When could key Packers return from ACL injuries?

Historical data may give an idea of when Robert Tonyan, Kylin Hill and Elgton Jenkins could return from their respective ACL injuries.

The ACL gods have not been kind to the Packers in recent years. Following David Bakhtiari’s devastating injury on the eve of the 2020 playoffs, three more Packers were struck down with knee injuries in a four-game span during the 2021 season.

Those injuries ruled Robert Tonyan, Kylin Hill and Elgton Jenkins out for the remainder of the 2021 campaign, and also placed a chunk of their 2022 season into doubt.

It is nearly impossible to predict when an athlete will return from a torn ACL or any other serious knee ailment, as the timetable for each individual may be vastly different, but there is some historical precedent which could provide a rough idea of when Tonyan, Hill and Jenkins might be back.

A 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine found the average time between the reconstruction of an ACL and a return to the field among NFL players to be 49.7 weeks. So, where would that put Green Bay’s three recovering players?

Tonyan and Hill suffered their injuries during the same game; the Packers’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals on October 29, 2021.

A 49–50-week recovery would mean the pair being available to suit up in week four or five of the 2022 season, against either the New England Patriots or the New York Giants in London. In this case, Tonyan and Hill would have missed Green Bay’s matchups with the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jenkins’ injury occurred on November 21, 2021 against the Vikings, and he is therefore likely to miss more games than Tonyan and Hill. An average recovery time for Jenkins would mean a return in week eight or nine against either the Buffalo Bills or Detroit Lions, having missed games against the Vikings, Bears, Buccaneers, Patriots, Giants, Jets and Commanders.

Of course, this is just a rough outline, and there have been several instances of players returning miraculously quickly from ACL injuries in recent years, as well as issues leading to longer recovery periods for some.

Speaking of which, Bakhtiari’s comeback from injury has been a nightmare, and the news he was only working with the rehab group at Green Bay’s recent OTA’s has many fans nervous 17 months after he went down.

While it would have been much more encouraging to see Bakhtiari full go at OTA’s, there is no real information to go on with regard to his situation, so there’s no point panicking or speculating at this stage.

There have been reports Tonyan could be back by the start of the 2022 season, but expect the Packers to take every precaution to ensure all its injured players are absolutely ready to play before thrusting them back into action.

Green Bay should make the playoffs regardless of Tonyan, Hill and Jenkins being available for a portion of the season, so there is no need to rush any of them back and risk losing Tonyan and Jenkins specifically for the playoffs.

Hill’s injury could mean an increased chance of either Patrick Taylor or Tyler Goodson making the 53-man roster out of training camp, and if Tonyan has to start the 2022 season on the PUP list, it could delay a tough roster decision in a crowded tight end room also containing Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis and Dominique Dafney.

At this point it would be a shock if Jenkins doesn’t start season on PUP, so Bakhtiari’s availability will be crucial to holding an otherwise young offensive line together in the early part of the season. The training camp battle between a host of potential tackle options in Yosh Nijman, Royce Newman, Sean Rhyan, Zach Tom and Rasheed Walker will be fascinating.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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10 points

Comments (22)

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Vforrest's picture

May 29, 2022 at 01:37 pm

Great info…just what I was wondering. Fact specific reality and cautious med staff means, Just like last year they will be playing an OL combination that was never their best on paper and they we spectacular considering that. The OL coach is some guru!

And likewise for the receiving group not having AR favorite TE ready for a few games really will make fans wonder what this passing will look like the first month. As always fingers crossed and some folks will surprise. Maybe the defense is dominant right out of the chute and we ride that for a quick start.

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wildbill's picture

May 29, 2022 at 01:38 pm

The weird thing about Bakh trying to play in the Lion game is it easy to see now he wasn’t ready. The Packers have traditionally been very careful with injuries and always seemed to err on the side of cation but yet looked to risk the 2nd/3rd best player on the team.
I am worried about his return to health and able to play at his normal high level. I know it’s early but him not being able to play going forward has both O/L efficiency and cap issues at play.

