Green Bay Packers rookie Don Barclay adjusting to new role
Sandwiched between 6-foot, 5-inch, 314-pound tackle Bryan Bulaga or 6-4, 319-pound tackle Marshall Newhouse and 6-2, 295-pound center Jeff Saturday, Don Barclay knew what was coming.
His entire football life the rookie out of West Virginia played left tackle, out on the edge of the offensive line, free to move around.
After being signed by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent however, the 6-4, 305-pound Barclay was dropped between the Packers' tackles and center in training camp to become acclimated to a new position – guard.
The offensive line is filled with giants, and Barclay knew it was only a matter of time before he tripped up himself, or a teammate.
"Yeah, that's the worst," he said with a slight smile. "At the beginning it was like 'Oh, quit stepping on my feet!' but as you get used to guys and get comfortable with the position it gets a lot easier."
As one of only seven offensive linemen on the active roster, Barclay has been forced to become a quick study of his new position – an injury at any moment could send him into the game at either guard spot, or either tackle.
On a basic level, blocking is blocking. But, there are enough subtle, technical differences between the positions that require extra attention on Barclay's part, all while needing to stay sharp at tackle.
"A lot of it is the same, but it is different because you've got more space at tackle and at guard the middle three are together a lot," he said. "And, just working with different guys in there and getting used to different players so you don't step on each other's feet."
To Barclay, the largest difference between the two spots, is frankly, how large the men are he has to block.
"Playing tackle, in college and even now, you're dealing with speed where now it's more power guys," he said. "It's not necessarily less speed because everyone's fast, even at d-tackle, but you've got to bring a little bit more punch to the table in pass pro and run because they're heavier guys. Just twisting the mentality a little bit."
The learning curve has been sped up for the rookie thanks in large part to his teammates. Saturday is a five-time Pro Bowler. Bulaga (23), Lang (25), Newhouse (24 on Sept. 29) and Sitton (26) are young veterans with starting experience.
All of them, along with fellow reserve Evan Dietrich-Smith, have Super Bowl rings.
"Learning from the veterans and some of the best guys out here, it's meant a lot," Barclay said. "All five of them have helped me so much. Especially Bryan at tackle has given me pointers when I was getting reps at right tackle and T.J. and Josh have been great inside at guard, little pointers I didn't know before from not having played the position a whole lot. They've helped me a lot."
The soft-spoken Virginian feels he improves every day in practice by getting repetitions at both spots, which leads to relatively anxious game days as he roams the sidelines, watching the offense work up and down the field.
Barclay, like Dietrich-Smith, are the last lines of protection if something happens to a starter, which forces him to stay in the game – even though it's the first time he's not starting on the line in years.
"I'm trying to get better every day because you never know when your time is going to come. I'm just trying to keep fresh in my technique," he said. "I'm just trying to stay loose and watch the game, kind of like scouting the defense and preparing myself. I get in on field goal, extra point and kickoff returns so I've got to stay loose for that, but I'm watching what defensive ends and defensive tackles are doing not only to help myself, but I'll give the guys playing pointers if I see something."
Masthay named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week: Green Bay Packers punter Tim Masthay threw the first touchdown pass of his career and punted five times for a 47.6 gross average – including three inside the 20-yard line - in the Packers' 23-10 win over Chicago last Thursday.
Masthay's 27-yard pass to Tom Crabtree on the fake field goal is the first by a Packers punter since Ron Widby hooked up with Dave Davis on a 68-yard score in 1972. It is Masthay's third Player of the Week honor and he becomes the first punter to earn the distinction in each of of his first three years.
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