GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari’s season is over. He hopes his NFL career isn’t.
He’s set to undergo his fifth knee surgery to give himself a chance at playing again, Bakhtiari said Friday when he spoke with reporters for nearly 40 minutes in the team’s Lambeau Field locker room trying to explain what he’s endured since suffering a catastrophic left knee injury during a Dec. 31, 2020, practice, as well as what needs to be done to allow him to continue his career.
“We know what we need to do for me to be back,” said Bakhtiari, who last played in the Packers’ Sept. 10 season-opening victory at Chicago. “It’s not ideal, but that is pretty much my plan now. Now that we have a plan in place, it’s the road I have to go down.”
That new road, which began with a recent arthroscopic procedure, will next include surgery aimed at resolving a cartilage issue performed by Chicago-based orthopedic surgeon Brian J. Cole.
Bakhtiari wouldn’t say when that surgery would happen.
“My goal is to be ready for training camp next year,” he said.
His issue is with the femoral condyles, which are the ball-shaped ends to the femur at the knee joint. Although the initial surgery, performed on Jan. 7, 2021, repaired Bakhtiari’s anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus damage he sustained when he first got hurt, Bakhtiari said his doctors knew that he had an issue with that portion of his femur.
The issue was, they couldn’t predict whether the abnormality in his knee would cause him issues moving forward. As it turned out, as Bakhtiari worked his way back from the initial injury, he did further damage to the cartilage at the end of his femur and began experiencing irritation and fluid buildup in his knee as a result.
“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. “It’s just the defect I have.”
He added: “I would’ve loved if on January 7th of 2021, to have been like, ‘Yeah, do (this surgery). Because this is clearly what it is.’ But no one knew. You don’t want to do more than you have to.”
Bakhtiari, who turned 32 last week, has one year remaining on his contract with the Packers, who could opt to move on from him after this season. His salary-cap number for 2024 is $40.5 million, so if he were to return, he would have to do so on an altered contract.
“I hate the situation Dave’s in. I feel for him,” said head coach Matt LaFleur, whose Packers (2-2) will face the Las Vegas Raiders (1-3) on Monday night at Allegiant Stadium. “He’s been battling and battling and battling to try to make it back. He had a bad injury, unfortunately, and I think we’re seeing the effects of that. I knew that when it happened.
“He’s tried everything. He wants to be out there, he wants to play ball. He’s tried anything and everything to make it back, and his knee’s not responding in the right way.”
A 2013 fourth-round pick out of Colorado, Bakhtiari has played in 131 career games with the Packers, but just 13 over the past two-plus seasons.
He saw action in one game in 2021 – the regular-season finale at Detroit – before being unable to play in the team’s NFC divisional playoff game two weeks later. He only played in 11 of 17 games last season, when he not only had issues with his knee but also underwent an emergency appendectomy late in the year.
He acknowledged on Friday that he may have played his final down with the only NFL team he’s ever known.
“I’m not ignoring that (possibility),” said Bakhtiari, who had started 118 of a possible 127 games in his first eight seasons before the injury. “I would love to play here until I decide that I’m done.
“Regardless of whatever happens, that’s just life. If it does, great. If not, I can only control what I can control. If I can keep playing here, great.”
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