Robert Tonyan, Mason Crosby working their way back from injuries
GREEN BAY - Robert Tonyan isn’t officially “back” just yet. The Green Bay Packers tight end is still recovering from the ACL tear he suffered during Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals last season, spending the first day of Packers training camp with the rehab group. But he feels close, so close.
“I'm good. I'm in a great spot. Continue to take it day by day, setting short-term goals, not getting too ahead of myself,” said Tonyan, speaking with local media for the first time since his injury. "I mean, I haven't had any setbacks, no problems. So just continuing to work on obviously, my weak points and then take it from there.”
Head Coach Matt LaFleur joked Wednesday morning that when it comes to injured players, he doesn’t “pay attention to timelines anymore.” That’s a dose of reality for players such as Tonyan, who in an ideal world would love to target the season opener for a return.
“It was tough at first, obviously because you want to play the first game. But you know, like I was just saying before, just not setting those types of statistical goals via an injury… so it’s just more so taking it day by day, setting short-term goals for myself, just working.”
Still, there is one timeline Tonyan is keeping an eye on as he recovers: returning in less than a year. As ACL surgery and recoveries have evolved, the timeline for a return has shortened for many players, with the average of 12 months now being somewhat closer to 10 months for many. Tonyan is determined to be one of those who jumps the curve.
“That's obviously the plan. I mean, there's no set date or anything like that. But the ultimate goal is to try to play when I can as early as possible,” Tonyan said. “But just talking with the athletic trainers and Gutey (General Manager Brian Gutekunst) just, obviously just coming back when I'm fully ready.”
Tonyan, who says he has done “football moves” as well, not just rehab work, credits the determination to make progress every day for his speedy and trouble-free recovery.
“Literally just work, just grind every day, just taking it day by day and just doing what I can; focus on what I couldn't and just trying to make those weaknesses, strengths,” Tonyan said.
“Just continuing to obviously work on (football moves) and just getting more acclimated to football work and football movements and stuff like that. So that's where I'm at right now.”
In Tonyan’s absence, Tyler Davis has received more first-team reps. The trajectory for the third-year player is high, said Tonyan, and he sees a lot of himself in the young tight end.
“He’s awesome. Just a great competitor, a great football player, you know, a four-core special teamer. He's very good with the offense,” said Tonyan of his teammate. “Kind of a similar background as me playing quarterback, so it's fun to talk ball with him and him asking me questions and wanting to be a better player. A great football player.”
Mason Crosby undergoes unexpected procedure
Veteran kicker Mason Crosby was placed on the PUP list over the weekend, indicating an injury suffered between OTA's and the start of training camp. On Wednesday, Crosby shared the details of the unexpected procedure and his timeline to return.
“I have a right knee injury that I’ve been kind of dealing with here through the offseason," Crosby said. "Wear and tear through the years, different things, but it didn’t feel like it was where it needed to be at the end of OTA’s, so I’m just trying to get healthy, get right, make sure that by the regular season, at the very latest, I’m ready to roll. So for me, it’s just kind of taking it and making sure I get my body right."
He went on to share that he had a “minor scope” on the knee and “it feels a lot better already and I don’t expect it to be a long, nagging thing.”
This means Crosby is not kicking for now during training camp and instead taking mental reps. Luckily for the longtime kicker, this is part of his in-season process anyway, so he’s borrowing from that experience.
“Half of what I do on a normal week is just a dry run, just doing things where I’m not striking the ball as much. So gonna do as much as possible from that space and have the visualization be really available for them whenever I do start to get with the full group, that we’ll be ready to roll.”
The 16-year vet is aiming for a return by the regular-season opener on Sept. 11 and doesn’t feel the need to kick during any of the three preseason games. The operational logistics are often dependent on camaraderie and timing, according to Crosby, so having time before the season to work on those is crucial.
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“It’s hard not being out there with the guys, having those moments on the field. That’s always a hard thing with being injured.”
But in the end, “I think having a couple games off won’t hurt anyone … I’ve done it for a long time so not concerned about once everything's perfectly healed. My main concern right now is being healthy. And being ready to go through a long season.”
Jordan Love embracing the pressure of camp
Jordan Love found every fan who wanted an autograph following the first open Packers training camp of the 2022 offseason. The third-year quarterback was one of the first players to leave the field and last to leave the fans, signing helmets, taking pictures and even autographing an Aaron Rodgers jersey.
“Ruining Aaron’s jersey with my signature,” said Love, joking with a fan.
“You’re not ruining nothing,” the fan replied.
And if all goes to plan, the Rodgers and Love baton passing will work out for the Packers the same way Brett Favre and Rodgers did years ago. First, Love has to prove he’s worthy of leading the franchise. That can amount to enormous weight, but the affable passer is content with the pressure.
“I think there's always pressure on everybody being in the NFL that you have to prove yourself every day when you get here and go make plays out there on the field. So I think there's always that pressure,” Love said.
Through the offseason OTA’s, Love did begin to prove himself more and more, putting a better touch on the ball and making the decisions LaFleur wants to see in order to trust his backup QB.
“I've just been working on throwing with base, throwing on the run; being able to get my shoulders more downhill when I throw on the run, get more accurate with that. Just diving into the playbook and understand it more. I feel like I made a huge jump in the OTA’s just understanding the offense even more, understand where I need to throw the ball, things like that,” Love said.
“I think just understand the offense a little bit better. Understand where I need to go with the ball and then my feet, just having my feet in place, get into a base a lot more and be able to make throws, be accurate with it. I think that's where I've improved a lot ... I'm just processing things faster.”
For now though, this is still Rodgers' team and Love is aware of what that means for him: bide his time and be ready when it comes.
Joked Love, “In OTA’s, I was getting all the one reps so that was huge for me. I enjoyed that. But he’s back, so gotta get those two reps.”