Patrick Taylor’s return window has officially closed.
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Green Bay Packers will now leave Taylor on the non-football injury list after the undrafted rookie running back spent the past several weeks participating in his first practices of the season.
Taylor started the 2020 season on the NFI list after undergoing offseason surgery for a foot injury he sustained in college, but the Packers brought him back to the practice field in Week 15 and opened a three-week window for him to potentially be activated to the 53-man roster. His return period expired on Thursday afternoon, reverting him back to the reserves.
The #Packers officially kept RB Patrick Taylor on the non-football injury list. They used a 3-week window available for him to practice so they could get a look at him, but since they aren't activating him, he goes back to NFI for the rest of the season and is done practicing.
— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) January 7, 2021
While Taylor would likely not have held much of a playoff role for the Packers anyway, an activation could have offered them some time to evaluate another possible weapon for next year’s backfield. Second-round rookie AJ Dillon is the only other rusher currently signed for the 2021 season with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Tyler Ervin all due to hit free agency this offseason.
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Taylor’s Next Opportunity Comes in Offseason
Assuming the Packers don’t make any moves in free agency or the 2021 NFL draft to acquire (or retain) rushers, Taylor will still be a viable and worthwhile talent for them to explore when in-person offseason workouts make their return later this year.
At Memphis, Taylor never held the spotlight of a primary back, but 6-foot-2, 217-pound talent still motored for 2,884 rushing yards and 36 rushing touchdowns over his four years. He also flashed adequate hands as a receiver with 55 catches for 434 yards and another three touchdowns, fitting the type of dual-threat archetype Green Bay has favored under head coach Matt LaFleur.
If all three pending free agents are gone, Taylor could audition for the No. 2 role behind Dillon with little other than himself to stand in the way. The Packers could also re-sign either of their two practice-squad rushers — 2019 sixth-round Dexter Williams or Mike Weber — but the competition would still be wide open for OTAs.
Stepaniak Could Make Debut in Playoffs
The Packers didn’t completely luck out with NFI returnees in 2020. In early December, they activated offensive guard Simon Stepaniak, a sixth-round rookie, to the active roster and have now spent more than a month with him back at practice.
The question is: Will the untested rookie get the chance to make his NFL debut in the playoffs?
Health will come first and foremost for Stepaniak. He tore his ACL at a December practice during his final season at Indiana in 2019 and has been gradually working back to health after undergoing reparative surgery, getting upgraded from doubtful to questionable between Weeks 16 and 17 for the Packers.
The Packers would almost certainly turn to fellow rookie Jon Runyan Jr. before Stepaniak if an additional interior lineman was needed, but losing two starters — All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and veteran right guard Lane Taylor — has forced Green Bay to get creative with their alignments this season. Don’t count him out if another injury strikes.