GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers’ outlook for Week 1 improved Sunday after coach Matt LaFleur said three key players — offensive lineman. Elton Jenkinstight end Robert Tonyan and rookie receiver Christian Watson — were activated outside the list of physically incapable.
While it doesn’t guarantee the trio will be available for the Sept. 11 opener at the Minnesota Vikings, it at least allows for the possibility. If they stayed on PUPPY 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 sprain 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’re going to do some individual and with them coming back, now it allows you to take some walks, which is obviously going to be very beneficial for, especially for a guy who hasn’t played in the National Football League like Christian . So, it will be great to get them out for some of the walks.”
Still, it could help settle some questions about the Packers’ offense. Jenkins was a Pro Bowler at left guard in 2020 and then filled in at left tackle last season for an All-Pro. David Bakhtiari (who remains on PUP after undergoing third knee surgery since his initial left ACL tear). Jenkins could return to guard or left tackle but could also fill another hole at right tackle. The Packers rotated several players at right guard and right tackle during training camp. LaFleur even joked that Jenkins could play tight end.
“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 Nov. 21 at Minnesota.
“I think Elgton has done everything everyone has asked him to do as far as the rehab process,” LaFleur said. “He’s been super disciplined and he puts in the work. That’s going to be a big boost when he’s fully allowed to help us. Because there aren’t many guys who are, No. 1, as talented as him but also versatile. like he is.”
Tonyan suffered 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, participated in the entire offseason program but opted for surgery shortly after June practices to fix nagging knee pain. He is expected to be part of the plan to help replace an All-Pro receiver Giving Adamswho was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in March, although a fellow rookie receiver Romeo Doubts‘ hot start may have moved him past Watson to start the season.
The Packers still have three players on PUP: Bakhtiari, kicker Mason Crosby (knee) and running back/kick returner Village Hill (knee). They also lost security Dallin Leavitt to a significant shoulder injury in Friday’s preseason opener at San Francisco and signed kicker Ramiz Ahmed on sunday later Gabe Brkic suffered a hamstring injury.