GREEN BAY – David Bakhtiari was writhing on the ground in pain just after Ty Montgomery cut inside his block to score a second rushing touchdown last Sunday in Dallas.
Diving Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee had missed tackling Montgomery and crashed into the back of Bakhtiari’s leg as the Packers’ star left tackle was engaged with linebacker Damien Wilson.
Bakhtiari stayed down for a while, getting attended to. Replays showed his knee getting twisted a little awkwardly. He limped slowly off the field.
And missed all of three snaps.
“That kind of all explains it,” said left guard Lane Taylor, who has played next to Bakhtiari all season. “He didn’t really say much. He just went and got taped, did his little thing, and came back.
“I just asked him, ‘Are you back,’ and he said, ‘Yep,’ and we went about our business.”
Bakhtiari’s return to the playoff game after missing just one series epitomized the mentality of the Packers’ offensive line. Yeah, I’m hurt, but I’ll worry about it later. There’s a game to go win.
The group will do whatever it takes to play, especially heading into Sunday’s NFC title game in Atlanta. They wear that toughness as a badge of honor without talking about it a whole lot.
“That’s the expectation,” center Corey Linsley said. “That’s just the culture of our O-line room is that everybody is trying to get back on the field no matter what. Playing through injuries is just who we are.
“Everybody’s got their aches and pains, and they’ve got it in the other locker room, too. You can’t be mentally weak and play in this league.”
Some injuries inevitably force guys to miss games. Center JC Tretter has been out since a nasty leg whip late in the regular-season game in Atlanta injured his knee. Linsley stepped in and has stayed there.
But earlier this season, Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang broke his foot in Tennessee, an injury that would normally take six to eight weeks to heal. He missed three games.
That was after playing through a hip injury that was on the injury report for several weeks, limiting Lang’s practice time.
Bakhtiari, named second-team All-Pro in his fourth season, was limited in practice earlier this year with a knee injury but still played. Same with Taylor, who was listed with a hip one week. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has been on the injury report with back, shoulder and abdomen injuries and has played every game. That trio has 18 starts apiece.
Linsley is the only starter who hasn’t shown up on the injury report this year, but he began the season on the physically unable to perform list due to an offseason hamstring injury he re-aggravated just before training camp. He wasn’t eligible to practice or play for the first six weeks of the regular season but fortunately was good to go when Tretter went down. Even Tretter had battled a bad back without missing game time until the knee injury.
“Those guys are tough up front. They’ve all dealt with different things throughout the year,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, adding that even in games when they’re a little slow to get up, the linemen will be waving off position coach James Campen as he’s trying to run a substitute into the game for them.
“Every time those guys go down, you kind of hold your breath for a second, but … it’s pretty fun to see those guys lay it on the line for us every week.”
Since Lang’s return from the broken foot against Seattle, the starting five has played six straight games together, which has been a key factor in the offense getting on a roll.
But for all the praise they receive for handling the twists and stunts of a defensive front seamlessly, and for protecting Rodgers for up to eight or 10 seconds on extended plays, the linemen take as much if not more pride in simply going to battle for their teammates – almost regardless of circumstance and certainly without complaint.
“No doubt,” Linsley said. “Playing through those injuries, it kind of boosts the room. You see another guy playing through some stuff and you think to yourself, ‘I’ve gotta bust through this, too.’”
The trickle-down effect has been at work for years. Bakhtiari has mentioned adopting the mentality from Lang and Josh Sitton, who previously mentioned veterans like Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and Scott Wells.
Toughness is their trademark, which keeps this talented group tight and together.
“It’s loyalty to one another on the offensive line, it’s to the man next to you, it’s to the team,” Bakhtiari said. “It means a lot to us.
“We’ll do whatever we have to do. The biggest thing we care about is the ‘W.’”