Packers’ David Bakhtiari Opens Up About ‘Nightmare’ Recovery

Bakhtiari ACL Interview

Getty David Bakhtiari #69 of the Green Bay Packers leaves the field following a game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on November 29, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 45-21.

David Bakhtiari has quietly spent the past 19 months out of the NFL spotlight, trying to get his left knee healthy enough for him to reclaim his place as the Green Bay Packers’ starting left tackle, but the five-time All-Pro isn’t shy about the fact that his recovery has felt like he is trapped in his own, personal “nightmare.”

“It’s a nightmare,” Bakhtiari told reporters after the Packers’ first day of training-camp practice on July 27. “It’s my nightmare that I have to live. I don’t know how many days it’s been, but I’m just excited to wake up one day.”

As of Wednesday, it had been 573 days since Bakhtiari first tore his ACL in his left knee during practice on New Year’s Eve in 2020. General manager Brian Gutekunst says the Packers are “cautiously optimistic” that he will be ready to play when they open the 2022 season against the Vikings in Minnesota on September 11, but that all depends on how his knee responds to the stresses of playing football again.

At this point, Bakhtiari has undergone three different procedures in an effort to get his knee back to full strength. He said his most recent one took place about the time the Packers arrived from OTAs toward the end of May and was the reason why he did not participate in offseason workouts. But despite starting camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the 30-year-old blindside blocker said his level of concern is “low.”`

“When I’m ready, I’ll be out there,” Bakhtiari said. “What I can say is I do feel really good. I feel normal, my knee feels normal, and that’s the biggest plus. Now it’s just getting that normal feeling again when I play football, so that’s with the load, the stress, the strength. But we’re not really in an ACL issue (anymore). It’s been actually a long time ago that we put that chapter to bed. It’s just there are other issues we’re navigating around and things I’m learning. Like I said, it’s been my nightmare, so it’s something I have to live with.”

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Bakhtiari Never Felt Normal After ACL Surgery

Bakhtiari hasn’t shared many details about his injury throughout the recovery process, partly due to the fact that media was not allowed in the locker room last season and seldom got the chance to ask him questions. On Wednesday, though, he finally got the chance to explain more about what life has been like for him as he has worked to bounce back from a significant injury that damaged his knee well beyond his ACL.

After his initial ACL reconstruction surgery, Bakhtiari said he was forced to adjust to the “new normal” of how his knee felt and operated. He had good days when his knee felt good and he had to resist pushing himself too hard, likening it to driving a sports car that he wasn’t allowed to take out of first gear. But there were also plenty of bad days when his knee was unwilling to cooperate with the rehabilitation and knocked him back down after he felt like he was making progress.

“It’s hard to describe,” Bakhtiari explained. “I think only people who have gone through it maybe will have an idea, especially when it’s not cooperating with you. There was just stuff … it was almost like blockage. It was weird.”

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Months passed with his recovery stretching deeper and deeper into the 2021 season. Finally, the Packers gave Bakhtiari the green light heading into the final game of the regular season in hopes that it would serve as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs and allow him to take the last step toward rejoining the lineup permanently.

Instead, he played just 27 offensive snaps in the first half against the Detroit Lions before his knee forced him back to the sideline and shut him down indefinitely.

“We all wanted to see where it was at,” Bakhtiari said of the Detroit game, “and when I went out there, I wouldn’t say we were in the best situation to begin with. And then it was depending on how it was going to respond. It obviously didn’t respond to the right direction, which was a huge bummer for me, not being able to play in the playoff game.”

Bakhtiari Won’t Return Until He is 100%

Almost seven months later, Bakhtiari has learned to take each day “one at a time” and is setting no expectations for when he might play his next NFL game. Three knee surgeries and more than a year and a half away from the game will have that type of effect on a guy. After all, he had only missed nine career games over eight seasons with the Packers prior to tearing his ACL and never more than four in a row.

Once Bakhtiari steps back onto the field, though, he wants everyone to know that it will be for real — and that he will be making no excuses about his knee or the arduous months he spent trying to rebuild himself into the player he was.

“When I step between the white lines and put my jersey on, it doesn’t matter,” Bakhtiari said. “I’ve played sick. I’ve played with broken ribs before. I’ve played with a hip flexor, I mean, all that stuff. There’s no need for me to express it to any of y’all and give any fuel to any team that we’re going against. So that’s why I said last year if I step between the white lines, I’m 100% ready to go and that’s the same thing when I step out there again this year.”

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