September 25, 2021

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5 things learned about the Packers heading into…

2 min read
5 things learned about the Packers heading into...

2. The Packers aren’t taking any chances with injuries to two of their stars.

That goes for the All-Pros currently on the mend, David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Za’Darius Smith at edge rusher.

While Gutekunst is comfortable with third-year lineman Elgton Jenkins stepping into Bakhtiari’s place on the blind side, that didn’t influence the decision to put Bakhtiari on PUP at the beginning of the season, which sidelines him for at least the first six weeks as he continues to rehab from last January’s ACL surgery.

“This is more about David’s health and where he’s at,” Gutekunst said. “Rushing him out there as not going to be something I was comfortable doing.”

The team is taking the same approach with Smith and his back injury, which prevented the defense’s top pass rusher from participating in all but a couple days of training camp. There’s been no timetable set on Smith’s return, but he is on the active roster right now and trying to get back as soon as possible.

“This is going to be a long season and we feel really good about our football team, so we’re going to make sure,” Gutekunst said. “We’re not going to rush anybody out there and cost something down the line for something right now.”

3. There’s plenty of confidence in the remade offensive line, but the young players will have to prove themselves.

LaFleur said the coaching staff was planning all along not to have Bakhtiari for the start of the season, figuring if he came back early it would be “a bonus.”

It appears the Packers are going to line up with two rookie draft picks as starters in Week 1 for the first time in 15 years. Center Josh Myers and right guard Royce Newman won their jobs in what Gutekunst called the deepest competition he can recall up front, but the next step for them will be even more challenging.

“We feel good about it, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” LaFleur said. “We’ve got some young players that are playing for us, and there’s just a lot of learning that still needs to happen, and we need to see these guys on a daily basis really attack it the right way, which I think they will.

“Certainly there may be some growing pains in there. That’s just the way it is; that’s the nature of it.”