Green Bay Packers tackle David Bakhtiari to start season on PUP list

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers will be without one of their most important players for at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, protector of Aaron Rodgers' blind side, remained on the physically unable to perform list when the Packers trimmed their initial roster to 53 players on Tuesday.

By rule, players on reserve/PUP are ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks.

Bakhtiari, who tore the ACL in his left knee in practice on Dec. 31, would be first eligible to play on Oct. 24 against the Washington Football Team.

The five-time All-Pro -- and the only tackle in the NFL to earn either first- or second-team recognition in each of the last five seasons (2016-2020) -- was never likely to be ready for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. There was some hope that he could return before Week 7 given the rave reviews about his rehab, but the Packers have almost never allowed a player recovering from an ACL repair to play in a game earlier than 10 months out from the injury.

Injured reserve -- which forces players to miss at least three weeks -- wasn't an option, either. In order to be eligible to return off IR, he would have to be on the 53-man roster at final cuts on Tuesday. However, he would have needed to pass his physical to be on the 53, but a player cannot go from the PUP list to the roster to IR in one cycle for the same injury.

Coach Matt LaFleur on Sunday said he was not willing to reveal their plans for Bakhtiari, saying only "we're going to do what's best for David and this football team."

It's not automatically certain that Bakhtiari will play in Week 7 against Washington. The date that marks 10 months following his injury falls after Week 8. Following the mandatory first six weeks on PUP, Bakhtiari would then have a five-week window to begin practicing. Once he starts practicing, there is a three-week window to activate him, release him or put him on injured reserve.

Bakhtiari signed a four-year, $103.5 million contract extension last November that made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history at the time.

Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins will play left tackle until Bakhtiari's return. Jenkins is the Packers' next-best and most flexible offensive lineman. The Packers had a three-player competition this summer for the two starting guard spots between Lucas Patrick, fourth-round pick Royce Newman and Jon Runyan Jr.

If Newman wins one of the starting jobs as expected, likely at right guard, the Packers will open with a pair of rookies on their offensive line. Second-round pick Josh Myers will start at center, replacing Corey Linsley, who signed with the Chargers as a free agent.

The Packers had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season until Bakhtiari went down the week of the regular-season finale. After tallying the league's best pass block win rate (73.8%, according to ESPN Stats & Information) in the regular season, the Packers managed only a 50% mark in the NFC Championship Game loss.

Bakhtiari has the highest pass block win rate (94.5%) among offensive tackles since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking it in 2017. He's just as important in the run game, as well, ranking first among all tackles in run block win rate (80%) over the last two seasons.