Bakhtiari: Next man up on Packers' blind side
Tackle David Bakhtiari. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - Bryan Bulaga was supposed to be Aaron Rodgers' protector this season; he was supposed to protect Aaron Rodgers blind side.
But after a freak knee injury on Family Night, Bulaga is out for the season.
That means, at least for the time being, arguably the second most important player for the Packers tomorrow night on offense will be rookie David Bakhtiari.
"I'm protecting THE guy," Bakhtiari says of Rodgers.
"But at the end of the day, I don't want to blow it up too big to the point of it being something I can't control. What I do best is what I need to do."
What Bakhtiari does best is protect.
The 6-4, 300 lb. California native was selected by the Packers in the fourth round of April's draft after three individually successful seasons at Colorado.
"I'm just learning to be a pro," Bakhtiari continues.
"There's always something you can improve on. Technique is obviously the No. 1 thing, and the second thing is just carrying yourself as a pro; not only while you're playing, but also off the field."
But he gets some help with that, because football is in his blood.
David Bakhtiari is the younger brother of NFL linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who has played with both the Titans and 49ers.
Another brother, Andrew, played defensive end at San Diego State.
But as for the biggest difference between college and the pros?
"You have to go 110 percent or more on every play just to not get embarrassed by the other opponent because everyone is good in this league," he says.
"You can't really take plays off like you did in college and get away with it because that is how you get exposed."
Bakhtiari's Colorado Buffaloes were exposed the last several seasons. In the three years Bakhtiari played in Boulder, his team won just 9 of the 37 games they played; a record that includes an abysmal 1-11 last season.
"It was tough," he admits. "Whatever the score was, I wasn't going to think about it. (all I could do was) pretend like it was a tie game, 0-0, and impose my will on my opponent."
"He's young," Rodgers says of Bakhtiari. "He's raw, he doesn't have the experience, but I think he has the confidence in himself; he's very well coached and he has good fundamentals."
After Rodgers took 118 sacks in the last three seasons, including 51 in 2012, the Packers were looking for marked improvement in protecting their franchise player.
With Bulaga out, that challenge becomes even more daunting.
Bakhtiari gets his first chance to prove himself worthy of the task Friday night against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field.