Linsley’s Focus on Eagles, Not Accolades

Center Corey Linsley has had such a strong season that Aaron Rodgers says the rookie deserves Pro Bowl consideration. "Every week, he develops and does something else better than he did before," offensive line coach James Campen said. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Aaron Rodgers has delivered some tough love to rookie center Corey Linsley during a couple of games this season.

He delivered some football love during his radio show on Tuesday by saying Linsley deserves Pro Bowl consideration.

“I feel very honored that he would say something like that, but there’s seven weeks left to play,” Linsley said on Wednesday. “A guy like him, he’s been through this 10 years now, for him to say that, that’s awesome. For me to even think about that, I’ve got to put that in the back of my mind or whatever because we’ve got seven weeks left to play. I’ve got seven weeks left to prove myself. I feel very honored that he would say that, but I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep working.”

Linsley, who was thrown into the fire when J.C. Tretter was injured in the third preseason game, has gone from the great unknown to as much of a sure thing as any player who’s made nine career starts. For what it’s worth, Linsley is the third-ranked center in the league by ProFootballFocus.com. He hasn’t allowed a sack, by PFF’s grading, and has been penalized only twice. He’s played by far better than any of the other five rookie centers who are starting, and he’s outplayed Evan Dietrich-Smith, the veteran that Rodgers hoped would be retained in free agency.

“It surprised me because I didn’t get to work with him at all in the preseason,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “He’s a talented guy. He understands our offense really well. He’s strong, athletic. He’s got all the tools to play center. I think his calm demeanor has surprised me as much as anything. You know Corey and talking to him in the locker room, he’s a real bright guy. Out of the media’s eyes, he’s kind of a jokester and a prankster. He fits really well with our offense, especially the line, with the personalities we’ve got in there. I think the center has to have that disposition that he has. He’s laid back but he’s also very focused and determined to be the best player he can be. I’m really proud of him, the way he’s played, and I think it deserves more attention. The respect that he’s getting from the guys that he’s blocking, I think, speaks for itself.”

Offensive line coach James Campen, who’s far too busy to be studying other teams’ centers, wouldn’t weigh in on Linsley’s Pro Bowl credentials. However, he’s obviously pleased with the fifth-round pick from Ohio State who wasted no time in seizing control of the position.

“I’ll say this, every week he develops and does something else better than he did before,” Campen said on Thursday. “That’s the most important thing right now is his growth amongst everyone else in that room. Just growing and continue to grow. That can be said, too, for a guy like Josh (Sitton), who’s been there. As long as you keep growing and developing and increasing your awareness and just becoming a pro — study habits and things you do when you’re away from here, taking care of your body, doing the stuff when you’re here. When players are growing like that, they get more confident and good things are said about you. Certainly, from your peers, that carries a lot of weight.”

From Campen’s perspective, he never was concerned about the game being too big for Linsley. After all, he played in front of more than 100,000 fans in games at Ohio State. Rather, he was interested to see how Linsley would handle his business. Would he be good, or would he be just good enough?

“Like any first-time player, can he go out there and block a nose by himself? Can he take a guy one-on-one?” Campen said. “Can you handle exotic pressure looks and not freeze or question yourself? He’s done a good job with that.”

Linsley’s next challenge will come on Sunday against Philadelphia. Under coordinator Bill Davis, the Eagles blitz more than most teams. If Davis follows that track record, Linsley will face a major mental test.

“Their ability to run a lot of ‘fancy’ stuff and execute it really well (is impressive),” Linsley said. “Sometimes, you see teams that try to run the smoke-and-mirrors show, and they end up with three guys in the same gap. These guys are obviously very well coached and they execute it very well.”

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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