GREEN BAY – A majority of the Packers who sat out with an injury during last Thursday’s preseason opener against Tennessee were back on the field when the team returned to practice Sunday.
Starting offensive linemen David Bakhtiari (ankle), Bryan Bulaga (knee) and Lane Taylor (ankle); defensive linemen Mike Daniels (quad) and Muhammad Wilkerson (groin); cornerbacks Kevin King (shoulder) and Jaire Alexander (groin); receiver Randall Cobb (ankle), tight end Jimmy Graham (knee), and running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) were some of the prominent players back in pads. Several had limited workloads.
The Packers breathed a massive sigh of relief last week when tests showed the ankle injury Bakhtiari suffered on Family Night wasn’t significant. After sitting last week for precautionary reasons, the All-Pro left tackle said he felt good after going through individual drills and doing rehab with the training staff.
“I think today was a good day,” Bakhtiari said. “Just wanted to see the progression, obviously they want to integrate me back in – don’t want to just throw me in right away – but everything felt good.”
Bulaga returned to practice a little more than a week ago for the first time since tearing his ACL last November against Detroit. Now nine months removed from surgery, the veteran right tackle continues to make strides in his recovery, including some 11-on-11 snaps in practice on Sunday.
Bulaga said he’s more nervous about honing his technique at this point than the possibility of an injury or setback. All of Bulaga’s on-field reps are geared towards making sure his technique is right and he’s comfortable in his stance.
Since the beginning, it’s been Bulaga’s goal to be on the field when the Packers open their 100th season at Lambeau Field against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 9. So far, so good.
“I’m optimistic about it. I feel like it’s an attainable goal,” Bulaga said. “It’s something that I’m working up to. It’s not something you just jump right back into doing.
“A full workload of team (11-on-11) reps and the next day you’re all sore and swollen and then you can’t do any work, there’s no point in doing that. You’re just setting yourself back. Taking it slowly and progressing into things slowly and putting more workload on the knee day by day is the steps we’re taking. It’s gone well so far.”
Along with Daniels and Wilkerson returning on defense, the Packers got two important pieces of their secondary back in King and Alexander.
King, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last December, sat out last week due to soreness in the other shoulder. Wearing a protective brace during Sunday’s practice, King said it’s not as serious as his previous shoulder injury.
He’s hopeful to get some work this preseason but plans to be ready for the regular season regardless.
“Do I feel like I need to play in the preseason? Yes. And if I didn’t would I still be ready Week 1? Yes,” King said. “Every time the Packers go out there to play, I wanted to be suited up and out there playing. I haven’t been here long enough to not be playing in the preseason. Whenever they’re out there, I want to be out there.”
Alexander, who took a few snaps in team periods Sunday, watched fellow rookie cornerback Josh Jackson from the sideline during Thursday’s game against Tennessee in anticipation for his own NFL debut.
“It’s just a process. That’s what football is. You have your ups and downs,” said Alexander, a first-round pick out of Louisville. “We’re going to take it day by day with the training staff. Their word is always the good word. It felt good to be out there.”
Receiver Adonis Jennings and fullback Joe Kerridge (shoulder) also returned. Only four players – linebacker Nick Perry (ankle), receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring), safety Jermaine Whitehead (back) and running back Devante Mays (hamstring) – sat out Sunday, which marked the team’s 11th public practice.