David Bakhtiari was in his normal jovial and joking mood Tuesday when he met the media for the first time in training camp. The Green Bay Packers left tackle took sarcastic jabs at quarterback Aaron Rodgers, talked about the versatility of fellow offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins and spoke to the importance of getting wide receiver Randall Cobb back in the locker room. But the burning question everyone had about the All-Pro — will he be ready for Week 1 after tearing an ACL eight months ago — remains unanswered.
“I’m not going to set any dates or expectations,” Bakhtiari said. “I think it’s going to be a fun ride and we’ll kind of all figure it out.”
That’s not to say that Bakhtiari doesn’t desperately want to be out on the field with his teammates right now as they prepare for the start of the season Sept. 12 in New Orleans.
“I really, really like football,” the ninth-year pro said. “It’s almost like when you take something away you don’t realize how much you enjoy it. It is a grind. But being away I’m really getting itching to get back out there. I don’t like seeing other people do my job. But it’s all part of the course I have to play.
“There’s this road I have to go down and it’s a long road and I don’t like it, but the only way to get to where I want to be is I’ve got to go down that road. Currently (I’m) down it so we’ll see when it ends.”
That road started New Year’s Eve when he was injured during a practice prior to the team’s Week 17 game in Chicago. It was a devastating blow to Bakhtiari and to the team’s Super Bowl hopes. His importance was on full display in the NFC title game loss to Tampa Bay when Rodgers was under duress throughout much of the afternoon.
Getting him back on the field as early in the season as possible is important, but so is not rushing back too fast. Jenkins has moved from left guard to Bakhtiari’s spot and looked good through the early portions of training camp, perhaps giving them even more reason not to force the situation. With the uncertainty around Bakhtiari’s status, coach Matt LaFleur said they are approaching things as if he won’t be ready for Week 1.
“Until we have a better indication of when he’s going to be back here, that’s they way you have to prepare and just know that eventually he will be out there and that will give us a big boost,” LaFleur said.
Bakhtiari said Tuesday that he would not — and the Packers would not — put himself out there if he can’t ensure his own safety. The 29-year-old has taken the same approach in rehab.
“I think there is a fine line. That’s kind of what I figured out,” Bakhtiari said. “There’s certain days where you can’t really do too much. The best rehab is the one that adjusts constantly on the fly, so how much your body can tolerate. You want to basically toe the line without crossing it. Once you do, you kind of set yourself back and you don’t want to be in that position.
“I haven’t had any hiccups, so that’s nice. I’m just kind of staying the course.”
Bakhtiari opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He’s eligible to come off the list at any point before the regular season, but if’s still there when the season starts, he’ll be there for at least the first six weeks.
“From what I know, I think we’re going to have open communication the entire way, see how I feel,” Bakhtiari said about the potential of opening up on PUP. “Once we all feel comfortable of where I’m at, and when I can go out there and play not just football but the brand of football that I know and everyone else does, I think that’s where we’ll be in a good spot.”