Kenny Clark back at Packers practice, but roster questions remain for Browns game
GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark was back on the practice field Thursday, his first appearance since being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week.
Clark was seen during the open-viewing portion, participating in warm-ups and lineman individual drills. Coach Matt LaFleur said this is the first step to getting Clark back, possibly for this Saturday’s game against Cleveland.
“As far as Kenny is concerned, he’s still going through the protocol," LaFleur said. "It was great to have him back in the building. It was great to see him out there practice.”
Due to recent changes to the COVID-19 protocols agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA, Clark was able to return to action sooner. Packers trainers will also want him to show he’s physically able to take the exertion of a game. As such, LaFleur and staff wanted Clark to run through a practice before kickoff Saturday.
“Provided he clears then he'll play but we'll see where he's at and making sure that he is, first of all, healthy because that's the most important thing, and that he feels confident to go out there and play at a high level,” LaFleur said.
Clark’s potential return could be crucial, facing one of the best offensive lines in the league Saturday in the Browns. However, the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the NFL struck again Thursday, with Browns center JC Tretter revealing he tested positive.
“That's just the times that we're in. I think it's so different each and every week when you go out there,” LaFleur said. “I think when you talk about game planning, you're always looking at the scheme first, and then you think about how the players impact the scheme. And just what adjustments you may have to make.
“So I think that's always kind of on your mind of just like, this week, we're getting ready for the defensive side of the ball. Whether or not (defensive end) Myles Garrett is going to play, I know he's listed as questionable, you just got to have a plan for whether or not (defensive end) Jadeavon Clowney’s in there. Whoever's in there, you always have to have contingency plans, but you're always trying to attack the scheme and then think about the personnel.”
Depleted rosters take shape
Left tackle David Bakhtiari was not at practice Thursday and LaFleur had said earlier in the week that his Pro Bowl lineman would be day-to-day and not play this weekend. That became official Thursday, when Bakhtiari, linebacker Ty Summers (hamstring), receiver Malik Taylor (shoulder) and offensive lineman Billy Turner (knee) were all ruled out against the Browns.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was present in the practice facility Thursday, albeit still in an advisory role and participating only in walk-throughs. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is still on the COVID-19 list and was not at Thursday’s practice.
In Cleveland, safety John Johnson (hamstring) was officially ruled out for Saturday’s game. Defensive end Myles Garrett (groin) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee) are questionable. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and corner Greg Newsome II were on the reserve/COVID-19 list along with Tretter, but Mayfield is expected to play Saturday.
Browns safety Grant Delpit and offensive lineman James Hudson III were both activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.
The North is the standard
Ahead of Baltimore Ravens games, the stadium reverberates with “Omar’s whistle.” It’s an iconic moment delivered by Michael K. Williams in the Baltimore-based show, “The Wire.” But by the end of Sunday’s game, the only person in the stadium left whistling was Packers receiver Davante Adams.
Walking off the field with Rodgers, Adams whistled a little ditty of his own making, en route to the locker room where he’d pick up his hat and T-shirt, declaring the Packers NFC North champions. Just another day at the office.
“Not to be disrespectful or downplay it, but yeah, at this point, yes; that’s the ultimate standard at this point,” Adams said Wednesday. “We come in, that’s our first goal is to get that and, based off ... it wasn't like a whole lot of drama going into that game. It was just win it and get it.”
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As the only team in the league to have locked up their playoff spot, the Packers are keeping their eyes trained on the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC and home-field advantage for the playoffs. The NFC North title has become expected, the standard, and the moment the clock hit zero in Baltimore, sights turned to Saturday’s game against the Browns and subsequently running the table to finish off the season.
“That was one of our goals that we had,” running back Aaron Jones said. “That's one of our goals every year is to win the North. But like Tae said, we expect it. We expect to win the North every year. And that's just the standard we set for ourselves.”
LaFleur, who has led the Packers to three straight NFC North titles. It’s just one step towards the ultimate goal; the next step comes Saturday with perhaps another verse in Adams' song.
“It's just the standard to go out there and win those seven games and put ourselves in a position to host a home game, at a very minimum,” Adams said. “So yeah, the whistling it wasn’t intentional, but I was just, I was feeling in the moment and I can’t even tell you what I was whistling, but it was a whistling-type vibe for me.”