Performance, not health, appears to be the reason why the Green Bay Packers are making a change at center.
Jeff Saturday confirmed Friday that he was being benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith, and it's not because of injuries to his neck and shoulder that has kept the 37-year-old out of practice for most of this week.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said during his Friday press conference that Saturday would be ready to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but that Dietrich-Smith would probably start. In the locker room, Saturday confirmed the decision was a benching, or as he put it, "a passing of the torch."
Saturday, signed this offseason to a two-year, $7.75 million deal, had started all 14 games for the Packers. But his performance as the anchor of the offensive line was questioned all season, and with two games left, McCarthy decided to pull the trigger.
According to Pro Football Focus, Saturday graded out as the No. 30 overall center through 15 weeks. He allowed three sacks, one quarterback hit and five hurries, but his run-blocking grade was the worst in the NFL.
Saturday was limited during Friday's practice after missing both Wednesday and Thursday. In Week 14, Saturday was limited with foot injuries. When asked if the move was injury-related, Saturday said he didn't think so.
Dietrich-Smith, 27, started four games at left guard this season. He struggled mightily in his first start at Detroit, but played progressively better over the final three.
Saturday is scheduled to make $1.35 million in base salary in 2013, with a $1.4 million roster bonus and $1 million in weekly bonuses.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.