GREEN BAY, Wis. – Robert Tonyan, with a helmet on his head and no brace on his left knee, was activated from the physically unable to perform list and made his Green Bay Packers training camp debut on Sunday.
“To feel like an actual football player again was kind of nice,” Tonyan said afterward.
Tonyan, who was limited to individual drills, sustained a torn ACL at Arizona on Oct. 28. To return somewhere around the middle of training camp was the goal, he said, and that goal took a big step toward reality following an on-the-field workout before Friday night’s preseason game at the 49ers.
He’ll have four weeks of practice to get ready for the Week 1 game at the Minnesota Vikings.
“It’s just a relief to get the helmet and show them that it’s on again,” he said. “It’s been a long process. I was just kind of feeling a little out of the football loop for a little bit. So, to get back in there, running plays and lining up next to people and being in the huddle again was just a positive on my life in general.”
Not that the comeback was easy – it wasn’t, either physically or mentally – but what was deemed a “clean” tear at the time allowed for a smooth comeback. Because he didn’t have any setbacks, Tonyan hit the field on Sunday without a brace on the knee.
“Haven’t had any support issues,” Tonyan said. “When I got out of the original brace from surgery, I think I wore that like a couple more days and I was pretty much good.”
Tonyan had a phenomenal season in 2020. He caught 52-of-59 passes, leading all NFL tight ends in catch percentage (88.1 percent), drop percentage (0 percent) and tying for No. 1 with 11 touchdowns. It was a massive season that he couldn’t duplicate. Before the injury in 2021, he caught 18-of-29 passes – his 11 incomplete targets in eight games being more than Tonyan’s full-year total in 2020.
A rebound season would be fortuitous for the team, which is adapting to life without Davante Adams, and for Tonyan, who will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
With his return, the Packers have a deep and diverse group of tight ends. Tonyan is the playmaker, Marcedes Lewis is the blocker and Josiah Deguara is the movable, fullback-type.
“It was really hyped because I don’t think anyone really knew,” Tonyan said of the reaction. “I had just talked to Gutey like probably an hour before practice and then I just got out there with shoulder pads and helmet on. I think it was more people didn’t believe it because – the plan was to come back from PUP around this time. The fact that it happened is reassuring, for sure.”
The Packers will ease Tonyan back into the swing of things but he would like to get hit a few times before lining up against the Vikings on Sept. 11.
Who would Tonyan like to avoid?
“Rashan Gary,” he said. “He’s the only person I wouldn’t let hit me. Everyone else, I’ll let hit me.”