Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari made his 2022 debut on Sunday when he started the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the 14-12 win, Bakhtiari switched with Yosh Nijman, who had started the previous two games with left tackle, series by series. In the end Bakhtiari played 35 snaps while Nijman played 27. That eclipsed Bakhtiari’s 27 snaps in week 18 of last season, the only match he was eligible for in 2021 after his ACL tear on New Year’s Eve of 2020.
It’s not often that offensive linemen, in any position, are rotated series by series, let alone blindside tackle position. Due to the nature of this quirk, both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur were asked about the left tackle rotation on Sunday after their Tampa win.
Reporter: On the face of it, how did you find the rotation in the left tackle today?
Rodgers: Yeah, I didn’t really notice anything. I thought it was an interesting idea, but it clearly worked. Dave looked like he was feeling good. I loved the protection. I got hit maybe three or four times, took one bag. That’s kind of a dreamy day, especially against that front on the road. So really good work from the guys up front and hopefully Dave is feeling better and can play some more next week.
Reporter 1: Dave said he wasn’t the biggest fan of the rotation…
LaFleur, smiling: No. He was not.
Reporter 1: …but you stuck with it. Why did you think that was the way to go?
LaFleur: I just thought everything around it, in terms of okay, you come here to an environment where it was, let’s face it, it’s hard to replicate what those guys had to go through today. I just thought about including Yosh, Yosh has done a great job all season and even last year he did a great job. Just from a conditioning standpoint, to keep both guys fresh, this is something I remember in Houston when I was there with two guys Mike Brisiel and Kasey Studdard. I’ll never forget asking Mike about it after the game and he says ‘Yeah it’s crazy’ because defensively they usually roll the D-linemen in and out trying to keep them fresh. And he says, ‘Yeah, I was pretty fresh the whole game,’ so I kind of went back to that experience. It doesn’t happen much in this league, just to try and keep him available for the whole game. We didn’t want to go 0 to 60 with him regarding, okay, here’s a guy who hasn’t played much… really outside of that Detroit game [in 2021] has not played for almost two years. Do you charge it with 60 plays in a game? And we thought that wasn’t the right thing to do and Yosh did a great job too, so it’s an honor for Yosh. Who knows how we will proceed?
Reporter 2: Is this a stepping stone for him? Next week it’s Green Bay, not South Florida.
LaFleur: Yeah, we’ll see how he reacts. How his knee reacts to the load placed on him today and we will make a decision that we think is the best decision for us as a football team going forward.
As he did Sunday night, LaFleur said Monday that the team’s decision to rotate tackles was affected by the weather and there is a possibility Bakhtiari will take more shots in Week 4 against the New England Patriots.
Reporter: So how did the decision-making process work? David said yesterday it was your decision. I assume you also spoke to your medical staff experts, but even if he didn’t like it, he had to acknowledge that it worked. So can you guide us through the week and the process there?
LaFleur: Like I said yesterday, we weren’t going to go from 0 to 60 with him, so we would either do some sort of pitch count in terms of either possibly pulling him back into halftime or going back to my previous experience doing this in Houston . Then I spoke to [offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich] and some of our coaches about it; I spoke with [general manager Brian Gutekunst] about the; I spoke with [head athletic trainer Bryan Engel about it.] I spoke with [strength and conditioning coordinator Chris Gizzi] about the. Then I finally talked about it with our players, with David and with Yosh. Talked to Aaron [Rodgers] I just wanted to get his feelings on it because ultimately I want to make sure he’s comfortable with what we’re doing there. I’ve talked to a lot of guys about it, I think, and made that decision together.
Reporter: And if the players aren’t there, will you tell them we’re doing it anyway or how that part works?
LaFleur: I told you, I always listen to our guys, but in the end we have to make decisions and we have to make decisions in the interest of our team. Try to give them the reasoning behind it and I thought it was valid just in terms of here is a guy who hasn’t played much, hasn’t had much team [practice.] The weather certainly played a part in that decision, because you can’t imitate that. It was definitely damp. Shoot, you saw the effects of what it had on a man like [receiver Allen] Lazard, who is in pretty good shape. That played a part in expecting a man, especially in the beginning, I mean, I want to say we had a drive of 12 play and then a drive of 10 play when we were able to pick up a lead in the first half. All of that played a part in the decision. Are we going to do something next week? I do not know. I think we’ll see where he stands and come up with a game plan for this week.
Keep an eye out for Bakhtiari’s participation in training this week, but don’t be surprised if he also has a rest day. LaFleur stated two weeks ago that Bakhtiari would progress “a day on, a day off” even if he is healthy enough to play in games full-time. In week 3, Bakhtiari was a non-participant on Wednesday, but practiced on both Thursday and Friday. In week 2 he missed Thursday’s training. In Week 1, he missed Friday’s practice after being on the field on both Wednesday and Thursday.
There is no real rhyme or reason for which day Bakhtiari will rest during the week, from an outsider’s perspective, so as long as he practices twice this week, it should be a sign that he is on track to be in any case to split his shift again. Note that he is also listed as a full participant as he is only listed as a limited participant in practice this season.
The Packers will face three losing teams in their next four games, with the 2-0 New York Giants – who could be 2-2 by the time Green Bay travels to London for the game – being the only team to have won record . However, after that “easy” month of opponents, the Packers will have to face the Bills in Buffalo in Week 8, the last remaining game of the 2022 season in which Green Bay is expected to be an underdog. Bakhtiari staying healthy enough to take on All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller is almost certainly on LaFleur’s mind as he makes these decisions.