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Packers rookie OL Simon Stepaniak practices for the first time in 2020

The sixth-round draft pick is finally on the field after being out 11 months with a torn ACL.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Last December, when the Indiana Hoosiers football team was preparing for their appearance in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, one of their top offensive linemen suffered an unfortunate injury. Guard Simon Stepaniak tore his ACL during bowl practices, robbing Indiana of one of its best players and NFL prospects for their final game of the 2019 season.

Despite the injury robbing him of the opportunity to participate in practices at the Shrine Bowl or in drills at the 2020 NFL Combine, Stepaniak would eventually hear his name on the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Green Bay Packers selected him in the sixth round, making him the 209th overall pick after drafting two other offensive linemen in Michigan’s Jon Runyan, Jr. (pick #192) and Oregon’s Jake Hanson (#208).

Since then, Stepaniak has been rehabilitating his injured knee and absorbing the Packers’ playbook while spending his entire rookie season to this point on the reserve/Non-Football Injury list. But when the Packers headed out onto the practice field on Wednesday to begin preparations for their week 11 game against the Indianapolis Colts, Stepaniak was there working out with the team, according to multiple beat writers.

According to the NFL’s rules around the NFI list, which functions effectively identically to the Physically Unable to Perform list, Stepaniak’s first participation in practice starts a three-week decision window for the team. By the end of that 21-day period, the Packers must either activate Stepaniak to the 53-man roster, waive him, or shut him down for the remainder of the season.

Aside from the injury to right guard Lane Taylor, the Packers have their full complement of offensive linemen available to them at present. Runyan is currently serving as the team’s primary backup interior lineman, so Stepaniak would likely only head to the 53-man roster if there were another injury on the line. If that does not happen, the Packers could either leave him on NFI for the remainder of the season or could waive him in order to try to sign him to the practice squad.