GREEN BAY – It had been 33 days since Packers receiver Jared Abbrederis practiced when he returned on Tuesday to Ray Nitschke Field.
On Thursday, he’ll play in his first actual football game in 20 months.
Calling his latest setback “another obstacle,” Abbrederis can only hope he’s paid his dues on the injury front. A fifth-round draft pick out of Wisconsin last year, he tore his ACL just a few days into training camp and missed the season.
This year, fully recovered from the knee injury, he sustained a concussion on the first day of training camp and hadn’t suited up since.
He’s been understandably frustrated with the non-start to his NFL career, but he’s hoping to put that all behind him in Thursday’s preseason finale against New Orleans, which will be his first game action since playing for the Badgers in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day 2014.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve been in the playbook, all that kind of stuff. Mentally, I’m there and, physically, today was a good day to get back out there and see where I’m at.”
He admitted to being a little “gassed” on such a hot day for his first day back, but former Wisconsin teammate and QB Scott Tolzien did his best to get Abbrederis in on the action.
Tolzien threw his way twice. A deep sideline ball was out of Abbrederis’ reach. He then made a diving catch at the edge of the end zone on a short pass, only to be ruled out of bounds.
“Probably the most exciting part of my day, actually,” Tolzien said of seeing his former teammate back in the huddle. “I’ve played with Jared for a while now, and I know what kind of football player he is. It’s great to have him back, and I know the time he’s put in to getting back. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Despite taking longer than he expected to get through the concussion protocol, Abbrederis said he has “full confidence” in his health and won’t be taking the field Thursday with any doubts.
He has the smallest of windows to try to earn a roster spot in a competitive receiver group, but he’s not worrying about that aspect of things. He has just one game, but it’s his first pro game, and it’s at Lambeau Field, less than 90 miles from where he grew up. He’s going to enjoy it.
“It’s obviously not ideal, but you just play and have fun,” he said. “I’m not counting numbers or anything like that. I’ll just do my best and see what happens.”
Abbrederis might get all the snaps he can handle, with rookie receiver Ty Montgomery (hamstring) now sidelined along with Randall Cobb (shoulder). Montgomery said he tweaked his hamstring last Saturday but called it nothing major. Cobb reiterated his situation remains “day by day.”
“We can’t put a time estimate on exactly when it’s going to be,” he said. “I don’t plan on missing a game. I’m doing everything in my power to get back before then, but we still don’t know the severity of it. We still have to get a lot of the swelling out.”
As has become a tradition at Nitschke Field, the Packers concluded their final public practice of camp by jogging along the east-side bleachers and exchanging high-fives with the fans along the railings.
Practice featured the No. 1 offense and defense working as scout team units, an indication few if any starters will play on Thursday.
The first-string offensive line’s health is coming around, though. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) took the field for the first time since the preseason opener at New England. Left guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga also returned from ankle injuries. Right guard T.J. Lang (concussion) remains out.
The No. 1 line hasn’t played any game snaps together since the Patriots contest, but the veteran Sitton downplayed any potential concerns over the unit’s continuity.
“We’ll have an extra practice next week,” he said. “I think that will get us where we need to be.”