The veteran pass-rusher, who was thought to be lost for the season after he tore his left biceps on Nov. 14 against the Seattle Seahawks, was designated to return off injured reserve. He practiced on Thursday, just 60 days after the injury.
“He’s been saying since the night that he got hurt, he’s like, ‘I’m going to be back. I’m coming back. I promise you, I’m coming back,'” Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Thursday. “He’s worked his tail off to get to where he’s at, [but] yes, I was completely surprised that it was as early as today. It was great to have him out there.”
The Packers signed the 2012 first-round pick on Oct. 21, just days after the Houston Texans released him. He was injured in his fourth game with the Packers and had one sack and two quarterback hits with his new team.
He was placed on injured reserve Nov. 16, and even coach Matt LaFleur figured then that Mercilus was done for the season.
“That’s a tough one,” LaFleur said at the time. “Man, I feel bad for him. Shoot, he would’ve had potentially a second sack right there [on the play on which he was injured]. Just the stability he brings to that room, and this guy’s a pro’s pro. He’s been doing this at a very high level for a long time. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happen.”
Mercilus, 31, said he signed with the Packers for one reason.
“Trying to get a championship,” he said upon his arrival in Green Bay. “So the best option, I thought, was coming here with the winning mentality.”
Mercilus is among several players who did not finish the regular season but could return for the Packers’ first playoff game on Jan. 22 or 23 in the NFC divisional round. That list also includes fellow outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who has not played since the season opener because of back surgery; cornerback Jaire Alexander, who has not played since his Week 4 shoulder injury; receiver Randall Cobb, who underwent core muscle surgery in late November; and right tackle Billy Turner, who missed the last four games because of a knee injury. All of those players practiced in some capacity this week.