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Bakhtiari Continues to ‘Grind’ on Comeback Trail

What are the keys to David Bakhtiari's return to the starting lineup? And why might Yosh Nijman be part of the plan?
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Note: To update this story from Wednesday, David Bakhtiari will not practice on Thursday, either, marking the third consecutive practice that he's missed. Asked if Bakhtiari had suffered a setback, coach Matt LaFleur said: "It's day-to-day. It's part of the process. He's coming off a major injury. He's doing everything in his power to get back as quickly as possible. That's just where we are right now." Having missed the first two practices this week, he almost certainly will not play at Minnesota on Sunday.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Blocking a premier pass rusher? That’s been relatively easy for David Bakhtiari.

Clearing the final hurdles to return to action following last year’s torn ACL? That’s been much more difficult for the Green Bay Packers’ five-time All-Pro left tackle.

Bakhtiari’s return to the lineup remains in a holding pattern. Bakhtiari hit the practice field for the first time on Oct. 20. He practiced all three days that week before the Washington game and all four days before the Kansas City game. Last week, he was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, and practiced on Wednesday and Thursday. However, he didn’t practice on Friday, was inactive for Sunday’s game against Seattle and didn’t practice on Wednesday as the team flipped the script to this week’s game at Minnesota.

“He’s just working through stuff,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said on Wednesday evening when asked how Bakhtiari was handling the situation. “He comes in every day, same mentality, ready to go, ready to attack the day. It’s going to be a grind for him. I think he’s realizing that. It’s just him focusing on attacking whatever he can control (and) just going after it.”

Last week, coach Matt LaFleur said one key part of unleashing Bakhtiari would be confidence that he could compete at “your best ability.” Getting to that stage meant “stacking” days on the practice field.

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Missing the last two days of practice would seem to run counter to the “stacking” of days, though LaFleur said Bakhtiari had not suffered a setback.

If Bakhtiari plays at Minnesota, it would be a little bit past 10 1/2 months since he tore the ACL in his right knee on the practice field.

Whenever Bakhtiari returns to the playing field, will he be able to return to his elite form? Or will that take time?

Stenavich’s answer led into a second key.

“Him being out there from what I’ve seen of him in practice so far, there’s flashes where he looks great,” he said. “It’s just going to be a matter of can he sustain that for a game? That’s going to be the hardest thing because he didn’t have camp, he didn’t have anything built up. Practices are limited right now. So, that’s going to be his biggest challenge is getting to a place where he can sustain that performance for an entire game. That’s part of what we evaluate right now and that’s probably going to be probably the biggest question.”

To clear that hurdle, Stenavich said he was open to having a timeshare at left tackle. To prevent a series-by-series game of musical chairs, that could mean Yosh Nijman splitting time with Bakhtiari at left tackle, with Elgton Jenkins moving to one of the interior spots. Nijman played well in place of an injured Jenkins vs. San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

“We’re kind of leaving all the options open and just seeing what’s not only best for our team but also what’s best for him,” Stenavich said.

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