Rookie offensive lineman Andrew Datko was given an opportunity on Wednesday not often afforded to seventh-round draft choices.
Datko reportedly got playing time with the first-string offense at the Green Bay Packers’ organized team activity (OTA) this week.
Not that Datko isn’t deserving, but the stars had to align properly for the Florida State product to get such a chance.
With head coach Mike McCarthy intent on keeping Bryan Bulaga at right tackle this offseason, that was one competitor out of the way.
Then after practicing the week before, presumed starter Marshall Newhouse sat out of Wednesday’s session. McCarthy refuses to delve into injuries during voluntary OTAs, but didn’t seem overly concerned about the status of Newhouse.
“We don’t do injury reports, but he’s here,” said McCarthy. “He’s here working and working out in the weight room and in meetings.”
Last year’s first-round draft choice Derek Sherrod, meanwhile, hasn’t taken part in any of the team’s offseason program after breaking his leg late last season, and his future with the team in 2012 hinges on his recovery.
That left veteran journeyman Herb Taylor as the de facto starter at left tackle during Wednesday’s practice, but Datko also received the opportunity to protect Aaron Rodgers’ backside on a rotational basis.
Expecting Datko to win the starter’s job might be unrealistic, at least in his rookie season, but he couldn’t have been given a better break so early in his first professional season.
On one hand, Datko could have the talent to surprise, earn a job on the 53-man roster and earn playing time down the road. On the other hand, he must overcome the shoulder injuries that have plagued him since his high school days and become a consistent player.
A pair of observations from CBS Sports Rapid Reports correspondent James Carlton at practice this week regarding Datko were illuminating and also typified the ups and downs of a rookie finding his way through his the rigors of the NFL.
Andrew Datko just crushed his man in O-line blocking drills, eliciting a loud crunch from the blocking pad and hoots from his teammates.
— Packers RapidReports (@CBSSportsNFLGB) May 30, 2012
RT @CBSSportsNFLGB: overheard Campen tell Andrew Datko, “That college bullsh** ain’t gonna work in the NFL. You gotta get those hands up”
— Brian Carriveau (@BrianCarriveau) May 30, 2012
No one expects Datko to be perfect early in his career. He can only soak up the instruction and improve each and every day.
It’s up to him to take advantage of the situation he finds himself in, and if he does, it’s possible the Packers could reap the rewards of hitting on a late-round draft pick.
The more versatile Datko can be, the better. And it only helps that the Packers have had success selecting college tackles and turning them into NFL guards.
“When you break down college film, I think it’s obvious that the athletic ability required to play tackle is something that we’re attracted to,” said McCarthy on Wednesday. “The ability to come into our system, to our program and have the ability to go tackle and move to guard, we’ve done that continuously in my time here.”
For right now, it appears Datko is focusing on left tackle. But when the Packers only keep seven or eight offensive linemen active on game day, it’s imperative all of them play more than one position.
So long as Datko acts upon the coaching he gets, he’ll be in a good position to contribute to the Packers.