About 90 minutes before kickoff, the Packers revealed that Bakhtiari — who had been listed as questionable on the injury report — would be inactive for Sunday’s game in Atlanta after the 31-year-old did not practice all week leading up to the matchup.
Bakhtiari also did not practice one time during Week 1’s build-up to their season opener against the Chicago Bears, but the Packers did not give him an injury designation on the report for that game. On Friday, though, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said nothing new has happened to give them reason to exhibit more caution with Bakhtiari’s knee.
“No, I think that’s just kind of the nature of the beast, and he’ll probably be questionable all year,” LaFleur said during his September 15 press conference.
The Packers’ remaining group of inactive includes running back Aaron Jones, wide receiver Christian Watson, offensive tackle Caleb Jones, safeties Anthony Johnson Jr. and Zayne Anderson and defensive lineman Brenton Cox Jr. Jones and Watson were both listed as questionable on the injury report with hamstring injuries.
Did Turf Field Influence Decision Not to Play Bakhtiari?
The Packers and Bakhtiari both are understandably going to play things safe with his knee after his extensive ACL injury caused him to miss a significant amount of time across the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons. There were questions leading up to the game, though, about whether the artificial turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium would give the two parties something more to think about in terms of preserving his health.
Bakhtiari was one of the most vocal NFL stars on social media following Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury on the turf field at MetLife Stadium last Monday night. His X account (formerly Twitter) is filled with retweets and similar comments that criticize turf field and call out the NFL for continuing to use a playing surface that players do not like.
On Wednesday, though, Bakhtiari said he felt it would not be “appropriate” for them to have a conversation about him not playing because of the artificial turf.
I don’t think that’s a conversation that should be had,” Bakhtiari said, via Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated. “I just don’t think that’s … it’s not appropriate.”
Rasheed Walker Could Now Make 1st Career Start
The Packers have a few backup options to consider against the Falcons with Bakhtiari not in the lineup, but it seems most likely that they will go with Rasheed Walker after he solidified himself as the No. 3 offensive tackle in the rotation and the primary backup for Bakhtiari through training camp and August’s preseason slate.
Walker, a 2022 seventh-round pick, spent the majority of his rookie season as a healthy inactive and played just four special teams snaps on the field goal-kicking team in Week 16’s matchup with the Miami Dolphins. He returned for his second camp in Green Bay looking more than deserving of a spot on their active roster in 2023, though.
According to Pro Football Focus, Walker played 143 total snaps over three preseason games for the Packers this past summer and allowed just two pressures, one hurry and one quarterback hit while playing almost exclusively at left tackle; although he did log 23 snaps at right tackle, too. He finished tied for the 10th-highest pass-blocking grade (87.8) among all NFL offensive linemen who played at least one exhibition snap.
“I think just overall understanding of what we’re trying to get accomplished,” LaFleur said Friday about Walker’s growth. “He’s always had the physical tools. We loved him coming out of the draft and I think he’s just matured, not only as a football player but as a person. When given the opportunities, he’s gone in there and done a really nice job for us.”