Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari made his 2022 debut on Sunday when he started the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the 14-12 win, Bakhtiari rotated with Yosh Nijman, who had started the previous two games at left tackle, on a series-by-series basis. In the end, Bakhtiari ended up playing 35 snaps while Nijman played 27. That eclipsed Bakhtiari’s 27 snaps in Week 18 of last season, the only game he suited up for in 2021 following his ACL tear on New Year’s Eve of 2020.
It’s not often that offensive linemen, at any position, are rotated on a series-by-series basis, let alone at the blindside tackle position. Due to the nature of this oddity, both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur were asked about the left tackle rotation on Sunday following their win in Tampa.
Reporter: First glance, how did you feel the rotation at left tackle went today?
Rodgers: Yeah, I didn’t really notice anything. I felt like it was an interesting idea, but it obviously worked out. Dave looked like he felt good. The protection I thought was great. I got hit maybe three or four times, took one sack. That’s kind of a dream type of day, especially against that front on the road. So really good job by the guys up front and hopefully Dave is feeling better and can play a little bit more next week.
Reporter 1: Dave said that he wasn’t the biggest fan of the rotation...
LaFleur, smiling: Nope. He was not.
Reporter 1: ...but you stuck with it. Why did you think that was the way to go?
LaFleur: I just thought everything around it, in terms of okay you’re coming down here to an environment where it was, let’s face it, it’s hard to replicate what those guys had to play through today. I just thought to keep Yosh involved, Yosh has done a hell of a job all season long and even back to last year he’s done a great job. Just from a conditioning standpoint, to keep both of those guys fresh, this is something we did I remember back in Houston when I was there with two guys Mike Brisiel and Kasey Studdard. I’ll never forget asking Mike after the game about it and he’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s crazy,” because you know, defensively, they typically roll the D-linemen in and out to try to keep them fresh. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I was pretty fresh the whole game,” so just kinda went back to that experience. It doesn’t happen much in this league, but just to try to keep him available the whole game. We didn’t want to go 0 to 60 with him in regards to, okay, here’s a guy who hasn’t played a lot...really outside of that Detroit game [in 2021] hasn’t played in almost two years. Do you load him up with 60 plays in a game? And we didn’t think that was the right thing to do and Yosh has done a great job as well, so it’s a credit to Yosh. Who knows how we’ll go forward?
Reporter 2: Is this a stepstone for him? Next week it’s Green Bay, it’s not south Florida.
LaFleur: Yeah, we’ll see how he responds. How his knee responds to the load that was put on him today and we’ll make a decision that we feel will be the best decision for us as a football team moving forward.
As he did on Sunday night, LaFleur mentioned on Monday that the decision the team made to rotate the tackles was influenced by the weather and that there is the possibility that Bakhtiari takes on more snaps in Week 4 against the New England Patriots.
Reporter: So how did the decision process work? David said yesterday that it was your call. I’m assuming you talked to your experts on the medical staff as well, but even if he didn’t like he had to acknowledge that it worked. So can you take us through the week and the process there?
LaFleur: Like I said yesterday, we weren’t going to go 0 to 60 with him, so we were either going to do some sort of a pitch count in terms of either potentially pulling him at halftime or getting back to my previous experience with doing this in Houston. Then I talked to [offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich] and some of our coaches about it; I talked to [general manager Brian Gutekunst] about it; I talked to [head athletic trainer Bryan Engel about it.] I talked to [strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Gizzi] about it. Then I ultimately talked to our players about it, to David and to Yosh. Talked to Aaron [Rodgers] about it, just wanted to get his feelings about that, because, ultimately, I want to make sure that he’s comfortable with what we’re doing there. I talked to a lot of guys about it, I guess, and collectively made that decision.
Reporter: And when the players are not on board with, do you tell them we’re doing it anyway or how does that part work?
LaFleur: I told you, I always listen to our guys, but ultimately we do have to make decisions and we have to make decisions in the best interest of our team. Try to give them the reasoning behind it and I thought it was valid, just in terms of here’s a guy who hasn’t played a whole lot, hasn’t had a ton of team [practice.] The weather definitely played a part in that decision because you can’t replicate that. It was definitely humid. Shoot, you saw the effects of what it had on a guy like [receiver Allen] Lazard, who is in pretty good shape. That played a part of it to expect a guy, especially early on, I mean, I want to say we had a 12-play drive and then a 10-play drive when we could actually pick up a first down in the first half. All of that played a part in the decision. Is it gonna be something we do next week? I don’t know that. I think we’ll see where he’s at and come up with a game plan for this week.
Keep an eye out for Bakhtiari’s participation in practice this week, but don’t be surprised if he has a day of rest, either. LaFleur stated two weeks ago that Bakhtiari would be “one day on, one day off” moving forward, even when he’s healthy enough to play in games full-time. In Week 3, Bakhtiari was a non-participant on Wednesday but practice on both Thursday and Friday. In Week 2, he missed Thursday’s practice. In Week 1, he missed Friday’s practice after being on the field on both Wednesday and Thursday.
There has been no real rhyme or reason for which day Bakhtiari will take a rest during the week, from an outsider’s perspective, so as long as he practices twice this week it should be a sign that he’s on track to at least split duty again. Look out for him being listed as a full participant, too, as he has only been listed as a limited participant in practice this season.
The Packers are set to play three losing teams in their next four games, with the 2-0 New York Giants — who could be 2-2 by the time Green Bay travels to London for the game — being the only team with a winning record. After that “easy” month of opponents, though, the Packers will have to play the Bills in Buffalo in Week 8, the last remaining game of the 2022 season where Green Bay is expected to be an underdog. Bakhtiari staying healthy enough to line up against All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller is almost certainly in the back of LaFleur’s head as he makes these decisions moving forward.