It’s funny how things work out in life. Corey Linsley’s at the center of that oddity.
In 2014, J.C. Tretter had won the starting job at center but injured a knee in the third preseason game. Linsley, a rookie fifth-round pick, stepped in, started all 16 games and was named to the all-rookie team.
In 2016, Tretter replaced an injured Linsley and started the first seven games. Tretter, however, injured a knee late in Sunday’s loss at Atlanta. With impeccable timing, Linsley is ready, willing and able after opening the season on the physically unable to perform list due to a torn hamstring that kept him out for most of the offseason program and all of training camp. While he’s still on the PUP list, he will be activated at some point this week and will start Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.
“And they’re all in unfortunate circumstances,” Linsley said on Wednesday of the injuries to himself and Tretter. “We’re both very hard-working people. I have a great respect for him and I know he has a great respect for me, as well. That’s why I stood in two years ago and performed well, and he slid in during his time and performed well, as well. That’s a testament to not only us but this franchise for getting people ready and the next man stepping up. Look at the wide receivers. All those guys stepping up and three guys scored their first regular-season touchdown. That’s just what we’re about.”
Linsley is starting his third week of practice. The first week was abbreviated, with the Packers going from a Sunday game against Dallas to a Thursday game against Chicago. Linsley had a heavier workload last week, including a padded practice on Thursday. He’ll be in pads again this Thursday to knock the final bits of rust off his game.
“I felt good last week,” Linsley said. “It’s really a testament to everybody around me who’s helped me through this process. It did feel good. There were a couple plays that I got off-balance or whatever but we’re working through it. The best part about it is, we work so hard in practice that it really does prepare you for the game. We call them Workload Thursdays, and that’s for a reason. Tomorrow will be a great day to continue the progression and getting in tiptop football shape.”
Coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday morning said Linsley had been doing extra work to get ready. At the time, that was simply to provide depth on the team’s most reliable position group. Now, that extra work is going to come in handy as he jumps right into the starting lineup after not playing since the playoff loss to Arizona.
McCarthy lauded Linsley’s work ethic and level of conditioning. While there’s no substitute for game reps, Linsley think he’ll be ready to go from that perspective.
“I don’t feel out of shape in practice,” he said before cracking a joke: “Watch in the game, I’ll be throwing up on the sideline.”
With 29 career starts and a brief career filled with high-caliber performances, the Packers are fortunate to have a proven commodity stepping in on a roster filled with injuries.
“I’m not worried about Corey,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
It helps that Linsley has been around the team throughout the injury, so he’s been in the meetings and studying film and taking notes. Rodgers helped hasten Linsley’s re-acclimation into the offense at Wednesday’s practice.
“He did an excellent job today of running through everything – the different cadences, the different adjustments that we have,” Linsley said. “Everything that he can possibly throw at me, he threw at me. I’m thankful for that. I think that helped me out a lot today.”
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.