Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari sits out practice again, won't return against Browns
GREEN BAY - Left tackle David Bakhtiari was not present Wednesday when the Green Bay Packers packed two days' worth of practice into one.
Their Christmas Day game Saturday against the Cleveland Browns put the Packers up against a short week, but after consulting with his players, coach Matt LaFleur allowed the team to take Tuesday off and make it up Wednesday in a walk-through practice.
Bakhtiari practiced two days last week, surprising even LaFleur, but was not on the field for the final day of practice ahead of the Baltimore Ravens game.
After Bakhtiari's absence Wednesday, LaFleur said everything is still day-to-day for the All-Pro tackle who has had a long road of recovery back from an ACL injury.
“Dave didn't practice today. We're just kind of unloading him for the week. And we're going to continue to monitor it daily and when he's back, he'll be back,” LaFleur said.
“We're taking it one day at a time. When he's ready to go, he'll be back in there. … I shouldn't say our concentration is only on the guys that are out there playing but like, as a coach, that’s where you have to put the majority of your time into and then when he's ready to go and we get the clearance from the trainers then you try to implement him as quickly as possible and get him back into the fold.
“Obviously, David is a great player. He's a Pro Bowl player, he’s one of the premier players in this league at that position. And he's doing everything he can, our athletic training staff is working with him every day, trying to do everything they can to get him back out there. And when the time's right, he’ll be back out there.”
On Tuesday, LaFleur said he didn’t expect Bakhtiari or cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) to play on Saturday versus the Browns.
Alexander was practicing Wednesday. The Packers have one week, until Dec. 29, to officially move Alexander from the “designated to return” list to the active roster.
Defensive lineman Kenny Clark remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was placed on the list last Saturday, keeping him out of the Ravens game. LaFleur said if possible, Clark will be on the field Saturday against the Browns.
“Provided he gets through all the protocols and he clears, yes, potentially he could play,” LaFleur said. “Ideally you’d like to get him in there before that. I don’t know if that’ll be the case and that certainly leaves his status up to game time in question.”
According to updated protocols decided upon by the NFL and NFLPA last week, if Clark is asymptomatic and test negative, he can return right away.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was at practice Wednesday, a rare sight for the reigning MVP as he has been rehabbing a fractured toe. Rodgers has only appeared at and participated in practice a handful of times since hurting his toe ahead of Week 10. He didn’t pick up a football during the open media viewing portion of practice and according to LaFleur, would not have participated had it been a normal practice.
Rodgers was able to get in mental reps and participate in the walk-through,however.
According to estimations, guard Billy Turner (knee), receiver Malik Taylor (shoulder) and linebacker Ty Summers (hamstring) would not have participated in Wednesday’s practice.
Stokes, Savage communicated before 2-point conversion
Even before the snap, Packers cornerback Eric Stokes had a good idea Sunday’s game-defining two-point play was coming to him.
He watched Ravens tight end Mark Andrews break the huddle and trot to his side, eventually lining up directly across from him. Stokes, a rookie, knew Andrews had been the Ravens' primary receiver all game. He already had 10 catches for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Stokes figured the Ravens would try to get him one more reception with the game on the line.
So before the two-point attempt, Stokes motioned toward Packers safety Darnell Savage. Stokes knew the 6-5, 256-pound Andrews would try to use his size advantage at the goal line. He wanted to play outside, making sure Andrews couldn’t get leverage, but needed Savage’s help to play that technique.
“I pointed at Sav, like, ‘Yo, I’m playing outside,’” Stokes said. “I can’t let him run me out, body me and all that stuff.”
The communication might have saved the Packers a victory. With Savage knowing he needed to protect Stokes inside, the speedy safety sprinted for Andrews immediately after the snap. He was able to reach just in time to deflect Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley’s pass with his left index finger, disrupting the play’s timing.
“We had already communicated before that,” Stokes said, “like, ‘Hey, protect me inside. I’m going to play hard outside, just protect me inside.’ Then as soon as the quarterback started rolling, I could see on film Sav taking off, and he’s running like, ‘Nah, man. I’m going to make sure that he’s not going to get this ball.’
“So I appreciate Sav for that.”
Lazard wants another shot at historic TD
In the fourth quarter Sunday, Allen Lazard had a chance to be part of history.
He was open in the left corner of the end zone when what would have been Rodgers’ fourth touchdown pass against the Ravens sailed over his head.
“I think the wind kind of just caught it,” Lazard said, “and it sailed out of the end zone.”
If Lazard had caught that pass, it would have been the 443rd touchdown throw of Rodgers’ career. That number, whenever Rodgers reaches it, will eclipse Brett Favre for the most thrown in Packers history. Lazard said he hopes to get another opportunity at history Saturday against the Browns.
“I think anytime catching a touchdown is obviously a huge, significant play in the game and everything,” Lazard said. “It means a lot to us as a unit individually, as a unit offensively, and then just being able to be part of such a special record would be pretty cool.”
Focus on handling Myles Garrett
LaFleur flipped on the tape and zeroed in on Myles Garrett. He watched the Browns defensive end take on the tight end, then the tackle, then the running back before finally sacking the quarterback.
“Those plays show up all over the tape,” LaFleur said. “He's a guy that you have to account for on every play because he could single-handedly take over a game and wreck it.”
Garrett is third in the NFL in sacks (15) and tackles for loss (16) as well as having a forced fumble and recovery. He has been dealing with a groin injury this week, suffered during Monday’s night game against the Las Vegas Raiders. He was listed as a non-participant in practice Tuesday and Wednesday, however the Browns didn’t practice those days on a short week, so participation is an estimate.
“I would have to put him right there with Aaron Donald," LaFleur said, referring to the Los Angeles Rams' star defensive lineman. "And you could make an argument as to who's more of a game wrecker. Both those guys are just unbelievably physically and physically gifted. And they're relentless.”
Rodgers, would be responsible for keeping an eye on Garrett during the game, sees a talent that goes beyond just a “game wrecker.”
“He's got to be mentioned as Defensive Player of the Year, in that conversation,” Rodgers said of Garrett. “He’s just a monster and then he's a fantastic player. He legitimately has (Hall of Fame) gold jacket possibilities in his future if he keeps playing the way he’s playing for a few more years.”
One thing that has helped Garrett’s performance this season, is having Jadeveon Clowney on the other end of the defensive line. The three time Pro-Bowler is in his first season with the Browns, drawing attention to open up lanes for Garrett. Clowney has been on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but recent updates to the league protocols could allow him to test out and play on Saturday.
“Clowney has been a specimen since he got in the league and we played against him a few times over the years. Fantastic player, just stud. Long, athletic, smart,” Rodgers said.