Don Barclay's work at center an audible for Green Bay Packers

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Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, August 3, 2013

GREEN BAY—Here’s a legitimate question: why is Packers tackle Don Barclay playing center in training camp?

Is it that he has previous experience?

“He did it … his freshman year for about a week,” line coach James Campen said.

It has been interesting watching the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Barclay take reps at center, a year after he bailed the Packers out at right tackle during a surprisingly productive rookie season.

Barclay is in the hunt for the starting right tackle job—at least that’s what Campen says—but his work there has been diluted to some degree because he is being forced to learn how to play center. Why, you ask, would he be forced to play there?

The truth is, it wasn’t planned that way. The Packers drafted Cornell’s J.C. Tretter in the fourth round with the intention of letting him compete with Evan Dietrich-Smith for the starting job. But Tretter suffered torn ligaments in his ankle doing a fumble drill in OTAs and is out until at least midseason.

The Packers have four other centers in camp: second-year men Garth Gerhart and Greg Van Roten and undrafted rookies Patrick Lewis and Lane Taylor. But Campen has to prepare for the possibility none of them will make the team, which would leave him without a backup center.

That’s where Barclay comes in. He’s got a good chance of making the team and the Packers feel he can pull it off at center.

“He’s an aggressive kid,” Campen said. “He’s a hard-nosed player. We’ve got six kids taking snaps. We can’t have them all take snaps. We have a plan and we’ll make sure it allows you enough opportunity to see what they all can do.”

The part that sticks out the most is Barclay’s struggles with shotgun snaps. It’s totally new to him and he has bounced three or four along the ground during practice. It disrupts the tempo of the workout, but it’s the price you have to pay to train someone at a position he hasn’t played.

The two he had in practice on Thursday were the result of him mistiming the snap count with quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ signals, he said. Rodgers makes a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage, and the center has to know when to be patient and when to hurry.

“The things with the snaps, it’s a progression,” Campen said. “It will go away. It takes time. We’re not accepting the fact the ball is on the ground, but it’s just a work in progress. More times and more reps, and when you see it on film and you see another guy doing things, the footwork, hand placement and being calm, those things all factor in. He’s working his butt off.”

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