The Green Bay Packers are getting their All-Pro left tackle back at practice this week.
Coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that David Bakhtiari would practice beginning Wednesday. It will start the three week window for Bakhtiari to be added to the active roster.
Bakhtiari suffered a torn ACL in practice on New Year’s Day and has been working his way back since then. As recently as last Wednesday the 30-year-old was seen going through rehab on the practice field as the rest of his teammates went through drills.
It’s unclear when Bakhtiari will be good to go in a game and if it could possibly be as soon as Sunday against Washington. He said during training camp that it would be a decision made in conjunction with the training staff, the front office and himself. With the Packers having Elgton Jenkins filling in for him at left tackle, there perhaps isn’t the same urgency to rush him back as there would be if they were struggling to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Certainly, when you come are coming off a pretty significant injury, you don’t want to just throw somebody out there,” LaFleur said when asked if Bakhtiari would need more than one week of practice to play in a game. “We want to make sure that, number one, physically his knee is in great shape and that he’s not at further risk of doing more damage to it. Also, I think there’s a confidence factor that you develop by just playing football, whether that’s in practice [or not], so there is a ramp up period.”
If Bakhtiari would able to return soon, it would allow the Packers to move Jenkins back to his more familiar left guard spot, where he earned Pro Bowl honors last year. They could also play Jenkins at center, where he started a few games last season. The Packers were forced to go with Lucas Patrick there after just four plays against Chicago when starting center Josh Myers went down with a knee injury that will keep him out a few weeks.
“Now, he’s the guy that you can always count on and I thought he had an outstanding performance. He graded out the highest upfront against, you know how we feel about that (Chicago) defensive line,” LaFleur said of Patrick. “He’s a guy that just consistently shows up to work every day with a great attitude. I know I was asked about how many reps he got with our ones last week and the number was zero. Certainly he gets a lot of reps in practice but the majority of it was with the scout team and that just shows you what kind of person and player he is and how he prepares.”
Green Bay is also dealing with injuries on the defensive side of the ball. With Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith on injured reserve after having back surgery, the Packers lost fellow outside linebacker Preston Smith to an oblique injury against Chicago. LaFleur doesn’t believe he’ll have to go on injured reserve, but he’s not so sure Smith will be available to face his former team this weekend. Smith has not missed a game in his 7-year career.
“He’s been really consistent, does a great job of getting prepared each and every week,” LaFleur said. “We’ll just see how he’s feeling this week. I know he’s definitely motivated to play but we want to make sure that he’s not going to put himself at further risk of injury and be out for a longer period of time. We want to make sure that he’s good to go.”
The same goes for cornerback Kevin King. He missed the Chicago game with a shoulder injury he suffered against Cincinnati. Like Smith, LaFleur doesn’t think he’ll need to go on injured reserve.
“It’s something that’s getting better every day,” LaFleur said. “I know he’s working hard at it, and we’ll see where he’s at. It’s more day-to-day.”
Meanwhile, All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is on injured reserve, is making strides in his recovery from a shoulder injury. Still, there is no guarantee he will be able to get completely healthy without season-ending surgery.
“I can’t 100% rule that out but we feel like it’s progressing nicely,” LaFleur said of not crossing surgery off the list of options. “It’s a constant thing that we’re always kind of rescanning, if you will, and making sure that we get the right opinions from everybody to help Jaire out and put him in the best possible position.”