GREEN BAY – David Bakhtiari settled in like the rest of the country on Monday night to watch Aaron Rodgers' highly anticipated debut with the New York Jets.
The excitement unfortunately was short-lived, as the former Packers quarterback and four-time NFL MVP was carted off the field after being sacked by Leonard Floyd on Rodgers' fourth snap of the game.
Watching from Green Bay, Bakhtiari had a sinking suspicion it was a serious injury based on replays. Tests later confirmed Rodgers' 19th NFL season was over after one game due to a torn Achilles tendon.
"I was just gutted for him," said Bakhtiari, now in his 11th season as the Packers' starting left tackle. "I know all that he was dealing with and how excited he was, and I know how much the game means to him.
"For it to go that quick, especially with that type of injury and having to bounce back from that, it's going to be tough. He's a tough dude. Tough times don't last; tough people do."
Rodgers and Bakhtiari built a strong, often playful, friendship during their 10 seasons together in Green Bay. The two trained with one another in the offseason and enjoyed plenty of laughs the past two years while driving a custom golf cart to practices.
This offseason saw change wash over Lambeau Field after the Packers traded Rodgers to the Jets in April. The move was seen as a win-win for both sides, as New York acquired the franchise QB for which it had been searching, while former first-round pick Jordan Love took over the reins of the Packers' offense.
Love got off to a strong start on Sunday, as well. He completed 15-of-27 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-20 win over the Chicago Bears. Bakhtiari pitched a shutout in the dominant victory, not allowing a single pressure from his post at left tackle.
Bakhtiari, Love and Head Coach Matt LaFleur said they all reached out to Rodgers after his injury. The longtime Packers quarterback acknowledged the well-wishes in an Instagram post Wednesday.
"It's tough. I feel for him and never want to see anybody go through that," said LaFleur after practice Wednesday. "Any time you have a player of his caliber not playing the game of football, it's bad for our game. So, thoughts are certainly with him, and I know I've got so much respect for him."
Like Bakhtiari, Love was tuned in Monday night and eager to see Rodgers' Big Apple debut. The 24-year-old quarterback has praised Rodgers for his openness during their three seasons together and helping aid Love's development as a passer.
Rodgers sent Love a reassuring text message on the eve of training camp in July. On Monday night, Love repaid the favor with his own words of encouragement to Rodgers via text.
"Having an injury like that, it's tough, it's tough to hear," Love said. "He's probably going through it with the injury. It just sucks. You never want to see that happen. And I feel for him."
There was plenty of disappointment amongst all the veterans who have played with Rodgers the past few years. Echoing Love's words, fourth-year running back AJ Dillon referred to Rodgers' injury as "gut-wrenching."
Third-year center Josh Myers said he was "heartbroken" for the quarterback to which he snapped the past two seasons.
In his post, Rodgers acknowledged being "completely heartbroken and moving through all of the emotions" following the prognosis of his injury, but added in closing, "the night is darkest before the dawn. And I shall rise yet again."
Prior to Rodgers' post, Bakhtiari was asked during a media scrum that lasted 15 minutes what he feels the future holds for Rodgers. The five-time All-Pro left tackle kept his thoughts centered strictly on the health and well-being of his close friend.
"I want him to do what he wants to do and for him to be happy," Bakhtiari said. "I've always told him – I care about '12' but I love Aaron Rodgers more."