Playoff practice surprise: Packers’ pass rusher Whitney Mercilus returns

Green Bay Packers linebacker Whitney Mercilus (50) during their game against the Arizona...
Green Bay Packers linebacker Whitney Mercilus (50) during their game against the Arizona Cardinals in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)(Darryl Webb | AP)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:35 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Packers continue to get healthier at the right time. Green Bay saw the return of Za’Darius Smith on Tuesday. Now you can add Whitney Mercilus to the growing list of players returning to practice.

Mercilus went on injured reserve after suffering a torn biceps against the Seahawks in week 10. Many thought that injury would sideline the veteran pass rusher for the rest of the season. Then on Thursday he returned to the practice field. A surprise for even defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

“He’s been saying since the night he got hurt, he’s like ‘I’m going to be back, I’m coming back. I promise you I’m coming back.’ He’s worked his tail off to get to get back,” said Joe Barry. “I was completely surprised it was as early as today. It was great to have him out there.”

Throughout the regular season Rashan Gary and Preston Smith have carried the load for the Packers pass rush. That’s with the pair combining for 18.5 sacks. Adding more pass rushers, though, will only help their rotations heading into the playoffs.

“Not only to have still Rashan and Preston, to have a Z in the rotation, to have potentially a Whitney in the rotation. It just gives you fresh rushers, fresh violent guys on the edge. You can’t have enough of those guys,” said Barry.

Getting Za’Darius Smith up to speed mentally, as well as physicall, will be a key. Smith has only played 18 snaps in Barry’s system, and that was way back in week one against the Saints.

As far as safety Adrian Amos sees it, putting in a pass rusher like Smith is pretty simple. Get out of the way.

“You know, that’s a defensive lineman, outside linebacker. Go get the quarterback. You know what I’m saying? Go make plays. That’s what he do, I mean like, I feel like you’ve got guys you plug and go. I don’t think it’s a big learning curve or anything like that. Just go do what you do.”

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