The Green Bay Packers may have a tougher time being patient with getting David Bakhtiari back on the field after losing their next-best offensive lineman to a potentially season-ending injury in Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers lost Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins to a left knee injury on the go-ahead touchdown drive that gave them a 24-23 lead over the Vikings early in the fourth quarter. The 2019 second-round pick needed the help of trainers to limp off the field and was eventually carted into the locker room after spending a short amount of time in the team’s sideline medical tent.
Jenkins was initially listed as questionable to return, but the Packers ruled him out prior to Aaron Rodgers’ 75-yard touchdown bomb to Marquez Valdes-Scantling late in the fourth quarter. Yosh Nijman played the rest of the game at left tackle.
According to a postgame report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Jenkins will soon undergo an MRI to determine the full extent of his knee injury, but the initial “fear” is that he tore his ACL in his left knee. If confirmed, the third-year starter would miss the remainder of the 2021 season.
Jenkins has been a rising star for the Packers since taking over a starting role in the second week of his rookie season in 2019, proving capable of playing at a high level at any given position along their offensive line. He has also been invaluable as their starting left tackle during the absence of Bakhtiari, who himself is working back from an ACL tear that he sustained during practice on New Year’s Eve last year.
The Packers will have one more game to play — against the Los Angeles Rams at home next Sunday, November 28 — before heading into their bye in Week 13.
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Injuries Continue Piling Up for Packers
The Packers have been plagued with injuries on a near-weekly basis throughout the 2021 season, starting with the loss of Za’Darius Smith after a limited role in Week 1. Since then, they have spent time without starters Jaire Alexander, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kevin King, Josh Myers, Robert Tonyan, Eric Stokes, Aaron Jones and Rashan Gary as a result of injuries. Jenkins also missed three games earlier in the year with an ankle injury that he sustained in Week 2’s win over the Detroit Lions.
Unfortunately, a number of the Packers’ injuries have proved to be season-ending as well. Tonyan and rookie running back Kylin Hill both tore their ACLs in Week 8’s win over the Arizona Cardinals, while veteran pass rusher Whitney Mercilus suffered a biceps tear in last week’s shutout victory over the Seattle Seahawks. They have also been forced to place backup outside linebackers Randy Ramsey (ankle, preseason) and Chauncey Rivers (knee, middle of Week 5) on season-ending injured reserve.
The good news for the Packers is that some of those key starters — including Alexander and, hopefully, Smith — still have a chance to get back on the field this season. It is possible that Jones and Gary could also return as soon as Week 12.
Will Bakhtiari Return for Week 12?
If Jenkins is indeed lost for the year, the Packers could get some immediate relief if Bakhtiari is able to suit up for them in Week 12 against the Rams. He has been practicing again since late October and was officially activated from the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list on November 10, but the Packers have ruled him out in each of the two games since and been vague about his return.
“It’s day-to-day. It’s part of the process. He’s coming off a major injury, and like I said, we’re trying to put him in the best possible position for when he does return that, you know, he’s good to go,” LaFleur said on November 18.
Given how well the Packers’ offensive line has been playing, it seemed as though the Packers might take the patient route and wait with Bakhtiari until after they were on the other side of the bye week. That plan, however, could change with the team down to their third-string option at left tackle against a formidable Rams defensive front next week. Maybe they will still want to play it safe with Bakhtiari — especially since Nijman looked decent filling in for Jenkins in Weeks 3-5 — but Jenkins’ injury certainly makes the decision more interesting for the upcoming week.