Green Bay Packers running back Kylin Hill in the final stages of a long road back from ACL surgery
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers have opened the window for the return of Kylin Hill, with the second-year player practicing Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Hill has been a permanent fixture with the rehabilitation group since tearing his ACL during the Week 8 win against the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Hill’s return to the unit drills was a welcome sight to teammates, coaches and, most of all, the running back himself.
“I feel good, you know, my teammates, they were happy to see me, even coaches,” Hill said Thursday. “From a mental standpoint, it was real good and very smooth.”
Hill, who had 24 yards on 10 carries and 10 kickoff returns for a 19.9-yard average in eight games as a rookie, has been a spectator for almost an entire year. His return to practice is just the kickoff to a 21-day window the Packers have to activate Hill off the physically unable to perform list, so Hill could feasibly go an entire calendar year without playing a football game (Oct. 28 will mark one year).
During that time, the Packers initially elected to carry only two running backs on the active roster, before adding Patrick Taylor ahead of the Week 4 game. Up until Sunday's Week 5 game in London, Amari Rodgers had been the primary kickoff returner.
Having to watch from the sideline has been a lesson in waiting for Hill.
“Basically just staying patient, just watching everybody do what they do,” Hill said. "Missing a game, just like I said, staying patient, obviously was the hardest part.
“I feel like as a competitor, everybody is gonna want to come back early. But I just trust the trainers and what they had to say and just follow directions. And it feels like everything worked out.”
Hill had a companion for much of the journey. Tight end Robert Tonyan tore his ACL on the same day as Hill. Tonyan was activated to the roster ahead of the regular season and has appeared in all five games. Even though Hill lost Tonyan as a rehab workout partner, having the veteran player alongside him has helped the recovery.
“Bobby, he’s a great guy," Hill said. "You know, his personality is very different. You know, I tell him all the time he’s very funny."
After two days of practice, Hill said, he feels “real good” and that team doctors have been constantly checking in with him to see how the knee is holding up through more strenuous activity. Over the next few weeks, as doctors and staff evaluate Hill’s progress and decide when he can return, Hill will be advocating to return sooner than later.
“I feel like me, I feel like I’ll be ready whenever,” Hill said. "But now just me trusting my trainers and seeing what they see. And obviously, they think I'm not ready. I'm going to trust them. Whenever they say I'm ready, I'm ready to go."
When that does happen, the Packers will be ready to welcome back a guy they feel can be a dynamic piece in this offense and special teams.
"We haven't seen him like in team situations yet,” offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said, "but just running around, running routes, running tracks with the quarterbacks, it’s really great to have him out there. He’s an explosive guy and you can see that, just doing drills and everything like that. So really excited to get him going and get him back in the fold.”