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Packers engaged in no ongoing talks with free-agent center Corey Linsley

GREEN BAY - When Corey Linsley trotted off Lambeau Field after the NFC championship game Sunday, he did so knowing it might be his final time in a Green Bay Packers uniform.

The first-team All-Pro center who is scheduled to enter free agency this spring said Monday no significant talks about re-signing have taken place between him and the team. Linsley, a longtime stalwart in the middle of the Packers' offensive line, is sure to have a market after placing himself on the NFL map with his All-Pro nod this season.

At this late state, it appears increasingly unlikely the Packers will be at the front of that market.

"My agent hasn't really had any talks with the Packers," Linsley said. "That's obviously not to say that something couldn't happen, but up to this point it's kind of been complimentary but nothing of substance. So, you know, we'll move forward with that.

Packers center Corey Linsley (63) provides pass protection while blocking Vikings defensive end Jalyn Holmes (90) during their Nov. 1 game.

"I felt like I personally had a good year. We obviously didn't get the goal that we wanted to, but I felt like I put out some good film, and hopefully a team values that and move into free agency just with that in mind."

Linsley has spent the past seven seasons snapping to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The 2014 fifth-round pick was an immediate starter, making his first appearance in that season's opener at the Seattle Seahawks. He has started each of his 99 career regular-season games, along with four NFC championship game losses.

One of the Packers' roster strengths is depth along their interior offensive line. Elgton Jenkins, a Pro Bowler in his second season, can line up at guard or center. Lucas Patrick started 15 of his 16 games at right guard this season, and rookie Jon Runyan showed promise in his 160 snaps.

None, with the possible exception of Jenkins, could be expected to replicate Linsley's value at center. In a tight marketplace with a diminished salary cap because of COVID-19 restrictions, letting Linsley walk might be the type of difficult call the Packers are forced to make.

It's an outcome Linsley knows is possible, if not likely.

"The relationships that we built," Linsley said, "we'll always keep in contact with people and see them. It might be infrequent. Not as much as it would've been here, but our home is in Ohio anyways. So it was going to happen sooner or later, but we love the people that we've met here, the relationships that we've built. We've been so fortunate to be a part of so many peoples' lives, and them being a part of ours.

"If it doesn't happen, I mean, it stinks. We'll still keep in touch with everybody, we'll still love to see them once in a while and stuff, but guys in the locker room – I'll miss the guys in the locker room for sure, this locker room is a great locker room. Again, if it doesn't happen, the dudes in here are fantastic, the leaders in here are fantastic. Everybody, you can't say enough about them. So that's going to be tough, but other than that, this is a business."

Jones apologizes for fumble

Aaron Jones' frustration after his third-quarter fumble Sunday was evident even before he reached the Packers sideline.

Jones slammed his mouthpiece in disgust as he walked off the field for perhaps the final time in a Packers uniform. He didn't return to the NFC championship game because of a chest injury, taking with him a significant piece of the Packers' offense, but also the chance to atone.

Jones had touched the football 272 times in the 2020 season without losing a fumble. On his 273rd, an underneath catch from Rodgers on third down, Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead knocked the football from Jones.

The Bucs recovered and took over possession inside the Packers' 10-yard line. They scored a touchdown on the next play, putting the Packers in a 28-10 hole that proved to be insurmountable.

That fumble will follow Jones into this offseason as he heads toward free agency. If it came on his final touch ever as a Packer, it would be a regrettable end for a former fifth-round pick who became a star.

When receiver Allen Lazard contacted Jones on Sunday night to make sure he was OK, the fumble was still on Jones' mind.

"Aaron, just being the nature of what he is as a human," Lazard said, "just apologizes. Sorry, saying sorry. I was like, 'Look, you've got to realize we're not playing in this game, we're not in this position, without the efforts that you've had all season long.' So just because someone got hurt or maybe didn't have the best game yesterday, you can't discredit the 17 other games that we've played this year and the efforts that helped this team get to where we are today.

"So I told some other players too that one game, one season, one play doesn't define who you are as a person. That's the most important thing you've got to remember."

Packers bemoan non-call

Cornerback Kevin King’s controversial defensive pass interference penalty called on the Buccaneers’ final possession will stick out in the minds of the Packers when they think back to the NFC championship game. But a non-call, a holding penalty that led to quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ lone interception of the day, will also sour their memory.

In the second quarter with roughly 30 seconds left until halftime, Rodgers took a sack on first down. In need of a big gain with time running out, Rodgers put a ball up deep for wide receiver Allen Lazard at the Packers’ logo midfield.

But cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting picked off Rodgers, putting the ball back in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady. In just 27 seconds, Brady led the Buccaneers' offense down the field in five plays for 50 yards and scored a touchdown to put Tampa Bay up 21-10 at the half.

In the milliseconds leading up to the interception, Murphy-Bunting grabbed on to Lazard’s right sleeve. Murphy-Bunting caught Rodgers’ pass and Lazard tumbled to the ground.

“It doesn't help,” Lazard said when asked how the tug impacted his ability to catch the ball.

Instead of lamenting the non-call, Lazard acknowledged only the actions he could have controlled in the situation.

“I think it was a good play by him,” Lazard said. “I think given the coverage and everything and I think I probably could've run a better route to be in a better position, be able to break up the pass at least.”

The interception changed the momentum heading into halftime when the Buccaneers capitalized on the opportunity and created an 11-point advantage. While the Packers managed to narrow the gap in the second half, the losses sustained in a span of 30 seconds at the end of the first half presented an ultimately insurmountable challenge.

“That was a tough pill to swallow,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “We regrouped at halftime, and we talked about it and said, ‘Hey, man, we can’t let this destroy the second half, too.’ And then for us to come out in the second half and have that play on third down and we get a fumble, and they go down and score on the first play. That’s about as bad of a sequence as you could possibly have had in a critical game, obviously.”

Packers make signings

The Packers announced they’ve signed 10 players to reserve/future contracts. Each spent time on the Packers’ practice squad in 2020.

Those players are linebacker Tipa Galeai, linebacker De'Jon Harris, guard Zack Johnson, tight end Isaac Nauta, defensive lineman Willington Previlon, defensive lineman Anthony Rush, cornerback Stanford Samuels, running back Mike Weber, running back Dexter Williams and punter Ryan Winslow.

Practice squad players become free agents at the end of a team’s season. Futures contracts take effect on the first day of the new league year, which begins on March 17 at 3 p.m. CST. On that day, teams are allowed to expand their rosters to a 90-player maximum.