All three Green Bay Packers sustained torn ACLs within weeks of each other last fall. They’ve been rehabbing side by side and now that they’re on the cusp of returning, each player wants to be the first one back.
“Between Rob and Elgton, they go at it every day,” said Hill, the backup running back and kick returner who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee on Oct. 28 against the Cardinals. “I stay quiet and sit back in the background and laugh it off.
“All of us, we’re very happy to be together in those rehab sessions, and we’re ready to hit the field.”
Jenkins, who tore his left ACL, suffered his injury three-and-a-half weeks later against the Vikings. Like Hill, Tonyan (left ACL) also got hurt against the Cardinals.
“Me, him, Elgton, we talk every day,” Hill said. “We’re ready to come back and make our big splash on the field together.”
The obvious goal is to return for the start of training camp on July 27. For Hill and Tonyan, that would be almost exactly nine months after suffering their injuries. The more realistic goal is Week 1. Jenkins, however, could be a few weeks behind. All spent the entire offseason in the rehab program while the rest of team went through minicamp and OTAs, which concluded this week.
“Right now, it’s just continuing to work,” Jenkins said. “When that time comes for me to get out there, and when I’m comfortable and the trainers are comfortable, then we’ll do it.”
The cautionary tale, however, is left tackle David Bakhtiari. He tore his left ACL during a Dec. 31, 2020 practice. That made his availability for the 2021 opener a long shot, so it wasn’t a surprise when he began the season on the physically unable to perform list. The surprise, however, was that he didn’t play his first snaps -- and what turned out to be his only snaps -- of the season until the Week 18 game against the Lions. That was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the playoffs, but instead he was shut down again.
Bakhtiari’s troubles may not be over. He didn’t participate in a single practice this offseason; instead he spent his time in the rehab group with Hill, Jenkins and Tonyan.
“Time will tell,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said regarding whether Bakhtiari will be back by the start of training camp. “We fully anticipate him being ready to go, but we did last year, as well. So I think time will tell. But we feel good about the work that he’s put in and where he’s at.”
If the Packers have all four of their ACL players back for the season, it will take care of several issues.
Bakhtiari would be back at left tackle, where he has been an All-Pro. That would allow Jenkins, who got hurt as Bakhtiari's fill-in, to return to either left guard, where he made the Pro Bowl in 2020, or become the new starting right tackle after Billy Turner was released. Tonyan would return to being the team’s top tight end given that the Packers didn’t draft or sign a free agent at the position. And Hill, while serving as the No. 3 running back behind Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, likely would be the top kick returner for new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.
“Those are some really important players for us,” LaFleur said. “They’re doing well while they’ve been here.”