Another year, another soft-tissue injury for Kevin King.
That was the refrain from many Green Bay Packers fans when King landed on the Non-Football Injury list to start training camp a few weeks ago. King has been held out of practice for the first two full weeks of camp with a hamstring injury that apparently occurred in offseason training away from the facility, as he participated in most of the team’s OTAs and minicamp practices in the spring.
However, on Thursday, King was back on the field for his first practice of summer camp, a sign that he is officially off the NFI list. King will likely ease back into drills, as the Packers have typically given players coming off injury lists individual and positional work only on their first day back before working them into team drills a day or two later.
Two other players also began participating in practice on Thursday as well, as defensive lineman Kingsley Keke and rookie linebacker Isaiah McDuffie were on the field. Both of those players had joined King on NFI to start the summer. These three players will likely sit out Saturday’s preseason opener against the Houston Texans as a result of their return late in the week. However, they should all be candidates to get some snaps a week later against the New York Jets should they remain healthy and progress through practice over the next several days.
This offseason, King became an unrestricted free agent, but re-signed with the Packers on a one-year deal following a quiet market for his services. The team then drafted Eric Stokes in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, ensuring competition at the other starting cornerback spot opposite Jaire Alexander. King’s 2020 season saw him deal with injuries again, playing in just 11 games without an interception after a strong 2019 campaign (15 games, 5 interceptions).
Keke enters 2021 as a likely starter when the team lines up in a three-man front. He started nine regular season games a year ago and recorded four sacks while increasing his share of the defensive snaps to about 40%.
McDuffie was a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 out of Boston College, but is generally expected to compete for a spot on special teams this summer. With his camp getting off to a slow start, it will be a significant challenge for him to crack the two-deep on the defensive depth chart. Currently, Krys Barnes and DeVondre Campbell look to be the starting duo, with Oren Burks and Ty Summers generally receiving second-team reps.
The Packers now have just three players out on injury lists at present: left tackle David Bakhtiari is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, while edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and safety Will Redmond remain on NFI. Tight end Dominique Dafney came off the PUP list on Monday.