If you’ve been living under a rock, maybe you’ve missed that Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari has yet to play a full game since his New Year’s Eve ACL tear in 2020. After three surgeries, the hope is that eventually during the 2022 season he can return as the team’s bookend, the position he earned five All-Pro honors at from 2016-2020.
There was optimism that Bakhtiari could have played in Week 1, as he was listed as a limited participant in last week’s Wednesday and Thursday practices, but was then held out of practice entirely on Friday leading up to the Packers’ season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Despite being officially listed as limited by the team’s injury report, he did take team reps with the squad last week.
On Wednesday, Bakhtiari returned to practice with the team, which sparked questions as to just where he’s at in his rehab. On Thursday, head coach Matt LaFleur was asked about Bakhtiari and how he looked upon his return to practice, which LaFleur responded with, “He had a good practice.”
When asked about Bakhtiari’s schedule, LaFleur broke some news by stating, “[Bakhtiari] will not practice, even when he is fully back...three days in a row. It will be a day on, a day off, a day on.” Bakhtiari was held out of practice on Thursday, as it seems likely that he will miss Week 2’s action against the Chicago Bears in the Packers’ home opener. Last Sunday, when the news broke that Bakhtiari would not play in Week 1, the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood reported that the expectation was that Bakhtiari wouldn’t play against the Bears, either.
The question now is just how serious is the long-term outlook of Bakhtiari in Green Bay if he cannot practice back-to-back days? Will Bakhtiari ever be able to handle three practices in a row? If he can’t, what does that say about the team being able to count on him to be their franchise left tackle? Is this only going to be an issue for 2022? There’s still a lot to sort through here.
Next season, Bakhtiari’s contract carries a $29.1 million cap hit and a $23.1 million dead cap hit if he’s released, meaning that the team would only save around $6 million in cap space by moving on from him. He is set to receive a $9.5 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2023 league year, so they’ll have to make a decision on his status very early on in the offseason.
When asked if Bakhtiari can handle playing games without a full week of practice, LaFleur stated, “There’s not many people that can probably have a schedule like that, but I do believe and we believe, as an organization, that he’s one of those guys.” Last season, Bakhtiari was replaced at left tackle by Elgton Jenkins, who like Bakhtiari also missed Week 1’s action. When Jenkins went down with his own ACL tear in 2021, he was replaced by Yosh Nijman, who started at left tackle for Green Bay in Week 1 of this season. The expectation is that when Jenkins is healthy that he will play right tackle, with Nijman playing left tackle if Bakhtiari is still unable to go.