Packers CB Jaire Alexander has played through pain, but he says this injury is different

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander hasn’t played the last four games because of a shoulder injury sustained while making a diving pass breakup into the Rams’ sideline at Lambeau Field in a 20-3 win on Nov. 5.

Alexander was a limited practice participant on Thursday and Friday before the Packers’ win over the Chargers almost three weeks ago. He was a limited participant on all three injury report estimations leading up to the Thanksgiving Day win over the Lions and again limited in all three practices preceding last Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs. Alexander was never placed on injured reserve, which means he’s occupied a 53-man roster spot while missing the same number of games he’d be required to miss if on IR, which wouldn’t count him against the active roster.

The 26-year-old cornerback told reporters before reluctantly agreeing to speak on Friday that he was going to lie in his answers anyway and when asked under that premise whether he will play on Monday night against the Giants, said, “We’ll see,” while adding that he’s “week to week.”

Alexander, a two-time second-team All-Pro selection (2020 and 2022) and the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history making $21 million per year, has missed seven of Green Bay’s 12 games this season with back and shoulder injuries. Alexander missed 13 games in 2021 because of a shoulder injury, but this is not the same shoulder. Alexander said that if he’s able to play, he’s going to play, and was asked about playing through injury.

“I’ve done that a lot of times,” Alexander said. “I’ve done that a few times this year, but I think with what I got going on now, it’s a little more tough.”

Alexander said that he “1,000 percent” wants to play and that his absence is strictly because of his ailing shoulder. When asked if the issue with his shoulder was pain, range of motion or both, Alexander said, “Really ‘functionability.’ A little bit of all of that, honestly.” He reiterated that the coaching staff is understanding of why he hasn’t been on the field and was asked if he feels pressured to play because of how much he makes.

“I mean, there’s always pressure,” Alexander said. “There’s always pressure, but I’m the type of person that I always want to put my best foot forward. So I feel like if I can’t put my best foot forward, then it’s just tough to even be out there.”

Head coach Matt LaFleur seemed satisfied with how Alexander has been around the team while sidelined.

“That’s something that we’ve definitely talked about, in terms of how you can contribute when you’re not in there, and I think he’s done a good job of trying to help and encourage the other guys,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, you always would want a guy of his caliber out on the field. That makes you a better football team, but just controlling what you can control. If you’re out there, you’re out there. If not, how can you serve the other guys that are out there playing?”

Alexander figures to be listed as questionable for Monday’s game in East Rutherford, N.J., but we’ll know for sure his game status when the final injury report of the week is released on Saturday afternoon.

As for running back Aaron Jones, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury suffered late in the second quarter of the win over the Chargers on Nov. 12, he has practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday and Friday this week after not doing so since sustaining his injury. Jones also missed two games with an MCL sprain in 2017.

“I’m feeling better,” Jones said after practice Friday. “Just being able to get back out there with my guys, was involved in (individual drills) and groups, just making that progress and hopefully I can come out tomorrow and get involved in some team (reps). That’ll kind of be telling and helpful going forward … I’ve played at 70 (percent) and less before, so as long as everything’s fine, I’m stable and I can go out there and take a hit and I’m able to get up to a decent amount of speed, I can play through pain and things like that.”

How close does Jones feel to reaching that bar?

“I feel like I’m close,” Jones said. “It’s just, like, getting up to that full speed, but I feel like I’m close … I think (Saturday) I’ll wake up — I took it lighter (Friday) — so I feel like I’ll wake up (Saturday) feeling good and I’m able to get put into some of those team reps.”

Jones has probably been at 100 percent for only two games worth of time this season, the first two quarters and change against the Bears in the season opener before suffering a hamstring injury, against the Steelers in Week 10 and the majority of the first half against the Chargers in Week 11 before suffering the knee injury. Because of what has largely been a limited workload this season, the 29-year-old running back has only 414 total yards and three touchdowns.

“I’ve got to remember that tough times don’t last forever,” Jones said. “It’s about the process and it’s about these guys in the locker room. May not be having the year that I want to have or being able to be out on the field like how I want to be, but it’s still how can I come in here and impact these guys and lead these guys and make sure that they’re ready to play? And then doing my part so that I am able to come back when I am and provide that spark and be a boost to them.”

While Jones and Alexander both practiced in a limited capacity on Friday, wide receiver Christian Watson (hamstring), left guard Elgton Jenkins (shoulder) and inside linebacker Quay Walker (shoulder) missed practice entirely. Safety Darnell Savage (chest) returned to practice Friday in a limited capacity after missing Thursday’s practice, while Jenkins was downgraded from a limited participant to a non-participant. LaFleur said the team is “just being precautious” with Jenkins.

Watson, who injured his hamstring late against the Chiefs while trying to go down inbounds to keep the clock running, said Thursday he doesn’t think this hamstring injury is as severe as the one that sidelined him for the first three games of the regular season. He suffered that injury, to the same hamstring, on Aug. 31 in practice and didn’t play until Sept. 28 against the Lions. Watson, who has 14 catches for 186 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games, also missed three games last year because of recurring hamstring issues.

“I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to figure out ways and talk to different doctors and do different things to try to figure it out,” Watson said. “I mean, it’s just a full-body thing, so I really got to hammer in this offseason at making sure everything with my body is correct — from the back to the hips to the knees — to make sure that everything is working properly so there’s no stress anywhere else.”

(Top photo of Jaire Alexander: Candice Ward / Getty Images)

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