David Bakhtiari is the personification of the toughness that’s inherent in most offensive linemen.
Bakhtiari couldn’t finish last week’s game at Tennessee due to a knee injury. Perhaps because of the bulky knee brace he was wearing, he certainly didn’t look like himself at Thursday’s practice. As a key starter, nobody would think badly of him had he skipped practice this week and limited himself to rehabbing the injury and taking mental reps to get ready for Sunday night’s game at Washington.
But that’s not in Bakhtiari’s DNA. Or in the DNA of most linemen.
“I feel I can go all day with stuff like that,” he said. “To me, there’s a difference between being injured and being hurt. Injured is the inability to go. When my ankle happened (late last year), I tried. The training staff and doctors were like, ‘There’s no way you can make it,’ but I still tried. It’s just a warrior mentality. Until I literally can’t move or anything, I’m going to make it work because this team is important, the organization is important. Practice is important to me. It’s important for my teammates that they have me out there.”
It’s impossible to measure toughness. But linemen seem to be from a different planet in terms of playing through pain. The Packers’ longtime tandem of guards, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, battled through a myriad of injuries. Sitton missed two games in his seven seasons as a Packers starter. Lang will be inactive on Sunday after getting his ankle rolled vs. Tennessee. It will mark just his third missed game in five-and-a-half years as a starter.
Where does that toughness come from?
“Honestly, when it comes to offensive line, we’re such a selfless position,” Bakhtiari said. “The only things you can look at us is negatively, and the only times things are positive is when someone else is getting the true positive. We just are enjoying their satisfaction — a running back getting big yards, going for 100 or 200 yards; a quarterback throwing touchdowns, guys making plays. That’s where we get our enjoyment. We play for them to make the play. So, I think inherently, we are very selfless individuals.”
On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said he had no concerns about Bakhtiari. That was reflected on the injury report, with Bakhtiari not given a status designation. That means he will be in the starting lineup. But that doesn’t mean Bakhtiari will be anywhere close to 100 percent against a fierce Redskins pass rush that features the seven sacks apiece from outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. There’s “absolutely” a chance, Bakhtiari said, he could make the injury worse by playing through it.
So why do it?
“I don’t think we can articulate it,” he said. “Only the guys that play understand. The only thing I can give you is that’s it’s just a warrior mentality. The battling thing, excuse my language, no one gives (an expletive) if you’re hurt or not. All they care about is that number out there, is he playing? Is he performing? I could sit here and sulk or whine about myself but no one gives a (crap). Go out there and do your job. Suck it up, shut up, Dave, and go do it. Simple as that.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.