While the value of preseason games understandably has been debated this week, at least one of the Green Bay Packers' premier starters wishes he could get some exhibition reps.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the Packers' game at Pittsburgh on Sunday. There's no indication he'll play this Saturday when the Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field.
Since debuting in the Packers' preseason opener at the New England Patriots on Aug. 13, Bakhtiari has been held out of practice with a knee injury. Coach Mike McCarthy said Bakhtiari was getting close to returning to practice Wednesday, but he was once again held out.
Bakhtiari played with the knee injury against the Patriots and struggled, allowing two sacks. He said the knee was a factor.
"Pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back was, 'I'm not myself. I can't do what I want to do,'" Bakhtiari said of the knee. "And certain things mentally and physically that wasn't working, so I was like, 'Yeah, I need to get this taken care of.' The good thing is with the preseason you have some more down time, whereas in the regular season you don't have the leisure to take care of this little thing."
Bakhtiari is one of three starters on the Packers' offensive line missing practice, joining guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. Don Barclay (left tackle), Lane Taylor (left guard) and Josh Walker (right guard) have gotten first-team reps in the starters' absence.
Barclay, especially, has struggled. In two preseason games, the veteran tackle has allowed four sacks, three pressures, two penalties and a safety. So far, it hasn't been the return he would've liked after missing last season with an ACL injury.
Bakhtiari said his teammate is doing a "great job" considering the difficulty of unexpectedly playing left tackle.
"It's tough," Bakhtiari said of Barclay. "One, the guy has been bounced around everywhere. Two, he hasn't played football in over a year, so for him to come back … you're going to have bumps in the road.
"He didn't know that he was going to be getting reps at left tackle. For him to switch like that, I commend him for it. He's been bouncing around playing right tackle, guards, doing a little bit of center, and then jumping over to left. That's definitely tough."
Bakhtiari's return – whenever it comes – will help stabilize the offensive line. The former fourth-round pick in 2013 has started all 35 games in his career, counting playoffs. His goal, he said, is to return before the Packers' opener Sept. 13 at the Chicago Bears. He's unsure how much he'll play in the preseason.
The question, though, is whether Bakhtiari needs those exhibition snaps.
"Ideally, I would like them," Bakhtiari said. "But what's more important to me – and I think to the organization – is me being healthy instead of the reps with the fact that I have had game experience. So I can kind of lean on that a little bit, but I would've loved to play in every single preseason game and every single practice. That's kind of what I do, and what I like and enjoy doing.
"So this is a different route for me, but we'll see. I've got to see what happens when I come back. I haven't gone to play football and then taken time off and really come back like this."
-firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood