Packers setting up for another offensive line shuffle when Corey Linsley returns
GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since injuring his left knee against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 29, setting up a possible return to game action against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night.
Linsley remains on injured reserve, but because three games have passed since he was placed on the list, he is eligible to practice. Once he does practice, a three-week window opens at the end of which the Packers must either put him on injured reserve for the season or release him if he isn’t activated to the 53-man roster.
The Packers can return him to the 53 at any time during the three weeks and given the nature of the injury he suffered, it could be this weekend.
Linsley suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), which does not require surgery. If the swelling and range of motion return, the training staff will have Linsley wear a brace that would protect him from reinjuring the knee.
The Packers have typically given players returning from reserve lists a week of practice as part of the rehab process and returned them to action after a second week of practice. However, Linsley is a veteran and has played through many injuries, so he may be given more latitude to return.
If he is cleared, the Packers must make a decision on the offensive line. It would mean Elgton Jenkins would move back to his left guard spot and require either guard Lucas Patrick or tackle Rick Wagner to move to the bench.
With Linsley out, Patrick moved from right guard to left guard, Billy Turner moved from right tackle to right guard and Wagner came off the bench to play right tackle. Wagner has played pretty well, so the coaches may want to keep the lineup they have on the right side instead of inserting Patrick at right guard and moving Turner back to right tackle.
The Packers had three players who did not practice: safety Will Redmond (concussion), running back Jamaal Williams (thigh) and tight end Jace Sternberger (concussion).
Neither the Packers nor the Titans need to release their first injury report of the week until Wednesday.
Seven selections not enough
Even with their most Pro Bowl selections in almost a decade, the Packers felt like they were snubbed.
While seven Packers were selected to this year's Pro Bowl, Linsley and tight end Robert Tonyan were two names teammates rallied around Tuesday. Both were part of a Packers offense that ranks among the NFL's leaders with 31 points scored per game.
The Packers had two offensive linemen make the Pro Bowl: left tackle David Bakhtiari and second-year left guard Jenkins. Linsley, a seventh-year veteran who has never been selected to the Pro Bowl, saw Philadelphia's Jason Kelce and Detroit's Frank Ragnow earn the NFC's two spots at center.
"It speaks to the flaws in the process," Bakhtiari said. "I feel for the guy. I thought he played his best ball this year. Best center in the league for 2020, and the fact that it's a popularity contest. I'm excited and hopeful the All-Pro, they get it right."
Tonyan saw Detroit's T.J. Hockenson and the New York Giants' Evan Engram earn the NFC's two tight end spots despite being tied with Kansas City All-Pro Travis Kelce in touchdown catches among NFL tight ends. Tonyan has 49 catches for 551 yards, slightly behind Engram's 54 catches for 572 yards. Tonyan's 10 touchdown catches were nine more than Engram.
Davante Adams, who was selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl, said Tonyan was "snubbed big time" by voters.
"I think one of the things that we've lacked in the past is a super-reliable tight end like how he is," Adams said. "He has some of the best hands I've been around. His connection with 12 has continued to grow, and everything is just getting better as he's been around. So I take my hat off to him and what he's been able to do this year, and he makes my job easier too."
Disputed penalty flag
After a 14-yard catch late in the first quarter against the Panthers, Adams stood up.
Television cameras captured no ill intent. Adams did not bump Panthers linebacker Jeremy Chinn or taunt him. But he was flagged for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty that nullified his catch.
"They told me that I kneed him as I was getting up," Adams said. "Which I obviously, I mean, we made some sort of contact, but last time I checked this is the National Football League, and stuff like that – that was worse than the one last year in San Francisco. So it definitely blew me."
Adams said he was not fined for the penalty, unlike last season when he made minimal contact with a 49ers defender after a catch out of bounds. Still, it lowlighted Adams' worst game in almost three months. Adams had just seven catches for 42 yards, his fewest yards since Week 2 this season. He did not catch a touchdown pass for the first time since Oct. 18, snapping a franchise-record eight-game streak.
Adams said the Panthers didn't show anything different in their secondary. They played quarters coverage, with an inside safety dropped close to the line of scrimmage and outside corner shaded toward the sideline, preventing Adams from going deep.
Adams credited Panthers defensive pass game coordinator Jason Simmons, who formerly worked with Packers defensive backs the past two seasons, for coming up with a sound game plan.
"They obviously had a plan," Adams said, "which was to come in and make sure 17 was not a part of it. Really, just the whole pass game all together, we couldn't really get a whole lot going there. We were running the ball really well early and then when we needed to be able to pass, it was tough because we hadn't established any type of rhythm. I hadn't been on a million routes at that point, so it was tough for me to communicate with Matt and let him know what I was seeing and what I think would be advantageous for us.
"It wasn't anything too crazy as far as what they were doing. I would just say the way, the speed that they were playing it, and I had a plan to try to come out and make sure they had guys underneath me, inside, over the top, everywhere. So they did a pretty good job executing that."
New Packers practice squad kicker JJ Molson is going to fit in just fine with the Green Bay lifestyle. After all, he has beer in his blood.
The 2020 undrafted free agent out of UCLA is the eighth-generation descendant of John Molson, who founded Montreal’s Molson Brewery in 1786. The star-studded ancestry doesn’t end there – JJ’s grandfather, J. David Molson, owned the Montreal Canadiens from 1964-1971.
The co-owner of the Canadiens, Geoff Molson, is JJ’s dad’s first cousin.
“So we’ve kind of got the hockey side and the beer side,” Molson told reporters at the 2020 NFL scouting combine. “I’m just trying to add the football side now.”
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The Packers signed Molson to their practice squad Monday as insurance for kicker Mason Crosby. The team had been working out kickers weekly throughout the season to have a backup plan if COVID-19 or injury sidelined Crosby on game day. Now, the Packers can elevate Molson if need be.
Molson was a four-star recruit and was rated the No. 3 kicker in the nation by Scout.com coming out of Selwyn House School in Westmount, Quebec. He chose to attend UCLA over an offer from the University of Alabama. As one of the only Canadian players on UCLA’s football team, Molson earned a number of unique nicknames.
“My friends would call me ‘Molson Golden,'” Molson said. “I kind of wore gold cleats, and Molson used to make this beer called Molson Golden. So that’s pretty funny having that nickname, and the fact that my family made Molson Golden beer. … It’s an older beer. So I just have fun with that. I embrace it.”
In four seasons at UCLA, Molson made 51 of 74 field goals with a longest made attempt of 50 yards. He registered 145 touchbacks on 266 kickoffs. Molson overlapped all four years at UCLA with Packers inside linebacker and fellow undrafted free agent Krys Barnes.
Prior to joining the Packers, Molson spent a brief period of time on the Los Angeles Chargers practice squad in early December. In May, Molson was selected by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the seventh round of the 2020 Canadian Football League draft.