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Whitney Mercilus returns to practice for Packers on Thursday of bye week

In a shocking turn of events, the Packers designated Mercilus for return from injured reserve today after he suffered a torn biceps two months ago.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The returns of David Bakhtiari, Josh Myers, Jaire Alexander, and even Za’Darius Smith were all somewhat expected over the last few weeks. These Green Bay Packers players had all been working their way back from injuries recently, but each one of them was expected to have a chance to return at some point this season.

But Whitney Mercilus returning to practice? That is a true shock.

On Thursday of the Packers’ playoff bye week, however, Mercilus was back on the practice field after missing the final seven weeks of the regular season on injured reserve. As a refresher, Mercilus tore his biceps muscle in the Packers’ week 10 win over the Seattle Seahawks and went on injured reserve immediately, with the assumption that his season was over.

Evidently, that assumption was premature. Here’s a shot of Mercilus practicing from Packers.com’s Wes Hodkiewicz:

If Mercilus progresses well over the next nine to ten days and is well enough to be active for the Packers’ Divisional playoff game, his and Za’Darius Smith’s returns would give the team a massive boost in quality depth at the outside linebacker spot. Since Mercilus’ injury, the team has been forced to rotate the likes of Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, and Ladarius Hamilton behind starters Preston Smith and Rashan Gary.

Even though Mercilus only suited up in four games for the Packers, he did make a notable impact as a rotational pass-rusher, playing around 30 snaps per game. In that time, he recorded a sack and two quarterback hits, adding a pair of hurries as well. Getting him back, even for a handful of snaps each game, would be another big lift for a Packers team that earned the number one seed in the NFC despite all of these absences.