By: Aaron Morse 1/12/22
The Packers have been one of the most injured teams in the NFL this season. David Bakhtiari did not play until last week and he only played 27 snaps. Jaire Alexander has not played since week four. Elgton Jenkins was lost for the season in week eleven. Robert Tonyan has been out since injuring his knee in week eight. Aaron Rodgers has been managing a broken toe for the last few weeks.
The list goes on and on and on. And it all started back in week one when Za’Darius Smith only played 18 snaps against the Saints. Za’Darius had back surgery and has not practiced since. The Packers have been waiting to get their defensive pressure threat back and they finally did on Wednesday. After months of rehab and getting a few individual workouts completed, Smith has returned to on-field work with his team.
It is great news for the Packers as it now looks like they will get Za’Darius back in at least some capacity for the most important part of the season- something that seemed like a long shot just a few weeks ago. Just like everyone else, Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur wants to have the best eleven players on the field at all times, but also knows you cannot just throw guys out there:
An important note for Za’Darius and whether or not we will see him out on the field during the playoffs is the position he plays. Outside linebacker is a spot where you do not have to be on the field for every play. Za’Darius could play 15 snaps on passing downs and the defense would not miss a beat. However, someone like David Bakhtiari, playing left tackle, could not be in and out of the offensive plays because it would throw off the rhythm of the unit. So as long as Za’Darius is in respectable playing shape, expect him to be out there at some point.
Smith is not the only guy slowly getting healthier. Aaron Rodgers has been nursing his broken pinky toe while not missing a game since he was in quarantine in week nine. The recent time off and a lack of hits taken over the past few games has allowed that toe to recover without the surgery:
While David Bakhtiari did not practice on Wednesday (load management) he did get some game action in week 18 which means he is likely to return to a full game workload for the playoffs. Jaire Alexander continues to practice and should be good to go for the playoffs as well. Additionally, Billy Turner has been out of the lineup since he got injured in week 14. He was just activated off the Covid list and seems to be on track to return this season, as well.
It is a scary thought for the rest of the league that the team with the best record in the entire NFL is only going to continue to get stronger as the days move along.