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Packers hopeful about Za’Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Whitney Mercilus playing this week

Aaron Rodgers has been dealing with a broken toe since November, but he believes he'll be close to full health before the Packers host their first game of the playoffs after their bye, which should put the NFC on notice.

The Packers defense may be getting several reinforcements for Saturday’s game against the 49ers.

Edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus both returned to practice last week after extended stays on injured reserve. Cornerback Jaire Alexander was activated a few weeks ago after his own stint on the list, but landed on the COVID-19 reserve list and did not play before the end of the regular season.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that the team expects all three players to continue practicing this week. He said he’s “hopeful” that Smith and Alexander will be able to play and that the team will be “ecstatic” to get Mercilus back from what was believed to be a season-ending torn biceps.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari made his season debut in Week 18 after a long recovery from last year’s torn ACL. He’s not practicing Tuesday for what LaFleur called “load management” reasons.