GREEN BAY – No matter how well David Bakhtiari plays for the Green Bay Packers this season, he doesn’t have to worry about getting a big head. Josh Sitton won’t let him.
“Oh, we definitely keep him in his place,” Sitton said Wednesday, in the wake of the rookie left tackle shutting out Minnesota’s Jared Allen during Sunday night’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings. “We make him do more than any of the other (rookies). We’ve got to keep him in check.”
Sitton, and the rest of the veterans on the Packers’ offensive line, do that by making Bakhtiari perform usual first-year guy tasks, including buying and picking up their chewing tobacco, Gatorade, and anything else they want.
“Yeah, I was the ‘dip guy’ for the offensive line,” Bakhtiari said. “I split it half and half; J.C. (Tretter)’s taking the second half of the season. I had to buy dip for all of them. I have to bring five Gatorades to every meeting, line them up right. If they’re hanging off (the table) or anything, I’ve got to fix them or they’ll knock them down.
“If everyone’s getting all happy about me, they’ll bring me back down by telling me to go grab something. I know Josh is high on rock-‘n’-roll protein shakes, so I always have to grab one for him. Sometimes (I) grab his socks.”
Though Bakhtiari is being treated like a rookie, he certainly isn’t playing like one. In Sunday night’s 44-31 victory over the Vikings, Bakhtiari not only held Allen, who leads the Vikings with 4.5 sacks this season, without a sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he didn’t even record a tackle.
In fact, Sunday night was the first time since Allen joined the Vikings in 2008 that he faced Rodgers in the Metrodome and didn’t record a sack. In his previous 12 career games against the Packers, Allen had recorded 17 sacks, the second-most by a Packers opponent in franchise history.
“I thought David played very well, graded out well,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “David did a very good job competing against Jared Allen – obviously a player that we have high regard for. He’s doing a very good job for a first-year player. He’s doing a very good job for a left tackle, period.
“I continue to be impressed with his professionalism, his approach and his ability to be consistent throughout the week. And it’s definitely carried over to Sundays.”
Added offensive coordinator Tom Clements: “He had a very good game. He was playing against an All-Pro, someone who in the past has given us problems, especially up there. He took it as a challenge and he played well. For his first time in that environment against an outstanding player, he has to feel good about himself.”
If Bakhtiari feels good about the way he has played so far this season, he isn’t showing it. The left tackle said he tries not to let himself get emotional about the way he has played because he knows if he wants to keep it up, he has to stay focused every snap, every week.
“I pretty much let (the media) feel good about it,” Bakhtiari said. “I didn’t even know (about Allen) until after the game until some reporter brought it up to me. ‘OK, cool.’ I felt good for a couple hours but then, (it’s), ‘OK, you’re only as good as your last play. You’re only as good as your last snap.’ I’ve got to come out and I’ve got to do it again. I’ve got to do good. Every week, I’ve got to do good. That’s my mind-set.
“I can’t have a hangover from that game to this game, good or bad. You’ve got to take it, go into the game, you’ve got to compete and then you’ve got to go on to the next game.”
Bakhtiari admitted that sometimes it’s difficult not to think about the success he has had, because he gets asked about it frequently by reporters. Still, the rookie said he has come up with a way to handle those questions.
“I kind of divert them,” Bakhtiari said. “As an offensive lineman, you want people to not talk about you. That means you’re doing a good job. I call it the ‘unsung heroes.’ Just want to be quiet and hope no one talks to us.”
“I know what I did that was good, and I know what I did that was bad, and I’m going to try to correct my mistakes.”
Although Sitton may give him a good-natured hard time, Bakhtiari said there is one important thing that the veteran helps him with each week.
“(I try) to take something every week, kind of build a certain theme,” Bakhtiari said. “Me and Josh even have our own little theme. We say, this week, we’re going to work on this specifically. And then for myself, this week I’m going to pay attention to my footwork, my punch, just something that if I bring up the worst part of my game, it’ll make me a better player.”
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.