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dblbogey's picture

May 29, 2022 at 02:48 pm

It seems they all thought he was ready, but he had knee swelling and pain after the Lion game.

The stats didn't show the percentage of players who are never the same after an ACL. It still happens. With Jenkins out, Bakh a question, I hope at least one of our OL draft picks will shine.

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NickPerry's picture

May 29, 2022 at 02:13 pm

IMO the deal with David Bakhtiari being with the rehab group was more about precaution that anything else. At this point he has NOTHING to gain running around in spandex at OTA's. We know he's still guzzling beer at record speeds as we saw at the Bucks game, I have a feeling DB will be there week one.

As far as Tonyon, Jenkins, and Hill, there's just no reason to rush them back, especially Jenkins. Obviously not having one of the best O-Lineman in the NFL is a bummer, but the Packers have more than talent to get through. With the additions of Zack Tom and Sean Rhyan, Gute has done an excellent job retooling the O-Line room the last few seasons.

I'm also excited to see what Tyler Davis is all about. The coaches sure seem excited about him and I am too. BUT, I'm also wondering if a TE suddenly becomes available after a June 1st cut, if the Packers may not add to that room for some insurance. It's not a need like Safety or Edge, but I also wouldn't be surprised at an addition if one was available...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 30, 2022 at 01:09 am

I can think of reasons why the Packers might be tempted to rush Tonyan, Jenkins, and to a lesser extent, Hill, back into service.

As a practical matter, I expect all of them to start the season on the PUP and miss the mandatory 6 games. Jenkins, according to the timeline presented in this article, probably misses several more games.

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dobber's picture

May 30, 2022 at 08:46 am

In general, an ACL is structurally sound about 6 months after the repair. Assuming these guys aren't doing anything stupid, it's all about how the knee responds to training and how quickly the athlete regains flexibility confidence in it. The only way to find out is to try.

I would not be at all surprised if one or two of these guys starts practicing (and is ineligible for PUP) and is carried on the active 53 at the end of camp. I also wouldn't be surprised if all 3 are in the rehab group and contribute nothing 'til midseason.

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stockholder's picture

May 29, 2022 at 07:21 pm

Recovery is 8 to 9 mos. Doubt any of them are ready. I don't expect Bahk to be any different than Bulaga. Every game he's in there, will be a blessing.

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Savage57's picture

May 30, 2022 at 05:17 am

"A 2019 study published in the National Library of Medicine found the average time between the reconstruction of an ACL and a return to the field among NFL players to be 49.7 weeks."

49.7 / 4 = 12.4 months.

Damm you new math!

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dobber's picture

May 30, 2022 at 08:11 am

52 weeks in a year....a little over 11 months.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2022 at 08:45 am

is that by the Gregorian calendar?

could they come back sooner if we used the mayan calendar?

oh, that's right, the mayan calendar ran out...

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BAMABADGER's picture

May 29, 2022 at 07:39 pm

Would be very surprised if Tonyan, Hall, and Jenkins provide much value to the team this season. Bakhtiari came back to soon last season. Hopefully he can start effectively by the first 2022 game. The offense will need his and Jenkins experience.

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 29, 2022 at 08:51 pm

Tonyan had a "clean" tear which is supposedly easier to come back from. Hill's injury definitely looked worse and it wouldn't be surprising for him to be out longer besides the fact they have good depth at RB.

It would be interesting to see that average broken down by position. You would think the bigger guys might take a bit longer to recover but age might be more important than weight too. Either way it would be nice to have Jenkins back for the 2nd half of the season. Not only is he the 2nd best O lineman on the team he's the backstop at all 5 positions.

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dobber's picture

May 30, 2022 at 08:23 am

You hit on one the key points LL: the time-frame of the recovery is nearly always impacted by the severity of the injury. How much collateral damage was there in the injury? The number provided (12 months) for recovery probably fails to account for extent of injury. It's not unheard of for players with fairly focused damage on the ACL to make more rapid recoveries--8 months is more and more common. Any recovery is a pretty individual thing, though.

