Several locker stalls to Lane Taylor’s right, T.J. Lang held court.
A couple stalls away, David Bakhtiari talked to a reporter.
Just in front of and to the right of Taylor, it was Bryan Bulaga who was surrounded by microphone- and camera-wielding reporters.
The offensive linemen were being bombarded with questions about the Green Bay Packers’ shocking decision to release their linemate, Josh Sitton. Taylor, the man with the unenviable challenge of replacing Sitton, sat alone at his locker.
It was the calm before the storm.
“I’m sure no one really expected it but it’s just part of the business and it happened and we have to move forward,” Taylor said before the storm of reporters arrived.
Compared to talking with Sitton, they'd leave disappointed a few minutes later.
Sitton could be insightful. He could be comedic. Or he could be surly.
It all depended on the day.
By contrast, Taylor is Mr. Calm. It’s a trait that should serve him well when the Packers open the season at Jacksonville on Sunday.
Told that coach Mike McCarthy has “all the confidence in the world” in him, Taylor said matter-of-factly: “I’ve prepared a lot. I’ve put in a lot of hours, a lot of time, taken a lot of reps. I’m going to look forward to the opportunity.”
Reminded of how he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and had to fight just to make the roster before getting this opportunity, Taylor said: “I’m not going to try to make it bigger than it actually is. Once you make the team, you’re competing, you’re getting better each and every week to put yourself in a position to go out there and play.”
Taylor started two games last season. What did that mean for his confidence, Taylor said: “Last year was good to get the experience I got in my two starts. It was good to get in there in an actual game during the season and get that experience and knowledge and to really help your game move forward.”
Asked if he takes the organization’s decision to release Sitton and insert him into the lineup as a vote of confidence, Taylor said: “I’m just going to prepare and go out there and not think about everything else or what other people think. I’m going to prepare my best to go out there and play at the best of my ability.”
So Taylor lacks Sitton’s charisma. More importantly, he lacks his experience.
Before Taylor started two games last season, he was a healthy inactive nine times. In fact, for the first 11 games, Taylor didn’t play a single snap. Not at guard. Not even on special teams.
“It was definitely a unique situation being inactive pretty much all the way up until whatever week that was. But I stayed the course, stayed focus all year, so whenever my number was called last year, I was ready.”
Right guard T.J. Lang was among those shocked by his good friend’s release. When they talked on Saturday, Lang thought Sitton was joking. After all, Sitton had joked about getting cut before. This time, it was no joke.
And it’s no joke the shoes that Taylor has to fill. Sitton’s a two-time All-Pro. Taylor is a two-game starter.
“Lane’s played a lot of football,” Lang said. “Got a couple of starts last year and did a solid job, so I don’t think anybody’s worried about him going out there and doing his job. I don’t think that’s where any of the sadness or shock comes from. Lane’s a solid player. It’s just more losing a veteran guy who’s been around for a long time. We’re confident in Lane. He’s had a good preseason, he’s had a great camp and he showed last year when he was asked to play that he’s capable of handling the duty. He’s got some big shoes to fill, I think he understand that, but I think he’ll be ready.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.