Every year, injuries are an unavoidable part of football and the Green Bay Packers had to deal with several of them in 2020.
Each year, there are players who are unable to play much or have their seasons derailed or hampered by nagging injuries. Yet, many of these players return to play the following season and make contributions to the team’s success.
Here is a look at five Packers players who dealt with injuries or illness in 2020 but who could return to help the team in 2021. This list is limited to players who missed significant time because of injuries so David Bakhtiari, who was injured late in the season but played in 12 games, is not on this list.
Feel free to comment or to mention a player who you feel deserves consideration for this list:
- G Lane Taylor
Taylor has been barely seen the field over the last two seasons because of injuries. In 2020, he was hurt in Week 1 against Minnesota and lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Taylor took a pay cut last offseason to return to the Packers and played well enough in training camp to win the starting right guard position.
The former Oklahoma State star is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If starting center Corey Linsley departs via free agency and either Lucas Patrick or Elgton Jenkins are moved to center, keeping Taylor at a reasonable salary would be a cost-effective way to keep the team’s depth at guard.
However, the Packers also drafted three interior offensive linemen in 2020 and are likely to add at least one more in this year’s draft.
If Taylor is re-signed, he would compete for a starting job if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately, that’s a big if for him after the last two seasons that saw him play in three total games.
- TE Jace Sternberger
The Packers drafted Sternberger to be a downfield threat at tight end but injuries have slowed him in each of his first two NFL seasons.
The Texas A&M alum started training camp on the Covid-19 reserve and then struggled with nagging injuries throughout the season. He did play in 12 games this season, but his slow start to the season because of the pandemic and several nagging injuries prevented him from getting himself established.
The fact that Robert Tonyan played so well and established himself as the starter also helped keep Sternberger off the field. Still, the Packers offense places an emphasis on tight ends in a variety of different roles so Sternberger should get plenty of opportunities.
The former third-round pick will have a chance to come into training camp healthy and start to live up to his athletic potential. If he does, he could earn a bigger role in the offense in 2021.
- WR Devin Funchess
The Packers signed Funchess as a free agent last offseason but the former Michigan star opted out of the 2020 season because of the pandemic. In 2019, Funchess was injured in the season opener and played only one game for the Colts.
Because he opted out, Funchess’ contract will be applied to the coming season. The Packers may choose to let him go to save cap space, but if not, Funchess will finally get his chance to show the coaching staff what he can do.
Funchess’ best season came in 2017 when he caught 63 passes for 840 yards and eight touchdowns with the Panthers. He has the size the Packers like in a receiver and could be a contributor in 2021 if he’s healthy and given a chance.
- G Simon Stepaniak
The Packers drafted Stepaniak in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. They selected him knowing he may not play much as a rookie because of an injury suffered late in his senior year at Indiana.
Stepaniak started the season on the injury list and was not elevated to the roster until Week 14. He was not active for any of the Packers remaining four games so he has yet to make his NFL debut.
Stepaniak was highly regarded by many scouts before suffering his knee injury at Indiana. He was named as one of the team’s captains his senior year and has shown good leadership qualities to go along with his size and toughness.
With Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor both possibly set to play elsewhere in 2021, Stepaniak could get a chance to challenge for playing time on the Packers offensive line, most likely at guard.
- TE/FB Josiah Deguara
Head coach Matt LaFleur was excited about Deguara’s potential after the Packers selected him in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Deguara’s versatility was a major reason for LaFleur’s enthusiasm as he envisioned being able to use Deguara at tight end, fullback and H-Back.
Unfortunately, Deguara was lost for the season when he suffered a torn ACL in the Packers 30-16 win over the Falcons in Week 4. In two games, Deguara caught one pass for 12 yards. He played a total of 31 offensive snaps at a variety of positions, showing the versatility that was expected of him briefly before his season was over.
The Packers are hoping for a lot more from the University of Cincinnati star in year two assuming he is healthy and ready to go. Deguara could see the field a lot without even holding down a starting position because of his ability to line up in so many places on the field.
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