Three Key Packers Return from Injury

The Green Bay Packers are getting a much-needed offensive boost.

On Sunday, the Packers activated Elgton Jenkins, Robert Tonyan and Christian Watson from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Jenkins, a 2020 Pro Bowl guard, initially tore his left ACL versus the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 of the 2021 season.

Jenkins was drafted as a guard in the second round of the 2019 draft. Since then, he has played every position on the offensive line, including left tackle last season, in place of David Bakhtiari.

“​​There’s not too many guys that are, No. 1, as talented as he is, but also as versatile as he is,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “I mean, we can put him anywhere on that line. Shoot, we could probably put him at tight end.”

Jenkins participated in individual drills but was held out of the 11-on-11 team portion of practice.

Following Sunday’s practice, Jenkins said he felt good and his knee had no pain. He added that the biggest challenge is getting used to wearing pads and a helmet and getting into a routine.

Despite the injury, Jenkins is looking to return as an even better player.

“When I first hurt myself and I started going into rehab and all that, I just wanted to get back to a better form of myself or even better,” Jenkins said. “The knee fine. Everything fine. It’s just that thought process of what I’ve been through the last nine months.”

Nothing is guaranteed, but if Jenkins continues to feel well and the front office gives him the green light, he could look to play Week 1.

The Packers also activated a pair of pass catchers off the PUP list Sunday in tight end Robert Tonyan and wide receiver Christian Watson.

Tonyan, a 2020 Pro Bowler, has been rehabbing since tearing his left ACL against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8 of last season. After sitting on the sidelines for 41 weeks, Tonyan is glad to be on the gridiron again.

“It’s just a relief to get the helmet and show them that it’s on again,” Tonyan said after Sunday’s practice. “It’s been a long process. I was just kind of feeling a little out of the football loop for a little bit, so to get back in there running plays and lining up next to people and being in the huddle again was just a positive on my life in general.”

Similar to Jenkins, Tonyan viewed his injury as an opportunity to get better.

“I think this offseason and injuries definitely made me a better football player,” Tonyan said.

The Packers tight end room has been lackluster at best so far in camp but Tonyan’s return gives the Packers their best pass-catching tight end back, giving Aaron Rodgers another weapon to utilize.

To complete the trio of PUP activations, rookie second-round pick Christian Watson was also activated off the PUP.

Watson, a 6-foot-4 speed demon from North Dakota State, was first placed on the PUP list before training camp after having knee surgery this summer to correct “lingering soreness” from OTAs and minicamp. Until Sunday, Watson had been with the rehab group.

Watson’s recovery hasn’t stopped him from being a part of practice, as he has been on the sidelines taking mental reps and absorbing as much information as possible, but Watson acknowledged that aren’t the same as live reps.

“It’s a different change of pace when you’re out there in the huddle, hearing the play from Aaron, looking at the defense, reading the defense, getting checks at the line,” Watson said. “It’s a lot different than standing on the side and doing it mentally. It’s huge, and I’m excited.”

While fans are excited that players are returning from injury, LaFleur and the Packers front office want to be cautious and not rush them back too quickly.

“I think the guys are really excited about it as well,” LaFleur said. “But we’re still going to make sure that we do it the right way because you’re talking about significant injuries, and certainly their health and safety is at the forefront of every decision we make.”

After a rough start to camp for the offense, the return of Jenkins, Tonyan and Watson should give the Packers the juice they need to get the wheels rolling in preparation for Week 1.

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