GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Mike McCarthy had gone by salary -- not seniority -- when he decided whom to excuse from the Green Bay Packers’ minicamp, then David Bakhtiari might be on a beach somewhere in Southern California this week.
Instead, the left tackle is the richest participant in the three-day workouts that are mandatory for anyone with less than five years of NFL experience.
Given all that Bakhtiari has accomplished already -- 69 career starts (including playoffs), a spot on the All-Pro second team last season, his first trip to the Pro Bowl (as an alternate) and the four-year, $48 million contract extension last September that made him the fourth-highest-paid tackle in the NFL -- it’s easy to forget he’s only four years into his career.
Bakhtiari laughed when someone said McCarthy should have used money -- not experience -- as the criteria for being let out of camp. He then said “maybe next year” before he quickly realized that he’ll hit the experience mark next offseason as long as McCarthy doesn’t change his mind.
Actually, Bakhtiari said he would have been in Green Bay anyway because he’s moving into a new house this week.
“I’m not too mad about it,” he said with a smile.
Bakhtiari’s workload, however, was lessened. Although he took the usual first reps with the No. 1 offensive line in Tuesday’s practice, Bakhtiari gave way to second-year tackle Jason Spriggs at times.
“Right now, any time I can lend a helping hand, especially with the younger guys, it’s big,” Bakhtiari said. “We’re only as strong as your weakest link. We need to have our young guys coming up big so we can make a strong push, especially in the latter end of the year.”
Of the preferred offensive line starters, only Bakhtiari and left guard Lane Taylor practiced at minicamp. Starting center Corey Linsley is still recovering from an offseason ankle injury, while right guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were among the 16 veterans excused from work this week.
Now that veteran guards Josh Sitton (cut before last season) and T.J. Lang (departed this offseason in free agency) are gone, it’s Bakhtiari and Bulaga’s line now. Yes, Evans, a 12th-year veteran, has more experience, but this is his first year in Green Bay after signing as a free agent. The two tackles have been around longer than anyone else among coach James Campen's group.
Earlier this offseason, Bakhtiari called it Bulaga’s offensive line, and he still feels that way even though he’s been asked to take on a bigger leadership role.
“Bryan’s been the longest-tenured Green Bay Packer and that is his room,” Bakhtiari said. “I won’t ever step on anyone’s toes. That being said, I won’t force myself. For anyone to force into a leadership role, I’m going to be who I am. That’s kind of how it is and wherever my attitude and mindset gets put into whatever role it might be, then so be it. But I don’t think you decide when you are a leader. It’s how you act in your everyday mentality. It’s just kind of a natural thing.
“Bryan’s done a great job in the room and his record speaks for itself, what he’s done in the league, and it’s awesome that I’ve been there. Because when I was younger, I was looking up to him, too. So for us to now help out, we’re some of the older guys, the longer-tenured guys with the Packers, I think it’s huge for the locker room.”