It was one year and almost eight months ago that David Bakhtiari suffered a severe knee injury in practice. The Green Bay Packers’ franchise left tackle tore his ACL and suffered additional damage in his left knee on New Year’s Eve 2020, and he has played just under one half of football since then, that coming in the week 18 season finale last season.
Throughout the 2022 offseason workouts, Bakhtiari remained with the rehab group in practices, and he landed on the Physically Unable to Participate list at the start of training camp. On Sunday, however, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur revealed that Bakhtiari is finally ready to resume practicing, and he was on the field working with the line in pads later on in the afternoon.
Bakhtiari’s return to the starting lineup would be another massive boost to a Packers offensive line that has been testing out numerous combinations throughout training camp. For much of the summer, however, the line has featured fourth-year pro Yosh Nijman in Bakhtiari’s traditional spot at left tackle, with the team rarely moving him over to the right side.
However, LaFleur noted that the team has no specific timeline for getting Bakhtiari onto the field in game action, saying that “there’s no thought as far as week 1 right now.” His activation from PUP means that he should start the regular season on the 53-man roster, but clearly the team is going to take it slow with him in his return to the field to evaluate his knee in the three weeks before the team kicks off the 2022 regular season in Minnesota.
It has been an especially long road back for Bakhtiari, whose return to game action late last season resulted in a flare-up in his injured knee. He has had a total of three surgeries since his injury, one coming this offseason, to try to get that knee back into game shape without resulting in additional swelling and fluid buildup, which he revealed was the major issue that kept him out of last year’s playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks after that week 18 return.
Bakhtiari’s return to practice comes one week after the Packers activated Elgton Jenkins off the PUP list. Jenkins, who has played nearly every position on the line for the Packers at some point, was the team’s left tackle last season with Bakhtiari out before he tore his own ACL in November. He has been getting reps at right tackle in individual and unit drills over the last week and in a handful of 11-on-11 snaps, though the coaches held him out of team drills during joint practices with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With the two players back, the starting line would likely consist of Bakhtiari, Jon Runyan Jr., Josh Myers, Royce Newman, and Jenkins from left to right. Packers fans can feel very confident in four of those starters, with Newman at right guard likely being the most questionable link of the group. That would also relegate players like Nijman, Josh Hanson and rookie Zach Tom to swing backup roles, giving the group depth at every position across the front.
If both Bakhtiari and Jenkins are indeed ready to go for week one, that will give LaFleur and his coaching staff two bookend tackles who can handle the best pass-rushers in the NFL. That should help significantly against the combination of Danielle Hunter and former Packer Za’Darius Smith when the Packers open the season against the Minnesota Vikings.