The Green Bay Packers have no idea whether David Bakhtiari will have fully recovered from his ACL tear when the next NFL season begins, but general manager Brian Gutekunst isn’t planning to let that uncertainty guide his hand this week during the 2021 NFL draft.
Bakhtiari’s health has been a sort of shadow hanging over the Packers’ offseason with fans and analysts alike wondering if the All-Pro left tackle will be able to return from his injury — which he sustained in the final days of December — without missing any games in 2021. His absence, of course, was a big part of why the Packer struggled so offensively against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January’s NFC Championship Game.
If Bakhtiari is not ready by September, the Packers would be looking at a limited set of options to replace him as things stand. They are already looking to fill one hole in their offensive line after letting veteran center Corey Linsley sign elsewhere in free agency. They also cut loose veteran tackle Rick Wagner, leaving them Elgton Jenkins, Billy Turner and Yosh Nijman to populate their tackle spots without Bakhtiari.
None of that, Gutekunst says, will motivate him to target an offensive tackle in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL draft, though. Here’s what he told reporters Monday in his pre-draft press conference:
“I don’t think (Bakhtiari’s injury) will impact this particular draft, but he’s obviously an impactful person, so not having out there certainly isn’t good for us. We’ll make sure we do the right thing as we go through his rehab and protect him a bit from himself because he’s a grinder and he’s going to push himself as hard as he can to get back. But everything that I’ve heard (about his rehab) has been positive.”
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Packers!
Outlook Optimistic on Bakhtiari’s Recovery
The recovery timeline for athletes to return from an ACL tear usually ranges from nine months to a year, so it is difficult for people detached from the situation to accurately predict when Bakhtiari might return to the field for the Packers. Optimistically, he could be back in the lineup in time for the Packers’ season opener in September, but it could just as easily be that the Packers are without their left tackle for numerous games to begin 2021.
As of draft week, things would seem to be leaning toward the best-case scenario with Bakhtiari. He hasn’t provided a direct update on how he feels or where he stands with his recovery, but he did look to be moving well when caught on camera over the weekend fake boxing with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It also echoes what Gutekunst said he has been hearing from Bakhtiari’s camp throughout his recovery process.
“I haven’t seen David in probably about three weeks to a month, but all the reports are fantastic,” Gutekunst said. “I know when he left here he was way ahead of schedule and … we have a lot of confidence in David and the way he takes care of his body, the way he works, how important it is to him, what a professional he is that he’s gonna be on target with all that stuff.”