Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari: 'Nothing meaningful' being done to extend contract
GREEN BAY - Nose tackle Kenny Clark got his extension. Running back Aaron Jones said negotiations are underway on his extension.
Well, the Green Bay Packers left tackle said Thursday there is nothing to report on a possible extension.
“Nothing meaningful has really been talked about,” Bakhtiari said. “On my end, I’m just focused on this is my last year of my contract and my goal is to make it the most memorable one I can.”
Bakhtiari has gotten All-Pro recognition four years straight and last year he finally made it as an original selection to the Pro Bowl. He is generally considered one of the best left tackles in the NFL and re-signing the 28-year-old seems like a no-brainer.
What might be making things difficult on the Packers’ end is that the Houston Texans set the left tackle market with a three-year, $66 million contract given to Laremy Tunsil. The deal included $40 million in guaranteed money.
Bakhtiari is in the final year of a four-year, $48 million deal. He ranks 15th in the NFL in average yearly salary among left tackles, according to Spotrac. The way tackle salaries have soared since he signed his last deal, it’s hard to imagine Bakhtiari taking less than what Tunsil, a less-decorated tackle, got from the Texans.
It may mean that the Packers don’t get an extension done with him before the season ends. It’s possible they will have to slap a franchise tag on him in March and continue to work on a long-term deal.
Whatever the case, there’s nothing brewing right now.
There’s no urgency to give rookie running back AJ Dillon a bunch of carries in the season opener because Jones and Jamaal Williams can easily handle the load.
But at some point, the Packers are going to need Dillon, so it will not be surprising if he gets some carries this weekend.
Running backs coach Ben Sirmans has tried to expose Dillon to what he might see in an NFL game, but some of it he’ll just have to experience himself.
“You can try to recreate different things when you have individual drills, but there’s nothing that’s going to be equivalent to actual football, and unfortunately he didn’t get any chance to play in a preseason game and his first opportunity is going to be in a real game where the intensity and speed is going to be much faster," Sirmans said.
“So, he’s still growing and getting better, but I’ve got a pretty good feel for what his potential and ceiling is going to be when he finally gets out there. You’ll see a progression of getting better as the year goes on.”
Smiths envision forming 'trio' with Rashan Gary
Preston Smith said teammate Za’Darius Smith is feeling “100 percent” after missing time in camp with an injury. Importantly, Za’Darius Smith agreed.
If that sounds backward, welcome to another installment of the Smiths' weekly news conference. It was almost one year ago the Smiths decided to hold joint interviews with media, their first time coming after the Packers’ season-opening win at the Chicago Bears. The virtual demands had made that challenging to continue during training camp, with Zoom calls replacing in-person interviews inside the locker room. Fortunately, for them, the Packers' public relations staff figured out how to reunite the Smiths on Zoom during Thursday’s chat with media.
“It feels great,” Preston Smith interjected when Za’Darius Smith was asked about his injury.
Za’Darius Smith expanded on that idea a little.
“It wasn’t nothing serious,” Za’Darius Smith said. “I think I just came back and wasn’t 100 percent. So they wanted to take care of me and give Rashan Gary a lot more reps with the ones.”
It’s plausible the Packers wanted Gary to get an expanded workload in camp. That mimics their design for Gary to play more snaps this fall, some of them coming in a three-man package with the Smiths both on the field.
That, too, would be OK with Za’Darius Smith – even if it might be difficult to get all three of them together on the same Zoom call.
“I think as a trio,” Za’Darius Smith said, “that’s coming. R.G. has been doing a lot of great things. I was out for a couple weeks, and he got a chance to really run with the ones and get a lot of live reps. And, man, I can tell you this man, he’s explosive, man, and coming on.
“I really think it could be a trio. We might have to change his last name.”
Billy Turner practices in pads
Three days before the Packers play their 2020 season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, injured right tackle Billy Turner made things interesting by practicing in pads.
Turner, who injured his right knee in a Lambeau Field practice Aug. 30, has not done anything but light work with the strength and conditioning staff on the side during practice. The Packers have been preparing for him to miss the opener with slight hope that he might be able to play.
Though it guarantees nothing, the fact Turner was able to take part in individual drills during the first part of practice means he’s getting closer to being game ready. However, he did not take part in any one-on-one pass rush drills, which are the most physical of the individual work.
Reporters are kicked out of practice before the 11-on-11s start, so it’s unknown whether he took part in those.
Turner wore a brace on his knee and didn’t seem to be bothered by it in the work he did do. While the other linemen were doing the 1-on-1s, Turner talked with the training staff, possibly letting them know how the brace was working.
Turner has played hurt before.
Last year, he suffered a high ankle sprain in the final week of the regular season and found a way to come back two weeks later and play in a divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. He also played the entire game against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
“Guys like Billy, they want to be out there no matter what,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said Wednesday. “And sometimes as a coach you have to protect them from themselves. But at the end of the day, you know, they’re adults and if they say they’re ready to go then I believe them.
“I’m not going to argue with them. So, it’s just a trust factor that you have with them and they have with you as far as, are you doing what’s best for them and are they ready to help the team as much as possible?
“So, it’s just kind of something we’re going to watch this week and see what happens.”
If Turner can’t play, the Packers have the option of starting veteran Rick Wagner, who is battling an elbow injury, at right tackle or one of their two guards, Elgton Jenkins or Lane Taylor.
Mack, Williams fill out practice squad
The Packers have signed free-agent defensive tackle Daylon Mack to the practice squad.
Mack was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens out of Texas A&M in 2019 but appeared in only one game for the Ravens after going on injured reserve with a knee injury in November.
The Ravens waived him Aug. 1. The Detroit Lions claimed him the next day, only to waive him Aug. 7 for failing a physical. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 340-pounder then signed with the New York Giants on Aug. 17 before being cut at the 53-man roster deadline Sept. 5.
The Packers brought Mack in for a workout earlier in the week and signed him after he passed COVID-19 testing protocols.
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At Texas A&M, Mack played alongside Packers defensive linesman Kingsley Keke and put pressure on opposing backfields, recording eight career sacks and making 27 tackles for loss in four years.
Running back Dexter Williams also formally returned to the team after being cut Sept. 5. He went to Orlando to be with his newborn son and was signed to the practice squad following COVID-19 testing protocols. To make room for Mack and Williams, the team released offensive tackle Alex Light and running back Damarea Crockett.