Ryan and Wes offer a mid-week update on the Packers' preparations for Saturday's NFC divisional playoff matchup at Arizona. (Jan. 13, 2016)
With a trip to Arizona for the NFC divisional round looming, the Green Bay Packers appear to be getting healthier at two of the most critical positions on the field.
Top cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) were able to practice Wednesday afternoon, including light team drills. It’s a promising sign as the Packers continue their preparation for their Saturday night game at the Arizona Cardinals.
Shields hasn’t played since his concussion Dec. 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. He has yet to pass through the protocol, but it was encouraging to see him back on the practice field Wednesday. He practiced two weeks ago before the Packers’ regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings, but there was a setback that prevented Shields from practicing last week.
“Sam had a really good workout (Tuesday),” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday morning. “Going to do some on-field work today, but he's still not totally through the protocol. Getting close.”
Bakhtiari has hardly practiced since injuring his ankle at the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 20. The third-year left tackle had started the first 35 games of his career before missing the previous three.
McCarthy said the team will evaluate how Bakhtiari’s ankle feels after practice.
The Packers were without receiver Davante Adams (knee) and rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins (quadriceps) at practice. Still, Shields and Bakhtiari’s return to practice was a major positive.
After losing at the Cardinals 38-8 on Dec. 27, the Packers are trying to figure out how to erase a 30-point deficit in three weeks. The best way would be having Shields and Bakhtiari available Saturday night. Both were inactive the first time in Arizona, and their absence hurt.
The Packers allowed Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to pass for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Floyd had a big day with six grabs for 111 yards. Shields’ presence could give the Packers a true lockdown corner.
The offensive line might have an even greater benefit if Bakhtiari can return. The Packers allowed nine sacks, eight against quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Two of those were strip-sacks the Cardinals returned for touchdowns.
There’s no guarantee Shields or Bakhtiari will play Saturday. Both have to get through the rest of the week with no setbacks. Regardless, their return to practice was a sign things are moving in the right direction.