As for Tonyan, your note seems right: the Packers have been pretty consistent in their assertion that Tonyan will be back on the field early in the 2022 season (if not for the whole season). They certainly did nothing to shore up the position and handed Tonyan a sizable deal for someone they might expect to miss 6-8 games. They know more about the injury than any of the rest of us do,

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ImaPayne's picture

May 29, 2022 at 09:43 pm

My question that I have no answer for, does this injury effect certain position groups more? Belaga came back but was never himself again. He was off injured and when he left he was injured a lot there too.
I'm wondering if Baht will be similar, lots of small nagging injuries, missing games here, there. Hope not but my suspicion is he was injured way worse then we were told and his recovery isn't going well. Let's hope he can come back.

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Rossonero's picture

May 29, 2022 at 10:17 pm

I don't think it's so much about recovery time, but more so about how cautious the Packers medical staff historically has been.

I'm not a doctor so I can't say with any certainty when each guy will be ready. As noted in the article, there are clean tears and then there are messy ones. There are big guys like Jenkins and then smaller ones like Kylin Hill whose knees may react differently. I had no idea Bakhtiari's knee was swelling up and draining all that fluid out of it until I read about it after the season was over. While it might seem the same on paper, there's a lot of shades of grey behind the scenes where each guy is at in their rehab.

All I can say is I can't see them risking Jenkins early at all, especially after what happened with Bakhtiari. Jenkins is too valuable and probably will miss September and most, if not all of, October too (again, not a doctor, just speculating). I can only hope Bakhtiari's knee is not swelling up anymore. We won't know about that until week 1, but I have a feeling they'll keep kid gloves on him for a while.

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Turophile's picture

May 30, 2022 at 03:47 am

I imagine Tonyan, Hill and Jenkins would all start the season on PUP as they all came into OTA's injured and will most likely start training camp with the same designation.

Being on PUP means they don't play for the first 6 weeks of the regular season and can then be activated any time in the next five weeks. That would encompass all the above players projected recovery time, with Tonyan and Hill being activated earlier in that five week window, with Jenkins coming back a week or two later.

So Tonyan and Hill come back at the start the second half of the season (or maybe even at week 7), while Jenkins returns about a fortnight later. Jenkins might even go on IR for a couple of weeks after pup ends, if the Packers want the extra spot on the roster, but the five week window to activate players after pup means they could just activate him later without putting him on IR, if they aren't fussed about one spot on the roster.

As for Bakhtiari, you just hope that fluid on the knee issue has settled down over the offseason and that he will be good to go in training camp.

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run3donlineaz's picture

May 30, 2022 at 04:00 am

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arthurl's picture

May 30, 2022 at 05:23 am

When you factor how they drafted, I wonder if they were anticipating what their offensive line would look like for the season. The thing is they got a lot of salary tied into Baktiari, so if he doesn’t make the comeback his situation will become most interesting moving forward.

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dobber's picture

May 30, 2022 at 08:32 am

This could very well be Bakhtiari's last season in GB, anyway. His cap hit in 2023 skyrockets to almost $30M from about $13M this season. There's only about $6M in cap savings if he's cut or dealt which could keep him around--especially if the other OT candidates don't play well--but keeping him would likely require added void years and redoing parts of his deal.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

May 30, 2022 at 09:14 am

When we get both Bakhtiari and Jenkins back and fully recovered, the Packers will be powerhouse running the ball at Lambeau Field in the Playoffs.

On another note: I would like to take a moment to honor the soldiers who have lost their lives to preserve our freedom and way of life. I can only imagine the horror those combat soldiers endured and then being killed. Without their sacrifice we would not be here on this Memorial Day to honor them and to sit at our computers and chat about our favorite football team. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

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Grandfathered's picture

May 31, 2022 at 06:47 pm

Thanks for providing some medical information aboiut injuries. I have been asking/hoping for more of thjese types of articles!

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lindagm123's picture

June 22, 2022 at 09:45 pm

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