GREEN BAY — Now that the Green Bay Packers have entered the win-or-go-home portion of their season, players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents might realize that each week could be their last as a member of the organization.
Among those players is center JC Tretter, now in his fourth year with the Packers. Tretter began the year as the starter while Corey Linsley remained on the PUP list with a hamstring injury. But when Tretter suffered an injury of his own against the Atlanta Falcons, the idea of playing his last game with the Packers came with different parameters.
A healthy Linsley took over in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts and has held the job ever since, even as Tretter returned to full health this week after a lengthy recovery from significant MCL damage in his knee. Barring injury, Tretter might not see the field outside of special teams for the remainder of the season, which means his last snap from scrimmage for the Packers could have already come and gone.
“It was a rough shot to the leg,” said Tretter, who was hit on the side of the knee in the closing moments of the loss to the Falcons. “It’s one of those things like — obviously I would have loved to get back and would have loved to miss no time, but you look at it and I think when I came in here after I did my (MRI) scan), I don’t think anybody thought I was going to be playing again this year. The video looked really bad, so I think we all thought I was done for a while.
“Obviously I would have loved to be back sooner but it’s one of the things where I think I was lucky in the end just to have it be what it was. And obviously it was a nasty, nasty little knee injury. But I’m back now and it feels good, so you’ve got to look at it on the positive sign.
Though his best position is center, Tretter’s versatility and athleticism should make him a valuable commodity on the free agent market if the Packers don’t extend his contract prior to March. He spends practice rotating through all five positions on the offensive line, and there's little doubt his spot duty at left tackle during last year's playoffs caught the attention of scouts around the league.
Even with the injury Tretter can still earn a lot of money if he hits the open market.
“It’s similar to how it was two years ago and last year a little bit where during practice different people are dinged up and stuff and you have to take reps different places,” Tretter said. “So I have bounced around to all five, just as it used to be kind of getting used to it all. And it’s good for me just because it tests my knee and puts me in a different position so you get more comfortable with the knee as you go through the whole process.”
Due to the knee injury, Tretter was a limited participant in the days leading up to last week’s win over the Detroit Lions. This week, though, his status has improved and he made it through Wednesday and Thursday's sessions unimpeded. It appears Tretter would be available against the New York Giants if needed.
Which begs the question of where Tretter may be deployed if one of the starting linemen goes down Sunday afternoon or beyond. It’s possible coach Mike McCarthy and his staff view Tretter as the No. 2 option at guard and left tackle after the success he had against Washington in the playoffs.
In the mean time, Tretter hopes the Packers keep rolling while he waits for a chance to play.
“When things are going well, I don’t want to talk about next year or anything like that,” Tretter said. “And obviously that’s easy because things are going well and you don’t need to think about anything. Then I try to keep the same mentality no matter how things are going.
“If things are going worse obviously it’s tougher to kind of keep your eyes looking to the immediate future and not months away, but I’ve worked on just keeping that same outlook of focusing on each week and getting back and being ready to go and not really focusing on too far into the future.
He added: “You see what this team has accomplished this year and kind of how close we are to reaching the goal we set out at the beginning of training camp, the beginning of OTAs. So at this point in this season you just want to do whatever you can to help the team. Now it’s all about these next four games and doing whatever you can to help us reach the goal we’ve been working toward for months now.”