GREEN BAY, Wis. — It hasn’t taken long for new Packers center Jeff Saturday to get comfortable snapping the ball to an NFL Most Valuable Player. After all, 13 seasons next to four-time MVP Peyton Manning while with the Indianapolis Colts gave Saturday all the experience he’d ever need to make the adjustment to Green Bay and reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“I tell people all the time, I’ve had a blessed career and now you’re just capping it off,” Saturday said during the Packers’ offseason programs. “I told them when I got here, obviously Aaron Rodgers is the MVP, so there’s a reason you’re the No. 1 player in the league, because you’re playing like it. The guy gets it done.”
Manning was famous for his no-huddle offense in Indianapolis and calling plays at the line of scrimmage, and Rodgers is no stranger to that style either. It didn’t take long for Saturday to notice just how similar the two quarterbacks actually are.
“On the field, they both know the entire offense,” Saturday said. “The thing that maybe impressed me the most about Aaron when I first got here is he knows all the offensive line checks, he knows where to put us, why we’re going there. That’s important for a quarterback to know where every piece fits.
“You feel comfortable that as long as we’re on the same page, no matter what the call is, as long as we’re all doing it the same way, we can block it up and he can make plays down the field.
“That was the same way with Peyton. As long as we all knew who was responsible for who, we can move the ball up and down the field. They’re very comparable in that way.”
While Manning’s incredible 14-year career with the Colts ended after months of speculation and eventually a tearful goodbye on his way to the Denver Broncos, Saturday’s 13 years in Indianapolis — which included five Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring — concluded this offseason with much less drama and fanfare.
“Once Manning went down (with a neck injury), the style of offense had to change just to adapt,” Saturday said. “A lot of things changed, and obviously the record changed, and that led to a whole lot of change up front.”
That change included letting the 36-year-old Saturday leave the only franchise he ever played for. But that decision came at a time that was of great benefit to the Packers. With general manager Ted Thompson opting not to re-sign 31-year-old Scott Wells, who had just been named to his first Pro Bowl in 2011, Green Bay was in the market for a center. And no other free agent at that position could have provided the experience that Saturday can.
“Especially as much up-tempo stuff as Indianapolis ran during his time there, it’s going to transition very well to some of the stuff that we’re going to do,” Rodgers said of his new center. “Jeff’s really smart, knows the game really well, his strengths and his limitations, and we’re excited to have him.”
However, this is the first time that Saturday has had to adjust to a new offense and a new team, so it has taken some getting used to.
“I feel a little bit like a rookie,” Saturday said. “I’m in the book a lot more than I’ve ever been, or at least the since the ‘90s. That’s quite a while. It’s fun, too. It kind of refreshes you. You get back in the book, you look at different things and you see how different philosophies pick things up in different ways.”
It’s not as if the Packers were the only team looking for a reliable, proven center in the free-agent market this offseason. In fact, Saturday could have continued his relationship with Manning by signing with the Broncos. Instead, Saturday chose Green Bay.
“I felt like the visit here was a very good visit,” Saturday said. “They have two really, really good guards (T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton), a good offensive line, and obviously Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as anybody in the league. I felt like it was a place I could come in and fit in and be a part.
“Transition-wise for my family, it was the easiest adaptation of all the teams I was looking at. Still got the Midwest, great schools here, easy for my kids to get here and be here as a family. All of those contributed to it being the best place for me.”
At Saturday’s age, he is mostly a temporary solution for the Packers at center. He signed a two-year contract with Green Bay, but Colts owner Jim Irsay indicated on Twitter in late March that Saturday was only interested in playing one more season.
But, at the moment, Saturday isn’t looking at a timeline in which to retire.
“Let’s just keep it going how we’re going,” Saturday said. “We’ll see. I love playing the game. I’m going to keep playing as long as I can, as long as I feel good enough and contributing to teams, that’s what I’ll do. When I can’t anymore, I’ll stop.”