GREEN BAY – If anyone knows how to make a grand re-entrance, it's Randall Cobb.
Remember 2013? He missed 10 games with a leg injury and returned for the regular-season finale to catch two TD passes, including the dramatic 48-yarder on fourth-and-8 in the final minute at Soldier Field to win the NFC North.
Or how about 2016? He missed the last two games of the regular season with an ankle injury and was back for the NFC Wild Card game, pulling down a first-half Hail Mary among his three touchdowns and 116 receiving yards to blow out the Giants.
"Unfortunately I've dealt with injuries throughout my career, but every time I come back from one something great happens," Cobb said Thursday. "So hopefully we keep that streak going."
Well, Cobb is back again, this time in less than two months from core muscle surgery, and just in time for the postseason. He was officially activated from injured reserve Thursday and is expected to play Saturday night against the 49ers in the divisional round.
It's his first playoff appearance since that 2016 run he helped the Packers make, and just getting another chance has made him all the more grateful.
In his final two campaigns in Green Bay (2017-18) before returning this year, the Packers' offseason came early. Ditto for his individual seasons in Dallas (2019) and Houston (2020).
He hasn't enjoyed "watching the playoffs from the couch" year after year, and that was especially difficult two seasons ago, his first away from Green Bay, when the Packers advanced to the NFC title game at San Francisco.
Drafted the year after Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV, Cobb was emotionally troubled seeing the Packers back in the championship hunt without him. Saying he was in a "dark place," he wondered if his departure actually helped the Packers, which is not a comforting way to feel about the team he always loved and the city where he began his adult life.
That wasn't true, of course, which he's proven this year in his return to Green Bay via trade, orchestrated by MVP quarterback and best friend Aaron Rodgers.
Up until he injured his core on a touchdown grab against the Rams back in Week 12, Cobb had caught 28 passes for 375 yards and five TDs this season. Modest stats to be sure, but 21 of his 28 receptions have picked up first downs, including 10 third-down conversions. He also scored multiple TDs twice, vs. the Steelers and Cardinals.
"He trusts me, he knows who I am, he knows what I'm capable of and he believes in me. And that's all I need," Cobb said of Rodgers. "I try to prove him right every chance I get."
He downplayed the achievement in returning from surgery this quickly, but it's just another example of the all-out effort Cobb gives in everything he does, and how much this postseason opportunity means to him.
From his first media session this past summer following the trade, Cobb has reiterated he sees himself as "one piece to the puzzle" here in Green Bay, but he was not about to be missing from the postseason picture if he could help it.
What's normally a six-to-eight-week recovery Cobb turned into five, and the Packers played it safe, keeping him out of a regular-season finale in Detroit immaterial to the team's postseason prospects. The playoff bye allowed him to feel even more ready to return.
"It's not a secret as to why he's played as long as he has," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "You see it on a daily basis.
"The fact that he's back, this quickly, has been really impressive to watch. But it also just verifies why he's made it to this point in his career. Because he does everything the right way."
So now it all has a chance to come full circle.
Another return from injury with high stakes on the horizon. Another chance to validate why Rodgers insisted he be brought back. Another playoff opportunity from nowhere near a couch or dark place.
"I know that Super Bowl is the pinnacle of what we chase, what we're after," Cobb said.
"Just looking at the journey, it would mean everything. Just being able to come back, it would definitely be a storybook ending for this year."