GREEN BAY — The wait is finally over for Jeff Janis.
For the first time in six weeks, the Packers’ third-year receiver was cleared to catch passes on Monday without any kind of protection.
Janis underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand near the start of training camp, which caused him to miss all four of the Packers’ preseason games.
Although the injury has relegated Janis to the sideline on offense during the regular season, he has played 38 special-teams snaps with a protective club on his right hand in the Packers’ first three games.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy forecasted before the bye week that Janis was scheduled to graduate from the club, a prediction that became a reality during Monday’s practice at Clarke Hinkle Field.
“It felt good just to be able to use my hand again and catch some balls. I haven’t done that in a while, so it felt good,” Janis said. “Practice felt good. I feel like I haven’t lost a step, so hopefully I get thrown in there again this week and see what I can do.”
Janis blossomed into a solid contributor on special teams last season between his work as a kickoff returner (29.0 yards per attempt on 14 returns) and a gunner on the punt coverage team (15 coverage tackles).
While Janis resumed handling kickoffs during Monday’s practice, he’s continued to fulfill his duties on the coverage teams despite the injury. Still, the club made tackling an adventure at times.
Janis pointed to one example against Detroit in Week 3 where the returner spun free from his grasp because he couldn’t wrap him up. If he had the use of both hands, he felt it would’ve been a different story.
“It’s definitely going to help,” said Janis of losing the club. “It’ll be good for special teams, help me make some tackles and get guys down.”
Janis also hopes ditching the club could lead to more opportunities on offense after breaking out for seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ divisional playoff game in Arizona.
The Packers are carrying seven receivers on this year’s roster, so it remains to be seen how many opportunities will be available for Janis on the offensive side of the ball.
Still, Janis ran routes off to the side during team periods of practice over the past month to stay sharp on the offense and his assignments. He feels the extra time helped him in his overall growth as a receiver.
“I think so,” Janis said. “When I couldn’t do any of the team drills, I’d be down there running routes to keep my footwork up to date and just keep working on the little things.”
After practicing for a month with some type of protection on his hand during competitive periods, Janis said it felt good to get back to “normal” again.
If his number gets called again like it did in Arizona last January, the 6-foot-3, 219-pound receiver is happy to once again be in a position to contribute in any way possible.
“Just going through a little bit of adversity, it makes you a little more grateful for when you’re not hurt,” Janis said. “I’m just going to try to take off from where I left off.”