Why didn’t Jaire Alexander travel with the Packers to their game vs. the Giants?

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers two-time All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander did not travel with the team for its game against the Giants on Monday night in East Rutherford, N.J.

Alexander, who has missed five consecutive games since injuring his shoulder diving for a pass breakup against the Rams in Week 9, traveled with the team to Pittsburgh in Week 10 and Detroit in Week 12. Those were the first two road trips Green Bay made after Alexander’s injury. He did not make the third.

Alexander was even downgraded from questionable to out a day ahead of Monday’s game. He was listed as doubtful to play against the Steelers in the first game after suffering his shoulder injury before not playing, then listed as questionable on the final injury reports of the week ahead of games against the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs before not playing in those games. However, in all four of those games, we found out Alexander was officially not playing an hour and a half before kickoff when inactives were announced, not the day prior, as was the case on Sunday — five weeks after his initial injury.

Alexander has practiced in a limited capacity since before the Packers played the Chargers in Week 11, yet has still not played as they approach Week 15 and was again estimated as a limited participant on Wednesday ahead of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers at Lambeau Field. The Packers didn’t practice on Wednesday before the injury report was released and will resume doing so on Thursday.

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Head coach Matt LaFleur was asked Wednesday why Alexander didn’t travel this past week after he had done so for the previous two away games that he didn’t play in.

“Just we felt like that was best for him in terms of trying to get his shoulder back, part of the recovery process,” LaFleur said.

Alexander spoke to reporters last Friday and said it was strictly his shoulder injury keeping him sidelined. He said he “1,000 percent” wants to play and was asked about playing while hurt.

“I’ve done that a lot of times,” said Alexander, who dealt with a back injury earlier in the season that sidelined him for three games. “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, 26, is the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history in terms of average annual value at $21 million per year. He signed that extension in the 2022 offseason after missing 13 games in 2021 with a shoulder injury — not the shoulder he’s dealing with now. Alexander was named a second-team All-Pro in 2022, his second such selection (2020 was the first). This season, however, Alexander has played in only five of 13 games and it remains unclear whether he’ll return on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Alexander has not been placed on injured reserve at any point during his five-game absence, meaning he has occupied a spot on the 53-man roster. Players who are expected to be out this long normally are placed on IR shortly after they suffer the injury to free up a roster spot for someone healthy, so it’s evident the Packers didn’t expect Alexander to be sidelined for this long.

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In his place, 27-year-old journeyman cornerback Corey Ballentine has played opposite seventh-round rookie Carrington Valentine, who assumed full-time starter duties after the Packers traded Rasul Douglas following their Week 8 loss to the Vikings. The Packers are also likely getting 2021 first-round cornerback Eric Stokes back for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers.

Stokes returned to game action in Week 7 against the Broncos for the first time since Week 9 last season but injured his hamstring on his fourth special teams snap of the game (he didn’t play on defense). Stokes has been on injured reserve since and returned to practice on Nov. 27, the day on which the Packers’ 21-day window to activate Stokes or shut him down for the season started.

They must do one or the other by Monday. While Stokes doesn’t necessarily have to play in Sunday’s game — he can be activated Monday and return against the Panthers next Sunday — he was estimated as a full participant on Wednesday.

“We’ll see,” LaFleur said of Stokes potentially playing this week. “We’ll give him the week and we’ll probably put him through some physical tests. We’re going to have a little bit different of a practice tomorrow. We will have some individual time, but the majority of not only today but tomorrow, the majority is walk-through. We’ll test him in different ways just to make sure he’s ready to go.”

(Photo: Michael Owens / .)


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