Packers go two consecutive days without adding a player to the reserve/COVID-19 list
GREEN BAY – For the first time since Dec. 23, the Green Bay Packers have gone two consecutive days without adding a player to the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
The only players on the 53-man roster who remain on the list are cornerback Jaire Alexander and tackle Billy Turner. Three members of the practice squad – kicker JJ Molson, receiver David Moore and linebacker Ray Wilborn – are also on the list.
In comparison to teams such as Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington, Dallas and Carolina, the Packers have been spared mass losses at a given position and will go into the postseason with all three quarterbacks, their franchise receiver, their Pro Bowl nose tackle, their impact inside linebacker and their punter on 90-day testing “holidays” because they’ve already tested positive this year.
The Omicron variant remains a threat to society and the NFL alike and the Packers aren’t immune from it by any means, but the current standing heading into Week 17 and the playoff bye that follows is stable.
"I think we’re going to get a couple of guys back tomorrow,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “And on Saturday as well.”
As of Thursday, 24 of the team’s players on the 53-man roster have been on the COVID-19 list, including Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Kenny Clark, De’Vondre Campbell and Corey Bojorquez. Another five are on injured reserve and another seven are or were members of the practice squad.
As they prepare to face the Detroit Lions Sunday, the Packers have only one player on the list – Moore – who played the previous week against Minnesota.
The NFL’s relaxation of quarantine requirements Dec. 28 has allowed players – all vaccinated – to come back within five days if asymptomatic, which means a lot of players are making it back quickly enough that they don’t miss a game.
Over the past two games, the only Packers players who have had to sit out are rookie receiver Amari Rodgers and defensive end Kingsley Keke.
After a month of not knowing for sure who might test positive and having to alter game plans as a result, there has been some normality this week. At the same time, it would be a big mistake to think they are out of the woods with positive tests and missed games and the challenge ahead will be making sure players are available for the playoffs.
“I think the way that these past couple years have gone with COVID in our society, you try to just understand this is going to happen, and you go about your plan, you try to get the best plan together, understand that you might miss some guys,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “And if you do that, you know, you're going to have to have some other people step up.
“You have to be ready to change and adapt. I mean, that's what this game is.”
There is still a concern over coaches testing positive. LaFleur said special teams coach Maurice Drayton was on the list this week, but he did not rule him out returning in time for Sunday's game. The NFL is requiring all non-player personnel to receive booster vaccine shots, which the CDC says broaden and strengthens protection against Omicron.
Players are not required to get the booster because the NFL cannot require shots without negotiating with the union. So far, the union has not agreed to mandated booster shots.
An unintended byproduct of Rodgers playing this week in a game at Detroit where the Packers can neither gain or lose anything in the NFC playoff seeding is fewer snaps for Jordan Love.
The Packers could use what will essentially amount to an added preseason game – only with genuine, sophisticated game plans – to give their former first-round quarterback more snaps.
Love has played only 13 snaps since his lone NFL start at Kansas City in October, 12 coming last week against the Minnesota Vikings. In garbage time, Love completed 2 of 4 passes for 19 yards. He also converted a third-and-10 with a 10-yard scramble.
This week could offer the Packers a chance to see their young quarterback build off his limited snaps.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” Hackett said. “I thought he did a really fine job just this last game having a couple opportunities just to go in there in the four-minute drive, getting a couple first downs, getting a lot of time off the clock. I mean, he was able to scramble out there and get that first down in a third-down situation. Anytime you get out there, anytime you have a chance to really play football, it’s so great. So I hope he gets an opportunity for this next game.”
It’s uncertain if Love will get that opportunity, or how much of an opportunity it will be.
LaFleur has made clear Rodgers, along with other key starters, will play in Detroit.
At some point, it seems Love stands a good chance of seeing the field.
“I think it’s all just where we are in the game,” LaFleur said, “what the situation is, what the score is, and kind of let it unfold naturally.”
Injury update: Thursdays with Aaron
Rodgers participated in a Thursday practice for the first time since suffering a fractured toe while working out at home during a COVID-19 quarantine in early November. Rodgers was considered a limited participant.
Discussion has arisen in the past week as to whether Rodgers or other players should risk injury to practice and play Sunday in a game that has no bearing on the postseason.
Despite the opportunity to rest the toe, Rodgers has maintained he wants to play Sunday and practice as much as possible this week.
“I think it's more just keeping the momentum going and the desire to be out there with the guys competing,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I know there's possible players who could return this week. I don't know what their status is going to be, but that's exciting for sure. But ultimately, guys want to play. I mean, there's risk every time you take the field. There's obviously the idea about rust and compared to momentum but, I mean I want to be out there and be with my guys.”
Left tackle David Bakhtiari knee) was present at practice doing conditioning work, as was lineman Josh Myers (finger).
Bakhtiari was a limited participant Wednesday, albeit in a walk-through. He did not participate in Thursday’s practice, something LaFleur said was a possibility before practice began.
“Part of our plan was to have him go yesterday,” LaFleur said Thursday. “Today he'll condition and then we'll have him back out there (Friday).”
Bakhtiari is still looking to play his first game of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear. After stringing together several practices in late November. Bakhtiari then went several weeks without practicing at all. No decision has been as to Bakhtiari’s status for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
“We’ll get through Friday and see where we’re at on Saturday and potentially make that call then,” LaFleur said.
Tight end Dominique Dafney (ankle) returned as a full participant Thursday. Campbell (elbow) and running back Aaron Jones (knee) were limited participants. Tight end Marcedes Lewis (veteran rest day) and defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (illness) did not practice.
In Detroit, quarterback Jared Goff (knee) practiced as a limited participant for the second day in a row.