The Green Bay Packers started prep for Saturday night’s NFC Divisional playoff matchup against San Francisco with all but one player on the 53-man roster taking the field for practice Tuesday afternoon.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) and cornerback Chandon Sullivan (knee) were the only two not to practice last week but both were out there for the first practice of the week. Guard Lucas Patrick (COVID-19) also returned, while cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and right tackle Billy Turner (right tackle) practiced for a second straight week.
The lone player on the active roster not taking part was left tackle David Bakhtiari. Coach Matt LaFleur said he was given the day off for load management as he continues to get back up to speed in his return from a torn ACL. The All-Pro played 27 snaps against Detroit in the regular season finale before taking himself out. The team gave him last Wednesday off from practice but was in pads on Thursday.
While LaFleur said he wasn’t really concerned about Bakhtiari, he wouldn’t commit to him playing against the 49ers and their dangerous pass rush.
“Like I’ve said all along, we’ll always take it one day at a time with him,” LaFleur said when asked if Bakhtiari would be on the field Saturday. “Obviously, he’s coming off a major injury. So I think you always want to be mindful of the big picture with a guy of his caliber. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and follow them throughout the course of the week.”
If Bakhtiari can’t go, Yosh Nijman would likely get the start in his place. He held up nicely in his first career start when the Packers and 49ers faced each other in Week 3 and has been a worthy replacement since Elgton Jenkins went down for the season.
In addition to most of the 53-man roster being on the practice field, all the potential additions from injured reserve were also out there. That included wide receiver Randall Cobb (core muscle surgery), along with outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (back surgery) and Whitney Mercilus (bicep).
Cobb is likely to play, and LaFleur remains hopeful that Smith will be able to play Saturday for the first time since Week 1, while also being amazed at the fact Mercilus even has a chance to after tearing a bicep in mid-November.
“He is just a pro’s pro,” LaFleur said. “The approach he’s taken since the moment we met him, the moment he got here, it’s not a secret as to why he’s lasted and played at such a high level in this league. Everything he does is with the right mindset of how do I get better.
“I’ve been super impressed just with his approach to how he attacked the rehab. We certainly were not necessarily expecting him back this early, but we’ll see where he’s at. Again, we’ll take it one day at a time – he’s had limited practice — and see where he’s at at the end of the week. But certainly, he would be a guy that we’d be ecstatic to be able to get back out there on the grass on Saturday.”