A Look at the Status of Five Packers Returning from Major Injuries This Season

The Packers are set to open training camp in a few days now. Like any NFL team, Green Bay has several players who are returning from serious injuries that either prematurely ended or even caused them to miss all of the 2020 campaign.

Here is a look at five players set to return from injury this season. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, who opted out of the 2020 season because of the Covid-19 pandemic, is not included on this list even though a broken collarbone ended his 2019 campaign after Week 1.

Here is a discussion of these players, where they are with their injuries and where they fit in to the Packers depth chart entering training camp this season.

5. RB Patrick Taylor

Taylor sat out the 2020 season due to a foot injury that dated back to his college days. The former Memphis star has good size for a running back (6’3”, 223 pounds) and has the best receiving skills of any running back fighting for the RB3 spot in training camp.

Taylor is an undrafted free agent and he has a different skill set than the competition which consists of Dexter Williams and Kylin Hill.

How well Taylor can protect the quarterback may play a key role in whether he makes the roster or the practice squad.

4. G Simon Stepaniak

Stepaniak also missed all his rookie season because of a serious knee injury suffered in college. Stepaniak was selected in the sixth round of the 2020 draft by the Packers out of Indiana last year.

Stepaniak has elite strength and operates well in a phone booth. He must show he can get outside and move in space to make blocks on the second level to excel as an NFL guard.

Stepaniak has a lot of competition at guard. The Packers drafted two other interior linemen in 2020 and three players who can line up at guard in 2021 to go along with veterans Lucas Patrick, Elgton Jenkins and Ben Braden and Jon Runyan, Jr.

3. CB Kabion Ento

Ento is a converted college receiver who showed potential and raw athletic ability in training camp in 2019 before spending 2020 on the injured reserve with a foot injury.

The Packers are deep at cornerback so Ento will have an uphill fight to make the roster in his third year with the organization.

The former Colorado star has good speed but lacks extensive experience at cornerback and needs to show he has good enough technique to contribute on defense at the NFL level.

His speed and ability to contribute on special teams may help earn him a roster spot as he continues to learn how to effectively play corner.

2. TE Josiah Deguara

Head coach Matt LaFleur was excited to add Deguara to the offense last season after the Packers selected him in the third round of the draft, but unfortunately, the former University of Cincinnati star was suffered a knee injury early in the season and was lost for the rest of the year after appearing in only two games.

The Packers view Deguara as a mixture of an H-back, tight end and fullback. He will probably line up in several different places on the field to keep opposing defenses off balance. We still don’t know how often the Packers will look to throw the ball to Deguara, but if he’s healthy and makes progress in his second NFL season, he should be a bigger part of the offense in 2021.

It is not clear whether Deguara will be ready to go 100 percent when training camp opens next week. There are a lot of players fighting for roster spots at tight end and while Deguara’s almost certain to make the final 53 if he’s healthy, other players may get an opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff if Deguara isn’t ready to participate in full drills when camp opens.

This will be an important camp for Deguara as he hopes to establish himself as an integral part of the Green Bay offense.

1. OT David Bakhtiari

Bakhtiari is the anchor of the Packers offensive line. He has been protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side since his rookie year in 2013 and remains one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the NFL today.

Unfortunately, Bakhtiari suffered a major knee injury late last season that required surgery. He was seen at OTAs working on and rehabbing on his own and most observers were pleased with what they saw but participating in solo drills is a long way off from being ready to play in an NFL game.

The Packers are likely to be cautious with Bakhtiari, especially on. They would rather he miss a few games early in the season than have him unavailable long term if he aggravates his knee and needs to return to the IR.

The combination of Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins would give the Packers one of the best left sides in the NFL. Expect Bakhtiari to be a little rusty at first but eventually, he is expected to return to form and make a full recovery.

Bakhtiari’s return is important for the skill level and continuity along the offensive line. He is also a leader in the locker room and an important veteran presence on this team.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (12)

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LambeauPlain's picture

July 22, 2021 at 01:09 pm

I would be surprised if any of these players would not be ready to play the 2021 season.

