GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers‘ outlook for Week 1 improved on Sunday after coach Matt LaFleur said three key players — offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, tight end Robert Tonyan and rookie receiver Christian Watson — have been activated off the physically unable to perform list.
While it doesn’t guarantee that the trio will be available for the Sept. 11 opener at the Minnesota Vikings, it at least allows for the possibility. Had they remained on PUP to start the season, they would have to miss at least the first four games. Both Jenkins and Tonyan are coming off torn left ACLs from last season, and Watson underwent a right knee scope shortly before training camp.
“It’s just like the next step in the process,” LaFleur said Sunday. “It’s not like they’re going to be out there in team drills. But they’ll do some individual and with them being back, now it allows you to do some walkthroughs, which is going to be obviously very beneficial for, especially for a guy who hasn’t played in the National Football League like Christian. So, it’ll be great to get ’em out there for some of the walkthroughs.”
Still, it could help settle some questions on the Packers’ offense. Jenkins was a Pro Bowler at left guard in 2020 and then filled in at left tackle last season for All-Pro David Bakhtiari (who remains on PUP after undergoing a third knee surgery since his initial left ACL tear). Jenkins could return to guard or left tackle but also could fill another hole at right tackle.
The Packers have been rotating several players at both right guard and right tackle throughout training camp. LaFleur even joked that Jenkins could play tight end. During his individual work on Sunday, Jenkins practiced the stance and footwork that a right tackle would use.
“As far as where he’s going to play, I think time will tell,” LaFleur said. “I don’t want to commit to the right side. I don’t want to commit to the left side. I don’t want to commit to tight end.”
It was a relatively quick return for Jenkins, who was injured on Nov. 21 at Minnesota.
“I think Elgton has done everything everybody has asked him to do in regards to the rehab process,” LaFleur said. “He’s been super disciplined and he’s putting the work in. That’ll be a big boost when he is fully cleared to help us out. Because there’s not many guys who are, No. 1, as talented as he is but also as versatile as he is.”
Tonyan sustained his injury nearly a month earlier on Oct. 28 at Arizona and left the Packers without a significant playmaking tight end. The previous season, Tonyan caught 11 touchdown passes in 2020.
Watson, the Packers’ second-round pick, took part in the entire offseason program but opted for surgery shortly after the June practices to fix nagging knee pain. He’s expected to be part of the plan to help replace All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March, although fellow rookie receiver Romeo Doubs‘ hot start might have moved him past Watson to start the season.
“I had the conversation with ’12’ earlier today, he was telling me about that, how he’s going to be hard on me, (saying) ‘Make the mistakes now, so they don’t happen during the season,'” Watson said. “So to be able to go out there and learn from those things and also have the positive things as well, it’s positive and negative reinforcement and I’m just excited to go out there and make those mistakes and learn from those things and get back on track.”
The Packers still have three players on PUP: Bakhtiari, kicker Mason Crosby (knee) and running back/kick returner Kylin Hill (knee). They also lost safety Dallin Leavitt to a significant shoulder injury in Friday’s preseason opener at San Francisco and signed kicker Ramiz Ahmed on Sunday after Gabe Brkic sustained a hamstring injury.