There is genuine excitement for the 2023 Green Bay Packers, the youngest team in the NFL and one stocked with talent at every position, even if that talent is decidedly lacking in experience. Jordan Love is the headliner at quarterback, taking the reins from Aaron Rodgers after four years waiting on the bench.
But there are good, young players up and down the depth chart, and if all of that is not enough to get some green-and-gold pulsing through your system, then consider David Bakhtiari, the 10-year veteran offensive lineman who is now the team’s oldest player, turning 32 this month.
Bakhtiari has fought through three knee surgeries and freak setbacks over the past three seasons to stay on the field. And if you’re not excited about the upcoming season, check out his view, as told to The Athletic:
“Defensively, I love the pieces that are there, and I don’t think anyone’s perfect, but we got some f***ing solid pieces. … I’d like to see that we have a young team that no one knows s*** about that everyone counts out and that’s great, but a relentless young team that’s gonna beat you to a f***ing pulp and not quit because they’re just too young to f***ing know any better. That’s what I would like to see. That’s a winning recipe for a young team.”
Young Packers Have Impressed
Phew. Certainly, that would be a worthwhile outcome for Green Bay, which has been feeling some momentum over the course of training camp as its young players have shown their talents. There is hope that the defensive line will tighten up after a disappointing 2022, and rookies Lukas Van Ness and Luke Musgrave have been especially impressive heading into the year.
Rookie receivers Malik Heath and Dontayvion Wicks have had bright moments in training camp, too.
All of that adds up, as Bakhtiari suggests, to a group that is mostly unknown around the NFL and, thus, easily overlooked. But throughout camp, coach matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst have had a quiet confidence about what they’ve been seeing.
Bakhtiari Operating on Modified Practice Slate
One of the issues the Packers are working through is the nonstop maintenance required to keep Bakhtiari healthy and on the field. When he plays, Bakhtiari remains one of the league’s top left tackles, but he had a hard time staying healthy going back to the ACL tear he suffered ahead of the season finale in 2017.
He played just one game in 2021, as he suffered complications from the torn ACL and required to other surgeries. He appeared in 11 games last year, missing three because of knee pain and three because of an emergency appendectomy in December.
The Packers allow Bakhtiari to follow a different, less demanding practice schedule than the rest of the team in hopes of keeping him rested and able to play on Sundays. A separate practice protocol is not a common thing on a young team like the Packers, but it happens a lot with older NFL veterans.
“It’s bittersweet,” Bakhtiari told The Athletic. “There are some days I definitely do enjoy it … But there is a part of me, there’s a grind you go through with the guys, and there is still like fun, like, ‘Man I am f***ing sore and beat to s***. I’m tired as f***, and I’m still locking you dudes down? And I’m old? Like, hell yeah.’ There’s like that other dynamic to it.”