Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari sits out practice as part of 'load management'

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GREEN BAY - Few have questioned whether the Green Bay Packers would have left tackle David Bakhtiari for the postseason opener, but until he takes part in what is expected to be a full-blown padded practice Wednesday, his availability is still not a sure thing. 

Bakhtiari did not practice Tuesday as part of “load management,” according to coach Matt LaFleur, referring to the amount of stress the medical staff is allowing on his knee. Bakhtiari played for the first time in more than a year against Detroit 10 days ago and worked on one of the two days practice was open to the media during the bye week. 

He, like the rest of the team, had Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. 

“Like I said all along, we’ll always take it one day at a time with him,” LaFleur said. “He’s coming off a major injury. So, I think you always want to be mindful of the big picture with a guy of his caliber. And, you know, we'll see where he's at tomorrow and follow him throughout the course of the week.” 

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates with David Bakhtiari (69) and Davante Adams (17) after throwing a touchdown pass to Allen Lazard during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions on Jan. 9.

The only reason for concern is that Bakhtiari seemed on the path to return in November from a torn ACL but suffered fluid in his knee after about three weeks of work. He underwent minor surgery to remove scar tissue and reduce the buildup of fluid in his knee. 

He played 27 snaps against Detroit before leaving in the middle of a drive, so it’s not just a matter of whether he can play in a divisional playoff game Saturday night against the San Francisco 49ers, but for how long. 

If Bakhtiari can play, it would not be the only good news the Packers got regarding their offensive line. 

Center Josh Myers, who played his first snaps in 12 weeks against the Lions, was not on the injury report the team released Tuesday. Even more encouraging for LaFleur was that right tackle Billy Turner was listed as a full participant less than a week after returning to practice for the first time in a month. 

If Turner can play, LaFleur will have to decide whether to return him to his right tackle position or line him up at right guard next to veteran Dennis Kelly. Moving Turner (6-5, 310) inside and returning Myers (6-5, 310) to center would give LaFleur him more size to deal with San Francisco’s rough-and-tumble front seven. 

“This is a physical football team that brings it in all three phases,” LaFleur said. “And we are going to have to get our minds right to have a physical football game, and we're going to need everybody's best.” 

Just as Bakhtiari might have to let backup Yosh Nijman take some snaps so he can be there at the end of the game, Turner might need a spell, too. If neither of them can play, they at least know Nijman and Patrick started against the 49ers in the Packers’ victory Sept. 26 in Santa Clara.  

San Francisco doesn’t know if leading sack man Nick Bosa (15½) will be cleared from a concussion he suffered in the wild-card round in time for Saturday and if he isn’t, it could allow LaFleur to play Bakhtiari fewer snaps. 

Practice report: MVS, Sullivan return 

Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) and cornerback Chandon Sullivan (knee) returned to practice and both were limited. Cornerback Jaire Alexander (shoulder) was also limited 

LaFleur sounded hopeful that Alexander would be able to make his return after missing 13 games. He also said outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (back) and Whitney Mercilus (biceps) have a shot at playing after returning to practice last week after long absences. 

Asked about Mercilus, who was thought to be out for the year after tearing his left biceps Nov. 14 against Seattle, LaFleur said, “Certainly was not necessarily expecting him back this early. But we'll see where he's at. We’ll take it one day at a time. He’s had limited practice and see where he's at the end of the week.  

“But certainly he would be a guy that we'd be ecstatic to be able to get back out there on the grass on Saturday.” 

Davante Adams ready for games that matter

Davante Adams has had one of the best seasons for a receiver in Packers history. He finished the regular season as one of the NFL's top three receivers in targets, yards and average yards per game, as well as in the top five for total touchdowns. In the process, he set new franchise records for single-season receiving yards and receptions en route to another All-Pro season. 

But none of that matters if Adams can’t help the Packers in the playoffs, which they will enter Saturday as the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed. Adams knows none of it matters, because it’s how he feels about player’s legacies himself. 

“I think to a certain extent, the things you do in the regular season sometimes can get lost in the sauce a little bit if you don't follow it up with it with a decent playoff run or at least performance on yourself,” Adams said Tuesday. 

Adams and the Packers are welcoming the 49ers on Saturday to Lambeau Field. The 49ers are coming off a wild-card playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys, the underdogs who fell to the Packers the past two times they faced off, but knocked Green Bay out of the running in the 2019 NFC Championship game. 

Adams had 12 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' last-second win against the 49ers in Week 3 this season. But those numbers only matter to the receiver if they fuel a performance this weekend that extends the Packers' season. 

“I like to take the same intensity that I had for all 16, 17 games now and add to that as I get to the playoffs but yeah, it’s definitely a little bit of an amplified feeling when it's time to go so when you have that feeling, I guess it kind of resonates more in your memory as well.”

As a native of the Bay Area in California (Palo Alto), Adams has seen the 49ers and Packers face off over the years. Still, there are only certain games, certain players, that resonate in his memory. And it’s for what they did in the playoffs. Like when Terrell Owens caught a touchdown pass from Steve Young in the final seconds of the 1998 NFC wild-card game, to knock the Packers out of the playoffs. 

“As I got older, you definitely saw some repeats and kind of learned that was the play or the the day that made T.O., T.O.” 

That’s what is fueling one of the league’s top receivers as he welcomes his hometown team to Lambeau on Saturday: making his mark in the postseason. 

“When I think about playoff football, or I think about football, I definitely think about the teams down the stretch," Adams said. "It's not really the guy who led the league in receiving or lead the league in rushing, you don't really remember that years later. You think about the teams that had a legit playoff push and go on to win Super Bowl’s.”

Another honor for Adams

Last week, Adams was a unanimous All-Pro selection. 

On Tuesday, he was named the unanimous winner of the 2021 Tom Mulhern Stand-Up Guy Award by the Green Bay chapter of the Professional Football Writers of America. The award goes to a player who best helps the media do its job. 

Adams is regularly available and extremely detailed and entertaining with his answers to reporters’ questions. He was also a winner of the award in 2020. 

“I don't like going through the motions with anything that I do, just because it makes everything like, you watch the clock at school, it's going to be a long day,” Adams said. “I try to get the most out of everything that I do. And that's kind of something that I was taught by my parents, especially my dad. That's something that he was about is just don't go through the motions.” 

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