Packers not worried about reduced prep time for center Linsley
The Green Bay Packers spent all offseason training JC Tretter to be their fourth starting center in four years. But with Tretter injured, Green Bay has now turned its attention to preparing rookie Corey Linsley for the job.
By Paul ImigFOX Sports Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If ever a team was able to plug in a rookie center less than two weeks before the regular season and not miss a step on offense, the Green Bay Packers believe they are it.
The Packers spent all offseason training second-year player JC Tretter to be their fourth starting center in four years. But now that Tretter's knee injury will sideline him for at least a month, Green Bay quickly turned its attention to preparing rookie Corey Linsley for the job.
It's certainly not the hand that a top team wants to be dealt this late in training camp, especially when the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the loudest stadium in football are awaiting their arrival on Sept. 4. Yet, the Packers seem defiantly confident that transitioning from Tretter to Linsley won't be a big deal.
"The luxury of being center in this offense is you're playing with myself -- I've been in this offense for 10 years now -- and you're playing with two of the smartest guards, most athletic, talented guys in the league in Josh (Sitton) and T.J. (Lang)," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Those guys are going to help him out with his calls and make sure the tempo is set the right way. I'm going to help out with the protection and he's going to be ready to play."
Rodgers described Sitton and Lang as "cyborgs who know exactly what they're doing and what everybody is doing up front." Well, those two cyborgs have taken the fifth-round pick under their wing to try to get Linsley ready as quickly as possible.
"He's a guy that we're not going to put too much pressure on," Lang said. "We get to the line, and Josh and I make a lot of calls as it is, anyway. Any time he's going to be stuck, if he makes the wrong call, we can correct him a split-second later, so it's not going to be a problem."
Lang's advice to Linsley was to "stay calm." Sitton's advice was similar but a bit more direct.
"I just told him not to freak out, not to stress out about anything," Sitton said. "It's football."
Linsley and Rodgers had worked very little together before Tretter's injury. Though it was technically an open competition in training camp for the starting center spot, it had been all Tretter since Day 1. With Tretter's knee injury not being discovered until after Green Bay's starting offense had played six drives in the third preseason game, it's highly unlikely that Rodgers and Linsley will take an in-game snap together before Seattle.
It seems the change at center won't alter the Packers' plans to rest Rodgers in the preseason finale Thursday against Kansas City, with the former NFL Most Valuable Player saying it's "not vitally important" for he and Linsley to team up for a bit when facing the Chiefs.
Head coach Mike McCarthy also had no intentions of switching it up now that Green Bay is counting on Linsley.
"To go out there and just totally overdo reps because you've got one player that's going to start, I'm not going to do that," McCarthy said. "If I have to do that, then he's not the right guy."
One advantage that Linsley has is that he's always been a center and played against Big Ten competition in some hostile, big-crowd environments in his time at Ohio State. It was a much different scenario with Tretter, who was a tight-end-turned-left-tackle at Cornell.
The questions surrounding Linsley's ability to perform well have nothing to do with his physical skills. His strength has been on display and noted by McCarthy on previous occasions. With Linsley, it's about the mental side of the game.
"The key with him is just convince him that he's ready, and he's shown that he's ready," Lang said. "You've got to build his own confidence that way."
It's difficult to imagine a more challenging "welcome to the NFL" moment for a rookie than what Linsley is experiencing. The extremely shortened amount of time to get acclimated is a big factor, but it's one that Linsley won't use as an excuse.
"The urgency level is just through the roof," Linsley said. "I've been working hard, but it's a different animal out there with the ones. I've got to fill in at the highest level. There's no room for nonsense anymore and ridiculous mistakes."
The real test will come when the 12th man in Seattle are making sure Linsley can't hear anything going on when the Packers are at the line of scrimmage. If Linsley passes that, Green Bay's offense should be fine.
"Hopefully he's just too young and dumb to realize how loud it is out there," Sitton said. "He'll be fine."