Billy Turner was finally able to rejoin the Green Bay Packers’ lineup last weekend after missing the first two games of the season, but the starting right tackle seems to think his return could have come even sooner.
Turner spoke with reporters Thursday for the first time since sustaining a knee injury in the final practice of 2020 training camp, declining to give specific details about his injury but also making it clear it was not his decision to wait until Week 3 before getting back on the field. He had been active in Week 2 against the Detroit Lions after missing the season opener, but the Packers opted to keep him on the bench.
“That was not my decision,” Turner said when asked whether sitting in Week 2 was a strategic move for his recovery. “But here we are, going into Week 4 and I’m up and playing and I’m healthy, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Billy Turner made clear it was not his choice to sit out #Packers game against the Lions: "It will never be my decision to not be on the football field." He indicated he felt capable of playing, but team made decision to rest him additional week before he started at Saints.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) October 1, 2020
Turner played every offensive snap for the Packers in his return to the lineup and proved capable in his regular-season debut as their right tackle, having started all 16 games at right guard for them during the 2019 season. The adjustment appeared seamless for an offensive line that, despite numerous shake-ups, has been one of the most effective in the league through the first three games.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers have allowed just 10 quarterback pressures and two sacks while also helping the run game average 2.2 yards before contract. That’s all been done in spite of having a different set of starters for each game and losing one veteran piece, Lane Taylor, to a season-ending injury.
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Packers Exhibiting Caution With Injured Starters
The Packers have been forced to play the long game far too often in the first four weeks of the season with star players dropping out left and right. At 3-0, though, with ambitions to improve upon last year’s trek to the NFC championship game, it would seem to be one worth playing to have instrumental players in good health come wintertime.
Turner was the first example, but the Packers have also been cautiously working back wide receiver Davante Adams and nose tackle Kenny Clark from injuries over the past few weeks. Just because one of them feels good about getting back on the field doesn’t necessarily mean the Packers’ medical staff is ready to clear them to play.
“It’s a tough line to walk, especially for someone like me when you know that you’re capable of playing,” Turner said. “But, you know, it’s their job to essentially protect you from yourself at times. Yeah, it’s tough, but at the same time that’s when trust comes into play and you just trust that they are making the right decision.”
Where Does Rick Wagner Go From Here?
Turner’s re-insertion into the lineup could allow the Packers to stabilize their offensive line for the first time this season, but it remains to be seen where that leaves backup tackle Rick Wagner moving forward.
Wagner was signed as the presumptive replacement for veteran right tackle Bryan Bualga during the past offseason, but the Packers opened up competition for the tackle spot in training camp and were clearly favoring Turner over him for the job coming into the regular season. He didn’t even get the starting nod once Turner was ruled out in Week 1, as the Packers preferred to slide over All-Rookie left guard Elgton Jenkins.
And yet, Wagner delivered when he was called upon for his first Packers start in Week 2 and looked like he was more than capable of handling starting responsibilities. His strong performance also seemingly left the door open for the Packers to go two different routes: either with Lucas Patrick at right guard and Turner at right tackle or with Turner back at right guard and Wagner on his right.
Kinda crazy to think that just a few weeks ago we were wondering if the Packers' had anyone who could play right tackle, and three weeks later Elgton Jenkins, Rick Wagner, and Billy Turner have all shown they have been up to the task.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) October 1, 2020
The Packers seem content with the first one for the time being, but injuries could always change that picture. Patrick has already been taken out of a game once this year with a shoulder injury, while Jenkins has missed some practice time with injuries as well. At the very least, they have a veteran in place as their swing tackle; though, $11 million over two years is quite a bit to pay a backup player.