GREEN BAY — David Bakhtiari’s comeback is about to hit another important milepost.
The Green Bay Packers five-time All-Pro left tackle is set to return to practice this week, opening the three-week window for him to work his way back into game shape after spending all of training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season on the physically unable to perform list following the torn ACL he suffered in his left knee during a Dec. 31 practice.
“I would anticipate David being out there for practice,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday, one day after the team improved to 5-1 without Bakhtiari with a 24-14 win at Chicago. “But time will tell whether or not we put him in a position to suit up for us.”
Without Bakhtiari, and having lost his replacement, Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins, for three games because of an ankle injury suffered Sept. 20 against Detroit, the Packers have started four different offensive line lineups in the first six games. With Jenkins back in the mix and Lucas Patrick set to start at center for injured rookie Josh Myers (knee) against Washington this coming Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Packers will have another new lineup for that game — regardless of when Bakhtiari returns to action.
It seems unlikely that Bakhtiari would be able to go from practicing for the first time on Wednesday to playing against Washington on Sunday, and with a short week the following week before their Oct. 28 game at Arizona, the safer, smarter call might be to hold off on re-inserting Bakhtiari into the lineup until Nov. 7 at Kansas City.
“Certainly, when you’re coming off a pretty significant injury, you don’t want to just throw somebody out there,” LaFleur said. “We want to make sure that, No. 1, physically, his knee is in great shape and he’s not at further risk of doing more damage to it. And also, I think there’s a confidence factor that you develop by playing football, whether that’s in practice (or in a game). So there is a ramp-up period.”
Bakhtiari will be 10 months removed from the injury on Oct. 31, and the Packers’ medical staff likes to have players coming back from ACL tears to hold off on returning until around that 10-month mark. That was the line of demarcation for tight end Josiah Deguara, who suffered his ACL tear last season on Oct. 5 and returned to practice in training camp on Aug. 5.
Bakhtiari hasn’t spoken with reporters since training camp but had vowed to take the smart approach in his comeback and not rush himself back just out of pure competitiveness.
“It’s a fine line. That’s what I’ve figured out,” Bakhtiari said in August. “This is definitely my biggest injury. There are certain days where you can’t really do too much. I think the best rehab is the one that adjusts constantly on the fly, (based on) how much your body can tolerate, because you want to basically toe the line without crossing it. Once you do, you kind of set yourself back and you don’t want to be in that position.”
Alexander on the mend
While LaFleur said there’s still the possibility that All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander’s shoulder injury will ultimately require surgery, there is growing optimism that their shutdown corner will be able to avoid going under the knife, meaning his season won’t be over and he’ll return to action at some point.
Alexander, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering the injury Oct. 3 against Pittsburgh, has missed the past two games and won’t play against Washington. He would be eligible to come off injured reserve after the Washington game, although that doesn’t appear likely.
"I can't 100% rule (surgery) out, but we feel like it's progressing nicely," LaFleur said. "It's a constant thing that we're always kind of re-scanning, if you will, and making sure that we get the right opinions from everybody to help Jaire out and put him in the best possible position."
LaFleur also expressed hope that cornerback Kevin King, who missed the game Sunday with a shoulder injury of his own that he suffered against Cincinnati, will be able to return sooner rather than later, perhaps against Washington.
“It’s something that it’s getting better every day. I know he’s working hard at it,” LaFleur said. “We’ll see where he’s at, but it’s more day-to-day.”
Without Alexander or King against the Bears, the Packers started Isaac Yiadom opposite rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes at cornerback. But after giving up a 20-yard completion and being flagged for a 26-yard pass-interference penalty, the coaches benched Yiadom, acquired in a training-camp trade with the New York Giants, in favor of Rasul Douglas, who was signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad two weeks ago.
If King can’t go against Washington, it’s clear Douglas will get the starting nod, based on LaFleur’s rave review Monday.
“I thought he did an outstanding job, especially he hasn’t been here for a very long amount of time,” LaFleur said. “I thought he went in there and (played well). He’s a veteran guy that’s played a lot of ball. It was good to see him perform to the level that we thought he could do.”
Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures
Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
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