packers photo 11-12

A Packers fan shows his support for Aaron Rodgers before last Sunday's game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Content Exchange

GREEN BAY — Matt LaFleur is still planning on having Aaron Rodgers under center for Sunday’s game against Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. But the Packers coach isn’t quite as hopeful left tackle David Bakhtiari will be there to protect the quarterback’s blind side.

The Packers are moving forward with the expectation Rodgers will be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday and, despite not taking any snaps in practice all week while quarantining at home, will be all-systems-go Sunday.

Rodgers has been working out at home as part of the NFL’s required ramp-up period for players returning from a COVID-19 infection, but he was unable to attend any of the team’s practices as backup quarterback Jordan Love ran the first-team offense all week long.

Rodgers, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 3, missed all of last week’s practices before Love started in the Packers’ 13-7 loss at Kansas City. Because of a short work week the previous week before the team’s Oct. 28 victory at Arizona on “Thursday Night Football,” Rodgers hasn’t had a full-fledged normal practice since the days leading up to the team’s Oct. 24 win over Washington.

Asked if he’s approaching the weekend as if Rodgers will be officially activated on Saturday and start on Sunday, LaFleur replied: “Yeah, but a lot of things (can) happen. So just like we told Jordan, you’ve got to be ready to go. And if that’s the route we go, then he’ll be ready.”

Love, who acknowledged the extra practice work was particularly beneficial for him, said Friday he’s anticipating Rodgers to be back in the lineup but that he is even better prepared this week than he was last week.“Obviously the plan is for Aaron to be back Saturday, so he’ll be going (against Seattle). But for me, it’s the same — still playing the whole week (in practice). And then we’ll be ready for whatever happens,” Love said after Friday’s practice. “Aaron’s been in meetings all week, been in the Zooms, so it felt a lot more normal than last week. It felt like he was here, just obviously not having him at practice. But it felt pretty normal this week.”

As an unvaccinated player, Rodgers does not need two negative tests at least 24 hours apart to return to the team, as wide receiver Davante Adams, who is vaccinated, needed last week. Rodgers simply needs to no longer be exhibiting symptoms and pass a Packers-administered cardiac test, which is no longer required by the NFL.“As far as what they have to do to get back, they have to get through that 10-day period. We no longer require cardiac screening, because we found in our data last year that that really wasn’t relevant if people had mild or asymptomatic disease. So that’s at the judgment of the team physician.

“But all positive players, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, have to go through a three-day physical ramp-up. That can start prior to that 10 days (elapsing), but they must go through a gradual ramp-up of physical exertion and ultimately be approved by the team physician to come back.”

LaFleur said because Rodgers didn’t practice all week, the coaches are going over various aspects of the game plan and looking at the film of those plays being run by Love during practice.

“(We) had a lot of conversations with Aaron as to what he needs to be ready to go. It wouldn’t be the first time in his career that he hadn’t practiced an entire week and gone on and played a game,” LaFleur said. “As long as he’s confident with what we’re doing with him, then we’ll see where he’s at (on Saturday).

“A lot of those conversations that might have gone on during practice are now going on as we’re watching it together. We feel comfortable with the communication that we’ve had amongst really everybody on that side of the ball, and we feel confident going into the game.”

What they don’t feel comfortable or confident in is Bakhtiari’s progress in his return to action. After practicing on a limited basis on Thursday, Bakhtiari didn’t practice at all on Friday. Although LaFleur said it was “not a setback” for Bakhtiari, who hasn’t played since tearing the ACL in his left knee during a Dec. 31 practice, it was enough to lead the team to list Bakhtiari as doubtful for Sunday. That would set the stage for him to return to action on Nov. 21 at Minnesota.

“Like I told you guys before, it’s going to be day to day,” LaFleur said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time with him. It’s just part of the process.”

Assuming Bakhtiari does not play, the Packers figure to stick with their starting five of Elgton Jenkins at left tackle, Jon Runyan at left guard, Lucas Patrick at center, Royce Newman at right guard and Billy Turner at right tackle.“Dave’s a phenomenal player, for sure. When he comes back, we’re really excited,” Runyan said. “At the end of the day, we’re a collective unit, and whoever’s out there, we’re going to war with each other. Having him back out there, being the leader of our offensive line room and leader of our unit, having him on the field, I think would be a big boost for us. So, I’m really looking forward to that.”

Asked what the medical staff needs to see from Bakhtiari to clear him to play, LaFleur replied: “It’s No. 1, that he can go out there and compete at (his) best ability. I would say that’s pretty much the most important thing (for) a player coming off that type of injury. It’s the confidence, and you get that confidence by going through practice and stacking those days back-to-back-to-back.”

The Packers listed cornerback Eric Stokes (knee), defensive tackle Kenny Clark (back) and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle) as questionable for Sunday while tight end Dominique Dafney (hamstring) and defensive end Kingsley Keke (concussion) are doubtful.

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