For the first time in his 11-year tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson didn’t draft an offensive lineman.
That makes Pittsburgh’s Matt Rotheram the key offseason addition to a superb unit.
Rotheram, who had a predraft visit with the Packers, started 40 career games. He has the kind of versatility the Packers — and most teams — covet, as he started at right tackle as a sophomore and right guard as a junior and senior.
Moreover, he knows how to learn an offensive scheme. A revolving door of head coaches started with Dave Wannstedt’s final year in 2010 and included Todd Graham in 2011, Paul Chryst in 2002 through 2014 and a pair of interim coaches, as well.
That’s a lot of systems and techniques to master in a short period. It was a pain in the butt at the time but should pay dividends now as his attempt to make the Packers’ roster begins with the rookie orientation camp that starts on Friday.
“Yeah, it got pretty old after the third time,” Rotheram said. “That will be one of my advantages coming to an NFL team. I’ve had to learn multiple offenses and pick them up quick at a few points in my career. So, I don’t think coming into an NFL team will be a big adjustment for me. It takes a little bit of learning and I’ll pick it up quickly.”
Despite his experience and back-to-back seasons on the all-conference team — he was second-team all-ACC as a senior — Rotheram (6-5, 325) was not picked for the Scouting Combine.
“I was really surprised about it,” he said. “I trained preparing to be in Indianapolis but didn’t get the opportunity, but I’m sure there’s a lot of guys who were on the fringe who didn’t get an invite. Plenty of those guys end up making it and having long careers. It was disappointing but I’ve made the most of it.”
That put the pressure on him to produce at Pitt’s pro day. For the Scouting Combine participants, pro days are the equivalent of a mulligan. Don’t do as well as you want in the 40 or the bench press at the Combine? Do it again at pro day.
Rotheram didn’t have that luxury. In a one-and-done chance to impress scouts with his athleticism, he delivered.
“I think one thing that people always say about me is they don’t think I’m a great athlete,” he said. “People think I’m a pretty good technician, I’ve played a lot of football, I’m smart, tough, but I think one thing people would say about me is I don’t have the athleticism to have a longtime career in the NFL. I think looking at my numbers from pro day, especially my short-range speed, my 5-10-5 (20-yard shuttle), my vertical jump, my broad jump, those numbers say something a little different than what people have been saying about me. So there was some pressure to prove that but I was confident and I’d trained for it.”
Rotheram took two predraft visits, including one to Green Bay, and was a busy man with seven workouts. That meant a lot of frequent-flier miles as he trekked from his home in Cleveland back to Pittsburgh, since the private workouts must be conducted on a player’s campus.
“Playing at the University of Pittsburgh, you get a lot of exposure to the Steelers, so I’ve always been around professional football,” he said. “We share a lot of our facilities with them. It was interesting to be able to see a different NFL team. I thought everything was great about the Packers. Lambeau Field is incredible. Their facilities were great. I really felt great about Green Bay.”
So good that he picked the Packers despite inquiries from more than 15 teams after the draft. J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor, Garth Gerhart, Don Barclay (injured reserve) and Josh Walker (practice squad) are returning players who have interior experience that Rotheram will be battling for a spot on the 53-man roster.
“They’re getting a smart, tough dependable football player,” he said. “I’m going to be very versatile. I’ll play center, I’ll play guard, probably tackle in emergency situations. I think I’ll be able to fill in there and, with some time in the NFL, I’ll develop into a starter. With a little bit of time to pick up the system and to get adjusted to the speed, I think I can become a starter.”
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