The Green Bay Packers have their roster looking its healthiest of the entire season coming out of their bye week and could have every player on their active roster available for Sunday night’s prime-time kickoff at the San Francisco 49ers.
That includes returning a young tight end who very well could be the future at the position for the Packers.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Robert Tonyan was practicing in pads Thursday and said he was finally ready to make his return from a hip injury he suffered Week 5 in a 34-24 road win over the Dallas Cowboys. The second-year tight end has practiced multiple times since, getting full practice reps again in Week 8 before ultimately sitting five straight games.
While the Packers won’t officially designate Tonyan’s injury status until Friday, he is encouraged about being able to play for Sunday Night Football after suffering no further setbacks.
“With the severity of the injury, I’m right on point with where I need to be,” Tonyan told PackersNews.com. “Timing-wise, I’m not worried. With me, someone who has never had to sit out a game with an injury, it’s tough to cope with and deal with.”
Tonyan has just four catches on the season, but he is averaging 16.5 yards on each one with a pair of 20-plus-yard completions and could develop into an every-down threat, which will be necessary with veterans Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis on the tail ends of their careers. The Packers also three weeks reactivated rookie Jace Sternberger from the injured reserve list to give them a four-player unit that presents a number of different looks.
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Marcedes Lewis Draws High Praise
As a 35-year old tight end, Lewis is playing among his last seasons in his eventful NFL career, but he is doing more than offering a veteran support figure for younger talents. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers believes a number of the Packers’ big plays this season are a credit to him being a multi-faceted player at the position.
“Having Marcedes be such a great point-of-attack blocker allows us to get some shots down the field because he can also pass-block well, so his versatility at tight end has been a big plus for us this year,” Rodgers said Wednesday.
Lewis is only averaging one catch per game through the first 10, but he has 130 yards and six first downs with those receptions as a complement to Graham as the team’s primary pass-catching tight end. Together, Packers tight ends have accounted for 506 of Rodgers’ 2,718 passing yards this season, while Graham also has three touchdowns.
49ers Might Also Return a Tight End
The 49ers had their star tight end George Kittle in a blue non-contact jersey for Thursday’s practice and moving well through team drills, which bodes well after he missed the past two games with injuries to his knee and ankle.
Even after being sidelined for two weeks, Kittle remains the team’s top receiver with 46 catches for 541 yards, two touchdowns and 28 first downs and would pose a difficult challenge for the Packers’ inside linebackers if back in action. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has also gotten more time to sync up with Emmanuel Sanders — acquired at the trade deadline — since Kittle was last in the lineup.