GREEN BAY – Since Aaron Rodgers took over the quarterback position for the Packers, there’s been very little controversy about who should be going under center for Green Bay. Who’s snapping Rodgers the ball though has been a much bigger question. The Packers have had three starting centers in the past three seasons, Scott Well, Jeff Saturday, and Evan Dietrich-Smith. That list will add another name on opening day this season. Rodgers understands why it happens but that doesn’t make life any easier for him. “It is a challenge. You’d like to play with one guy for an extended period of time.” After rattling through the names of departed linemen Rodgers went on to say, we’ve got to get one of these young guys ready and hopefully we can get a guy to stick for 5 or 6 years. I think as a quarterback you really appreciate when you can have some continuity and consistency when you have the same guy there for multiple years.”
The young guys in question are 2014 fifth round pick Corey Linsley of Ohio State and second year trigger man JC Tretter. Tretter suffered an ankle injury during the 2013 rookie camp. The injury cost him most of the season and even after he was able to return to the practice field, he remained inactive on game day. Mike McCarthy shed some light on the type of work ethic Tretter has shown while trying to make up for lost time on the field. “I think he’s been here every single day since the season ended. I don’t think there’s been a day that I’ve walked through the locker room February all the way through that he hasn’t been here. I think that’s really shown as he’s jumped in there. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen from him.”
Tretter confirmed that other than a trip to help his former Cornell quarterback prepare for the NFL combine, he’s been around Lambeau Field. He said the time was spent working with the strength and conditioning staff, lifting weights, studying, taking advantage of the facilities. Now that his teammates are back for OTAs though the type of opportunity presenting itself has shifted. “Early on this off-season is really about making the most of the opportunities and honing in on the fundamentals and getting all of the mental reps you can,”Tretter said. He’s maintained the work ethic he displayed this off-season. “It’s a constant grind. Even when you go home you’ve got to have your i-pad out, having something in front of you so you can always be studying. If you study for an hour and you pick up one thing you didn’t know that’s a success.”
That kind of incremental success is important for a player who’s also still learning a new position. Tretter played mostly tackle in college. He said he feels comfortable in the middle though now. “Obviously there’s a lot of room to grow. I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface of the potential of what I have at the position. I don’t feel out of place. I don’t feel like it’s new to me it’s. You’re out there you’re taking your steps and it just feels natural.”
Tretter is bright enough to own an Ivy League degree but he’s also not alone in his journey to become the starting center. He has tutors on either side of him on the offensive line according to Aaron Rodgers. “Anybody who plays that spot has the luxury of playing next to two of the smartest guys on our football team in TJ and Josh,” Rodgers said.
Tretter is thankful to have players to learn from but doesn’t want to have to rely on other players in the heat of the moment. “You don’t want to be the one who’s lagging behind. They want to be able to just go up to the line and do their job,” Tretter said, referring to T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. Obviously I’m surrounded by guys who’ve been here for 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 anyone else has to,” Tretter said.
In addition to learning the offense, Tretter needs to build an innate understanding of what Aaron Rodgers wants from his center.
“You’ve got to get a report going and that’s coming and you’ve got to feel each other out and Aaron will say I want it a little more like this, turn the snap a little more, it’s just little stuff like that. You just try to grow together and it’s a relationship, he center, quarterback relationship. You’ve got to have one and I think we’re growing into it.”
Rodgers agreed that the duo have to be in sync in every aspect. “It’s about getting on the same page as protection stuff, how I like the snap in the shotgun, how I like the rhythm of our offense,” Rodgers said.
And there’s no room to look at Rodgers as one of the league’s brightest stars. Rodgers needs to just be number twelve in Tretter’s eyes. “He’s the quarterback. He’s your teammate. You don’t look at him like the famous Aaron Rodgers. He’s your dude, he’s who you go to battle with, so that’s all it is.”