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Dietrich-Smith delivers as center of attention

Dec 24, 2012 -- 6:00am
 
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Coach Mike McCarthy made the call to bench veteran Jeff Saturday this week.
 

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers knew there was some risk involved with coach Mike McCarthy’s benching of veteran center Jeff Saturday in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

But Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, wasn’t worried.

“That wasn't part of my job this week so I didn't do any risk assessment,” Rodgers said after Dietrich-Smith was part of an offensive line that paved the way for 117 rushing yards and four touchdown runs while also allowing Rodgers to be sacked only once. “We have a lot of confidence in Evan, as was evident by the switch. Just the feel that I had out there is he played pretty good. He’s a tough competitor, he’s smart, he’s been around the system for a while. I think he’ll have a bright future for us.”

While McCarthy said he “really didn't get a chance to watch Evan personally” during the game, he felt Dietrich-Smith handled the various logistics and responsibilities at center well. His fellow linemen, put in the uncomfortable position of assessing how the new guy did while holding the old guy in high regard, treaded lightly.

“I don’t know if I want to say anything to disrespect either one of those guys. But I thought Evan played well today,” left guard T.J. Lang said. “Jeff, he’s the type of guy from the first day he stepped in this building, you knew he was a class-act guy. He’s never going to say anything bad about anybody. I thought the whole way he handled that situation, I don’t think he could’ve done it any better.

“Even all of us (linemen) were a bit shocked. We thought he was just getting over some injuries and they wanted to rest him. And the story broke that he got benched. I don’t think any of us knew how to take that. The way I’m feeling right now, I think Evan played pretty good. It’s the decision the coaches made, and obviously had great production today. There’s always things to improve on, but he did a nice job of stepping in.

“I’m not sure what happened. It’s not really my area to speak on. Coaches made the decision, and Evan did a good job.”

Saturday was the only Packers player to suit up for the game and not play. But he was still involved, helping Dietrich-Smith any way he could on the sideline.

“I have nothing but respect for Jeff. Jeff’s been a class act his whole career. The guy exudes what a professional football player is. To be able to be behind him and learn from him, it’s a big thing and it’s a big help for young guys,” Dietrich-Smith said.

“Me and Aaron, we’ve been practicing together for a while. The communication has been there. It’s just one of those things that I’ve got to make sure I’m on my game because he’s going to be out there on his. They always expect a certain level of play when you get out there and you start stepping in with the first team. So that was basically the only thing I really had to get out there and do.”

Rodgers was pleased with the way Dietrich-Smith handled the up-tempo no-huddle offense as well as his quick thinking on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, when the Packers lined up quickly when Rodgers saw Jennings was uncovered.

“I thought Evan did a good job. I’ve probably been one of his biggest supporters since he got here. I’m proud of him in the way he’s developed,” Rodgers said. “I’m not going to be grading him but I would guess he did a really good job.”

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