Packers' Bakhtiari appears set for return Sunday vs. Vikings

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari is expected to return to action Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings after missing three games to recover from an appendectomy.

Bakhtiari practiced on a limited basis all week and wasn’t given a status on Friday’s injury report.

“I fully expect Dave to play,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.

Bakhtiari has been effective when healthy but has missed six of the Packers' 15 games this season. The veteran left tackle earned All-Pro honors in 2018 and 2020 and was a second-team selection in the All-Pro balloting in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

He didn't play Green Bay’s first two games this season while recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament that required three surgeries. The knee issue also caused him to miss an Oct. 23 loss at Washington. The appendectomy has kept him from playing during Green Bay’s current three-game winning streak.

“The biggest thing is bracing, straining,” Bakhtiari said. “I think that was the biggest hurdle to get over. To give you a comparison, I broke a rib and now I’ve done this, I would rather break a rib and go through that. It’s not fun.”

Zach Tom, a rookie fourth-round pick from Wake Forest, has started the Packers’ last three games at left tackle with Bakhtiari unavailable.

Bakhtiari has said he believed he had an abdominal strain or bruise on Dec. 1. He eventually brought it up to team physician Pat McKenzie. Bakhtiari underwent tests that showed he had appendicitis.

“I couldn’t lift anything over 20 pounds for three weeks,” Bakhtiari said. “Other than that, it was a big question mark. I was kind of asking around, ‘What can I …?’ I don’t know. It’s like, just feel it out. So, it was a journey for everyone, including myself. Definitely sucked. Just was really weird but I’m very fortunate that the last 10 days it took a huge turn for the better. There’s some pain, some things I’ve got to work through this week, but very fortunate to be where I am where I’m like, ‘I can totally do this thing. This is cool.’”

Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (hip) and cornerback/kick returner Keisean Nixon (groin) are questionable for Sunday’s game after both practiced on a limited basis Friday. Right tackle Yosh Nijman (shoulder) practiced fully Friday and should play after leaving the Packers’ 26-20 Christmas Day victory at Miami with a shoulder injury.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers also practiced fully Friday. Rodgers missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee issue but is expected to play.

The Vikings have ruled out center Garrett Bradbury (back) and defensive lineman James Lynch (shoulder).

Green Bay (7-8) is still holding out playoff hopes as it prepares to host the NFC North champion Vikings (12-3). The Packers would reach the postseason if they win their final two games and either the Washington Commanders (7-7-1) lose once or the New York Giants (8-6-1) drop both their remaining contests.

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The Associated Press