If you can remember back to the summer, there was some hope, no matter how unrealistic it may look like right now, that Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari would return to the field by the time the Packers kicked off on Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has joked recently that Bakhtiari, coming off of a late 2020 ACL tear, hasn’t held up the promises the left tackle made him this offseason.
Bakhtiari began the season on the physically unable to perform list, not surprising, which forced the team to hold him out for at least the first six weeks of the season. The bookend was eventually activated on November 10th, after his 21-day window of being able to practice with the Packers while still being on PUP had expired. It seemed as though Bakhtiari’s status was trending upwards, but he has only practiced once, the Wednesday of Week 10 (Seahawks week), since being activated to the 53-man roster. He was originally listed as doubtful against Seattle after missing Friday’s practice, but did not practice at all leading up to last week’s game against the Vikings and was ruled out of the game by Friday.
After the game, Rodgers called Bakhtiari’s status “unknown” in the post-game presser. On Monday, when speaking about offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins’ season-ending ACL injury, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said, “Eventually we’ll get David back, I think.”
When asked specifically about Bakhtiari’s status in a follow-up, this was LaFleur’s response:
“There’s certainly a plan, but not everything goes as planned all the time. He won’t be out there this week. We’ll just see where he’s at after the bye and, like I said, we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come back this year at some point. It certainly isn’t for a lack of work ethic on his part. It’s not for a lack of toughness. It’s just one of those things that you never quite know how everybody’s going to respond to the recovery process and I think that’s just where we’re at with him.”
With Bakhtiari ruled out against the Los Angeles Rams this week and Jenkins, who had replaced Bakhtiari at left tackle, now injured, it is now the Yosh Nijman show on Rodgers’ blindside. Nijman, an undrafted free agent who before 2021 had spent most of his NFL career on the practice squad, started at left tackle in Week 3 (San Francisco), 4 (Pittsburgh) and 5 (Cincinnati) when Jenkins was held out for a foot injury. He also played 10 snaps on offense this week against Minnesota following Jenkins’ knee injury.
Nijman played well with chip help from players like tight end Robert Tonyan, who is now out for the year with an ACL injury of his own. It will be interesting to see if Nijman’s performance will be impacted by the absence of Tonyan and potentially running back Aaron Jones, who may or may not be ready to return to the field before the bye. What the Jenkins injury does mean, though, is that rookie right guard Royce Newman, who has struggled against stunts and twists this season, will likely be a 17-game starter for the team, as they no longer can afford to move him to the bench if and when Bakhtiari returns to the field.