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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Packers want Cornell standout J.C. Tretter to start at center

By on 3/29/2014 05:30:00 PM

The Green Bay Packers have been relatively quiet this off-season, almost watching the free agency period from the sidelines and generally not releasing much news like the rest of the league. One thing they have talked about recently is their offensive lineman, J.C. Tretter, and how they want to give him the first shot for the starting job at center. Tretter was on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list a majority of last year, and now it's his turn to shine.

The Packers let their normal starting center, Evan Dietrich-Smith, go to Tampa Bay for a deal they could have easily afforded (four years, $14.25 million), and the move shows how much faith they have in Tretter, their fourth round pick in the 2013 draft.

The story of Tretter is an interesting one.  A four-year starter at Cornell University, he began his collegiate career as a tight end in 2009 and played for two years as their backup tight end, catching four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.  Tretter also played on special teams in 2009 and 2010, and had four tackles.

As a junior, Tretter moved to the offensive line and was responsible for protecting the quarterback's blind side as a left tackle. He was an instrumental reason for allowing the Big Red to set new Cornell and Ivy League passing records. Tretter was named an All-America third team member by both Beyond Sports College Network and The Sports Network. He was part of a line that allowed the passing game to pile up 3,748 yards in 2012, a mark that ranked third in the FCS.

Tretter started each of his final 20 games as left tackle and was the first offensive lineman to earn All-Ivy League First Team honors since 2005.  He is credited with being the key reason the Big Red nearly cut its sacks allowed in half from 2010 to 2011.

The Packers drafted Tretter 122nd in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, recognizing his athleticism and versatility.  Unfortunately for all parties involved, Tretter broke his leg and ankle in training camp last summer and never saw the field his rookie year.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy still has faith in Tretter:
Mentally, everything that he could possibly do to this standpoint based on the medical situation that he went through, you'd be very pleased with now. He hasn't played a snap in a game, and I get all the concerns and I understand that, but he's another young man that's in there early in the morning every day working out, voluntarily.
Tretter was activated from the PUP list in December, primarily for the lone reason of being able to get valuable practice time with the Packers. He is aware there are high expectations for him this season and those weeks of working at center in practice gave him confidence he can make the move from college tight end and tackle to NFL center.

Even while standing at six-foot-four and weighing 307 pounds, Tretter is the same size as Dietrich-Smith and a few inches taller. He knows almost every aspect of the game, and will undoubtedly be a great asset under quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Tretter would be the fourth center in four years for the Packers, but there doesn't seem to be any concern about the Ivy Leaguer's ability to handle the mental challenges of the job. "Good question," McCarthy said when asked if Tretter might have been the starter last season if he had stayed healthy. "We obviously were very excited about him when we drafted him."

With the Packers faith behind him, Tretter will hopefully be in the league a long time and have a healthy NFL career.

On Twitter: @alewnes7


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