GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur kept his top players on the sideline for the preseason with the hope of having a healthy roster for the games that matter.
That wish has been granted.
Of the 53 players on the roster, 52 players participated in Wednesday’s practice, including outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. Smith practiced only once during training camp but made his return from a three-week absence on Monday.
“Z’s doing better,” coach Matt LaFleur said before practice. “He’ll be out there today in a limited capacity. I think we’ll give him the week. Obviously, we want to make sure he continues to put back-to-back days together and comes out healthy and is feeling good.”
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That raises hope that he’ll be available for Sunday’s season-opening game against the New Orleans Saints, though he presumably would be on a rep count.
Safety Vernon Scott (hamstring) was the only player not to practice. Of course, the Packers do have one significant injury not reflected on the injury report. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is on the physically unable to perform list following last year’s torn ACL. Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins will get the start in Bakhtiari’s place.
“They have an experienced group,” Saints coach Sean Payton said on Wednesday. “Just watching them, there is a toughness to how they play. When you have an injury like that with one of your best players on offense (Bakhtiari), they've shown that they have flexibility. That's a significant injury to one of the better tackles in the game. There's nothing that uniquely stands out (about Jenkins). Obviously, he's smart and he's tough. There's a thing we've seen with them over the years is that they have a low sack number. It goes hand in hand with the offensive line, but also with the quarterback. Their numbers have been extremely low and it's a combination of how their blocking scheme and how quickly the ball is coming out.”
Packers Injury Report
Did not participate: S Vernon Scott (hamstring). Limited: DT Tyler Lancaster (back), OLB Za’Darius Smith (back).
Saints Injury Report
Did not participate: CB Ken Crawley (hamstring).