David Bakhtiari’s return comes at just the right time for the Packers’ playoffs

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DETROIT – When November and December came and went without David Bakhtiari back in action, the Green Bay Packers’ All-Pro left tackle began to think that his return from ACL rebuilding might not come this season anyway.

Another operation complicated matters.

Even last week, when faced with his last chance to get some game shots before the playoffs, he was not optimistic about playing in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Detroit Lions.

And then Aaron Rodgers came to him.

“I got a text from Aaron, [who] said: ‘I would love that you were out there, it would mean a lot’, Bakhtiari revealed after the match. “I hadn’t really planned it.”

His goal for week 18 was just to practice, and he did it twice – Wednesday and then, after a day of rest on Thursday, again on Friday. He was unsure of playing his first football in more than a year on the artificial surface of Ford Field, but …

“When he texted me, I thought, okay, I want to see how it goes in practice,” Bakhtiari said. “I liked how it was in practice, and I’m like, you know what – I did not exactly want to be on grass – but I said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s go and have fun.’

“I think it was more for him than for me.”

Bakhtiari played 27 games in Sunday’s 37-30 loss to the Lions, leaving midway through a series in the second quarter, not because of any injury, but rather the fatigue that came from not playing in a game since Dec. 27. 2020. Four days after that, he tore the ACL in his left knee during training.

The Packers will monitor Bakhtiari’s recovery during their farewell this week, but Bakhtiari said he believes he can handle the entire match when they next play in the NFC Division Round on either January 22 or 23.

“It’s been a long year for him,” said Rodgers, who threw two touchdown passes on Sunday before making room for Jordan Love late in the second quarter.

“I’m just so proud of him to get out there again. We had a conversation on Wednesday. I do not think he thought about playing. I just hovered the idea and said, ‘Hey, why do not you come out and play a few series on Sunday?’ “I may have adjusted or adjusted a bit what he wanted to do. I’m so proud of him. He’s been through so much.”

Bakhtiari had originally hoped to return to the game on November 7 with the Kansas City Chiefs. If not for that game, then the following week against the Seattle Seahawks or the week after that at the Minnesota Vikings, most recently.

That was around the time the news came about another operation for Bakhtiari, whose details were unknown until Sunday. He said team doctor Pat McKenzie, who performed the original ACL reconstruction last January, went back to cleanse scar tissue and took steps to reduce the amount of fluid in his knee.

“We started screwing up to practice; it was my body that somehow told me something was wrong,” Bakhtiari said.

Bakhtiari’s return – along with rookie center Josh Myers (who played 32 shots on Sunday when he returned from mid-season knee surgery) and the possible return of right-back tackle Billy Turner (who has not played since a knee injury in week 14) – could change the form offensive line to the playoffs. Jon Runyan Jr. would likely stay at left guard and Lucas Patrick at right guard, where he moved after Myers’ return, giving the Packers all of their favorite starters ahead of Rodgers.

“We’re taking a look at the tape and have a good plan so he can move on,” LaFleur said of Bakhtiari. “Hopefully he can build on that. But as I told him and Josh, there is no substitute for the football form. I think it was good, it was good for them to be back out there.”

While the top-seeded Packers (13-4) still have some injury issues heading into the off-season – receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling left Sunday’s match with a back injury – they look about as healthy as possible offensively for their playoff run.

Even Rodgers’ once problematic broken pinkie toe made it through unscathed for the second week in a row. “I feel it will be a non-issue going forward,” he said.

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