Stepaniak will be fun to watch in camp. The guy played well at Indiana before the injury and it dropped him out of the first two days of the draft. Besides playing G at a high level in the B1G, he is strong as an ox...doing 37 reps on the bench at the combine.

So many good OL prospects in GB after the starters. I mean really good. This is why I think they place 10 on the final 53 because if cut, they will not make the PS....another team will snap them up.

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dobber's picture

July 22, 2021 at 02:58 pm

I also think they keep 10 OL at the final cutdown, but I think that also is a result of needing to cover for Bakhtiari. Bakh will need to be one of those active guys even if he misses a few weeks because if they IR him prior to cutdowns, he's out for the year. They might short-term IR him (if short-term IR is a thing this year) after cutdowns and resign their "last man out". If there isn't a short-term IR, they'll likely need to carry him on the roster but have him inactive (and taking up a roster spot) on game days.

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ricky's picture

July 22, 2021 at 01:37 pm

The injury that concerns me most is the one by Kevin King. Because he broke my heart when he gave up that TD at the end of the half in the championship game. And I'm still healing from that one.

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Lphill's picture

July 22, 2021 at 02:20 pm

No mention of King who clearly was injured or is he just that slow ?

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dobber's picture

July 22, 2021 at 02:53 pm

Stepaniak was activated off IR in early December last season and got a few weeks of practice in with the team, so his whole season wasn't lost--but those weeks aren't going to be great instructional time, either. I've always been bullish on Stepaniak, and he has over 30 college starts both at tackle and guard to his credit. I'm hoping to see him make the final cutdown this year.

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Coldworld's picture

July 22, 2021 at 05:46 pm

He has some nasty in him, which I like in a guard. I will be watching him. We took him knowing we would redshirt him. Had he been healthy I thought he would have been the better of our two Guard picks last year at the time of the draft.

Ento has been really impressive for a player learning a new position when he has been healthy. If he can stay on the field, he could be a big surprise

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Bearmeat's picture

July 22, 2021 at 05:55 pm

Stepaniak could end up being a player, for sure. I thought much the same thing last year. Then Gute went and added a bunch more competition, some of it highly drafted, in the IOL. The odds are that the 6th round pick gets lost in the numbers game and ends up on the practice squad.

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CheesyTex's picture

July 22, 2021 at 07:13 pm

Right on about the odds, Bearmeat.

But I'm still in his corner -- you can't teach strength and, Holy Mackeral, look at those bench press numbers!

Back in the 50's my high school coach had a one word (fractured German) posted on the locker room wall: "YAGOTTAWANNA". Here's hoping Stepaniak has the strength of WANNA to match his performance on the bench.

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Coldworld's picture

July 22, 2021 at 07:22 pm

I felt he was a 6th because of the injury. I’m not putting too much weight on that for a player selected to redshirt. It is going to be a fierce fight in that group though.

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blacke00's picture

July 23, 2021 at 07:42 am

I really think Runyan, Stepaniak and Hanson got a raw deal last year. If I were the coaching staff I'd give them a real hard "look see" during TC. If the FO and the CS don't ,then I wouldn't put much stock in their comments regarding "draft and develop".

Don't get your hopes up about Bahk coming back anytime before mid-season. That's a pipe dream. We need someone to step up and claim that left tackle spot. The Pack can't be moving guys around every week unless they absolutely have to! (i.e. mid season due to injuries)

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jont's picture

July 23, 2021 at 06:26 pm

The Packers placed Deguara on the PUP list on Friday according to the league’s transaction report.

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CheesyTex's picture

July 27, 2021 at 01:58 pm

Surprised to hear no mention of Ben Braden or Simon Stepaniak. If the Packers do include a "big boy" running game with Deguara and Dillon, seems likely we could see either or both of them get playing time as part of a rotation.

IMO Packers really have something there IF Stepaniak and Deguara can stay healthy.

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