimmy Graham also worked on the side while Marcedes Lewis was not present in the open period. Fullback Danny Vitale (knee) and outside linebacker Preston Smith also worked off to the side.
Running back Jamaal Williams, who missed the regular-season finale with a shoulder injury, returned to practice.
Barring any surprises, all but Linsley should be ready to practice Monday when the Packers begin installing a game plan for a divisional-round opponent.
“Well first of all, I think there’s a lot of luck involved,” LaFleur said about his team’s continued health. “But also, just trying to make sound decisions in terms of not overloading our guys so that you don’t get a bunch more injuries. I’ve been really pleased with our strength staff and our athletic training staff in terms of, when a guy does get injured and the rehab. They’re pretty diligent. They’re on top of it.”
Packers in search of right concepts
The first time the Packers coaches had a chance to self-evaluate was the week of Nov. 11, after an 8-2 start that featured three- and four-game winning streaks. Now with a first-round playoff bye, the coaches went about dissecting the last six games, which included a season-ending stretch of five straight wins.
“A lot of it is stuff you already kind of know,” LaFleur acknowledged. “But just trying to categorize and look at what concepts we’ve had success with, which ones we haven’t and then use that information moving forward in order to make sure we’re doing stuff that we’re good at. And if it’s something that we feel like it’s going to be a big part of our next game plan, which it’s impossible to really know right now, you know, make sure we’re getting some extra reps on that, because now’s the time to do it.”
The Packers will practice one more time during the bye week Friday before giving the players the weekend off. LaFleur said they will practice Monday, which he considered a “bonus” session since usually the day after games are meant for recovery.
Aaron Rodgers admitted Thursday that certain timing issues just can’t get fixed in a couple extra days of practices but said the drill down into the offense could be beneficial once it is time to game plan.
“It’s just a matter of finding those concepts where the timing has been good,” Rodgers said. “Because there’s been a number of concepts where we’ve looked good. The ball’s been coming out on time, I’ve been feeling good about the rhythm and guys are getting open on time. But there’s I think too many concepts that we’ve really tried to hit and keep hitting and make it work and we just aren’t on the same page timing-wise. And that’s why this has been a good week to just self-scout.”