GREEN BAY – Despite the long recovery for left tackle David Bakhtiari that is now extending into the start of training camp, Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst expressed no concerns he'll eventually return to his All-Pro level.
Just prior to Wednesday's first practice, Gutekunst also wasn't putting any timeline on Bakhtiari's return to the field but remains "cautiously optimistic" he could be ready for Week 1 at Minnesota.
Just after earning his fifth All-Pro honor and signing a contract extension, Bakhtiari initially tore his ACL in late December of 2020, missing the Packers' playoff run and then all of last season until Week 18, when he played the first half at Detroit as a potential postseason tune-up.
"Dave had a very significant injury – much more than just an ACL way back when it occurred," Gutekunst said. "I thought he busted his tail to get back last season."
The knee didn't respond well to the workload, though, and Bakhtiari missed the playoffs again. In conjunction with the injury being a complicated one from the outset, Bakhtiari needed another procedure this past offseason, which forced him to miss OTAs and minicamp and begin training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
"As soon as they clear him, then he'll be ready to go," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I can tell you though, from what I've seen, Dave's doing everything he can.
"None of these are always clear-cut. Some guys recover at a different rate, or there's different variances in terms of some of those injuries and how severe they are. Unfortunately, he had a pretty big injury."
In other injury news, receivers Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson are both out for the start of training camp as well.
Gutekunst said the absence for Watkins, who is on the non-football injury (NFI) list, will be "very short term," and he could be on the field in a matter of days.
Watson will be out longer, but Gutekunst has no long-term concerns. Watson was placed on PUP due to a procedure on his knee that took place following the offseason program. The team was debating whether to have him push through his rookie year and have the procedure done after the season, or just take care of it right away.
"He's a young player who's got a big career ahead of him, so we want to make sure we protect that," Gutekunst said. "It'll be how he responds through the rehab. As soon as he's ready, we'll get him out there."
As for the roster as a whole, Gutekunst likes the depth he's built and all the experience coming back, particularly on defense. The offense will likely be behind the defense in the early going of camp with the transition to a different receiving corps, but he sees it as a challenge the always-motivated four-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers is "excited to take on."
"Let's get through some practices and see how this team comes together," Gutekunst said. "There's enough talent in that room, no doubt about it. Not every team can probably say that, but this team can. But they're going to have to come together and be a team. That starts today."