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Packers Promote Corey Ballentine; Eric Stokes Placed on Injured Reserve

A day before Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers placed starting cornerback Eric Stokes on injured reserve.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – According to sources, the Green Bay Packers are promoting cornerback Corey Ballentine to the 53-man roster to take the place of starter Eric Stokes, who is being placed on injured reserve.

Stokes suffered ankle and knee injuries last week against the Detroit Lions. On Friday, coach Matt LaFleur said it was “looking unlikely” that Stokes would play again this season. Backup cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles (ankle) also is out this week.

Ballentine was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 28, a few days after Jaire Alexander injured a groin in the Week 3 game at Tampa Bay.

Ballentine was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Giants in 2019. He played in 13 games with two starts as a rookie. In 2020, he played in nine games with two starts for the Giants, then played in six more games for the New York Jets. He played in four games last season for the Detroit Lions.

Defensively, he’s got two career pass breakups – both as a rookie – but hasn’t played on that side of the ball since Oct. 22, 2020.

Where he’s made a much larger impact is on special teams with a career average of 24.4 yards per kickoff return. During a 2021 preseason game while with the Jets, Ballentine had a 73-yard kickoff return against the Packers.

This summer, Ballentine spent training camp with the Atlanta Falcons but failed to make their roster. He spent two weeks on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad in September.

Ballentine played his college ball at Division II Washburn, where he won the Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s best small-college defensive player. As a senior in 2018, he had three interceptions with two forced fumbles and added three blocked kicks. In four seasons, he grabbed five interceptions, forced four fumbles, blocked four kicks and averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return. He was invited to the Senior Bowl.

At the 2019 Scouting Combine, he measured 5-foot-11 and ran his 40 in 4.47 seconds with a 39.5-inch vertical jump.

His path to the NFL almost didn’t happen.

“Probably the hardest time that I’ve ever been through was my freshman year of football camp,” he said. “I almost quit because it was the hardest thing I ever did. We would lift, we would be out there in the 100-degree heat, we would be hitting each other. I had a bunk bed and I was on the top bunk. I’d go home and I’d have to climb up there and my body was sore and I’m like, ‘OK, I can’t do this no more.’”

His mom, Denise, persuaded Ballentine to keep battling.

“She definitely helped me through that,” Ballentine said. “She was like, ‘No, you can’t quit. At least try it another week,’ and then I did start seeing some progress when I came at it with a different mind-set. Once I started making plays I was like, ‘OK, maybe I can do this.’ It definitely got way easier.”

Ballentine was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when he was 6. Making it to the NFL was his dream.

“It was surreal,” he said upon being drafted. “This is something I’ve always dreamed of. It took me back to the moment when I got recruited to college and I told my coaches this is something I wanted to do. Now, here the moment is.

“I knew I wanted to do it, and I just didn’t know how. And now the moment’s here and I’m just trying to soak it in really. I’m enjoying the ride already.”

A first-round pick in 2021, Stokes started 23 of a possible 26 games in 1 1/2 seasons. He had an excellent rookie season. If not for a rough performance against the Vikings star Justin Jefferson, Stokes might have been given all-rookie honors thanks to his play in place of Alexander.

According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a 51.0 percent completion rate and 79.1 passer rating last year but 84.0 percent with a 125.8 passer rating this season. He had a team-high 14 passes defensed last year but zero this year.

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