Plenty Has Changed During Tretter’s Absence

J.C. Tretter, who would have been the starting center, returns after opening season on short-term IR. "It's not exactly ideal," he said of his career path. (John Konstantaras/Getty Images)

Nothing less than the personal fortunes of J.C. Tretter have changed since he last put on his helmet about a month-and-a-half ago.

With a speedy upswing in his play throughout training camp and the preseason this summer, Tretter not only was the Green Bay Packers’ starting center but he had a chance to earn that position over the long haul to stop the Packers’ revolving door at the position.

Instead, he sustained a significant leg injury in the third preseason game and wound up being placed on the NFL’s short-term injured list. During his absence, it’s been rookie Corey Linsley who has staked claim to the position – not only for now but, potentially, the long haul.

Linsley returned on Wednesday – the first day in which the designated-for-return injury rules allowed him to practice.

“It’s not exactly ideal,” he said. “You have to take you lumps, re-adjust your mind and move forward and focus on getting back as soon as you can. Obviously, not great.”

Tretter said he’s been running for the last couple of weeks, with Wednesday’s practice being his target for returning. Without any setbacks, Tretter hit that goal and is focused on getting ready to play rather than any remaining hurdles.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any challenges,” Tretter said. “I feel good and it’s just getting back and just try some football again, getting back to doing the same things I was doing six, seven, eight weeks ago and just getting back into the flow of things.”

It’s the second consecutive year that Tretter, a fourth-round pick in 2013, has been sidelined with a major injury. He missed most of his rookie season with an injury sustained to his other leg during a fumble-recovery drill in organized team activities, finally returning late in the season to at least shake off some of the rust on the practice field.

“It would be nice (to play),” he said, “but, nah, it’s just careers go different ways and there’s been a few bumps in mine. You just have to stay focused in what you can do and move forward and move past it and just keep grinding away. That’s really all you can do. You can’t get down on yourself, you stay positive as much as you can and just keep working.”

While Linsley is now, relatively speaking, a grizzled veteran, nobody really knows what Tretter can do and what his future entails. Of the 23 regular-season and playoff games that the Packers have played during his career, he’s been in street clothes for all of them. Since he won’t be eligible to play for the next two games, that streak will reach at least 25. Other than the three preseason games this season, Tretter hasn’t played in a game since battling Ivy League competition at Cornell in 2012.

“I trust him 100 percent,” offensive line coach James Campen said last week. “There’s no question. No question I trust him. The way he developed – I mean, he never had his hand on the ball until last year, when we activated him, he had like, what, three or four practices in pads. He’s a good football player.”

At the time, Campen said he hadn’t given much thought to how he’d work Tretter upon his return. At Cornell, Tretter started at left tackle for his final two seasons. During the Packers’ rookie camp following the 2013 draft, he played right tackle. Potentially, he could develop into the Packers’ utilityman, but that might be asking a lot of a player who’s missed so much time and hasn’t had any work at a position other than center since 2012.

“If this was Madden, yes. Unfortunately, you can’t just click a button and be able to play a different position,” he said. “Obviously, I need to rep it and practice it. I don’t know, it’s been awhile since I played tackle, it’s been awhile since I played guard, so obviously we’d have to work a bunch of new things, I couldn’t really give you an answer.”

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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