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Packers safety Raven Greene practices Thursday, now eligible to return from IR

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The Packers formally designated Greene as their second player eligible to return from the injured list.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

When the Green Bay Packers take on their next opponent a week from Sunday, they may get a familiar face back to help bolster their defensive roster. Second-year safety Raven Greene has been out since injuring his ankle in the Packers’ week two victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but the team formally designated him for return from injured reserve on Thursday.

Greene practiced on Thursday as a member of the team for the first time since that injury, and he seems a logical candidate to return to the roster prior to next week’s Divisional playoff game. The Packers currently have 52 players on the active roster with the release of cornerback Tony Brown, so a spot is open for Greene if he is ready to go by next weekend.

Heading into the season, Greene was poised to claim a significant role on the Packers’ defense. Preseason injuries to linebackers Oren Burks and Curtis Bolton opened up an opportunity for Greene to take over as the team’s primary hybrid safety/linebacker, a position that he took to early in the season. Greene started in week one and played on 77 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps in that game, making six total tackles and breaking up a pass in the team’s 10-3 victory in Chicago.

But after his injury, the defense scuffled significantly, getting exposed repeatedly during the middle part of the season as the team gave up 24 or more points in five out of eight games between week 4 and week 12. However, since then the defense has improved massively, allowing 20 points or fewer in each of the last five games and 15 or less in four of those five.

That helps to underscore how important having a capable player at that hybrid safety/linebacker position is to this defense, as the turnaround coincided quite well with Ibraheim Campbell’s return to the roster and a significant role, as well as some schematic tweaks that Pettine implemented. The most notable of the latter adjustments is aligning edge rusher Za’Darius Smith more as a rover, often over the center, particularly in an setup with two down linemen, three edge rushers, and a single off-ball linebacker.

With Greene potentially returning for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, Pettine could get back a key component of his unit’s week one success. At worst, Greene would provide the Packers with another capable special teams player and backup in case injuries strike at the safety position.

The Packers previously returned tight end Jace Sternberger from injured reserve. Players must stay on IR eight weeks before being eligible to return to the active roster, and each NFL team may only use two return designations each year.