EDS Relishes Chance To Change Subject

While he could do without the media mob that has swarmed his locker of late, Evan Dietrich-Smith is looking forward to making his first NFL start on Sunday against the Giants. Never mind the stomp - he played well against young guns Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

Evan Dietrich-Smith has been a member of the Green Bay Packers for most of the last three seasons. He's never talked to as many reporters as he's seen at his locker room the past few days.

On Thursday at Detroit, he was swarmed for getting stomped by Ndamukong Suh. On Wednesday, he was swarmed again – partially because of Suh's two-game suspension and partially because he'll be the starting right guard on Sunday against the Giants, with coach Mike McCarthy having ruled Josh Sitton out.

To be sure, Dietrich-Smith is relishing the opportunity to make his first professional start – with another one or more possible, depending on how quickly Sitton can recover. He could do without the attention, though.

"It's not really cool to be famous for getting stepped on, but it doesn't really matter to me," he said. "I'd prefer I just take every day the same and if you guys want to make the story about me one day, that's cool, but I'm not going to sit here and hog your guys' time."

Dietrich-Smith fared well against the Lions on Thursday, coming off the bench to play 43 snaps to face Suh and this year's No. 1 pick, Nick Fairley. That's about as many snaps as he'd played in his entire career, with 35 off the bench in three games as an undrafted rookie out of Idaho State in 2009 and nine against Denver and Minnesota earlier this season, according to play counts kept by ProFootballFocus.com.

"I thought he was real competitive in there," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said on Friday. "I thought he did a real good job, played physical, kept his pads down, showed some good blocking at the second level. He got up to the second level a couple times and really stuck on their ‘backers. I thought he really competed hard. I was pleased. He obviously did some things that need to be corrected, but he was aggressive and he played fast. That was the one thing we were the most pleased with. He wasn't hesitant. We didn't sit around and go, "Oh, me, oh, my, we have to change this, we can't do this.' That's probably the best tribute we can give to him."

With much of his typical weekly duties centered on playing on the scout team and running the opponent's offense, the full week of preparation should work to his advantage.

"Getting thrown in, the worst part is if something happens in the late third quarter, early fourth, you're not really warm and you're trying to stay warm the whole time, you're standing there for a couple hours," Dietrich Smith said. "I always remember in college, coming right off of warm ups and just going right out there and getting after it, that always helps because your body doesn't get time to shut down on you. If that's the case, it's definitely going to work in my advantage."

With Dietrich-Smith in the lineup, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be working behind two raw starters, with Marshall Newhouse having played half the season at left tackle in place of Chad Clifton. If Clifton opened the season as the team's most valuable blocker, Sitton entered the season as its best – he was voted the NFL's top lineman by NFL Alumni after last season.

"Very comfortable. Very comfortable," Rodgers said of working behind Dietrich-Smith. "I think he's done a good job. I challenged him in training camp to step his play up. He's a guy who was cut by us last year in training camp, and he kind of bounced around a little bit, was out of work, came back at the end of last season, showed a lot of improvement. A lot of confidence in him, his ability, his upper-body strength, his smarts. Center's his primary position, so he sees the game as a center does. He's great about the calls and I think he's going to step up and do well."

Dietrich-Smith thought he performed better on running plays than passing plays against the Lions. He'll need to tighten that up against a Giants defensive line that rushes the passer about as well as any unit in the league. On Monday, Dietrich-Smith watched the Giants-Saints game while texting back-and-forth with Sitton.

"That's a Pro Bowl-caliber player and you're not going to sit there and tell him his advice is useless or something," Dietrich-Smith said. "He knows what he's doing out there and he does it at a high level. When he tells you to look for something, you take that advice. Same thing with Scott (Wells) and all the rest of these guys. You notice some stuff on the film by yourself, but watching film together and just being together in the meetings is way more helpful because we work as a group up there in the front and it's a lot more helpful than just sitting down and watching it by ourselves sometimes."

Dietrich-Smith was beaten out by Nick McDonald for the final spot on the offensive line in training camp last summer. He was claimed on waivers by Seattle but lasted there for only a month. When Newhouse went on injured reserve late in the season, the Packers brought back Dietrich-Smith with a deal through the 2012 season, so he was part of the team's Super Bowl run. This year, he beat out McDonald and veteran Jason Spitz and is the team's primary backup for the interior positions.

"I just felt it was an accomplishment to make the team," he said. "This is a great organization. I'm sure a lot of players would die to play on this team. You get these opportunities, you've got to take full advantage of them. So, I think the accomplishment is just being a part of this team and the history we've been making is more important to me than getting out there and getting in. You get the opportunities, you've got to make the most of them, that's obvious, but the road we've been on so far this year has been enough in itself. Just to get the opportunity to go out there and help the team succeed further is a big accomplishment, as well."

And now, with the Packers facing perhaps their biggest remaining challenge to an undefeated regular season, Dietrich-Smith is getting ready for his ultimate moment.

"If you're not nervous, then you obviously don't care about your job and don't feel a little something," he said. "You just want to get out there and do your job. Most of the time after the first couple plays, that stuff goes away. You may be a little bit juiced and you may be moving a little bit faster than you want and things are flying around a little, but you eventually settle down and everything starts working out real well. If that's the case, I'm just going to go out there and have a good time. It's what we get paid to do and it's what we love. We wouldn't be doing this if we really didn't care about it."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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