Bakhtiari wants to play ‘another couple of years’

NFL

David Bakhtiari‘s past few seasons have been marked by setbacks to his left knee, but after his fifth surgical procedure to that knee, the All-Pro left tackle is optimistic about continuing his career.

Bakhtiari, who was released by the Green Bay Packers after 11 seasons in March, said in an interview on “The Adam Schefter Podcast” that he’s “really happy” with the progress from his latest surgery, a major procedure that took place in November — so much so that he hopes to play another couple of years.

“A lot of other people wanted me to just kind of grit through it, but no one experiences what you truly experience,” Bakhtiari said of his decision to have the fifth surgery in November. “Look, I’ve been gritting through it for three years. I’m in constant pain. I’m so happy now to be on the other side of it and get the actual surgery that I needed because my knee was not in a good place.”

Bakhtiari’s knee troubles began when he tore his ACL on Dec. 31, 2020. In the past three seasons, he played in only 13 of a possible 51 regular-season games.

He said that the surgery “had a lot of big question marks” going into it but that he feels “really good” now and credited his surgeon, Brian Cole, for doing a “phenomenal job.”

“My goal right now is just to make sure that I not only fully recover but I can withstand and play the game that I want to play but also play and be there for a team no matter what,” Bakhtiari said. “I’m not a reliever guy, I am your cornerstone guy. Someone that’s not only going to play in September but in December and into February and obviously hopefully for another couple of years.”

Before setbacks with the knee plagued his last three seasons with the Packers, he was a two-time first team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl selection.

“I don’t like other people writing my story … I couldn’t just put a period, close the book and leave it,” Bakhtiari said he recently told Houston Texans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair of his career. “… I just got to kind of remind people. People have kind of forgotten the kind of player I was, the kind of player I am.”

Bakhtiari, 32, said that there’s been interest from teams but that he wants to make sure “there’s no question marks” before he signs with a team. He said he’s ahead of schedule but still needs to clear a couple more hurdles before he is comfortable returning to the field. A realistic timetable for signing with a team could be just before training camp next month, in the middle of the preseason in August or in the beginning of the season in September, Bakhtiari said.

He said that he’s comfortable learning a new playbook and won’t need much time to be ready to play but that he isn’t interesting in changing positions at this stage of his career.

“I am and love being a left tackle, but I do also want to win a Super Bowl. That’s something that is really, really big too. That’s one of the biggest things that’s kind of evaded me and has been extremely elusive to this point in my career.”

Although Bakhtiari wants to continue his career, he doesn’t expect that to mean a reunion with Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love, the past two quarterbacks he has protected.

He noted that Rodgers’ New York Jets selected left tackle Olu Fashanu in the first round, signed All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith in free agency and traded for right tackle Morgan Moses. And if the Packers “wanted me to protect Jordan, they wouldn’t have fired me.”

He does, however, expect both of his former quarterbacks to make the playoffs next season. Bakhtiari said he’s “expecting big things” from Rodgers as he returns from his Achilles injury and “for sure” the Jets will make the playoffs, which would snap a 13-season postseason drought.

“I don’t think it’s very wise for any betting man to say that Aaron Rodgers is not going to make the playoffs,” he said.

As for Love, Bakhtiari called him “a stud” and said he expects him to “get paid” via a lucrative contract extension from the Packers soon.

“He’s growing and ascending in this league, and I think he’s going to be a really good quarterback,” he said.

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