The stage has been set for the next phase of Billy Winn’s comeback tour.
The Green Bay Packers elevated the veteran defensive lineman from the practice squad to their active roster for Week 3’s road game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football, putting Winn in a position to play in his first non-preseason NFL game since New Years Day in 2017. Per practice-squad elevation rules, he will revert back after the game.
The Packers also made more lasting additions of wide receiver Darrius Shepherd and tight end John Lovett, signing them from the practice squad to fill the final two spots on their active roster. Shepherd spent the first six games of his 2019 rookie season on the Packers’ active roster, while Lovett has been a practice-squad elevation in each of the past two games.
Winn played all 16 games for the Denver Broncos during the 2016 season and made two appearances as a starter, but injuries have kept the 31-year-old off the field for the past three seasons. His most recent comeback attempt came in 2019 with the Broncos but ended quickly with a preseason arm injury that landed him on injured reserve for the rest of the year.
The Packers could need some additional support for their defensive line with star nose tackle Kenny Clark currently questionable to play in Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Even if he is available, the Packers likely won’t press their luck with such a valuable defensive piece and may call upon Winn to fill in for some rotational reps.
The Packers have relied heavily upon Dean Lowry and second-year Kingsley Keke for their defensive front through two games this season, while Tyler Lancaster will likely slot in as the third starter against the Saints if Clark is unable to go. If that’s the case, Winn will be one of just two backups alongside Montravius Adams — who wasn’t given an injury designation this week.
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Will Winn Play After Previlon Didn’t?
The Packers have gotten some use out of their elevated practice-squad players in the first two weeks, but defensive lineman Willington Previlon was the first among them to not play a single snap. The undrafted rookie was called up for last Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions after Clark was ruled out at the beginning of the weekend; though, his lack of playing time suggests he was most likely in place as an injury safety net if one of the other four were hurt.
The question now is will Winn spend his debut on the Packers’ roster watching from the sidelines as well or will his veteran experience buy him a legitimate opportunity against the Saints. He started 18 games for the Cleveland Browns over his first three seasons after they took him in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft, then got traded to the Indianapolis Colts and logged another 12 games and three starters.
In 68 career games, Winn has registered 111 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and five pass deflections. There’s plenty for him to prove before that means anything in 2020, but it’s not a bad start for a depth player.