GREEN BAY – The competition for the Green Bay Packers’ starting center job is on.
The plan, for now, is to let youngsters JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart and rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley battle to take over as the starter in the wake of Evan Dietrich-Smith’s free-agent departure, but offensive line coach James Campen would not rule out veteran players – like guards T.J. Lang or Josh Sitton or tackle Don Barclay shifting to center if necessary.
“You never know what happens,” Campen said after Linsley was taken with the 161st overall pick in the NFL Draft Saturday. “But we have other guys that have played. Obviously T.J. has been in there. Josh has snapped balls for us, Donnie Barclay has snapped balls for us. Those things will be decided moving forward, but if you really looked at it right now, you have three guys that are centers, that are going to play center and they’re going to battle it out.”
Linsley was the sixth true center taken during the draft, after Weston Richburg of Colorado State (second round, No 43); Marcus Martin of USC (third, No. 70); Travis Swanson of Arkansas (third, No. 76); Bryan Stork of Florida State (fourth, No. 105); and Russell Bodine of North Carolina (fourth, No. 111).
Whoever ends up with the job will give the Packers their fourth different opening-day starter in four years, with Scott Wells having started the 2011 opener, Jeff Saturday the 2012 opener and Dietrich-Smith last year. Tretter suffered a broken ankle during the first organized team activity practice last May, opened the season on the physically unable to perform list and did not suit up for a game once he was activated to the 53-man roster at the end of the year.
“Yeah, everyone would like to have some stability there,” Campen said. “But in reality, everyone comes in and learns the system. There are two very good guards that are very smart and obviously a very smart quarterback (in Aaron Rodgers), so the progression of learning is accelerated when you have smart people around him.
“Certainly you'd like to have the same center and quarterback. Who wouldn't (want them) on the same wavelength? But I'll say this, you look at the short time that Aaron and JC have been together now and they're flowing very well. … So I don't think that's a problem."
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