Finding two NFL-worthy offensive tackles isn’t an easy task for any team. Finding six or seven is nearly impossible. And yet that’s what the Green Bay Packers are being forced to do this week, as they are likely going to be without their two starting tackles, as well as their three main backups when they take on the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
The team released its final injury report Wednesday, and it listed starters Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari as doubtful, which when combined with Green Bay having already placed Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy and Don Barclay on injured reserve, leaves the Packers without their top five tackles.
The plan Thursday night appears to be starting Justin McCray at left tackle and rookie undrafted free agent Adam Pankey at right tackle. It’s possible the team could also use the recently signed Ulrick John, though it’s unclear how up to speed he is with the offense.
It wasn’t all bad news on the injury front, though, as wide receiver Randall Cobb (chest) will play, as will safety Kentrell Brice (groin). Both of them missed the Cincinnati game. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (hand) are listed as questionable. Daniels told reporters he expects to be a game-time decision.
Kickoff at Lambeau Field is set for 7:25 p.m.
David Bakhtiari is going to the Pro Bowl after all.
The NFL announced Monday that Bakhtiari had been added to the roster as an injury replacement for Philadelphia’s Jason Peters.
The Green Bay Packers left tackle was among several players that were viewed as snubs when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced last month, but now he’ll get the experience in Orlando anyway.
He won’t, however, be joined by all of his teammates that were selected.
Guard T.J. Lang, a first-time Pro Bowler, will be replaced by former Packers guard Josh Sitton due to injury. Lang, who is a free agent this offseason, will undergo hip surgery on Friday.
“Definitely wanted to be there,” Lang said Monday. “But it’s not the end of the world.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also won’t play in the game. He’ll be replaced by Washington’s Kirk Cousins.
Another first-time Pro Bowler, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is from Orlando and said he intends to be there.
Few things are more important for a quarterback than the guy that is protecting his blind side. So when Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers heard the news that left tackle David Bakhtiari had agreed to a contract extension, you can imagine his excitement.
“Tackles block ends, as (former offensive coordinator) Joe Philbin said for years around here,” Rodgers said. “He’s done a great job of taking care of my back and keeping me clean. I’m really happy for him. It’s the Packer way, as you guys know, draft, develop and pay. He’s another guy that deserved it, so I’m really happy for him.”
The new four-year extension will see Bakhtiari earn as much as $57.1 million, a deal Rodgers believes he’s worthy of.
“I thought he was a 10- to 12-year guy at left tackle, a mainstay, a guy you can build your offensive line around. He hasn’t disappointed those expectations,” Rodgers said Wednesday as the Green Bay continued their preparation for Sunday’s game at Minnesota. “I think he’s done a great job for us over the years of continuing to improve.
“He’s a guy that you can count on.”
Bakhtiari has started 47 of a possible 49 games in his career since being a fourth-round draft pick out of Colorado in 2013. His value was never more apparent than the two games he missed last year, as Green Bay struggled to find someone that could hold up at the most difficult spot along the offensive line.
The Packers attention contract-wise likely now turns to 25-year-old center J.C. Tretter and 28-year-old right guard T.J. Lang.