GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers on Saturday downgraded left tackle David Bakhtiari and made a series of roster moves to cover holes on an injury-riddled roster in time for Sunday’s game at the Houston Texans.
The Packers activated linebacker Kamal Martin from injured reserve, signed guard Ben Braden and defensive lineman Billy Winn to the active roster from the practice squad, and elevated safety Henry Black and running back Dexter Williams from the practice squad to the active roster for gameday.
The Packers also announced the signing of linebacker James Burgess and placed him on the exempt/commissioner permission list. That signing was reported on Tuesday but couldn’t be made official until he passed three days of COVID-19 tests. He is not, however, eligible to play on Sunday.
Here’s what those other moves mean.
Martin: Martin appeared to have won the starting job alongside Christian Kirksey during training camp until he suffered a knee injury that required surgery. With Martin and Kirksey on injured reserve, undrafted rookie Krys Barnes has emerged as the team’s No. 1 player at the position. It will be interesting to see how Martin is worked back into the defense.
“He's done everything he can,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said on Thursday. “This is a kid that loves football, can't wait to get out there, is kind of a preparation junkie, invests a lot of time out of the building studying. But, like I've said in here a bunch of times, there's no substitute for live game reps. So, until he has that debut and gets his feet wet, I know there will be some anxious times for him. But we're looking forward for him to get out there. We were very encouraged by what he did for us in camp.”
Braden: Braden was signed to the practice squad on Wednesday. It would be the absolute worst of emergencies if he had to play on offense but perhaps he could block for kicks. Braden entered the NFL in 2017 but has not played a single snap on offense.
Winn: With Tyler Lancaster out with a shoulder injury, the Packers need another body. That will be Winn. He was elevated to the roster twice, playing six snaps at New Orleans and 11 snaps against Atlanta. That’s the most elevations allowed under the new NFL rules. So, he’s now officially a member of the 53-man roster. That’s quite a feat after missing the previous three seasons due to injuries.
Black: With starting safety Darnell Savage listed as doubtful, Black will provide depth and special-teams snaps if he makes his NFL debut. He goes by the nickname “Jackpot.” Said Black after being signed as an undrafted free agent: “My parents gave me the nickname before I was even born. My mom hit the jackpot at the casino several times.”
Williams: With star running back Aaron Jones listed as questionable and running back/returner Tyler Ervin out, the Packers faced going into Sunday’s game with only Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon. So, they elevated last year’s sixth-round pick either as insurance or the presumption that Jones will be inactive. Dexter Williams played 10 offensive snaps and carried five times for 11 yards as a rookie.
Bakhtiari, a four-time All-Pro, had started 50 consecutive games but dropped out of the loss at Tampa Bay with a chest injury. Coach Matt LaFleur wouldn't provide any hints on how he'd replace arguably the NFL's best left tackle. Among the options are moving right tackle Billy Turner or left guard Elgton Jenkins.