GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari spoke to reporters for nearly 23 minutes on Wednesday afternoon about his knee.
First, some background for context:
• Bakhtiari tore his left ACL on Dec. 31, 2020, at practice and underwent three knee surgeries in the next year and a half. His knee was so messed up that the ACL wasn’t even a problem anymore, and still isn’t.
• Bakhtiari played the final regular season game in 2021 before another knee flare-up, then missed time on multiple occasions in 2022 because his knee was still a recurring problem.
• It appeared that entering this season, Bakhtiari was in the clear with his knee troubles. After returning to his All-Pro self against the Bears in Week 1, Bakhtiari’s knee, according to head coach Matt LaFleur, began swelling. He missed the Packers’ Week 2 road game against the Falcons, a team that plays home games on turf.
• Bakhtiari has been heavily outspoken against turf surfaces in the NFL and his older brother, Eric, tweeted the “F— around, Find out” meme in response to Bakhtiari being inactive, leading some to believe that Bakhtiari wasn’t playing in a form of protest against turf surfaces.
• LaFleur said after the game that the field surface didn’t play a part in Bakhtiari not playing and said Monday that his left tackle was injured. LaFleur also said he doesn’t believe Bakhtiari would’ve played last Sunday if the game had been at Lambeau Field on grass.
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That didn’t stop people online from speculating about the severity of Bakhtiari’s injury and his true reason for not playing. Bakhtiari didn’t speak postgame or in the locker room on Monday, but he had plenty to say on Wednesday ahead of Green Bay’s Week 3 matchup with the Saints at Lambeau Field.
“I would never leave them hanging out to dry,” Bakhtiari said. “I signed up to play. 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 s–tty. It’s been weighing on me a lot. You think I don’t want to play? You think I want to be a great football and then just disappear? F— no.
“When it comes to my career and everything, you think with what I’ve done, I’d wanna not play? I think anyone that alludes to that, that’s funny. For me, it’s pretty devastating. I think every game that goes by, I’m not getting any younger and what I want for my own personal self along with what I wanna give to this franchise, it’s tough.”
David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins entered this season primed to stay healthy and play like they can together — consistently — for the first time since 2020.
They’re probably the NFL’s best left side when they do.
But both are already hurt.
Now what? https://t.co/o6XZOD8Ush
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 19, 2023
Bakhtiari, who turns 32 next week and has proven capable of still playing at an elite level when healthy, didn’t divulge much about how his knee feels now as it pertains to his availability for Sunday’s game. He only said he’s taking it “day by day.” The Packers play early Sunday afternoon and then in Week 4 at home on Thursday night against the Lions, but Bakhtiari said never to rule out him playing in both while adding, “This could be the only game I miss,” in reference to last Sunday’s game in Atlanta.
And about his brother’s tweet inferring that Bakhtiari missed the game more to make a statement against the field surface than because of an actual injury…
“If I wasn’t going to play on turf, I’d probably make more of a ruckus,” Bakhtiari said. “My brother loves drama and he told me he was going to do it and I’m like, ‘Go right ahead. I don’t give a s–t. I don’t care what you do. It’s your social media.’ No, that was not the reason. At all. If it was going to be, it would definitely be something different. I clearly have an injury I’ve been dealing with and … I think anyone here that did run with the story should definitely make sure to right wrongs because if you don’t, then is that really journalism, if it’s only a hot topic or the lowest-hanging fruit? That’s a question for all you guys. That’s the part that kinda got me fired up. That’s bulls—.”
— Eric Bakhtiari (@ebak92) September 17, 2023
Instead of extinguishing the fire that resulted from his DNP and his brother’s tweet, Bakhtiari waited until Wednesday to provide context on the subject despite getting “fired up” about the immediate response.
“I think talking to people and getting this is way better than putting 280 characters — I don’t even know how many characters X allows you now — with no emotion behind it because there, it can be chopped up and it can be lost in translation,” Bakhtiari said. “I think a lot of the people who were pushing that is local here, so I know I’m going to see you all on Wednesday. We can have this talk. It will be great. That was my reason for it. That’s why I didn’t talk after the game, especially when I go check on it and I’m seeing things rolling. I’ll talk to them when I see them Wednesday. Clearly, there’s a spiraling little fire happening. That is y’all’s issue. Not me. I don’t want to jump into it because also there’s a part of it where I’m complying with it if I jump into it. So I’ll just speak to you all on this platform, where I am here.”
Bakhtiari made one thing clear: if he’s healthy enough to play, regardless of the surface, he’ll play. He added that he hasn’t had conversations with anyone in the building about being more cautious if his knee isn’t 100 percent and that week’s surface is turf. There’s a difference between Bakhtiari protesting turf by not playing and turf playing a factor in a joint decision for him to sit based on how his knee feels, especially if it’s clearly less than 100 percent.
For example, he played only 42 of 74 offensive snaps in a 15-9 Week 9 loss against the Lions last season on Detroit’s turf surface.
“I went in already with it affected and then I tried to play enough and then it was like, ‘Look guys, it’s at its limit,’” Bakhtiari said of that game. “I’m putting myself and my teammates at risk if I can even try and doing this thing and that’s — we talked about in the game, I don’t really feel much, so that’s in that moment, so you could imagine what Tuesday, Wednesday looks like. And then I was just trying to be available, be ready and I just was on the bike, constantly moving around. I’m like, ‘Hey, we got this two-minute drive. This is a big point.’ I’m like, ‘I think I got like enough movement in it to get it going, like, let’s go f——g rip it,’ so that was how that game unfolded.”
David Bakhtiari had *a lot* to say today.
Here’s some of it: pic.twitter.com/gVt7m7WBMQ
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 20, 2023
What’s clear now is that, despite anyone’s confidence Bakhtiari’s knee was in the clear this season, it most certainly is not.
He hasn’t practiced yet in the regular season. The team heavily modified his practice regimen both in training camp and during the regular season in an effort to best prepare him physically for game day.
Even that couldn’t prevent his knee from acting up after playing in Week 1 and there’s no telling how soon he’ll be back on the field or when he does return, how many more times similar issues with his knee will arise this season. It seems frustrating for everyone involved — for LaFleur, for Bakhtiari, for the fans — because he’s so good when healthy. The only problem is he struggles to stay on the field, and it seems that reality is one the Packers are stuck with until he’s no longer on the team, whenever that time comes.
“I would love to put this in the rearview mirror,” Bakhtiari said. “It’s been a perpetuating annoyance that I’ve had to shoulder here since 2021.”
(Photo: Brandon Sloter / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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