The Green Bay Packers have not finalized any playing-time decisions for Thursday's preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, but based upon comments coming from those within the organization on Monday, getting work for new starting center Corey Linsley with quarterback Aaron Rodgers does not appear to be a priority.
The rationalization is that Linsley has done enough in a practice environment to be ready.
"You have so many reps," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "We're doing a very good job, better than ever as far as the classroom environment and the teaching resources that have improved since last year. So with that being said, the mental part of it, he'll be able to sharpen his blade there.
"But to go out there and just totally over-do reps because you've got one player that's going to start, I'm not going to do that because if I have to do that, then he's not the right guy. Corey will be ready to play, and he's getting ready to play against Kansas City."
After previous starter J.C. Tretter injured his knee in the team's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders this past Thursday, the Packers have necessarily had to turn to their fifth round draft choice.
Tretter's injury looks to linger for a few weeks into the regular season, meaning the Packers aren't getting Linsley ready just to a play for a meaningless preseason game. The Ohio State product is going to be thrown into the fire for the all-important regular-season opener at the Seattle Seahawks and several more games after that.
Despite the high-stakes environment Linsely will be experiencing at Century Link Field in Seattle, the Packers insist the rookie has been—and will continue to get—plenty of work with Rodgers.
"We've done a lot in the walk-throughs, and we've done a lot in the pre-practice stuff with Corey taking reps for J.C. throughout training camp, so we've taken snaps before," said Rodgers. "We've done simulated noise with him. Obviously it's different when you go into a situation like Seattle with the advantage they have with the stadium configuration and the fan support, getting that thing pumping with noise the way they do.
"It'll be tough, but it'll be tough if it was J.C. or Corey. We expect to be ready. J.C. was like a rookie. He really didn't play last year at all, so either way, the first start for Corey is going to be a tough environment, but we expect him to play well."
One advantage the Packers possess is that Linsley will be surrounded by experienced players not only behind him but also to his immediate left and right.
"The luxury of being center in this offense is you're playing with myself—I've been in this offense for 10 years now—and you'll be playing with two of the smartest guards, most athletic, talented guys in the league in Josh and T.J.," said Rodgers. "Those guys are going to help him out with his calls and make sure the tempo is set the right way, and I'll help out with the protection, and he's going to be ready to play."
If there's one more reason the Packers feel good about Linsley's preparation, it's that he's been playing center for years.
Whereas the Packers have been converting college left tackles to play center like last year's starter, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Linsley has experience manning the pivot position on the offensive line in front of huge crowds in the Big Ten such as the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry game and in postseason games such as Orange Bowl.
"He knows how to play football," said Rodgers. "He's a strong kid who has good lateral movement as well and we think he's going to play very well."
Linsley may or may not be snapping to either Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien on Thursday at Lambeau Field, but if there's any worry he may not be working on exchanges with Rodgers, it's not coming from within 1265 Lombardi Ave.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email email@example.com.
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