GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have suffered a devastating blow to their Super Bowl aspirations with left tackle David Bakhtiari suffering a season-ending knee injury during Thursday’s practice.
Bakhtiari showed up on the injury report on Thursday as limited participation. The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and confirmed by Packer Central.
“Oh, (bleep), sums up 2020. Quite the way to end the year,” the source said.
Other than quarterback Aaron Rodgers, there might not be a more irreplaceable player on the roster than Bakhtiari. The Packers will have to regroup quickly with Sunday’s game looming at Chicago and the No. 1 seed at stake.
A four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, Bakhtiari hasn’t allowed a sack this season, according to Pro Football Focus, in a typically dominant performance. Only three starting tackles have not allowed a sack. He’s also been called for only two holding penalties.
“He steps up to the challenge every day. He’s a true pro. He’s good in the run game, good in pass protection. It’s one of those things, it just allows you to do some more things, maybe be a little more aggressive. It’s great. To have that left side is unbelievable. It’s a security. It’s a comfort level. He’s great. He’s awesome.”
When Bakhtiari missed three games at midseason due to a broken rib, Billy Turner shifted from right tackle to left tackle and Rick Wagner stepped in at right tackle. The Packers went 2-1 in those games, with zero sacks vs. Houston, one vs. Minnesota and one vs. San Francisco.
The Packers also could shift left guard Elgton Jenkins over to left tackle. When Wagner went down at San Francisco, Turner went from left tackle to right tackle, Jenkins shifted to left tackle and rookie Jon Runyan entered at left guard.
The versatility of Turner and Jenkins will help the Packers navigate those stormy seas. Turner has taken a big step forward in Year 2 after a mediocre 2019 at right guard. Jenkins, a second-year player and first-time Pro Bowler, has played 635 snaps at left guard, 297 at center, 32 at right tackle and 27 at left tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. Nonetheless, Bakhtiari is an elite player and shuffling players from one spot to another is never ideal.
Bakhtiari’s brilliance is why he signed a four-year contract extension worth up to $94 million on Nov. 14, one day before a victory over Jacksonville.
Bakhtiari saw prestige with being No. 1 in anything, and that included being No. 1 all-time in contract at the position.
“Yeah, that was something that I’ve been chasing for a while,” Bakhtiari said. “Having the talks with my family, to have that monetary validation for all the work that I’ve put in really meant a lot. That was something that I can hold onto and have that title for the rest of my life. That is something that is special, that I’ve been chasing really ever since I got in the league. I have goals, very lofty, lofty ones. I always wanted to say that I was the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history and today I get to say that.”
A fourth-round pick out of Colorado in 2013, scouts envisioned a guard or perhaps even a center. Bakhtiari competed for the starting job at right tackle as a rookie when Bryan Bulaga, who had been moved to left tackle during the offseason, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Family Night.
Bakhtiari moved to left tackle and the Packers never looked back. He was selected to the prestigious All-Pro team each of the past four seasons. Last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers began touting Bakhtiari as a potential Hall of Famer.
“Yeah, I’m not going to lie. Have I? Absolutely,” he said when asked if he’s considered his legacy and Hall of Fame potential. “But I don't live in those thoughts because in order to make those thoughts a reality, I have to conquer the day, not the week or the year. I don’t think that big. You’ve got to start micro in order to make it a macro thought or macro dream. I just try to be the best I can every day. That’s just really kind of been me. It’s kind of cheesy, but, hey.”