Davante Adams still sidelined, but Packers hoping to have three top receivers ready for Chiefs
GREEN BAY - By week’s end, the Green Bay Packers' depleted roster could be a lot closer to whole.
After being without their top three wideouts for last week’s game at Arizona, two returned to practice Monday. Davante Adams was the lone receiver not practicing as he continues to recover from COVID-19, but coach Matt LaFleur said his star receiver has a rough return date of Thursday.
It’s uncertain if Adams will recover in time to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard appear to be on track after practicing Monday. Lazard had been on the reserve/COVID-19 list, where he had been placed as an unvaccinated close contact to Adams.
Valdes-Scantling practiced for the first time since being placed on injured reserve after injuring his hamstring Week 3. He has missed the past five games, a streak that could end Sunday.
“I think he’s coming along,” LaFleur said. “Certainly any time you’re dealing with that type of injury, you never want to put a guy out there too early. Because then it basically doubles the timeline for when you can get a guy back, but he’s done everything he can in his power to try to get back as quickly as possible, and it was nice to see him out there today.”
LaFleur said defensive coordinator Joe Barry is also expected to be available by Thursday.
The receiver position wasn’t the only group with reinforcements. Tackle Dennis Kelly returned to practice after missing most of October with a back injury. Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke did not practice as he continues to be in concussion protocol.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari began his third straight week of practice. LaFleur said a decision has been made on when Bakhtiari will play his first game after tearing his ACL, but he isn’t going to tip his hand on when that will be.
“As I’ve said all along,” Lafleur said, “David’s doing everything he can. We’ve just got to make sure the timing is right and take it day by day. When he’s ready to go, and everybody feels confident about it, then he’ll be back out there.”
Torn ACL is a 'blip’ for Robert Tonyan
When Robert Tonyan’s season ended last week, Josiah Deguara knew exactly how his teammate felt.
A year ago, Deguara’s rookie season ended in September because of a torn ACL. He has returned this season to play in seven of the Packers’ eight games, missing one because of a concussion.
With Tonyan out, Deguara knows he’s about to get a whole lot busier.
“My heart hurts for Bobby, man,” Deguara said. “Obviously went through something similar last year. So when he heard the news and was going through those emotions, just offered my support for him, told him I love him, and any advice, anything he needs, I’m here for him. I know he’s going to attack it and come back better than he was.”
The Packers need Deguara to step in their offense with Tonyan out. Deguara was drafted in the third round last season to give the Packers tight end group depth. After his rookie season was cut short, Deguara had just four catches for 28 yards this season. He also forgot where to line up on a critical third down near the goal line late in the fourth quarter against Arizona last week, costing the Packers a 5-yard penalty for delay of game because they did not have a timeout.
Deguara said the mistake was simply a “miscommunication” on his part and would not divulge any details on what happened, other than to say it was his fault.
LaFleur knows it will be difficult for anyone to replace Tonyan, who had a breakout season last year and continued to be a playmaker this fall.
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“That’s a tough one,” he said. “Bobby provided so much, and the thing that you really, truly appreciate about a guy like him is, even when he wasn’t getting the targets, he was still doing his job. When we were asking him to chip guys, whether it was a guy like (San Francisco 49ers defensive end) Nick Bosa and being able to put him on the ground a couple times, he did an outstanding job both in the run and the pass. Then when he was targeted, he made the most of those.
“I just feel sick for him, just knowing how much he puts into this game, not only during the season but in the offseason. He attacks it the right way, and I know it’s just a little blip on the radar for him. He’ll be back, he’ll be stronger, he’ll be better. But certainly it’s definitely disappointing for us as a football team, and I know it is for him personally as well.”
Za'Darius Smith ‘in good spirits’ around team
Za’Darius Smith has returned to the team after taking the past several weeks away as he healed from back surgery.
Anything beyond that, LaFleur said, is still being worked out.
“I don’t have much to update on Z,” LaFleur said. “It was great to see him back in the building. He had a big smile on his face, and it seems like he’s in a pretty good frame of mind. So we’ll just take that one. Again, I think that’s more of a week-by-week case, but we’ll see where he’s at. He hasn’t even really done a whole lot of rehab with our guys yet.”
Smith has played only 18 snaps this season, all of them in the opener. It’s uncertain if he’ll play again this season, but being around the team is a positive step.
“It’s just the fact that you can see him,” LaFleur said. “He seems to be in good spirits, which is always important. It was just good to have him back in the building.”
An early look at the Chiefs
LaFleur said he anticipated watching the Kansas City Chiefs play the New York Giants on Monday night, but mostly only in the background.
The Packers play the Chiefs on Sunday, giving them a rare opportunity to watch their next opponent live without focusing on any other game. LaFleur said he’d make plans to watch the game live, but the real study would come after, when the film clips were imputed to the Packers’ internal system.
“I think as soon as the game is over, and our guys get an opportunity to get it in,” LaFleur said, “they’ll break the game down. And we’ll certainly pay more attention to it when it’s in our system just in terms of analyzing it because sometimes it’s hard to see everything on the television copy. So you kind of have it on in the background, but I would say the majority of our focus is what is in our system right now.”
When the season began, the Packers’ trip to Kansas City was among the NFL’s most highly anticipated matchups of 2021, pitting Aaron Rodgers against Patrick Mahomes. Since then, the Chiefs stumbled to a stunning 3-4 record entering Monday’s game.
LaFleur said the Packers are not taking their next opponent lightly.
“I don’t buy their record right now,” LaFleur said. “I know they are as dangerous as anybody. I think a lot of people had them preseason to win the Super Bowl. So I think Kansas City is a dynamic team, they’ve got explosive playmakers all over the field on defense. It’s going to be a great challenge for us. We’re going to have to have a great week of preparation, and I think our guys know that.”