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David Bakhtiari addresses season-ending knee injury, his future

Packers left tackle set to undergo another surgery, eyes 2024 return

Packers T David Bakhtiari
Packers T David Bakhtiari

GREEN BAY – David Bakhtiari stood at his locker for nearly 40 minutes on Friday and conducted an "Ask me anything" style interview with the Green Bay media corps related to his left knee.

Wanting to clear the air on the injury that's cost the Packers left tackle the bulk of three seasons, Bakhtiari confirmed he'll soon undergo another knee surgery that will end his 2023 season.

"He really says when it rains it pours," Bakhtiari said. "For me it's been a pretty significant storm."

The five-time All-Pro hopes this latest surgery, intended to correct a cartilage issue, will enable him to make a full return in 2024 and end the emotional rollercoaster Bakhtiari has been on since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020.

"I hate it. I know the club hates it. It's just not a great situation for anyone to deal with," Bakhtiari said. "The human side of it took a little of stress, a lot of time on my end, but the clarity is to know we finally know what the problem is, and we can address the problem. That's the, I guess, glass-half-full part of the scenario. So, that's where we're at. That's the pill I have to swallow."

Bakhtiari said doctors only extracted about 10-15% of his lateral meniscus during the initial surgery to repair his ACL, but discomfort and fluid buildup remained an issue when he played.

Because of that, Bakhtiari established, and then reset, an unofficial locker-room record for having more than 160 CCs – roughly 5.4 ounces – of fluid removed from the knee this year.

He played well in the opener against Chicago but was shut down again after his knee flared up in response to his 55 snaps. Upon a consultation with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie and specialists nationwide, it finally became clear Bakhtiari needed to address an issue with his lateral femur.

Doctors knew there was damage to the femoral condyles, the two rounded prominences at the end of the femur, when Bakhtiari's ACL injury first occurred, but there was no indication it would affect him moving forward.

"If you were to go and address it then, who knows if I was asymptomatic," Bakhtiari explained. "I could've been asymptomatic the entire time with that issue and by addressing it we now just added in a problem that didn't need to be.

"That's why it's like, let's go ahead and try and see if this is a problem. If it's not, then great, then we continue on. We dodged a bullet and life is good. But now knowing … (it) would've been nice (to know sooner) – hindsight's 20/20."

Given the severity of the upcoming surgery, doctors wanted to exercise all other options and rule out other causes before venturing down this path. After checking all boxes, Bakhtiari underwent an arthroscopic procedure last week that confirmed the surgery was necessary.

Bakhtiari didn't provide a date but said it will be performed by Chicago-based orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brian J. Cole. He hopes to be ready for training camp next summer.

"In my knee, it's basically like sandpaper where it rubs, it's just not smooth, which is creating a lot of fluid," Bakhtiari said. "I've been dealing (with) a lot of effusion for a long time, and that's where you see the constant, I'm in and then I'm out, I'm out and then I'm in. We wanted to make sure that we could address every possible way to not do it because we understood what the surgery has to be."

It's another frustrating setback for the 32-year-old lineman, who was voted to five AP All-Pro teams in his first eight years as the Packers' starting left tackle.

Bakhtiari has endured several lengthy rehabs to get to this point and the hope was an offseason without surgery would set the table for a big comeback in 2023. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 314-pound tackle likely faces another lengthy rehabilitation.

When asked why go through it again, Bakhtiari thought about the question for a second before speaking directly from the heart.

"Because I'm different," Bakhtiari said. "I have an unparalleled work ethic. I'm stubborn as (heck) and I'm not gonna let someone else write my story. This is me just taking control of what I need to do. When I want to look back, do I want to look at the guy who got injured and was like ah, that's good enough? If that's not me, then the future, older me is gonna be (ticked) at the younger me."

Bakhtiari, who's the longest tenured player on the Packers' current roster, has one year remaining on the contract he signed before his ACL tear in 2020.

Bakhtiari acknowledged his own football mortality and the uncertainty about his future in Green Bay but spoke on the positive working relationship he has with General Manager Brian Gutekunst and many individuals around the building.

He also mentioned an uplifting conversation he had with an unnamed Packers staffer who recently pulled him aside and reminded Bakhtiari "you can't eat an elephant in one bite. It's one piece at a time."

"So, that's what I intend on doing," Bakhtiari added. "Making sure I attack the rehab, win the day, take the bites out of that elephant, finish the elephant, and then decide and see.

"They have decisions they need to make, what's best for their franchise. I understood that the minute I got in here. And I've seen every face go. (Someday) this face is going to go, too. I can't live here. Maybe."