GREEN BAY – With two weeks left in the regular season, the Green Bay Packers have benched veteran center Jeff Saturday in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith – and the decision is based on performance, not the neck/shoulder injury that forced Saturday to miss Wednesday and Thursday’s practices.
“Obviously, as a player, you want to play. But I support Evan and I know he’s a great player. He’ll get the job done and do what he needs to do to play well and get us a win,” said Saturday, who was named to five Pro Bowl teams, received two All-Pro selections and won a Super Bowl title during his 13-year Indianapolis Colts career before signing with the Packers as a free agent this spring.
“Obviously you’re giving a guy a chance to start. Obviously I (was) a stop-gap here. There’s no surprise as far as that stuff goes. You’re 37 years old. I’ve been around this thing long enough to know that it’s not a long future. I think if (Dietrich-Smith) plays well, I wouldn’t think they’d go back and make another change. That’s how I look at it.
“I told Dietrich, I fully support him, I have a ton of respect for him as a player and as an athlete. I think he’ll do a good job. I told him to make the most of it. We all get our chance somehow. Whenever you do, take advantage of it. When I got my chance, I made the most of mine. I hope he does the same.
“We’re at two totally different points of our career. His is on the up-ramp, mine is on the way out. This is football. It’s a business at the end of the day. I think Deeds is going to do a great job and give us a good chance to win games.”
Asked if the move was medical related, Saturday replied, “I don’t think so. I haven’t been able to go this week, but when you look at it, I think Evan has worked hard, played good. Give him a chance to go see what he can do at center and see how he plays. I should be ready to go, so I don’t think that really has any kind of factor of what’s happening.”
The news broke when coach Mike McCarthy was slightly evasive when asked about the plan at center for Sunday’s game against Tennessee, saying that Saturday “will be ready to go” but replying with “We’ll see” when asked if Saturday would start.
Asked to clarify, McCarthy replied, “We will probably go with Evan Dietrich-Smith to start the game. But I’ve got to visit with Jeff. We didn’t do a whole lot today. He’s been going through a number of things Wednesday and Thursday. We feel good about his health, but we haven’t made a final decision. I feel like I say this every week, that’s what the 1 o’clock meeting is for.”
Dietrich-Smith, for his part, was simply getting ready to work.
“It’s obviously an honor. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff,” he said. “I’m just going out there to help the team win as best I can and this is the move they want to make. I’m just going to do my job.”
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There are no games scheduled for today.