GREEN BAY — “All-Pro.”
“Hall of Fame potential.”
Aaron Rodgers had a lot of phrases to describe the guy who protects his blindside when asked about him last week. And while the Green Bay Packers quarterback and his franchise left tackle wish another phrase was in the rotation — perennial Pro Bowl selection — Bakhtiari being snubbed yet again this year isn’t about to change how Rodgers feels about him.
“There’s always, in certain position groups, kind of that one guy you need to stay healthy, and Dave’s that guy because he’s an All-Pro,” Rodgers said last week. “I think he has Hall of Fame potential. He’s an incredible player. He’s been a rock for us. When he’s over there, you feel really comfortable with him locking down pass rushers throughout the game. He’s played through some injuries, he’s had a fantastic season again and obviously having him out there has been great.”
Asked Wednesday how he felt about Bakhtiari not being among the three tackles chosen for the NFC Pro Bowl squad, Rodgers was befuddled.
“That’s the thing about the Pro Bowl,” Rodgers said. “A lot of times it is about name recognition.”
Then, a pause. Bakhtiari is, after all, pretty recognizable.
“He has an interesting name and long hair and a number you can remember,” Rodgers admitted. “(Yet) he might not get a bunch of the attention that he really deserves.”
Dallas’ Tyron Smith, New Orleans’ Terron Armstead and Washington’s Trent Williams were voted in ahead of Bakhtiari when Tuesday’s rosters were revealed. Bakhtiari was among the alternates chosen, but he still has yet to be voted to play in the league’s annual all-star game, set for Jan. 27 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Bakhtiari did play in the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season, as an injury replacement. Last year, he wasn’t a first alternate, and when he did get the call to replace Philadelphia’s Lane Johnson, Bakhtiari said he turned the opportunity down.
Bakhtiari didn’t try to hide his irritation Wednesday, although he did say it would be “hilarious” if he’s picked as an NFL All-Pro for the third consecutive year. While Pro Bowl teams are selected by players, coaches and fans — with each group accounting for one-third of the vote — the All-Pro teams are chosen by a panel of 50 media members who cover the league.
Asked if he was satisfied with his play this season, a year in which he’s battled nagging knee and other injuries but made all 14 starts, Bakhtiari said, “Look, I appreciate all the individual accolades. People can say a lot of nice things about my play. But offensive linemen, at the end of the day, are team players. We don’t have statistics, so we pride ourselves on wins. We pride ourselves on other players’ success in the offense and ultimately winning a Super Bowl. That’s all I want. That’s what I was so proud about when I was drafted here and that’s my one goal. I want to win a Super Bowl.”
Asked how far he thinks the 5-8-1 Packers are away from that, Bakhtiari replied, “Obviously it seems far because we can’t go to the playoffs. You have to be invited to the dance. We didn’t get an invitation. We have to earn it. Next year, let’s make sure we earn our invitation to the dance.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, was one of two Packers voted into the Pro Bowl — wide receiver Davante Adams was the other — and the quarterback said he thought defensive tackle Kenny Clark, inside linebacker Blake Martinez and center Corey Linsley also should have been chosen.
While he said he was “appreciative” of his selection — the seventh of his career — because of the knee injury that has affected his play all season, Rodgers said getting back to the team’s usual winning ways would lead to more of his teammates being honored.
“That’s kind of how it goes a lot of times. You don’t get in maybe a year or two before you should get in. You stay a year or two after you maybe shouldn’t be in. But hopefully we can keep getting those guys mentioned,” Rodgers said. “When you win a lot of games and you’re going to the playoffs, you get more selections. So we need to get back to doing that and getting our guys in the Pro Bowl.”