The Green Bay Packers could end up playing the long game with at least one of their drafted rookies during the 2020 NFL season.
The Packers placed sixth-round offensive guard Simon Stepaniak on the non-football injury list on Friday afternoon in a series of roster moves that also included releasing two players and declaring another two physically unable to perform.
Stepaniak has been recovering from a torn ACL injury he sustained last December during his final season at Indiana, which made the move not so surprising, but his NFI designation also led ESPN’s Rob Demovsky to conclude that 2020 is “likely a redshirt year” for Stepaniak.
Stepaniak started 31 games, primarily at right guard, during his four seasons with the Hoosiers and was expected to be fighting for a roster spot in Green Bay this summer. The Packers also drafted guard Jon Runyan and center Jake Hanson in the sixth round and added rookie guard Zack Johnson as an undrafted free agent, padding their interior offensive line with youth.
The Packers officially started their 2020 training camp on Sunday in a split-squad format, which allows them to keep their roster size at 90. They must reduce their numbers to 80 players before beginning full-squad practices, by Aug. 16 at the latest.
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Rookie RB Also Lands on NFI List
The Packers also placed undrafted rookie running back Patrick Taylor on the NFI list ahead of training camp, which could have something to do with the foot injury he suffered during his final season at Memphis.
Taylor suffered a foot injury in the first game of his senior year, shutting him down until mid-November when he managed to return and play five more games. He finished the season with just 350 rushing yards, but his four-year career still netted 2,884 rushing yards, 435 receiving yards and 39 total touchdowns — and made him an under-the-radar NFL talent.
Whether the Packers will take the “redshirt” approach with Taylor remains to be seen, but the value is there given there current running back situation. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are both entering contract years in 2020 with second-round rookie AJ Dillon and return specialist Tyler Ervin also in the mix. The Packers also still have Dexter Williams and Damarea Crockett, who are both fighting to keep their jobs in camp.
Apart from Dillon, any one of those rushers could be gone by the time the 2021 preseason rolls around. Jones is the most likely among them to also return next season, but the high price of the current running back market and a busy free agency for the Packers could result in some hard decisions. Either way, Taylor could find himself stepping back into an ideal situation if he does, in fact, remain with the team until next year.