GREEN BAY — Elgton Jenkins’ season is over, and the Green Bay Packers still don’t know when — or if — David Bakhtiari’s will begin.
That was the long and short of the Packers’ situation at left tackle on Monday afternoon, one day after Jenkins suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the team’s 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Jenkins underwent tests Monday that confirmed the team’s initial fears that the injury, which occurred with 13 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the game, would end Jenkins’ season.
“It’s unfortunate,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday afternoon. “Certainly Elgton’s been a big part of this team — and still is a big part of this team. But he just won’t be out there with us.”
Nor will Bakhtiari, at least not this Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.
The five-time All-Pro left tackle, who suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a December practice and had reconstructive surgery in January, was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Nov. 10 but has yet to return to game action. He has missed the Packers’ past four practices and LaFleur has already ruled him out against the Rams.
Bakhtiari seemed to be on course to return within the Packers’ usual 9-to-11-month window for ACL comebacks when he began practicing on Oct. 21, but swelling issues have now derailed his timeline. After facing the Rams, the Packers have their bye week and return to game action Dec. 12 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. But Bakhtiari coming back only for the playoffs — or not at all this season — cannot be ruled out at this point.
“There’s certainly a plan, but not everything goes as planned all the time,” LaFleur said. “He won’t be out there this week. We’ll just see where he’s at after the bye. We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come back this year at some point.
“It certainly isn’t for a lack of work ethic on his part. It’s not for a lack of toughness. It’s just one of those things where you never quite know how everybody’s going to respond to the recovery process, and I think that’s just where we’re at with him.”
Without Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the Packers went to Yosh Nijman at left tackle against the Vikings, just as they did earlier in the year when Jenkins missed three games with an ankle injury. Nijman, who’d played just 14 regular-season snaps in his NFL career before this season, will start against the Rams.
“Luckily, we’ve got Yosh, (who) has been playing some good ball for us. And we’ve got other guys, as well,” LaFleur said. “And eventually, we’ll get David back, I think, and we’ll just handle it week to week.”
It’s unclear when Jenkins will undergo surgery, but the third-year lineman was outstanding all season, having shifted from his usual left guard spot — where he earned Pro Bowl honors last season — to left tackle. He was one of the league’s top-rated left tackles all season, and with the line still missing starting center Josh Myers, Jenkins would have been a candidate to move to center once Bakhtiari returned.
Now, given the timing of his injury, Jenkins may be in peril of missing the start of the 2022 season, just as Bakhtiari was forced to start this season on the PUP list.
“Man, (Elgton) has been so versatile for us. I think he can play every position on the line. I think he’s played at least four of them,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Sunday’s game. “(I) definitely hate to see that happen. … With Dave’s status unknown, we have to rely on probably Yosh. He’s played some good football for us. Proud of the way he stepped in.”