Packers Give Concerning Update on David Bakhtiari’s Status

Bakhtiari PUP List

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.

The Green Bay Packers have indirectly provided an update on All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari’s status for 2022 training camp, and it’s not good news.

According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for July 23, the Packers have added Bakhtiari to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he continues to work his way back from the torn ACL he sustained on New Year’s Eve of 2020.

Bakhtiari, who turns 31 in September, has not played a full game since Week 16 of the 2020 season and only managed to play 27 offensive snaps for the Packers last season, all of which came in a no-stakes regular-season finale with the Detroit Lions. Prior to tearing his ACL, Bakhtiari had only missed nine career games over his first eight seasons in Green Bay, five of which he finished as either a first- or second-team All-Pro.

There had been a bit of optimism for Bakhtiari on Friday when the Packers placed 12 players on injured lists and he wasn’t listed among them, but there was always a chance that would change with veterans not due to report for camp until next Tuesday, July 27. Now, the Packers will have to start ironing out their backup plans at left tackle while they wait for Bakhtiari to be medically cleared for practice again.

The Packers will also start camp with Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins on the PUP list, recovering from his own ACL tear that he suffered on November 21.

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LaFleur Hoped Bakhtiari Would Be Ready

People began asking questions and casting doubts about Bakhtiari’s status earlier this year when the All-Pro sat out for the Packers’ slate of offseason workouts, but head coach Matt LaFleur dismissed most of those concerns when he told reporters during OTAs that keeping him sidelined, working on his rehab, was always their plan.

“Our plan all along was to hold him from this and get strong and, hopefully, be ready to go for training camp,” LaFleur said on May 31.

At the same time, LaFleur wasn’t able to offer much more than hope when it came to the status of their franchise left tackle, saying only that “time will tell.”

“Time will tell,” LaFleur said. “We fully anticipate him being ready to go, but we did last year as well, so I think time will tell. But we feel good about the work that he’s put in and where he’s at.”

Who Will Start at LT If Bakhtiari Isn’t Ready?

Bakhtiari’s placement on the PUP list is definitely not a good thing for the Packers. They have now been forced to play 20 of their last 21 games without their top offensive lineman — who was signed to a four-year, $105.5 million contract extension about six weeks before his injury — and appear to still be uncertain about when he might return to the field for them. If Bakhtiari isn’t ready for the season opener, it could cast a long shadow of doubt on his future with the franchise.

Fortunately, the Packers have a battle-tested backup plan in Yosh Nijman.

Nijman was asked to step in as the Packers’ starting left tackle in Week 3 last season after Jenkins was declared out with his first of two injuries on the year. Up to that point, Nijman had only played 14 career snaps that had all come in garbage time, but it hardly looked like his first start when he took the field against San Francisco and proceeded to shut out Pro Bowl edge rusher Nick Bosa, giving up not a single pressure on the night.

Nijman started the next two games until Jenkins was ready to return, then picked up again where he left off in Week 12 after Jenkins went on injured reserve with his torn ACL. He remained Aaron Rodgers’ blindside blocker for the rest of the regular season, giving up 20 total pressure and just three sacks across his 356 pass-blocking snaps. Nijman had been playing so well that fans were confused and appalled when the Packers chose to start a Billy Turner-Dennis Kelly combo for their divisional-round playoff rematch with the 49ers and didn’t play Nijman for a single snap.

Despite the Packers’ puzzling decision in the postseason, though, Nijman has been a favorite to win the starting right tackle job for the 2022 season now that both Turner and Kelly are gone. He is the only healthy tackle on their roster with experience starting on the outside and wouldn’t have much competition in camp aside from Cole Van Lanen — who spent his rookie season on the practice squad — and a pair of rookies unless Jenkins returned to the fold faster than expected.

Still, Bakhtiari’s status could end up complicating the picture and forcing the Packers to reconsider Nijman on the left side. They could also sign an affordable veteran to boost their ranks as they did in each of the past two seasons with Rick Wagner and Kelly, keeping Nijman on a path to take over the right side.

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