GREEN BAY - Two years ago, a rookie Corey Linsley won the Green Bay Packers starting center job in his first training camp after JC Tretter, the expected starter, tore his meniscus.
It's the NFL's version of Darwinism. Injured players fall to the backdrop, out of mind. Two years ago, Tretter was placed on the injured reserve with a designation to return after Week 8. Linsley became the new starter.
Now, their roles have reversed.
Linsley, a two-year starter, remains on the physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury. He has missed the entire offseason program, and two preseason games. Tretter has not only been healthy, but he's impressed coach Mike McCarthy enough to make a bold proclamation Monday morning.
"It’s important to recognize what’s going on each and every day," McCarthy said. "JC Tretter has had an excellent camp. I think I’ve answered that question repeatedly and JC, in my view, has earned the starting position at center. Availability is a big part of what you look for in your players.
"It’s unfortunate what Corey is going through and continuing to battle to get back out there. But there’s been a lot of time that’s gone by since he’s been out there. I think JC has done an excellent job."
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Linsley started the first 26 games of his career and played well in the center of the Packers offensive line, but has been plagued with injuries since.
An ankle injury at the Minnesota Vikings late last December forced him to miss the Packers next game against the Chicago Bears. He aggravated the ankle injury against the Detroit Lions in December, knocking him out of the next two games against the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders.
With Tretter's promotion, the Packers now have four starting offensive linemen scheduled to become free agents after this season. Linsley is midway through his four-year, rookie contract.
Tretter has served as a versatile backup for two seasons. While center is the position he was drafted in the fourth round to play with the Packers — he started all three games Linsley missed last season — he has filled in at guard and even left tackle. When the Packers were out of options during last season's NFC wild-card game at Washington, Tretter protected Aaron Rodgers' blindside admirably.
Now, he'll be snapping the football to Rodgers. Back at the same position he once thought was his.