GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers have returned three players from off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, coach Matt LaFleur said Sunday. Offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, tight end Robert Tonyan and rookie wide receiver Christian Watson were elevated off the PUP list and began doing individual work at practice.
Jenkins (ACL), Tonyan (ACL) and Watson (knee scope) have all been participating in rehab work only during OTAs and training camp work thus far. They will be eased into practice for now, beginning the ramp-up process to return.
“It’s just like the next step in the process,” LaFleur.said. “It’s not like they’re gonna be out there in team drills but they’ll do some individual and with them being back now it allows you to do some walkthroughs, which is going to be obviously very beneficial especially for a guy that hasn’t played in the National Football League like Christian. So it’ll be great to get them out there for some of the walk-throughs.”
With the trio now participating in practice with the team, they are officially off the PUP list and therefore not allowed to be on said list at the beginning of the regular season. This means they will either be assigned to the 53-man roster or waived. Given the value each of the three are expected to bring to the offense, they should all be on the 53-man roster.
LaFleur said nothing has been “ruled out” in terms of the three possibly playing in the preseason and being ready for Week 1 (Sept. 11 at Minnesota) but “I wouldn’t hold my breath on that either.” The Packers have two more preseason games: Friday against the New Orleans Saints and Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tonyan tore his ACL during Week 8 of the 2021 season, versus the Arizona Cardinals. Up to that point, he’d hauled in 18 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Jenkins tore his ACL during Week 11 of the 2021 season against the Vikings. He had started eight games to that point at left tackle, in place of the injured David Bakhtiari.
Jenkins’ return would allow the Packers to shore up some weak spots on the line, as he can play on both the left and right side. With Bakhtiari’s return date still in question, Jenkins could play at left tackle. If Bakhtiari is elevated off the PUP (knee) then Jenkins could move to right tackle. Through camp thus far, the Packers’ starting offensive line has been Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, Jake Hanson and Royce Newman.
Given this is still only the first step in Jenkins’ return, however, LaFleur wasn’t ready to commit to any sort of assurances on the line.
“I don’t have an answer for that right now until he gets fully re-acclimated with us and does everything with us,” said LaFleur. “I’m just going to take it one day at a time and this is the next step, so excited to get him back out there in the individual and being able to do some of the walkthrough stuff, but as far as where he’s gonna play, I think time will tell. I don’t want to commit to the right side, I don’t want to commit to the left side.
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“I think Elgton’s done everything that everybody’s asked him to do in regards to the rehab process and he’s been super disciplined. He’s putting the work in. That’ll be a big boost when he is fully cleared to help us out. Because there’s not too many guys that are number one, as talented as he is but also as versatile as he is. You can put him anywhere on that line. Probably could line him up at tight end, too.”
Watson, the Packers’ highest-drafted offensive player in the rookie class, was a full participant in mandatory minicamp and OTAs, but underwent a knee scope in the offseason to clear up tightness. He began working with the rehab group last week in practice. Watson said he probably could’ve played through it this season, but general manager Brian Gutekunst reiterated, with Watson being a long-term investment, they wanted him to address the issue now.
In addition to Bakhtiari, the Packers also still have kicker Mason Crosby and running back Kylin Hill (ACL) on the PUP list. Hill tore his ACL the same day as Tonyan, versus the Cardinals. Crosby underwent a scope this offseason to clear up some tightness in his knee.
Packers sign former USFL kicker Ramiz Ahmed
The Packers released kicker Gabe Brkic and signed free agent Ramiz Ahmed after Brkic injured his hamstring in warmups Friday night.
Brkic took part in the game, but it was obvious something was wrong because he shanked a field goal try far to the left and left his kickoffs short. The Packers had no other alternative at kicker because of Crosby’s place on PUP.
Ahmed has been out of the NFL since a short stint with the Chicago Bears in 2020, but he played for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL in the spring. He hit 14 of 22 field goals with a long of 61 yards.
Ahmed said he has been working with former San Diego Chargers kicker John Carney in San Diego for the past two years and was waiting for another chance to get into the NFL. He attempted six kicks in his first practice with the Packers and made five.
Journal Sentinel staff writer Tom Silverstein contributed to this story
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