Don Barclay knows he didn’t play well when the Green Bay Packers opened their preseason schedule at the New England Patriots last week.
He watched the film. He saw the holding penalty. He critiqued the two sacks allowed. No, his return after missing all of last season with a torn ACL didn’t go smoothly.
“There were some plays that I wanted to have back,” Barclay said. “You’ve just got to improve off of it, basically. It was the first game I’ve played since the injury, and I wouldn’t say it was good or anything. So just areas to improve off of.”
Improvement needs to come quickly. The pressure only increases when the Packers travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers for their second preseason game Sunday.
Barclay will start at left tackle, replacing injured starter David Bakhtiari (knee). Bakhtiari’s injury isn’t expected to be serious, he said Thursday. With him unable to play, Barclay will be tasked with protecting MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ blindside.
Barclay knows it’s a big job, but he said he’ll be ready.
“I feel like everywhere on the line you’re going to have one-on-one battles either way,” Barclay said. “Whether you’re at right tackle, left tackle. You could be the blind side at right tackle some plays if he’s looking left. It definitely has that name on it. I’ve played the position before in the past, so it’s nothing new to me.”
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It is new on an NFL field, though. Barclay, entering his fourth year, was undrafted out of West Virginia in 2012. He played guard and both tackle positions in college. When Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL before the 2013 season, he started in his place.
But, Barclay said, he’s never played left tackle for the Packers. He doesn’t expect a major transition. His footwork will be different. Some unfamiliarity playing on the left side, but it’s the same offense.
Rodgers, who tore his ACL in college at California, said he’s not worried about Barclay this weekend. He expects his tackle to play well, both Sunday and beyond.
“Don’s a great player,” Rodgers said. “He’s come a long way getting back from his ACL. It’s a tough injury. I went through it a long time ago, about 11 or 12 years ago. But I think you come back stronger, and I think Donnie’s looked really strong. He’s a natural left tackle.
“I don’t think that’s a position he feels uncomfortable in. I think he feels very good at left tackle.”
The Packers could use a tight end or running back to chip block, helping to slow down the pass rush. Rodgers acknowledged as much this week. But too many chip blocks could prevent the Packers from working on their regular offense, defeating the purpose of a preseason game.
Barclay certainly isn’t asking for help. He’s made the long trek back from one of football’s most grueling injuries. His last game came Jan. 5, 2014, an NFC Wild Card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. There was bound to be some shaky plays along his recovery.
Now, Barclay believes he’s close to being the player he was before the injury. His knee feels good, he said. The most important thing is learning how to trust it again. The second step of that process comes Sunday.
“I think I’m fine with it,” Barclay said. “The most I’m ever going to be. I mean, if I’m out there doing it, obviously you’ve got to trust yourself to put yourself out there and do it. I think beyond that, it’s just honing your craft and getting better at it every day. It’s not something that’s going to come overnight.”