Green Bay Packers not saying how long cornerback Jaire Alexander will be out, hopeful he can avoid surgery
GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander isn’t in need of surgery to repair his right shoulder at this time, coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday, but he’s probably not going to play Sunday at Cincinnati and LaFleur would not reveal how long he might out.
Asked about the possibility of Alexander needing surgery, LaFleur said, “We’re going to try to avoid it at all costs.”
LaFleur said that undergoing surgery probably would end Alexander's season.
According to a source, the specialists wanted to wait until mid-to-late week before making a decision how to treat him. The Packers are still waiting to hear back from the specialists they have consulted before moving forward with a recovery plan.
There is some hope that the injury could be short term and that Alexander could play with a brace, but the Packers don't know if that's possible yet. Alexander could avoid surgery but still be out for quite a while, so LaFleur avoided any kind of prognosis.
The fourth-year pro injured the AC joint in his shoulder while making a diving tackle of Pittsburgh Steelers running Najee Harris on Sunday and was unable to return to the game. After undergoing tests Monday, the Packers sent the results to several specialists to get their opinion on what course of action to take.
The initial possibilities, according to a source, were to have him wear a brace that would restrict the movement in his shoulder but allow him to play, rest the shoulder and see if it would heal quickly enough that he would be able to return to action sometime this season or operate on it and probably end his season.
Alexander, a Pro Bowl selection in 2020, offers defensive coordinator Joe Barry a lot of leeway in designing game plans each week because if he needs someone to play man-to-man coverage on one side of the field or needs a safety to help out elsewhere, he can count on him to cover his man.
The Packers have been without starting corner Kevin King (concussion) each of the past two weeks, although he returned to practice Wednesday. In his place, rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes has been a pleasant surprise and probably will remain a starter regardless of how the rest of the secondary shakes out.
If King returns, he could play on one side and Stokes the other with Chandon Sullivan in the slot. The Packers had moved King to the slot, feeling Stokes was the better player outside, but they might not have a choice but to play King outside.
"If he's not able to go for a while, obviously we need Kev to step up and and play as well as he's capable of playing," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Eric has done a nice job for us.
"But the defense definitely has a lot more confidence I'd say after Week 4, then in maybe the first couple weeks and so do we on offense. I like the way we're trending."
If King had a setback and couldn't play, the Packers could play veteran Isaac Yiadom outside or they could move Sullivan outside and put safety Darnell Savage in the slot in their nickel package.
On Wednesday, the Packers signed cornerback Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad. A third-round pick by Philadelphia in 2017 out of West Virginia, Douglas (6-2, 209) played three years for the Eagles (2017-19) and one season for the Carolina Panthers (2020), appearing in 60 games with 29 starts.
It's possible he could contribute right away, but given he's coming to a new system, he probably would only be able to play in a specific package and not every down.
"He's played a lot of games in this league," LaFleur said. "He's a big, physical corner, is really tough. He certainly looks the part and it was good to see him out there (at practice) today."
Making the Alexander loss even tougher is this week's opponent, the Bengals, who have a deep collection of receivers, including rookie speedster Ja'Marr Chase, veteran Tyler Boyd and second-year pro Tee Higgins. In addition, quarterback Joe Burrow, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, is healthy after missing most of last year with a knee injury and has a 113.8 passer rating.
One player who won’t be helping the Packers out is cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The New England Patriots told the 2019 defensive player of the year they were going to cut him because the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on a contract extension, but they wound up trading him to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth-round pick. Gilmore has a home in Charlotte and that might have been a consideration in the deal.
Gilmore has been on the physically unable to perform list with a hip injury and wasn’t eligible to play for the Patriots the next two games.
The Packers likely checked in to see what the price was. A sixth-round pick wouldn’t have been excessive, but they would have had to absorb the $5.4 million remaining on Gilmore’s contract this year. The Packers are around $7 million under the salary cap and so that would have been a tough pill to swallow, especially given how many contracts the Packers have restructured just to get under the cap this year.
It’s also possible Gilmore wanted a contract extension and the Panthers weren't willing to give him one. Given the Packers’ dire cap situation in 2022, they weren’t going to do a long-term extension because it might have prevented them from signing Alexander and receiver Davante Adams to extensions.