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Aaron Rodgers wants new center to stick around awhile

Posted May 29, 2014

Packers QB says defense working to be "viewed as equals," receiver might need extra roster spot

GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers doesn’t know if it will be JC Tretter or Corey Linsley snapping him the ball when the 2014 season begins, but he’s hoping whoever wins the job becomes his center for the long haul.

“Hopefully, we can get a guy who can stick for five or six years,” Rodgers said at his locker following Thursday’s OTA practice, for which Tretter worked as the center with the No. 1 offensive line. “As a quarterback, you appreciate when you can have some continuity there and some consistency.”

Rodgers has worked well with all of them, but he’s as cognizant as anyone that this year’s center will be his fourth in four seasons since the Super Bowl XLV triumph. Following Scott Wells in 2011 and Jeff Saturday in 2012, it was thought Evan Dietrich-Smith in 2013 might be the long-term answer, but he signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay this offseason.

That leaves the Packers with Tretter, a fourth-round pick from Cornell last season, and Linsley, a fifth-rounder from Ohio State this year, as the top candidates.

Like many of Green Bay’s offensive linemen, Tretter is a converted tackle, while Linsley played center his final two seasons in college. Tretter lost almost his entire rookie season to a leg injury, but getting on the practice field for the final month last year helped immensely with his transition.

“I feel comfortable,” Tretter said. “Obviously there’s still a lot of room to grow, and I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface of the potential I have at the position. I don’t feel out of place. I don’t feel like it’s new to me. It feels natural.”

Rodgers called both Tretter and Linsley “smart guys” and noted the eventual starter will have the benefit of playing between veteran guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang to speed up the learning curve.

Tretter appreciates that, but at the same time he doesn’t want to have to lean too much on those around him. That’s one reason Tretter was around the facility practically every day during the offseason.

He knew before any potential free-agent signing or the drafting of Linsley that he needed to maximize the advantage of already being here, and he made Lambeau Field his “second home.”

“You don’t want to be the guy that’s lagging behind,” Tretter said. “They want to be able to get up to the line and do their job. They don’t want to have to think for you. You want to be able to call out the plays before they have to.

“I’m surrounded by people who have been here a long time and know this offense, but I want to be right with them. That’s the center’s job, to know this offense through and through and be able to make all the calls before anybody else.”

He added that his rapport with Rodgers is growing, but it’s still in its infancy.

“Nothing is going to be decided there or figured out as far as a rhythm until we get on the field and in pads in training camp, especially,” Rodgers said.

That’s when the new centers will be tested daily by what Rodgers called a “primed and ready” defense. Excited about the addition of Julius Peppers and the continued growth of young players like Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde, Rodgers didn’t make any bold proclamations but suggested the defense is tired of being viewed as this team’s inferior unit.

“I think our defense is taking it on the chin a little bit in the media maybe this offseason, and I think they’re excited about the opportunity to be viewed as equals to the offense with the praise that we get from time to time,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to be fun to watch them come together. There’s some exciting young talent and some guys with a lot to prove.”

The quarterback sees the same thing in his new-look receiving corps that added three new draft picks behind the top returning trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin. Only two of those selections – Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis – were at Thursday’s practice, as Davante Adams attended a players’ union rookie event along with defensive lineman Khyri Thornton.

In addition, 2013 seventh-round pick Kevin Dorsey was back on the practice field after spending his entire rookie season on injured reserve, while Rodgers pointed out the improvements he’s seen already in Myles White and Chris Harper, two who played bit parts last season but have received little to no mention since the draft-day bonanza.

“There’s going to be a lot of competition and I would think some strong consideration about keeping an extra guy there as opposed to years past,” Rodgers said.

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