USA Today Images

The Green Bay Packers may be getting one of their best defensive players back on the field within the next few weeks, as Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

Alexander's participation opens the 21-day window during which he can participate in practice before he must be elevated to the active roster or else shut down for the season. Alexander has been out since Week 4, after which he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury that necessitated surgery.

In Alexander's absence, the Packers have gotten excellent cornerback play from Rasul Douglas, who has emerged as a quality starter. Adding Alexander back into the lineup would elevate the team's coverage unit even further, given his previously established high level of play. 

The Packers have also been without star edge rusher Za'Darius Smith for much of the 2021 season, but new defensive coordinator Joe Barry has gotten the team to perform at a high level anyway. Green Bay ranks seventh in yards allowed per game, fifth in points allowed per game, and 14th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA so far this season -- far better than could have reasonably been expected while largely operating without their two best defensive players. 

Getting Alexander back for the stretch run would be a major lift to a team that is in contention for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs. 

Get the latest news on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers by downloading the CBS Sports app. Our team of experts will give you the latest updates, all at your fingertips. Plus, if you already have the app, make sure to select the Packers as your favorite team for up-to-the-minute news.