The Green Bay Packers could be adding back a support piece for the middle of their defense coming into Sunday’s NFC championship game.
According to Olivia Reiner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers had backup inside linebacker James Burgess back on the practice field in Wednesday’s first session of the week, opening the door for him to potentially return from injured reserve for the first time in nearly two months.
Burgess had played four games in a special teams role before injuring his hamstring and landing on IR on Nov. 25, but the fifth-year linebacker recorded 80 tackles in 10 games last season as a relief starter for the New York Jets and finished as their leading tackler. While he would still need to be designated for return to the 53-man roster, Burgess could provide the Packers with a safety net on the inside in case injuries strike against Tampa Bay this weekend.
— Olivia Reiner (@ReinerOlivia) January 20, 2021
With Jared Veldheer still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Packers have an open spot on their active roster and would not need to make a corresponding move to add Burgess.
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Two Other Packers Also Return to Practice
According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, the Packers also returned a pair of cornerbacks — Kabion Ento and Parry Nickerson — to practice from injured reserve on the same day that former veteran Tramon Williams flew into Green Bay for a visit and rumored signing.
In other words, the Packers are now looking like they will have a few options for reinforcing their secondary moving forward, especially if they make it past the Buccaneers on Sunday and have another two weeks to work back their injured players. The Packers will technically have 21 days to determine whether they will active Burgess, Ento or Nickerson; however, the postseason will have concluded before that period would expire.
Returned to practice, remaining on IR-designated for return: James Burgess, Kabion Ento and Parry Nickerson (Packers) and Kenjon Barner (Buccaneers)
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 20, 2021
Ento would seem to be the more compelling of the two cornerback returnees. After spending his rookie season on the Packers’ practice squad, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound defender had put himself in a position to win a roster spot coming out of 2020 training camp before breaking his foot and undergoing surgery. Ento might not see much action even if he does return, but his overall progress will be interesting to monitor given he will expectedly factor into the Packers’ cornerback picture for the 2021 season.
Nickerson, however, was signed as an injury replacement for Ento and has an uncertain future with the Packers moving forward after playing just two special teams snaps prior to his injury. His practice reps for the remainder of the Packers’ postseason run could be important in determining whether the team saves him an offseason roster spot.
Dillon Practices in Limited Capacity
The Packers also had a good-looking injury report for Wednesday’s first practice with numerous listed as limited participants to begin the week but none held out for any reason. One of the most encouraging mentions was second-round rookie running back AJ Dillon, who got limited work after dropping out of last weekend’s win over the Los Angeles Rams with a quad injury.
Dillon, who rushed for 27 yards on six carries, was deployed as part of the Packers’ three-headed attack out of the backfield in the divisional round and could find a similar role if there are no lingering concerns about his quad heading into the weekend. Green Bay’s rushing approach will also depend on the status of Jamaal Williams, who was limited on Wednesday and added to the injury report with a new knee injury.
The Packers also listed the following players as limited participants on Wednesday: linebacker Krys Barnes (thumb), veteran kicker Mason Crosby (shoulder), defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion), wide receiver Allen Lazard (wrist/back), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (thumb), wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (knee/ankle) and right tackle Rick Wagner (knee).