GREEN BAY—The competition for the starting center job for the Packers just got a new entrant.
Green Bay drafted Ohio State center Corey Linsley in the fifth round on Saturday with the 161st overall pick, and he’ll immediately be thrown into the mix with JC Tretter, a fourth-round pick last year, and practice-squad holdover Garth Gerhart.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Packers Offensive Line Coach James Campen said. “It’s going to be very competitive. They all know that in the room.”
A first-team All-Big 10 pick last season, Linsley started all of Ohio State’s games at center over the last two seasons after converting from a reserve guard/tackle.
For Linsley, it was more than just a position change. Suspended for two games in 2011, Linsley said he got his off-the-field life in order as well, as he battled to win the starting center job for the Buckeyes in 2012.
“I put my foot in the ground and started to make myself a better person, and it translated onto the football field,” Linsley said. “I was a different person when I played guard. Different work ethic, different character, just totally different. The transition was not only on the field but also in my life. It was all a change for the better.”
Incredibly strong, Linsley has reportedly bench-pressed 500 pounds and he put up 36 reps at 225 at the scouting combine, one of the higher totals among offensive linemen.
“I grew up in the weight room,” Linsley said. “That’s where I first learned about football, in the Boardman (Ohio) High School weight room. I always took pride in the level of strength I played with. It’s always been one of my fortes.”
He also spent much of his youth as a Packers fan, dressing up as Brett Favre for Halloween once and owning a cheesehead. Getting drafted by the Packers is a dream come true for him, and it just so happens he could have a chance to start right away.
Tretter would have to be the favorite on paper, having spent a year learning the system even though most of his rookie season was lost to injury. Campen said the practice time Tretter got late last year after he came off the physically unable to perform list was invaluable, and he has hit the ground running in the offseason program so far this spring.
Guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, as well as tackle Don Barclay, also are capable of playing center if needed, but barring an injury or something unforeseen, it’s a good bet Tretter and Linsley will be allowed to battle it out.
Whoever wins would become the fourth different center for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the last four years, and while that type of turnover isn’t ideal, Campen wasn’t sounding alarm bells and he’s confident the veterans stationed around the center position will make it all work.
“Everyone would like to have some stability there but, in reality, everyone comes in and learns the system,” he said. “We have two very good guards who are very smart, and obviously a very smart quarterback. The progression of learning is accelerated when you have smart people around you.”
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