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Packers hope Rashan Gary and Eric Stokes can return during training camp

Gary, who is due a new contract by next season, appears to be recovering well from his 2022 ACL tear.

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

On Tuesday, we had a chance to hear from the Green Bay Packers’ two major decision makers — general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur — as the team got ready for the start of training camp. One of the more interesting things that LaFleur said was that the team was “hopeful” that outside linebacker Rashan Gary and cornerback Eric Stokes — two players currently on the physically unable to perform list — will be activated at some point during training camp.

Both Gary and Stokes went down against the Detroit Lions in early November, just before the Packers’ defensive resurgence that kept them alive in the playoff hunt until Sunday Night Football in Week 18. Gary, who was previously on a Pro Bowl pace as a pass-rusher, went down with an ACL while Stokes left the game with an ankle injury. Both injuries ended up being season-enders for the defenders.

While it was previously reported by Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber that Stokes was on pace to hit the field for the start of training camp, that does not appear to be the case on the morning of camp’s first practice. Currently, Gary and Stokes are joined by receiver Jeff Cotton on the PUP list. Meanwhile, rookie draft pick Grant DuBose, tight end Camren McDonald, inside linebacker Tariq Carpenter and safety Tarvarius Moore are on the non-football injury lists after sustaining injuries outside of the team facilities this offseason.

Gutekunst added to LaFleur’s comments on Tuesday, stating that the team’s plan is to be conservative with the returns of Gary and Stokes, but that they’ll reevaluate the two players in two to three weeks. Since Gary and Stokes are on the PUP list, if they aren’t activated by roster cutdowns at the end of the preseason then they’ll be forced to miss the first four games of the regular season in 2023, per league rules.

Beyond injuries, LaFleur and Gutekunst made a few other comments of note yesterday. On if the starters will be playing in the preseason, LaFleur said, “It’ll be fluid.” As a reminder, the Packers are set to have two weeks of joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots — two of their three preseason opponents — this summer. Usually, LaFleur’s Packers have sat second-contract starters for preseason games. At the moment, players who fit those criteria are running back Aaron Jones, left tackle David Bakhtiari, offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, outside linebacker Preston Smith, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, cornerback Jaire Alexander and cornerback Rasul Douglas.

Gutekunst also said that adding a veteran receiver to the team is a “right player at the right price” situation, but also claimed that the young trio of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Jayden Reed “need to play.” Don’t hold your breath.

The general manager was also asked about how the league’s new third quarterback activation rule could impact his roster construction. Gutekunst’s response was that it would impact playoff games more than regular season games, so don’t go assuming that the Packers will hang onto a third quarterback for 18 regular season weeks just for the sake of an emergency.

Stay tuned in with Acme Packing Company, as we’ll be compiling daily recaps of practices and press conferences during the Packers’ training camp.