GREEN BAY - David Bakhtiari has purposefully remained vague on what injuries he suffered to his knee in Minnesota, but as the Green Bay Packers left tackle tries to get himself ready to play Sunday against Arizona the team must be prepared if he can’t go, or if he misses snaps once play begins.
That means backup swing tackle Jason Spriggs is in the spotlight this week, and if he does start or plays significant snaps, there is perhaps no greater showcase for the third-year tackle to prove how far along he has come than against Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones. Jones has 11 sacks and led the league with 17 a year ago.
Bakhtiari did practice to a degree during Thursday's session, which was held inside the Don Hutson Center and without pads.
“You're going to get hurt, but you've got to play hurt,” Bakhtiari said Wednesday. “That's the way this game is.”
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If he can’t play hurt Sunday, it will be Spriggs protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blindside. Spriggs has played 103 offensive snaps through 11 games this season due to in-game substitutions for right tackle Bryan Bulaga and Bakhtiari.
“This is my perspective: I don’t care if you’ve done it for 10 years or not, whenever you go into a game halfway through, whatever quarter it is, you’ve got to get adjusted. It’s not the easiest thing,” he said. “So in that aspect that’s never really going to change. Do I feel like I’m to the point where I can handle that? Yes. I’m comfortable going in and getting adjusted quick.
“Whether (Bakhtiari’s) in or he’s not, I’ve got to prepare the same way. Up until the decision is made I won’t know for sure, so in that sense, it’s kind of the same (outlook). It’s a little bit more of a heightened awareness, but in the same breath it’s not.”
Spriggs last started Dec. 23, 2017 against Minnesota and has seven career starts under his belt, so if he is asked to open the game at left tackle, there won’t be any surprises.
“He’s been in the offense for a while. He’s got all the intangibles,” Bakhtiari said of his teammate. “It’s putting everything together not only physically playing the game but also mentally staying in it. I think the hardest thing in our position is you’ve got to realize that — I think Josh (Sitton) told me this my rookie year — you’re going to get beat. The other guy across from you gets paid, too. You gotta remember that. It’s your ability to respond when situations go awry. That really kind of speaks on the professionalism not only as a person but also as a player.”
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Having Spriggs at left tackle may not be the only change on the offensive line this week. Starting left guard Lane Taylor left the Vikings game with a quadriceps injury, bringing Justin McCray in off the bench.
Though Taylor has been practicing this week, McCray is ready if needed. The 26-year-old opened the season as the team’s starting right guard, but the combination of a shoulder injury in Washington and Byron Bell’s steady play has kept him in a reserve role since. McCray has played 216 offensive snaps, the bulk of which came on the right side of the line.
During practices McCray has taken individual reps at left guard but has mostly worked at backup center and right guard and tackle in team drills. That said, he feels confident on the left side if Taylor can’t go Sunday.
“I’ve played it before,” McCray said of flipping to the left side. “I played it in the preseason, I got a couple starts at it last year, so it’s just getting your feet and your stance back together. It’s pretty natural.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy has said throughout the year that the in-game substitutions along the offensive line have allowed him to continue calling plays as he would normally, and he said that will be the case Sunday, however the left side of the line is constructed.
“Obviously we have great confidence in Jason Spriggs, but also with Lane Taylor and Justin McCray, it's more of a combination of what’s going on that left side as we prepare for the game,” McCarthy said. “We have a set game plan and however it sorts out up front we’ll pretty much stay the course with it.