The Green Bay Packers just opened their second straight training camp with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari unable to practice, and this time there’s no timetable on his return to the field.
Bakhtiari, a 10-year pro, underwent another procedure on the knee he injured on December 31, 2020, said Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst before the team’s first public training-camp practice on Wednesday, July 27. Bakhtiari, who did not appear at OTAs, was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list leading up to the start of camp but was not ruled out for Week 1 on September 11 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Gutekunst declined to set expectations but said the team was “cautiously optimistic.”
“What I will say is Dave had a very significant injury, much more than just an ACL way back when it occurred,” Gutekunst said during his July 27 press conference. “I thought he busted his tail to get back last season and as we went through that last game versus Detroit, when he came out of that he wasn’t particularly happy with how it responded. He did have another procedure in the offseason, but I think we’re cautiously optimistic.”
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Gutekunst Shuts Door on Bakhtiari Not Playing
Gutekunst did not share details about Bakhtiari’s 2022 offseason operation, but the knee-related procedure was at least the third that the five-time All-Pro had undergone since he injured it nearly 19 months ago. Bakhtiari underwent his initial ACL surgery shortly after getting hurt in practice on New Year’s Eve in 2020, then had a follow-up procedure to clean up his knee in November 2021, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. He did return January 9 to play 27 snaps in the Packers’ regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions but missed their playoff game two weeks later.
Still, Gutekunst said, there was “no” concern that Bakhtiari, who will turn 31 in September, might never play again for the Packers. And if Green Bay is forced to head into the season opener without him, he said, the current group of offensive linemen will be ready to pick up the slack, he said.
“I like our [offensive line] group,” Gutekunst said. “We played all last year without [Bakhtiari] and obviously won a lot of games. I think it’s one of the ways we build our offensive line. Luke [Butkus, offensive line coach] does such a good job cross-training them that we’re able to cover some of those things.”
That said, Bakhtiari did his part on July 27 to quell the anxiousness among fans with a short-and-sweet message on his Instagram account teasing his upcoming return.
Jenkins ‘Ahead of Schedule’ With Recovery
Bakhtiari isn’t the only Packers offensive lineman working his way back from a significant knee injury. Third-year pro Elgton Jenkins is also going through rehab for the ACL tear he sustained in mid-November last season, landing on the PUP list alongside Bakhtiari and eight others coming into camp. Fortunately, Gutekunst said the do-it-all Pro Bowler is actually “ahead of schedule” in his recovery.
“Elgton’s doing great and we’re excited, would like to get him out there,” Gutekunst said. “Hopefully, that will be soon. He’s certainly ahead of schedule. When he gets out there, Elgton’s a unique guy that can line up at five spots, so once we get him out there and get down the road a bit to see where Dave’s at, we’ll start looking at where everyone’s going to line up.”