Packers Send Rookie to IR, Clearing Space for Jared Veldheer

Stepaniak for Veldheer Move

Getty Jared Veldheer #68 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on November 29, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.

To clear space for Jared Veldheer, the Green Bay Packers are shutting down one of their 2020 draft picks for the remainder of the postseason.

The Packers placed sixth-round offensive guard Simon Stepaniak on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, ending his rookie season without a single snap played and clearing room for Veldheer to join their 53-man roster.

Stepaniak had been attempting to work back from an offseason ACL surgery and was activated on Dec. 2 from the reserve/non-football injury to have the opportunity to practice. After a limited first week back, he spent the final three weeks of the regular season as a full participant in practice and was even elevated to “questionable” for Week 17’s finale in Chicago; though, the Packers scratched him in the pregame.

Deducting Stepaniak from the active roster also opened a spot for the Packers to officially add veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, who ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday night they had signed off of the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.

Veldheer is now back in Green Bay for a second straight postseason after he suited up in both of last year’s playoff games, starting at right tackle in the divisional-round win over Seattle as an injury replacement for Bryan Bulaga. He also spent the past two weeks as the Colts’ starting left tackle, both times as a practice-squad elevation.

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Veldheer Likely an Insurance Policy

How the Packers intend to use Veldheer moving forward could entirely depend on the health of their other offensive linemen, specifically right tackle Rick Wagner. The latter was inserted into the starting lineup for Week 17’s trip to Chicago when All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL at practice, but Wagner, too, has been battling a knee injury.

The Packers listed Wagner as a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice, opening the possibility that he might not be available for Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams. If that were the case, Veldheer would be the prime candidate to take over his starting responsibilities.

Either way, Veldheer’s role would seem to be essentially serving as an insurance policy for the Packers’ offensive line. He can play either tackle spot, which adds another dimension to a group that already has multi-positional linemen in Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner. It would also stand to reason he remembers the system fairly well from last year’s run.

Stepaniak Now Among Other No-Play Rookies

Stepaniak will now finish his NFL rookie season without playing a single down of football, but he isn’t the only member of the Packers’ 2020 draft class who can say that.

Jake Hanson, a fellow sixth-round offensive lineman, has been stuck on the Packers’ injured reserve-practice squad list since the beginning of October with an undisclosed injury. Prior to that, he had only spent about a month on the practice squad after failing to make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp.

The Packers will also most likely finish the 2020 season without getting first-round rookie quarterback Jordan Love on the field, for obvious and expected reasons. Unlike Hanson and Stepaniak — who won’t play because of injuries — the Packers have intentionally kept Love in a developmental phase for his first season as they groom him to potentially succeed Aaron Rodgers as their franchise quarterback.

On the plus side, the other six 2020 draft picks have all seen the field in some capacity. Second-round running back AJ Dillon and fifth-round linebacker Kamal Martin have each contributed noteworthy games, while third-round tight end Josiah Deguara was playing and on track to do the same before his season-ending injury.

The Packers have also carved out rotational reps for some of their late-rounders, including fifth-round offensive guard Jon Runyan Jr. (160 offensive/81 special teams snaps), seventh-round safety Vernon Scott (89 defensive/184 special teams) and seventh-round outside linebacker Jonathan Garvin (85 defensive/22 special teams).

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