For the first time in a full year, Evan Dietrich-Smith is homeward bound. He'll see his family, see his friends. The Green Bay Packers center plans to head west to California when organized team activities wrap up. But the trip won't be long. Two, maybe three days. Then it's back to Green Bay. Said Dietrich-Smith, "I'm not the biggest fan of taking too much time off." That's a small peek inside the brain of the Packers' new starting center. Dietrich-Smith hasn't been rewarded with a long-term deal yet. He's in the same boat as Sam Shields, B.J. Raji and others. Green Bay will wait before investing. After starting the final four games at center in 2012, Dietrich-Smith signed his modest restricted free-agent tender of $1.323 million and returned. Any job in the NFL is fleeting, a fact Dietrich-Smith knows more than anyone in the Packers locker room. He has been released by the team before. He's worked out of a YMCA. So now that he is an unquestioned starter, Dietrich-Smith refuses to view himself as an unquestioned starter. "It doesn't matter who you are," Dietrich-Smith said. "If you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, you could be the next guy out the door. I don't take anything for granted. Every opportunity I get, I have to prove myself." Looking back, it's surprising the Packers waited until Week 16 to bench veteran Jeff Saturday for Dietrich-Smith. Injuries along the line didn't help. Green Bay needed Dietrich-Smith at left guard for 4½ games before he spent the final four at center. But from September on, it was apparent Father Time had Saturday locked in a full nelson. The 37-year-old often was overwhelmed by younger, fresher defensive tackles. In the run game, he was a day late. Finally, the 6-foot-2, 308-pound Dietrich-Smith was inserted as the starting center and — as quarterback Aaron Rodgers often hinted himself — he showed signs of being the center of the future. Inside an ear-splitting Metrodome, Dietrich-Smith was the point man for a unit that generated 34 points and 405 total yards in the regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. He was hardly the problem in the playoffs, teaming with Josh Sitton to spark a pair of DuJuan Harris touchdown runs. His presence also allowed Green Bay to rev up its hurry-up offense. So now he enters camp as the starter. With several chances at handpicking a center in the draft the last two years — including two from Wisconsin — Green Bay passed. Fourth-rounder J.C. Tretter may have been a versatile backup, but he broke his ankle in practice.
Evan Dietrich-Smith ready to prove his worth
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Jun 13