Rookie Center Corey Linsley Hasn't Earned Anything Yet

Linsley was relegated to second-string status at the team's rookie minicamp on Friday despite being the only offensive lineman the Packers drafted.

There's a hierarchy of players at an NFL rookie minicamp, which began Friday in Green Bay.

First there's the draft picks: the players with the most potential, the cream of the crop. Then there's the undrafted free agents: guys who display potential but all have their share of warts. Finally, there's the tryout players: the longshots and the diamonds in the rough.

New Packers center Corey Linsley might have been the only offensive lineman the team selected during the recently completed NFL Draft, more highly rated than any other at the team's rookie camp, but he's beginning to learn that you start from Ground Zero when you enter an professional football locker room for the first time.

Don't get him wrong, he's honored to be in Green Bay, but he knows that he has to work his way up if he's going to have any chance of receiving some meaningful playing time.

"It was amazing," said Linsley of the experience. "Just growing up a Packers fan, it's an amazing feeling to be putting on the helmet. I haven't earned anything yet, so just to put it on was nice. But I actually have to earn it and make the roster to actually call myself a Packer and consider myself a teammate of these guys, so I've got a long way to go."

Because the two days of rookie minicamp in Green Bay includes a limited pool of first-year players, the team and league allows a handful of inexperienced veterans to take part, more or less to field an entire offense and defense.

One of those inexperienced veterans is center Garth Gerhart, who's been on and off the team's practice squad ever since the end of the 2012 season but has never played a regular season game.

But because he's the veteran, knows the ropes and knows the offense, it was Gerhart—and not Linsley—reportedly lining up as the first-string center on a makeshift offensive line during the minicamp on Friday.

As the most highly-rated of the 10 offensive lineman suiting up, Linley could look at his second-string status as a slap in the face, but instead, he's taking a positive outlook and doing the only thing he knows how to do.

"Just by going 100 percent," said Linsley. "You can only do as good as you are, and you've prepared yourself up to this point. Just go 100 percent, give it your all every play, and you have to have good understanding of the playbook to do that, otherwise you're going to be slow and timid, so I'm fortunate to have guys like Garth Gerhart here that has shown me the ropes a little bit."

All this isn't to say Gerhart is stuck on second-tier status forever and ever in Green Bay.

Through hard work and dedication, he can make a leap up the depth chart in very short order. But nothing was going to be handed to him the first day he donned a Packers uniform.

Even a glowing reveiw from the Packers head coach offers little consolation to the harsh reality that relegation to backup duty offers.

Asked to give his first impression of Linsley, McCarthy said, "A little bigger than I thought he was. Frankly, that was a good thing. Powerful young man. You can see the strength that he plays with in college, and that's evident in just the short time he's been here. He has good command. I like his personality. You've got to have that, and he's off to a good start."

It's those qualities McCarthy mentioned that gives Linsely a fighting chance.

There's no rookie on the offensive side of the football with perhaps an easier route and straighter shot to the starting lineup than Linsley.

After last year's starter, Evan Dietrich-Smith, left in free agency to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the center position is wide open in Green Bay.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be on his fourth exchange partner in the past four seasons in 2014, and that may not be an ideal situation, but he's going to have to deal with it.

Last year's fourth round draft choice J.C. Tretter may get first crack at the job, and Gerhart will have a chance too, but by no means are they locks for the gig. Linsley has as good a chance as anyone to come away with the starter's designation.

Linsley is fully aware that center might be the most unsettled position on the roster, but he's not going to let that overwhelm him, especially on the first day of practice.

"I think everybody knows about the opportunity there," said Linsley. "I can't beat myself about worry over, 'Oh, am I doing well enough to play?' You've just got to go out there and play like you have nothing to lose. And that's the way I feel like I can play."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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The TKstinator's picture

May 27, 2014 at 06:42 am

Except a pretty reasonable per diem.

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