Everyone has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic differently, and that includes NFL players. Some, like Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard, were forced into lockdown far from home with minimal physical training equipment. Others narrowly made it home from vacations or honeymoons — linebacker Ty Summers falls into the latter category.
As for left tackle David Bakhtiari, the 2020 offseason has actually been “refreshing.” The veteran All-Pro has taken this spring to clean up a few of the minor aches and pains that have built up over seven NFL seasons, putting him in a good mental and physical space ahead of the 2020 training camp (whenever that begins).
In a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday, Bakhtiari discussed his offseason approach at length. “For me personally it’s just been nice to stay on my own regimen,” he said. “A lot of things, aches that I’ve dealt with, I’ve been able to extend that much more time to take care of my personal physical ailments.”
An iron man over the years, Bakhtiari has missed just six games in his career, and he did not leave the field for a single snap in 2019. Impressively, he only showed up on the injury report once all year, getting a questionable designation in week two. Still, seven years of work on the line will give anyone minor issues, and that has been a focus of his personal work this offseason while training with former teammate Clay Matthews.
The two live close to one another in the greater LA area, and Matthews unsurprisingly has a tremendous home gym in his house. “It’s like a mini-ProActive,” Bakhtiari said, referring to the athletic training center that was closed during during the most significant period of mandated social distancing procedures. During that period, he and Matthews came to an agreement with their trainers that they would work out together and keep contact with others to the absolute minimum in an effort to minimize the chance of contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus.
The other critical component to Bakhtiari’s productive offseason has been the development of the Packers’ offense, heading into its second year under head coach Matt LaFleur. Bakhtiari complimented the Packers’ coaching staff, saying that he has seen the approaches taken when discussing with friends on other teams and that he likes the Packers’ instruction method the best. And the transition from year one to year two would naturally be a big jump, but the extra mental processing has been a major benefit.
“(In year one) I need to know what I’m doing at all times,” Bakhtiari said. “(But in year two,) now I can really take on more of the ‘what is the entire concept of the play, what is Aaron thinking, what are the adjustments’ ... I can take on more of that responsibility. That way the game can slow down further and I can be more effective.”
Asked about his expectations of the upcoming training camp and regular season, however, Bakhtiari says it’s too soon to form any. “I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I have full trust in the NFLPA, JC Tretter, that he will make sure that it is a fair and honest working relationship. But beyond that, it is such a weird time and there are so many unanswered questions that I don’t really know how it’s going to impact the season.”
One other thing Bakhtiari remains unsure about is how the Packers players will choose to speak out or demonstrate in support of those protesting racial inequality and police brutality across the United States. He again noted that he does not have an expectation yet, but he did give some hint as to what that might look like: “Like we did a few years ago, I think we’ll talk together as a team and do something together as a team and I’ll be on board with that.”
For now, the Packers are balancing discussions about the demonstrations across the country and their normal football work, and according to Bakhtiari, they are doing it well. He said that when the protests began, they took a very direct approach: “‘We’re gonna talk about this today, football can wait until tomorrow.’ I think that speaks a lot on the organizational side.”
For now, there remain no firm timelines for a return to football, nor clarity on what demonstrations may take place on the field when that happens. But it appears that Bakhtiari and his entire team will likely be united in their approaches whenever they do finally take the field again.