GREEN BAY—The first test was even harder than expected, but JC Tretter still passed it with flying colors.
The Packers’ new starting center not only made his NFL debut at an unfamiliar position – Tretter was a tackle at Cornell – but he had torrential rains to deal with on his first in-game snaps, and he played the entire first half on Saturday night in Tennessee virtually without incident.
“To go out and handle the football the way he did in his first start I think is huge,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said after Monday’s closed practice at Ray Nitschke Field. “It’s something he personally will have a lot of confidence from, and I know it gives me more confidence to see him play the way he did, especially in that environment.”
Tretter did his share of work run-blocking as James Starks carried six times for 49 yards on the Packers’ opening touchdown drive. A stronger reflection of his acumen for the position was the ability to heighten his focus while snapping a wet ball, yet not get distracted or overwhelmed at the point of attack.
“The ball is the most important thing, so you make sure you secure the snap every play, and then you go from there and get your assignments down,” Tretter said, rather matter-of-factly. “If it’s going to happen, you might as well just get it out of the way and get your first day like that. It will be a memorable one. It was probably the worst rain game I’ve ever played in.”
Elsewhere on the offensive line, McCarthy praised the work of backup tackle Derek Sherrod, calling the preseason opener “the best he’s played since he’s been here.” Sherrod got plenty of snaps at both left and right tackle and is on his way to getting game-ready should he be needed.
Monday’s practice saw additions to the injury list, as receivers Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Davante Adams (wrist) sat out. McCarthy said Nelson is day-to-day, while Adams told reporters the same about himself.
Adams injured the wrist while trying to recover his second muffed punt in the game, but he played on and didn’t come out until later.
Their absences will create more opportunities this week for the receivers further down the depth chart, but several didn’t take advantage on Monday in a practice littered with drops. Rookie seventh-round pick Jeff Janis made the plays that came his way, though, including a tough leaping catch over cornerback Casey Hayward along the sideline.
Janis, who didn’t play in Tennessee after missing the first week of camp, said he’s still working on getting his wind back and is hoping he’ll get his first game action on Saturday in St. Louis.
“He’s raw. He needs the work, but he’s a big, athletic receiver that has excellent body control,” McCarthy said, adding that the competition for the final roster spots at receiver “clearly will come down to the end.”
Safety Morgan Burnett returned to practice on Monday after missing Saturday’s game with an oblique strain, but other players missing practice were defensive lineman Josh Boyd (rib) and two undrafted rookies, running back Rajion Neal (knee) and linebacker Joe Thomas (knee). McCarthy said neither knee injury is considered long-term.
The injuries are tough breaks for Neal and Thomas, two players McCarthy mentioned as “jumping out” for their performance in the game. Neal had five carries for 39 yards, including a 12-yard TD, while Thomas made a tackle on kickoff coverage.
No. 3 quarterback Scott Tolzien played with faster tempo and was “decisive,” according to McCarthy, which the head coach was hoping to see. Other standouts McCarthy noted were third-string center Garth Gerhart, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker Sam Barrington.
Clinton-Dix rebounded from a missed tackle with strong run support and an impressive pass break-up deep down the middle, while Barrington is moving past some rookie hesitancy that held him back last season before an injury sidelined him.
“I thought he was thinking too much,” McCarthy said of Barrington last year. “He has that big-hit ability. I just think he’s letting it go now and he’s a lot more comfortable.”