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Mike Vandermause column: Jeff Saturday commands respect every day of the week

Aug. 7, 2012
 
Center Jeff Saturday during training camp practice in July.
Center Jeff Saturday during training camp practice in July. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette

As a 14-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowl player, Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday has earned respect around the National Football League.

But that hasn’t stopped his younger teammates from giving him a hard time in the offensive line meeting room.

“You guys would love to have a hidden camera in that room,” offensive line coach James Campen told members of the media last week.

From his advanced age (37), to his propensity to ask a lot of questions, to his poor technique doing the Lambeau Leap at Family Night, Saturday is constantly getting grief from his line mates.

“Just because Jeff is 38, 39, however old he is, he’s still fair game, too,” said left guard T.J. Lang, who was in fifth grade when Saturday played his first NFL season.

Left tackle Bryan Bulaga, who would have been in fourth grade, adds: “We give him a hard time. Everyone gets on everybody. That’s the type of room we have. Nobody’s safe to get hassled. That’s just the way it is.”

In other words, Saturday is a perfect fit as the replacement for Scott Wells, who departed in free agency.

Don’t worry about Saturday. He can take the ribbing and dishes it right back.

“I am not a serious guy,” said Saturday, who signed with the Packers as an unrestricted free agent in March. “When it comes to football, if you take it too serious, you won’t be very good. I like to cut up and have a good time. I can make fun of myself. I can make fun of other guys, and they’re like that.”

In attempting to learn a new offense after 13 seasons in Indianapolis, Saturday has bombarded the linemen with questions. While pretending to get irritated, they have gained a healthy respect for their grizzled new teammate.

“He came in the first day in meetings back in April and really made it a point to get to know everybody,” said Lang. “I think that shows what kind of leader he is, what kind of guy he is. He likes to make friendships. He’s a very likable guy.”

After spending more than a decade working with Peyton Manning, Saturday said he feels privileged to be snapping the football to Aaron Rodgers. He sees many similarities between the MVP quarterbacks.

“Aaron is an absolute stud,” said Saturday. “I’ve been impressed with his work ethic.

“His knowledge of the entire offense, where the blocking scheme is supposed to be, where the receivers are supposed to be, what the timing is, he knows it all. That was very similar to how Peyton ran it as well. I think both of those guys have those qualities. That’s what makes them winners.”

Saturday said he signed with the Packers to win a Super Bowl.

“Make no bones about it, that’s why I came here,” he said.

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve only got so many (years) left.”

Transitioning to a new team and offense is no small task for a center. From the terminology to the blocking combinations to the practice routine, everything is new.
“It’s definitely different here,” said Saturday. “The amount of time you spend on the field, the amount of time you go through reps is a lot more here than I was used to. In Indy we were on and off the field. It was much quicker, on and off the field type tempo. Here you start earlier, you go through a lot more individual-type work. They work a lot more fundamentals, staying on top of it. It’s the way they won.”

Saturday said he feels good about his transition and believes by the end of training camp he will have the offense down pat.

His teammates agree, at least in their more serious moments.

“He’s been doing this a long time so he knows what he’s doing,” said Sitton.

“It’s been pretty seamless. He’s a great addition to the room. Great guy. Fun to be around.”

Saturday still needs work on his Lambeau Leap, though.

“I didn’t see it,” said Sitton. “I heard about it. I heard it wasn’t great.”

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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