Rodgers taking wait-and-see approach to O-line

The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Aaron Rodgers is willing to give head coach Mike McCarthy's super-sized transformation some more time.

A season removed from being taken down to the ground with football still in hand several times more than his high number of touchdown passes, Rodgers isn't in a rush to have the pass-protection woes shored up by an overhauled offensive line.

"I think it's going to take a little bit, but by the end of the preseason we have to be ready to go and those guys have to feel comfortable, and I think they will be," Rodgers said.

With just one padded practice so far in training camp, it's too soon to know whether McCarthy will be branded a genius for changing out the starters at all but one of the five offensive line positions or taken to task for making such a bold move only to have it further endanger the irreplaceable Rodgers.

Veteran receiver James Jones, for one, is withholding judgment for the here and now.

"We'll know when the game comes," he said, pointing to the start of the preseason slate Aug. 9 and the season-opening contest at San Francisco on Sept. 8. "The coaches are going to put the players in the best position that they think is going to help our team win, and that's obviously one thing they think is going to help us on the O-line.

"They've all been good with it," added Jones, referring to the shuffled linemen. "They all have taken on the challenge to get better and get better at their position. They know we have to protect Aaron, so they're all open for it."

Two and a half months after McCarthy announced the abrupt changes -- moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga and Pro Bowl right guard Josh Sitton to the left side and the corresponding duo of Marshall Newhouse and T.J. Lang to the right side -- the indoctrination is far from finished. The growing pains will be evident the first part of camp, possibly longer, even with established players now charged with protecting Rodgers' blind side.

"There's still adjustments. I don't feel 100 percent (prepared) over there yet," Sitton said Saturday. "It's going to take time. There's a lot of different things you have to work on. It's not just, oh just being over there for a month (in the spring workouts) and getting a feel for it. There's a lot of different things that we do with footwork, handwork, hand placement, different plays (each day), and you're just not trying to think of one thing for the day and try to work on that until I can get comfortable with that one thing and keep on moving down the list.

"I don't know, but I would think a couple weeks of being in pads and stuff and then we'll probably be where we need to be," added Sitton, speaking on the transition phase for him and Bulaga. "We get a lot of work in the offseason, the OTAs ... but it's really about the pads and the live bullets flying at you is when you see how you're going to really do. That's what we do, we play games in pads. I think that'll really be the start of it. And, I think it'll take maybe a week or two into training camp to be feeling close to 100 percent over there."

Of less certainty is what becomes of the position occupied by Bulaga most of the last three seasons.

The displaced Newhouse, who was a primary culprit in Rodgers' career-high and NFL-worst 51 sacks last regular season, is the starting right tackle at the outset of camp. Yet, the fourth-year player's hold on it could be tenuous.

Don Barclay is getting work with the 1s as well at right tackle, where the rugged prospect filled in as an undrafted rookie for an injured Bulaga the final six games (including the playoffs) last season.

Barclay also has been getting first-string reps at center, where incumbent Evan Dietrich-Smith may not be immune as well to all the changes McCarthy already has made across the line.

"We think Don Barclay's a heck of a football player, and he's earned the opportunity to compete for starting positions on our football team," said McCarthy, with an emphasis on the plural "positions."

"With Evan there, I feel like he established himself at the end of the year, but we want to make sure we are creating competition," McCarthy added.

Until he takes his next sack, Rodgers is encouraged by what is unfolding in front of him.

"I feel good about it, I really do," he said. "I think Bryan is really feeling comfortable at left tackle. Other than center, for me, it's my most important position there. So, he needs to feel comfortable, and if he does, then we'll be fine."
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