INDIANAPOLIS – Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan was playing about 20 snaps a game and had two 20-plus-yard receptions in the first four games last season.
Then he was knocked out of the Dallas game in Week 5 with what was reported as a hip injury and didn’t return until Week 10.
Even though he played the final eight games, he looked slow and wound up catching six passes for 34 yards, including none in the two playoff games.
Now it’s clear why.
According to his agent, Jack Bechta, Tonyan underwent surgery recently to repair a core muscle injury. Bechta said the injury explains why Tonyan struggled to get up to top speed when he returned to action.
Surgeon William Meyer operated on Tonyan. He has performed similar surgeries on past and present Packers players such as Geronimo Allison, Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins and Greg Jennings.
Tonyan should be ready for the start of the Packers’ offseason conditioning program in mid-April. The tight end group consists of Tonyan, Jimmy Graham, Jace Sternberger, Evan Baylis and James Looney.
The Packers are expected to either cut Graham or reduce his salary for cap purposes. Free agent Marcedes Lewis has expressed a desire to return, but his agent, Bus Cook, said the two sides wouldn’t talk until there was more clarity with the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s unlikely that outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell will return to the Packers.
The unrestricted free agent will be looking for more playing time after losing snaps to free agents Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith last season. Fackrell’s sack numbers dropped from 10½ in 2018 to one in ’19.
Teams that dig deep will find that Fackrell had the second-best pressure rate (pressures per play) behind Za’Darius Smith, but his inability to finish will cost him some money in free agency.
Fackrell, a source said, is likely to sign a one-year deal with another team that will allow him to show what he can do with more playing time.
Another Packers free agent, tackle Bryan Bulaga, still doesn’t know where he’ll be in 2020. According to a source, the Packers have not had any talks with his agent since the season ended.
There’s plenty of time before the free-agent period begins, but if the Packers were eager to get him under contract they probably would have done so already. The team may be waiting to see how the CBA goes and whether they will have more salary-cap space than anticipated.
Mutual interest to extend Jones
Running back Aaron Jones is coming off a breakout season in which he finished tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (16) and total touchdowns (19) while running for 1,084 yards and establishing himself as a receiving threat with 49 catches for 474 yards.
His performance solidified his fit in Matt LaFleur’s offense, which according to a league source familiar with the thinking of both parties has led to mutual interest between the Packers and Jones to extend the contract of the 25-year-old running back.
Jones is entering the final year of his rookie deal but earned a raise to $2.147 million based on the league’s proven performance escalators for players selected after the third round. Jones was a fifth-round pick in 2017. He earned the pay bump by playing more than 35% of the total offensive snaps over a three-year period.
NFLPA head welcomes Rodgers' voice
Aaron Rodgers was in Indianapolis in his role as the Packers’ team representative, and he wrote on Twitter late Wednesday night he was one of 14 “no” votes in a 17-14 tally (with one player abstaining) in favor of accepting the proposed collective bargaining agreement.
Several Packers expressed support for Rodgers’ public sentiment via social media, which began with him stating that his vote was “based off the conversations I have had with the men in my locker room that I’m tasked to represent.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith met the media for a brief session Thursday after updating agents about the proposed CBA and had no issue with Rodgers, or any player, speaking their mind.
“Man, democracy is messy,” Smith said. “When you urge your players to become a part of a union, when you decide that instead of having sort of a bubble that excludes people, that you want people to not only become involved in your union but become reps in your union, to take leadership roles in your union, how could you ever then take a position where you have some sort of adverse feeling about if they express their feelings?”
The CBA will be sent to the entire NFLPA for a vote with a 51% majority being required to ratify the agreement. There is no firm timetable yet for the vote.
“I understand that Aaron is passionate and he expressed his opinion,” Smith added. “Other players have come out. They're passionately expressing their opinion. It's fine. And I would much prefer that than for anybody to think that they didn't have a voice.”