GREEN BAY — Jimmy Graham played with a groin injury throughout last Sunday’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Whether the Green Bay Packers veteran tight end can do it again this week against the Denver Broncos is in serious doubt.
Graham didn’t take part in Thursday’s practice, and with the team having promoted practice-squad tight end Evan Baylis to the 53-man roster to take the open spot created by the trade that sent wide receiver Trevor Davis to the Oakland Raiders, the current signs aren’t particularly encouraging.
“He fought through it on Sunday. He was hurting a little bit,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of Graham, who didn’t catch a pass and was only targeted once in the Packers’ 21-16 victory over the Vikings. “That's the nature of the game. He's a tough guy, so I think in the long run he'll be alright.”
But in the short term, the Packers could be without him against the Broncos. Graham played 51 snaps against the Vikings, one week after playing 33 snaps in the Packers’ season-opening win at Chicago. Against the Bears, Graham caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown, and also drew a 38-yard pass-interference penalty when he beat Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith downfield on a seam route.
“Every week is different, and every week you have different challenges and different matchups. Some guys have great games,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett replied Thursday evening when asked why Graham was so productive in Week 1 and such a non-factor in Week 2. “(No. 1 wide receiver) Davante (Adams) didn’t do much the first game and he had a much better game this week.
“Obviously we always want to get Jimmy involved. We always want him to be a big part of it. And it’s always going to help our offense, and it goes across the board with all the guys on offense. (But) it’s kind of whoever has that moment and you want to ride that hot hand as much as you possibly can. It just kind of worked out that way last week.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Baylis, meanwhile, spent the final week of last season on the Packers’ practice squad and was on the 90-man roster throughout the offseason program and training camp before being released at the final roster reduction. The Packers signed him to the practice squad after final cuts. A first-year player from the University of Oregon, Baylis entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2017 and has spent time on the Texans’, Indianapolis Colts’ and Carolina Panthers’ practice squads.
“Evan does everything the right way. It's awesome when you get a chance to reward someone that's worked so hard and has done such a great job,” LaFleur said. “We see it every day in practice. For him to get that opportunity, I'm excited for him.”
If Graham can’t go, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan would be the top two tight ends, and through two games, the Packers have used two tight end personnel extensively. Of the 132 plays they’ve run, 43 snaps have had two or more tight ends on the field.
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“Whoever’s ready to rock on Sunday, that’s obviously who we’re going to go with,” Hackett said. “The expectations are always the same for all of them: We want them to play at their absolute best. I think Evan’s done a great job working, he’s been in a great room working with a lot of veteran guys to learn (from). … Once you get the opportunity, you always have to say next man up, and whoever’s out there we want them to go full speed.”
From the infirmary
Graham was one of three players who didn’t practice, joined on the sideline by defensive tackle Montravius Adams (shoulder) and inside linebacker Oren Burks.
The Packers only had a walk-through on Wednesday, after which the team had estimated that Burks would have been a limited participant. It’s unclear if he had a setback or the team just overestimated where he was in his comeback from the partially torn left pectoral muscle he suffered in his chest during the preseason opener against Houston.
Of the other 15 players on the injury report, six were limited: Outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell (shoulder), inside linebacker Blake Martinez (shoulder), wide receiver Jake Kumerow (shoulder), wide receiver/punt returner Darrius Shepherd (hamstring), left guard Lane Taylor (biceps) and No. 2 running back Jamaal Williams (ankle). Taylor and Williams were additions to the report after not being listed on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, rookie safety Darnell Savage (shin) was listed as a full participant and appears good to go against the Broncos.
In no hurry
Unless Taylor’s biceps injury turns out to be serious, LaFleur said he doesn’t feel the need to name a full-time starter at left guard. Taylor has been sharing time with rookie Elgton Jenkins but neither has outplayed the other to the point that he’s earned full-time status.
“I just think it’s a matter of the competition,” LaFleur said. “Until one guy really shows the other one up, I guess we’re going to keep it competitive and we’re fully comfortable with that. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have a guy take a breather, come back in. Then he’s fresh. It’s just like what you see defensively quite often with defensive linemen — they’ll rotate those guys in.”