GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari has moved a step closer to returning from the knee injury that caused him to play only one game last season.
Bakhtiari participated in individual drills at Sunday’s practice after getting removed from the physically unable to perform list.
“We’ll see how I respond tomorrow, but as of right now, it’s a good checkmark on the day,” said Bakhtiari, a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018 and 2020. “I felt good. I was happy where I was at.”
Packers coach Matt LaFleur cautioned it's just the next step in Bakhtiari’s recovery, and that the team doesn't have clarity on when the star left tackle could be playing again.
“We’re going to take it a day at a time,” LaFleur said. “There’s no thought as far as Week One is concerned right now. We just want to see how he responds. And when he’s ready, he’s ready.”
Bakhtiari tore his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020, missing the rest of that season and most of the following season. He returned to play in the Packers’ 2021 regular-season finale at Detroit but had a setback and wasn’t available for their NFC divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s just tough when it gets taken from you and it’s not by your choice,” Bakhtiari said. “That was something that I had a hard time giving up, basically my knee saying no. This time now, I realize that I cannot control as much as I want to. ... It’s just more like, ‘Hey, what are you feeling like today, knee? How are you doing? You holding up well? Cool, we’re in this together, man.’
"That’s been a special moment. Really grateful to be back out there again and hopefully no more back and forth. Just positive daily steps in the right direction.”
Bakhtiari’s absence has left the Packers without one of the game’s premier linemen. Not only was Bakhtiari a first-team All-Pro in 2018 as well as 2020, he also was a second-team selection in the All-Pro balloting in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
Sunday’s news suggests the Packers are closer to having their top two linemen back on the field. Elgton Jenkins was activated from the PUP on Aug. 14.
Jenkins, a 2020 Pro Bowl left guard, filled in for Bakhtiari at left tackle last season before tearing his left ACL on Nov. 21 at Minnesota. The Packers haven't yet indicated whether Jenkins will be available to play the Sept. 11 season opener, also at Minnesota.
LaFleur also said he hadn’t decided yet whether to play more of his starters in the Packers’ preseason finale Thursday at Kansas City.
The Packers had 30 players inactive for their 20-10 victory Friday over New Orleans and have rested virtually all their first-team performers for each of the first two preseason games — something it did for the entire preseason last year. The Packers opened the 2021 campaign with a 38-3 loss to New Orleans but ended up finishing 13-4 and winning a third straight NFC North title.
“A lot of it comes down to your gut feeling of what you need to get out and what you want to see and where you’re at as a football team,” LaFleur said. “I respect everybody’s opinions on this. If you ask 32 head coaches, they’re all going to have a little different opinion on what you should do in that situation. As far as what is the right answer, I don’t think anybody knows.”