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Packers' Eric Stokes walking again, but unsure when he can return from foot injury

FILE - Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes watches a play develop during the NFL football team's game against the Washington Commanders, Oct. 23, 2022 in Landover, Md. Stokes still doesn’t know when he will be ready to return from the knee and foot injuries that ended his 2022 season prematurely. (AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes doesn’t know when he will be ready to return from the knee and foot injuries that ended his 2022 season prematurely.

Stokes has found a way to remain upbeat amid the uncertainty.

The 2021 first-round pick from Georgia had surgeries for each of his injuries, which took place in a 15-9 loss at Detroit last November. Stokes says he had a plate and two screws put into his foot. He used a wheelchair through the end of last season.

So he appreciates every step he takes toward his eventual return.

“I couldn’t walk until about mid-January, so that’s something new,” Stokes said Tuesday. “Getting back to running, getting back to moving around, getting back to break, cutting and all that stuff, finally putting on cleats for the first time since my injury last week, so it’s like small little goals that I got in mind that I keep approaching and keep checking off.”

Stokes had never been through an injury anywhere near this serious. Stokes didn’t realize the severity of this one until a week or two after it happened, when tests showed just how badly he had hurt his foot.

There is no timetable for Stokes' return. The Packers have depth at cornerback with 2022 Pro Bowl selection Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon returning.

“Eric had a pretty substantial injury,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said last week. “He’s on the road to recovery. He’s been in the building every single day. It’s great to just see him walking around and being here.”

The foot injury is particularly concerning since speed is such a big part of Stokes’ game. Stokes became a first-round draft pick in part because he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds at Georgia’s Pro Day.

Stokes said he started running again two or three weeks ago, and he’s confident he can regain his speed.

“I know me,” Stokes said. “I know the type of work I put in.”

Stokes had a promising rookie campaign but didn't perform as well last year as the Packers went 8-9 to miss the playoffs and end a string of three straight NFC North titles. He got hurt before he had a chance to turn things around.

When he looked at video from his first two seasons, Stokes noticed he was having more fun as a rookie.

“I was out there too much in my head last year,” Stokes said. “It is what it is. It’s just learning how to just be you is something I took away from it. Just learn to be you.”

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