Packers rookie center headed into noisy Seattle

September 3, 2014

 
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY Mike McCarthy's scouting report was brief. In fact, it wasn't really a scouting report at all. It was just a statement.

"Corey Linsley is our starting center," the Green Bay Packers coach said. "So, obviously, we feel good about where is."

That McCarthy didn't feel the need to give his rookie fifth-round pick a public vote of confidence before his NFL regular-season debut was telling, given what Linsley is up against.

He is starting in place of injured JC Tretter without having had a single snap with quarterback Aaron Rodgers in preseason play. He will be playing in the loudest stadium in the NFL, CenturyLink Field. He is facing the defending Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks, who had the NFL's best defense a season ago. And he will do it on national television, in the NFL Kickoff game.

But given his quiet, do-the-job approach, the feeling among Linsley's teammates is that he won't be fazed by any of it.

"He doesn't seem to get rattled. Mentally, he's sharp. He's not a real fired up guy, he's not a real hyper guy. He's just kind of a calm, collected guy. Nothing seems to really get to him," said No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn, who spent much of the preseason working with Linsley, including Thursday's preseason finale when they started together. "That's been impressive, the way he's been able to just jump in.

"(The coaches told him), 'All right, you're the starter,' so he just quietly walked up there and started taking reps. He's been impressive. JC was a big loss. We all felt comfortable with him. But Corey has done a great job."

Linsley is so cool about his new gig that he was even able to crack a well-delivered joke to reporters around his locker earlier this week. As he faced a series of questions about the oft-discussed noise in Seattle, he named Nebraska and Wisconsin as the two places where the crowds were the most challenging during his college career at Ohio State. Then, he zinged the school's biggest rival.

"Michigan is quiet, really quiet. Probably the quietest stadium in the Big Ten," he said to laughter.

It won't be quiet on Thursday night, and it'll be Linsley's job to get to the line of scrimmage quickly and make the initial declarations based on what he sees from the Seattle defense.

"It's all about the preparation and the week leading up to it. It's week-by-week no matter what level of football you're in," Linsley said. "You can't go back and say, 'That's what we did against Wisconsin last year.' It isn't going to work at Green Bay. So it's all about the preparation.

"(The primary job is) just getting everybody on the same page as quickly as possible. If everybody knows where the starting point is and they don't like the starting point, they can adjust it from there."

The Packers plan to use their no-huddle offense extensively against Seattle, having spent the offseason and training camp working on it. But during the preseason finale against Kansas City with Linsley at center, they ran by unofficial count only three snaps of no-huddle with Linsley on the field. Not only will Rodgers not have had a single in-game snap with Linsley before, but they will never have operated in the no-huddle together, either.

"Corey's a smart guy. He's played a lot of center in his time and he's going to be expected to play well. So we expect him to be able to keep up," Rodgers said. "I've said it a lot, but he's got two incredible guards on both sides of him who are going to help him out with the calls and make sure that he's ready. But Corey is going to study hard, he's very well-coached and he's going to be ready to go."

 

Associated Press