Linemen on the move

Center Scott Wells returned to the lineup on Wednesday night, causing a shakeup at the guard positions.

Another day, another position for Jason Spitz.

Another year, another mid-training camp battle for starting positions on the offensive line.

Center Scott Wells returned to practice on Wednesday night after being out for more than a week with a strained abdominal. With Wells back, all five starters from the first practice of training camp were on the field, but considerable shuffling has been done in the interim.

While Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher remain entrenched as the starting tackles and Wells was the No. 1 center on Wednesday, rookie fourth-round pick Josh Sitton was the No. 1 right guard — Spitz's spot at the start of camp. Spitz opened Wednesday's practice as the starting left guard, where Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre had been battling.

Coach Mike McCarthy signaled the mixing and matching might not be complete, with Sitton, Spitz, Wells, Colledge and Barbre in contention for the three interior positions.

"It's really, you've got five guys competing for three positions in there," McCarthy said. "We're going to try to keep Sitton at right guard, like to keep Allen at left guard, and the other three obviously have flexibility."

Spitz, who filled in at center in Wells' absence, is working with the starters at this third position during camp. At one moment, he joked about his moving around — playing the left side is "opposite of the right" — and at another moment, he seemed a little frustrated.

"All of us are doing it. We've been doing it every year for the last three years. It's what we're used to," Spitz said. "I think you guys make a bigger deal out of it than it is. It's just part of the rotation, it's part of what we go through."

Wells took the presumed challenge to his job in stride. He's started 37 of his last 38 regular-season games, and sounded confident he'd keep his job once the dust settled.

"That doesn't really concern me," Wells said. "I know they're looking to put the best five offensive linemen out on the field. I'm comfortable with whoever they put out there."

Asked if he's one of the Packers' five best linemen, Wells said: "I think so. As far as I know. I feel like I should and I feel like I'm capable of it."

McCarthy sounded as if Spitz likely would have a starting job, too. McCarthy called Spitz his "most consistent" lineman last season.

"It's just really trying to find the right combination," McCarthy said of the shuffling. "It's competition. That's really all it is."

The Packers are reluctant to move the rookie Sitton off of the right side and second-year player Barbre off of the left, and Wells has only played center in Green Bay. So, Spitz, Sitton and perhaps Colledge are the contenders at right guard, Spitz and Wells are the contenders at center and Colledge, Spitz and Barbre are fighting at left guard.

"All I can control is how I play," said Spitz, who has started 25 of his career 28 regular-season games. "They decide what the personnel is, where they play at. ... It's part of football. It's an ever-changing game. It's part of what we do."

Asked if he expected to stay on the left side, Spitz said: "I don't know. Ask the coaches."

After spending most of his first two seasons and all of this offseason at right guard, Spitz has to get comfortable with the footwork on the left side.

"Wherever I get stuck at is where I'm comfortable," he said. "You've got to make it work. Injuries are going to happen. We have a bunch of versatile guys."

While Wells sounded supremely confident he'd be one of the five starters on opening day, Spitz sounded not quite so certain when asked the same question.

"I can't control who the starting five are," he said. "The only thing I can control is how I play. If I come out and play my game and do what I'm asked to do, hopefully I'm in the lineup."

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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