GREEN BAY—There are two ways to look at Don Barclay. He’s either a man without a position, or a man with multiple positions.
The first description refers to Barclay’s status within the Packers’ current starting group on the offensive line. The second refers to the added value Barclay could provide the unit in 2014.
With Bryan Bulaga’s return from a knee injury, Barclay worked behind Bulaga during the offseason at right tackle. A third-year pro from West Virginia with 21 starts (including playoffs) at right tackle under his belt, Barclay has stepped aside for now in favor of the former first-round pick. He’s no longer a “starter,” even though his level of play is viewed as such by Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who has said so various times.
In the meantime, though, Barclay also got plenty of offseason work at left guard, and he took a fair number of starter snaps there when Josh Sitton rested during OTAs and minicamp. McCarthy says Barclay has the ability to play all five spots up front, if needed.
So, while any player would love to have a spot to call his own, Barclay is making the best of a tough situation. All he can do is not give up right tackle without a fight, while making himself as versatile as possible in the trenches.
“It will all play out,” Barclay said during the recent minicamp, unconcerned about where he best fits at the moment. “Right now, I’m just trying to help the team out wherever they put me.”
Barclay explained that during OTAs, he did individual drills with position coach James Campen as both a right tackle and left guard to keep sharp at both places, and then stepped in wherever he was asked to during 11-on-11 work. In practices open to reporters, Barclay was most often seen as either the right tackle with the No. 2 line, or the left guard on the No. 1 group if Sitton was out.
Switching back and forth didn’t bother him, and working so much at left guard took him back to training camp in 2012, when he made the team as an undrafted rookie playing mostly left guard in the preseason games. He had made that transition rather smoothly after playing predominantly left tackle in college.
When the 2012 regular season began, however, Barclay began taking practice reps at right tackle, and that was a more difficult change. Lo and behold, the team ended up needing him to start at right tackle for the final month of his rookie year. As he more than held his own in less-than-ideal circumstances, the Packers found out a lot about the 6-4, 305-pounder.
“Coach Campen helped me out, and I relied on my quickness and athletic ability and just put my mind to it every day that I would get better at it,” Barclay said. “These guys (teammates) helped me out a lot.
“But no, it wasn’t easy at all.”
Neither is his current situation, given his experience, the progress he’s made and the success he’s enjoyed. But the quiet, low-key Barclay is handling it as his personality dictates.
The lack of noise shouldn’t be confused with a lack of fire, however. He’ll make sure Bulaga earns the starting right tackle job if he’s going to take it away from him, and wherever and whenever he may inserted into the lineup, Barclay will be ready.
Battling through what he did as a rookie and then starting all but two games in 2013 has given Barclay confidence that he’s got plenty of football ahead of him, one way or another.
“It’s all good,” he said. “If I can play two different positions, it will work out and help me out in the end.”