According to Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, left tackle David Bakhtiari is expected to be on the field in the season opener in Chicago this weekend. LaFleur said, “We anticipate him being out there on Sunday,” in his post-practice presser when Bakhtiari’s inactivity this week was brought up.
For the past two days, Bakhtiari has missed practice with a “knee/veteran rest” designation. Bakhtiari has played in just 12 games since he tore his ACL on New Year’s Eve 2020, which has turned each regular season game into a will-he, won’t-he-play event. Green Bay has laid out a “modified” practice schedule for Bakhtiari this year, which included him practicing very little in the summer and led him to be the team’s only starter who didn’t suit up for preseason action.
David Bakhtiari: “Practice is important, but not everybody needs practice. That’s about as clean as I can give it. Still probably gonna get fined for that.”— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 7, 2023
Packers fans will almost certainly have to see it to believe that Bakhtiari can play for a full 17-game season this year — after they’ve been told that the tackle has rounded a corner on his recovery several times before — but the coaching staff seems optimistic about their blindside bookend.
Beyond Bakhtiari, the other Packers players with an injury situation of note are receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, who are both dealing with hamstring issues. Up until Thursday, when he returned to practice in a limited capacity, Doubs had missed every practice for the last two weeks — as he injured his hamstring just before the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks.
Per LaFleur, Doubs “took a couple of reps within each team period” on Thursday. Unfortunately, Watson was a non-participant in practice for the second straight day, which puts his availability against the Chicago Bears this weekend in real jeopardy. It’s not often that you see a player miss the first two practices of the week with a soft tissue injury and then later he suits up for a game on Sunday.
If Watson (or Doubs) ends up missing the game, the anticipated “next man up” is undrafted rookie Malik Heath — who led the team in receptions and receiving yards in the preseason. When Doubs missed time in the final preseason game, it was Heath, not second-round rookie Jayden Reed, who stepped up as a starting outside receiver. Reed has been featured almost exclusively as a slot receiver this summer in both practices and preseason games.