Linsley Likely to Remain Center of Attention

Coach Mike McCarthy hints that rookie center Corey Linsley, assuming he keeps improving, will remain in the starting lineup even after J.C. Tretter is healthy and ready to go. (John Konstantaras/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t flat-out say Corey Linsley will remain the starting center once J.C. Tretter is healthy, but it would be a major surprise if a change is made.

“I will say this,” McCarthy said on Friday, “if things keep going the way they’re going, I think we’ll look back on this start as probably one of the most impressive situations that a young player has stepped up and performed in my time here – and we’ve had a lot of guys step up.”

Tretter, who sustained a significant knee injury in the third preseason game that landed him on the short-term injured list, is eligible to begin practicing next week and, by rule, could play after the bye against the Bears on Nov. 9. However, Linsley – a fifth-round pick from Ohio State – has exceeded the outside expectations with his play after not taking a single rep with the first-team offense in the preseason.

The key word is “outside” expectations. The internal expectations were much higher.

“I think when you get into forecasting and projecting and hypotheticals, you’re obviously open to error,” McCarthy said. “But I’ll say this: I think from a confidence standpoint in Corey, no one ever wavered because of what you were able to see him do every day in training camp. He’s one of those guys as a rookie that came in here and you knew right away he belonged. First day of pads, it was like, ‘Hey, man, this guy, he’s a powerful young man. So, he fit right in. That’s why I was never worried about him. Mentally, he’s very sharp, very detailed, played in a big-time program, so he had a lot of things going for him.”

All along, Linsley said he never considered himself a fill-in. He also assumed nothing would be handed to him. His goal was to take the bull by the horns by preparing as hard as possible and playing as well as possible to help the team win games.

“I looked at it like I’ve got a game to win,” he said. “I’ve got to do my job to win the game. Anybody who looks at it as the season, as a 16-week stretch, I don’t think (is) a very good player, doesn’t have a very good mind-set. It’s a week-by-week thing, so you can’t look ahead to the future. You’re just going to kill yourself with anxiety and stuff. That’s always how I looked at it.”

Unlike Tretter, who was a small-school (Cornell) left tackle, Linsley came to Green Bay with solid credentials. He was a two-year starting center and all-conference performer at Ohio State. So, that Linsley has put himself in this position shouldn’t be any big surprise.

In five games, Linsley has allowed no sacks and been flagged twice (both for holding), according to STATS. In ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-protection metric, Linsley ranks 23rd among centers with no sacks, no quarterback hits and six hurries for a total of six pressures allowed. That’s better than the man he ultimately replaced, Evan Dietrich-Smith, who has allowed one sack, one hit and five hurries for a total of seven pressures. In PFF’s overall grade, Linsley is 10th while Dietrich-Smith is 31st.

“It’s not necessarily a surprise for me, but I had no idea if I was going to be …” Linsley said, cutting himself off. “I knew what my talents were, I knew what my strengths were, and I didn’t know if it was going to good enough because I hadn’t played in an NFL game. So it was just, constantly prove to yourself that you can do it. It’s not really a matter of surprise, it’s just proving to yourself.”

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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Fishing Green Bay with retired Packer Bryce Paup


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