The Green Bay Packers will be spending the first six weeks of the 2021 season without their All-Pro left tackle.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, David Bakhtiari will remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for the Packers heading into the new season, meaning he will not be eligible to return until Week 7 at the earliest. The 29-year-old left tackle has been working back from an ACL tear that ended his 2020 season just before the regular-season finale, but the Packers have been reluctant to share a specific timeline on when they expected him to return to the lineup.
The Packers will now presumably move over Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins to cover Bakhtiari’s reps at left tackle until he is cleared to return; although, Billy Turner and Dennis Kelly (depending on his injury and roster status) could also be called upon to fulfill the role.
The Packers will continue reducing their roster size from 80 to 53 players until the NFL’s 4 p.m. ET deadline on Tuesday, August 31. Players on the PUP list do not count toward a team’s 53-man roster total.
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Packers Had Little Choice With Bakhtiari
For those hoping Bakhtiari might return sooner, the Packers didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. A player is not allowed to come off the PUP list without first passing his physical, and that player cannot then be placed on injured reserve (from which players can return after a minimum of three weeks) for the same injury. Either Bakhtiari was going to be healthy for Week 1 or remain on the PUP list for the start of the 2021 season.
Given his injury designation, Bakhtiari will not be able to play or practice until Week 7 ahead of the Packers’ home game against the Washington Football Team on October 24, and that’s assuming he will be ready to return to action with only a few practices under his belt. Until then, it falls on the roster of Green Bay’s offensive line to pick up the slack.
O-Line Has Been Packers’ Focus in Camp
Bakhtiari’s status has been one of the biggest questions for the Packers since the start of training camp. Considering the recovery window for ACL surgery is between nine and 12 months, there was a slim chance Bakhtiari would be cleared in time to return for Week 1’s opener against the New Orleans Saints, but the Packers didn’t put all their eggs in that basket and have put a reasonable amount of energy into determining their backup plans over the past several months.
With Jenkins being the top candidate to replace Bakhtiari at left tackle, the Packers have an opening at left guard to figure out. They have stoked competition along the interior of their offensive line throughout the preseason, pitting veterans Lucas Patrick and Ben Braden against younger options such as Jon Runyan Jr. and fourth-round rookie Royce Newman, but it is hard to determine a clear-cut winner until after initial roster cuts come and go at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, August 31.
Right now, the most believable lineup during Bakhtiari’s absence would appear to be: Jenkins at left tackle, Newman at left guard, second-round rookie Josh Myers at center, Patrick at right guard and Turner at right tackle.