GREEN BAY, Wis. – Corey Linsley’s offseason was going so well, too.
He married the love of his life, longtime girlfriend Anna Gilboy, in a beautiful ceremony in Cleveland. They honeymooned in Italy, an unforgettable trip that she entertainingly documented on Instagram. And they expanded their new family with the addition of Yogi, a Great Dane-Labrador mix (they think) rescue pup who immediately began growing at an alarming rate.
And then the Green Bay Packers' third-year center tore his hamstring – twice – and the whole thing went to hell.
Or at least that’s how it would’ve felt to a normal person. For most, being trapped on the physically unable to perform list and watching the guy you’d replaced (JC Tretter) take back the starting job you’d held the past two years would have been followed by a fair amount of self-pity and self-loathing.
But there Linsley was Tuesday, answering question after question about his hamstring, his frustration and coach Mike McCarthy’s Monday announcement that Tretter will start the Packers’ regular-season opener at Jacksonville. As he went to leave the locker room after the impromptu Q&A session, someone suggested to Linsley that having his otherwise dreamy offseason wrecked by the first major injury of his football life has to be hard to take.
“It would be if I wasn’t confident in what I can do,” Linsley replied. “I’m not talking about arrogance or anything. But true confidence. To rest assured that you know what you can do. I’m just trying to get back healthy and then keep progressing as a player. Whenever I get back, it’s just a matter of taking it from there. You control what you can control, and there’s not much else you can do.”
For now, all he can do is watch and heal. Linsley said he first tore the hamstring during a workout shortly after the team’s offseason program began in April, before organized team activity practices began. When he went home to Ohio in June to train on his own, he thought the muscle had sufficiently healed, so he went back to the workout regimen he’d used the previous two offseasons.
He was wrong, and tore the muscle again in July, not long before the Packers reported to training camp. He’s been trapped on the PUP list ever since, while Tretter has shined. It’s a turnabout from two summers ago, when Tretter suffered a knee injury in the team’s third preseason game, opening the door for Linsley to take over as the starter as a rookie fifth-round pick.
After some early growing pains, Linsley played so well as a rookie that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was touting him for the Pro Bowl by season's end. Last summer, he never gave Tretter the chance to reclaim the job, and when a late-season ankle injury forced him to miss three games and parts of two others, Linsley returned to his starting spot once healthy.
Linsley said Tuesday that the muscle is not torn off the bone, which would require surgery. Instead, he said there is a “significant” tear within the muscle, one that only time – not surgery – can repair.
“Which is even more frustrating because [surgery] would be an easier fix,” Linsley said.
Although he didn’t want to think about the possibility of starting the year on the in-season PUP list – meaning he’d miss at least the first six weeks – Linsley acknowledged that it could come to that. The Packers have only two full-fledged training-camp practices left and two preseason games – Friday at San Francisco and Sept. 1 at Kansas City – which makes it unlikely that Linsley will get on the field before the Sept. 3 roster reduction.
“That’s obviously [the team’s] call. We’ll talk to the doctors,” Linsley said, adding that the team's medical staff has tried a variety of approaches in hopes of accelerating the healing process. “It’s just a matter of letting it heal. It’s not going to get better any faster. I can’t make it heal faster – trust me. I’ve been trying everything.
“I’m not giving up on [the season]. I’m not out for the year. But it’s a matter of, when the hell this thing is going to heal, you know? So it’s frustrating from that aspect. But you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Linsley said he understands why McCarthy officially named Tretter the starter – “They’ve got to go with who’s practicing, and JC’s a great player; I think everybody knows that”– but that neither the decision nor the injury has shaken his belief in himself.
“I don’t want to say I’ve proved myself, but I’ve shown what I can do on the field. I haven’t declined as a player,” Linsley said. “It’s just a matter of getting healthy. There’s nothing you can do if you’re not healthy.”