GREEN BAY – College football coaches often talk about the fringe benefit of their teams making postseason bowl games being the additional practice time for young players.
That might be the kind of experience the Green Bay Packers are hoping to give rookie offensive lineman JC Tretter, the fourth-round pick from Cornell who suffered a broken ankle in the first organized team activity practice in May and started practicing Wednesday while remaining on the physically unable to perform list.
While tackle Derek Sherrod has been moved from the PUP list to the 53-man roster, defensive end Jerel Worthy (knee) and safety Sean Richardson (neck) are practicing in hopes of being activated as well. Tretter, though, may have missed too much time to contribute this season and may just be getting much-needed practice time. That’s what happened with Sherrod last year, as the team opened his PUP practice window for three weeks but never moved him to the 53-man roster.
“Absolutely there is (value). For the player, it’s really big for them,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Now, this kid’s smart. He can go and recite the playbook for you. But then applying it in a short period of time and hearing the calls and doing the things, that’s as much of a benefit as the physical moving forward.
“Certainly moving forward to OTAs and minicamps (next year), it’s good. Remember, Derek did it last year too.”
Campen clarified that he doesn’t know if Tretter will be activated at the end of his three-week practice window. But even if he isn’t, he likes what he’s seen through two days – despite not practicing in pads either day.
“We haven’t had a padded practice, which tells you quite a bit. But he looked good moving around and he did all the drills the rest of the kids did,” Campen said. “It’s not like he hasn’t been doing any football movements within his rehab with the trainers. He’s coming out of his stance and doing all those little things and taking tackle-guard-center sets.
“The next step is going against someone, where someone’s jerking you and you have to redirect and fight his movements. That’s really where you find out.”
Tretter, who worked at tackle and guard during the rookie orientation camp, admitted he’s not getting his hopes up for anything more than a medical redshirt-style rookie season in the NFL. That said, having had what he called a timeline with “a lot of flexibility to it,” he’s just happy to be back on the field.
“We just said, ‘It’s going to be a long, long journey and we’re not going to rush you back.’ There was never really a date put on it,” Tretter said. “I think I’m on the early (end). I think I’ve healed up a little faster than they expected, which is obviously good.
“You miss playing football. You miss being out there with your teammates, your brothers. To get back out there, to slide that helmet on, it’s a great feeling. I enjoyed it. Obviously, was limited in what I could do and what I did but just going through drills again, it felt great. You miss it. It just feels good to be out there.”
Tretter underwent surgery to insert a screw into his ankle after the injury and then was able to stop wearing an orthopedic boot in early September while still on crutches. He then had screw removed and began his rehab in earnest.
“It will [have been] like 367 days since I last put the pads on. So, I’m looking forward to that,” Tretter said Wednesday, thinking Thursday’s practice would be in pads. “Obviously, you have to work through some rust and get back comfortable with all the movements that were second nature to you six months ago. But it’ll come back quick. When they’re second nature to you, it’s just like riding a bike. You’ll struggle for balance then it’ll snap right back to you.”
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