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Packers will play starters this week at Detroit

But they may not play the entire game

Head Coach Matt LaFleur and QB Aaron Rodgers
Head Coach Matt LaFleur and QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – Nobody who's healthy is getting Week 18 off for the Packers.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur made it clear Monday that despite already having the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs clinched, the team's starters would take the field next Sunday in Detroit.

"Right now the mindset is going into this is we're going to play our guys and we're going to approach it like every other game," LaFleur said.

He couched it a little by suggesting some players wouldn't play the whole game. But he stressed he's not comfortable giving healthy players the week off heading into a playoff bye and setting up a three-week layoff between games heading into the NFC Divisional round.

After Sunday's 37-10 blowout of the Vikings locked up the top spot in the conference, both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Davante Adams expressed a desire to keep playing. Rodgers is confident his fractured pinky toe continues to improve to the point he could practice multiple days this week.

There's always the risk of injury to front-line players in any game, and the Packers certainly have dealt with plenty already this season. It's a tough call to put players in harm's way against the Lions when the game's result has no bearing on the Packers' fortunes.

But LaFleur would rather accept that risk than the one his 13-3 team would lose its mojo with too much time off before the season is on the line in a win-or-go-home scenario.

"I know that you can look at it a million different ways and there's never a right answer unless it works out," LaFleur said. "If somebody goes in there and gets injured then, 'Well, why'd you play your guys?' But if you go out there in that first playoff game and you lay an egg, 'Well, why'd you rest your guys?' So there's not a right answer."

Adding more intrigue are the looming possibilities the Packers could get some players back from injury, and whether they need to get some game snaps in Detroit before the playoffs, or if they could be successful in the postseason without the warm-up.

Specifically, left tackle David Bakhtiari and cornerback Jaire Alexander could potentially return at some point this month after long absences – Bakhtiari hasn't played this season, while Alexander has been out since Week 4.

Both players are being evaluated on a day-to-day basis regarding their availability to practice. LaFleur said Alexander is "getting close" physically to being able to test his shoulder injury by tackling, but complicating matters is he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday.

"In a perfect scenario, they would get reps in the regular season," LaFleur said. "We'll see if that comes to fruition this weekend or not.

"You're talking about two premier players. I think they've shown enough over the course of their career that they can handle it. I know the moment will never be too big for them, and so we've got a lot of confidence if they're available, that they will play."

Receiver Randall Cobb also returned to practice last week in a speedy recovery from core muscle surgery, so his progress will be monitored as well. Cobb has missed the last four games.

Rodgers expressed confidence Sunday night Cobb would be back at some point. Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith, veteran tackle Billy Turner and rookie center Josh Myers also remain out with injuries, but their status wasn't discussed by LaFleur.