GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the first time since suffering a shoulder injury on Oct. 3, Green Bay Packers All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander was on the practice field on Wednesday.
Before practice, coach Matt LaFleur said Alexander would participate in individual drills. And he did. Practicing without his helmet, he joined the rest of the defensive backs in footwork and ball drills during the portion of practice open to reporters.
With his practice window open, the Packers will have 21 days to add him to the roster or end his season.
Alexander was injured on his tackle attempt of Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris during the second half of their Week 4 game. The team and Alexander took the patient approach, hoping that rest and rehab would be the cure rather than surgery, which would have ended his season.
His return to the practice field is the next step in his comeback. How he feels after a week of work, and the confidence level that he can play winning football through whatever pain persists, ultimately will determine whether he returns to the lineup.
In three-plus games, Alexander had one interception and three passes defensed – all in the Week 3 game at San Francisco.
The 18th pick of the 2018 draft, Alexander was all-rookie with one interception and 11 passes defensed, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 with two interceptions and 17 passes defensed, and a Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2020 with one interception and 13 passes defensed.
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What could Alexander add to a defense that ranks eighth with an 87.3 opponent passer rating?
According to Sports Info Solutions, he has allowed a sub-50 percent completion rate each of the past three seasons: 48.5 percent in 2019, 42.3 percent in 2020 and 46.7 percent in 2021. Among starting cornerbacks last year, Alexander ranked third in completion rate and second with 4.7 yards allowed per target.
He gave up two touchdowns to start this season – one vs. San Francisco and one vs. Pittsburgh – matching his full-season total in 2020.
While Alexander practiced, a few other injured players did not. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee surgery) and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (back surgery) remain out. Receiver Randall Cobb, who injured a groin and missed the second half of the game against the Rams, also did not practice.
“We’ll take it day by day with all those guys and we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the week,” LaFleur said. “Trust me, they want to get out there as bad as anybody.”
Cornerback Kevin King (hip/knee) and receiver Malik Taylor (abdomen) returned. King has started six of 12 games.
Without Alexander for eight games and King for six games, first-round pick Eric Stokes and journeyman Rasul Douglas have stepped to the forefront.
“You can never have enough great players, but our corners have done an outstanding job,” LaFleur said on Monday. “A lot of credit goes to each individual but Jerry (Gray) and Ryan Downard and Justin Hood do a great job with those guys and get them ready to play. Definitely have been really excited about guys like Rasul Douglas. I think Stokes continues to get better each and every week. Kevin King, when he’s healthy and he’s been in there, I think he’s done a really nice job. He’s another guy that we’ve got to get back into the fold. And I also think guys at the nickel position, Sully’s [Chandon Sullivan] done a great job, as well.”