This was supposed to be JC Tretter's year.
The Green Bay Packers' 2013 fourth-round pick spent the offseason being groomed as the team's new starting center despite missing all of his rookie season with a broken ankle.
However, his young career hit another snag when he suffered an impaction fracture of his knee in the Packers' third preseason game against Oakland. The injury landed him on the temporary injured reserve list, ruling him out for the first half of his sophomore campaign.
Tretter isn't eligible to be activated until a Nov. 9 matchup with the Chicago Bears, but practiced for the first time since suffering the injury. Players designated to return before Week 1 are allowed a two-week practice period before being brought back onto the roster.
Since his injury, rookie Corey Linsley has stepped flawlessly into the starting lineup, raising questions if Tretter will be returning to a starting role.
"I don't know," Tretter said. "I can't get my starting job back for at least the next three weeks, so I'm not really worrying about it or thinking about it. I'm just going out there and playing football again. I'm just enjoying practicing again."
Tretter said he's been able to run for the last couple weeks, but wouldn't speculate if he would have been able to return any earlier than the eight-week minimum for players designated to return later in the season.
He didn't appear to be too limited in Wednesday's practice. Although he looked a bit leaner, Tretter said he might be a little heavier than he was at the start of the season.
If Linsley holds onto the center job, Tretter offers the Packers a lot of versatility as a reserve lineman. He started two seasons for Cornell at left tackle and also worked at the guard spots since being drafted by the Packers.
Tretter is concentrated on playing center, but open to wherever the team wants to position him.
"I've always been a team player and whatever the coaches want from you, that's what this job is, I've just been focused on working hard and getting back and being healthy," Tretter said. "Right now, there's really no need to worry about it. There's still three weeks until any decision needs to be made about anything. So right now it's just working hard, making sure everything stays healthy and then in three weeks we'll worry about what we have to worry about."
In the short term, Tretter's focus is set on getting healthy again. He was looking forward to his first day back in pads on Thursday.
As for all the injuries, Tretter is optimistic it's all in the past and he finally can start his NFL career.
"It would be nice," laughed Tretter. "It's just careers go different ways and there's been a few bumps in mine. You just have to stay focused in what you can do and move forward and move past it and just keep grinding away."
Defensive lineman Datone Jones (ankle), inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore (neck) and receiver Jarrett Boykin (groin) all returned to practice in a limited capacity. Packers coach Mike McCarthy classified the injury Lattimore sustained in the first half of Sunday's 27-24 win over Miami as a stinger.
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