After three straight All-Pro nods, David Bakhtiari still plenty motivated

T David Bakhtiari
T David Bakhtiari

GREEN BAY – He’s not going to share it, but he still has the list.

Back in 2015, David Bakhtiari was on the verge of completing his third season as the Packers’ starting left tackle when a nasty ankle injury in the fourth quarter of a victory at Oakland put everything temporarily on hold.

The following week, not suiting up during pregame at Arizona, Bakhtiari wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself.

“In the locker room, I realized it was the first time I wasn’t going to be playing in a game, and it weighed heavily on me,” he said. “So I sat down and said, OK, what do I want to do?”

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound blindside protector for quarterback Aaron Rodgers pulled out his phone and started a list. It was filled with personal and team goals he would strive for from here on out, starting with presumably recovering from his ankle injury in time to help the Packers in the postseason.

He did that, missing the final two games of the 2015 regular season and the opening playoff victory at Washington before returning for the NFC Divisional round at the site of his private mini-epiphany, Arizona.

The following year, he signed a contract extension after Week 1 and went on to earn the first of three Associated Press All-Pro recognitions, second-team honors in 2016 and ’17, followed by a first-team nod last season. He’s maintained his durability as well, missing only seven of a possible 104 career games, including playoffs.

Take a look at photos of Packers OL David Bakhtiari from the 2018 season.

Never one to talk too seriously about personal accolades over team accomplishments – his Pro Bowl appearances (one) lagging behind his All-Pro honors has become almost a running joke he wears as a badge of honor – Bakhtiari won’t hesitate to say a Super Bowl championship remains his overriding motivation as the elite left tackle enters his seventh NFL season.

But the individual side of the checklist isn’t complete either, and that’s saying something for a guy who’s just the fifth offensive lineman and second offensive tackle in team history dating back to the Lombardi era to garner three or more AP All-Pro selections.

One of the other four is his former teammate and good friend Josh Sitton, while the remaining three – Forrest Gregg, the only other tackle (with eight), Jim Ringo (seven) and Jerry Kramer (six) – are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps Canton is the last item on the list, but everyone will have to wait to find out.

“When I retire, I have no problem admitting if I didn’t accomplish what I wanted,” Bakhtiari said.

In the meantime, this offseason – aside from his beer-chugging exploits at Bucks playoff games going viral – has been about adjustment for Bakhtiari. Head Coach Matt LaFleur has brought in a new offense with some different blocking concepts, and Adam Stenavich has taken over for James Campen, the Packers’ offensive line coach for the entirety of Bakhtiari’s career until now.

While none of the offensive linemen, Bakhtiari included, wanted to see Campen leave (he considers the veteran coach a “great friend”), the transition to Stenavich has gone well. Bakhtiari said he reached out to a former teammate whom Stenavich coached in San Francisco to get an opinion, and the reply was a thumbs up.

In teaching his charges LaFleur’s scheme, Stenavich has made it a point to anticipate their questions to keep the dialogue productive in the meeting room and on the practice field. It’s helped the learning maintain a steady progression.

“I always appreciate it when we have a question, he has an answer,” Bakhtiari said. “It’s kind of tough to trust somebody if they don’t always have the answer to your questions. He’s on his stuff. He knows his stuff inside-out.”

As for how Bakhtiari fits the new scheme, particularly the outside zone concepts that might allow opportunities for second-level blocks on smaller defensive backs, that gets a thumbs up as well.

“I’m a peacock, you’ve gotta let me fly,” Bakhtiari said, quoting Mark Wahlberg’s famous line from the movie “The Other Guys.”

“I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed getting in open space. It’s something I take pride in, especially while the legs are still fresh and my mindset’s still pretty young, getting out there and making the secondary pay for wanting to play football with the big guys.”

As the offseason program wrapped up last week, LaFleur noted the offense has a ways to go and there’s plenty to smooth out, which jibed with Bakhtiari’s assessment.

The month-plus break will do everyone some good, and come late July it’s another chance to reset and restart.

“I wouldn’t say we’re where we want to be but I think we’re confident in where we’re trending,” Bakhtiari said. “Now that we understand the offense, now it becomes mastering it – the little nuances – as a group and as a whole. I wasn’t expecting us to master it this early. If we did, that’s great. But training camp, that will be the next step.”

As well as probably the next time Bakhtiari looks at his list, not that he needs any motivational reminders.

“There’s a couple of checks that I have left that I want to do but, at the end of the day, if I don’t get those and I just get a Super Bowl ring, I’ll be happy,” he said. “That’s really all I want.”

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