When David Bakhtiari tore his ACL in Dec. 2020, it left a Green Bay Packers team bracing for a Super Bowl run shell-shocked.
Once that season ended abruptly, the focus shifted to 2021, when Bakhtiari was expected to return at some point. Since then, Bakhtiari has played only one game, and more questions linger. Fast forward to the present day, and offseason programs are in full swing throughout the NFL. The Packers have held Bakhtiari out so far. Now is an appropriate time to start worrying a bit.
The media Matt LaFleur asked about Bakhtiari not being deemed “good to go” for the beginning of Green Bay’s OTAs, and his response wasn’t all too reassuring.
“Our plan all along was to hold him from this time of the year and make sure he’s continuing to get stronger and ready to go hopefully for training camp,” LaFleur said on Tuesday. “This is part of our process right now.”
It’s perfectly fine that this was the plan all along for the All-Pro left tackle. What is concerning is that LaFleur slipped in that “hopefully” Bakhtiari would be ready for training camp.
The same injury diagnosis never warrants the same timetable for a return for anyone. For Bakhtiari, a big boy on the offensive line, tearing an ACL was without a doubt brutal. Elgton Jenkins is going through the recovery process right now after sustaining the same injury last season.
The chief concern about Bakhtiari is that his injury occurred in Dec. 2020. Not only is it taking longer than it usually takes for most players, but it also seems to be taking longer and then some.
Go back to last season when there was some speculation that Bakhtiari would be ready by October or November. Then that timeline moved to after the bye week. Then it moved to hopefully before the end of the regular season. It’s now June of 2022, and uncertainty persists.
It must be utterly miserable for Bakhtiari, who has been busting his tail, to be going through a gruesome and prolonged recovery. Back in January, he spoke with CheesheadTV and detailed some of the setbacks he was going through at that time.
“I was sitting at about 30 to 35 ccs (cubic centimeters) of fluid in my knee. This is where I’m going to educate you guys, for bigger guys you’re going to carry more fluid in your knee. Bryan (Bulaga) was in the 20-30 range, I was a bit higher.
The only way I can describe it, it was like I had a water balloon in my knee. When you bend it, it shoots out everywhere, and the problem with that is it basically shuts off. Fluid gets into places. It’s just uncomfortable.”
That was back in January, and it highlighted how dicey things had been going for the Packers’ left tackle. It wasn’t a case of a player who was lazily going about the recovery process or half-assing anything. He wanted to be out on the field.
“Doc made it very clear — I’m not going to put you out there and let you do anything that’s going to impact you long term. We want you for three years, not three games. It’s just tough when the answer is the one answer you don’t want to hear: Don’t play football for a while.”
Now it’s June and there’s still no timeline — or even much clarity — on Bakhtiari’s situation. While some fans may call for patience and not want to sound any alarms, it is becoming more worrisome. Bakhtiari’s head coach has already said “hopefully” he is there for training camp, not that they were holding him out of OTAs knowing he would be ready for training camp. There’s a massive difference in the wording of the two, and LaFleur used the former when describing the situation at the moment.
Green Bay already lost Billy Turner, who was reliable at right tackle for Aaron Rodgers and the offense for three years. Bakhtiari’s absence, coupled with the unknowns of Jenkins’ timeline, paints a picture that isn’t too sunny. Yes, the Packers have typically flourished with the offensive line even when they’ve had to play the mix-and-match game. Bakhtiari is a different breed, though, and he had just received a massive contract extension right before his injury in 2020.
The Packers are absolutely doing the right thing by not rushing Bakhtiari back. Being reckless with such a decision would be foolish for either side. That’s not the issue. The issue is that the timeline keeps getting pushed back further and further, and it’s leaked across multiple seasons now for a team that already had questions at the tackle position.
It’s reasonable to worry about Bakhtiari’s status as the offseason carries along.