GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari was hoping he had gotten past the knee issues that resulted in three separate surgeries and impacted his past two seasons.
Now the oldest player on the NFL’s youngest team realizes that’s not the case.
Bakhtiari missed Green Bay’s 25-24 loss at Atlanta and isn’t sure yet when he will return, though the Packers’ busy upcoming schedule doesn’t help matters. The Packers have their home opener Sunday against New Orleans and return to Lambeau Field four nights later to host the Detroit Lions.
“Doing better, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time,” the veteran left tackle said. “I hate to say it, but day to day. You guys hate hearing it.”
The left side of Green Bay’s offensive line figured to be one of the Packers’ biggest strengths this season, but the Packers now don’t know when they might have Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins playing together again.
Jenkins sprained his medial collateral ligament in the Falcons game, with Royce Newman taking over for him after the injury. Rasheed Walker, a 2022 seventh-round draft pick, made his first career start in place of Bakhtiari at left tackle.
“This could be the only game I miss,” Bakhtiari said. “I don’t know. I’m just making sure I check my boxes and I’m able and ready and then when it is, great, go out and play.”
Bakhtiari, 31, has been dealing with health uncertainty ever since tearing his left ACL while in the midst of an All-Pro season on Dec. 31, 2020.
The knee injury caused Bakhtiari to play in just one game during the 2021 season. He played 11 games last season, sitting out three because of his knee and three others because of an appendectomy.
Bakhtiari talked this offseason about how grateful he felt that he finally wasn’t recovering from another surgical procedure. He played well in a season-opening 38-20 victory at Chicago, though he didn’t practice in the week leading up to that game as the Packers monitored his workload.
But at some point, the knee started acting up again. Bakhtiari and the Packers aren’t specifying exactly what happened.
“There’s only so much I want to unveil to people because I do think there’s a competitive advantage,” Bakhtiari said. “I’ve said that in the past like with health and history, but clearly there was something that started going on that we were monitoring and we were going to give up until the game time to see if it was feasible. That’s about as much as I want to say.”
Bakhtiari did want to make one thing clear, though. He is hurt. He wasn’t sitting out the Falcons game merely to avoid playing on turf.
After his good friend and former teammate Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon during the New York Jets’ season opener last week, Bakhtiari went on social media to call for all NFL stadiums to have grass surfaces.
When Bakhtiari sat out a game on Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s artificial surface less than a week after Rodgers’ injury, a segment of the Packers’ fan base wondered if he was refusing to play on turf. A social media post from Bakhtiari’s brother only added to the confusion.
Bakhtiari wants to put that idea to rest.
“I signed up to play,” Bakhtiari said. “I plan on playing. And when I can play, I’m going to play. Clearly if I’m not playing, there’s something going on. It’s not like it’s been a secret. It’s something I’ve been battling with and it’s been (difficult). It’s been weighing on me a lot. You think I don’t want to play?”
How soon — and how often — he will get to play again remains up in the air. That’s frustrating for a player who has been through this situation for nearly three years now.
There’s one difference this time around, though. After becoming a father last year, Bakhtiari now gets to come home and take his mind off his troublesome knee.
“The most refreshing thing is seeing my daughter’s face and like the no-judgment happiness, just saliva everywhere on her mouth, just drooling. I’m like, ‘She just loves (me?) Doesn’t matter what I did today. Didn’t matter how (bad) I feel.’ And that like, has been, it’s been pretty good.”
NOTES: WR Christian Watson, who missed the Packers’ first two games with a hamstring injury, was a limited practice participant Wednesday. RB Aaron Jones, who didn’t play at Atlanta because of a hamstring problem, didn’t practice.
TOP PHOTO: FILE – Green Bay Packers helmets lay on the ground during a practice session at their NFL minicamp Wednesday, June 13, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)