Aaron Rodgers appreciative of Billy Turner's unsung heroics for Packers

Versatile veteran continues to do it all on Green Bay’s offensive line

G/T Billy Turner

GREEN BAY – It's the prognosis no NFL quarterback ever wants to receive about his starting left tackle, let alone one the caliber of David Bakhtiari.

Three days before the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were informed the five-time All-Pro was lost for the season to a significant knee injury he suffered in practice.

In many NFL cities, such news would send a cold chill down the spine of a locker room. It's a platonic shift that could derail not only an offensive line but also dash a team's hopes for a championship season.

Yet, as important as Bakhtiari is to the Packers' success, his injury has been just another detour for an offensive line that's learned how to deal with adversity in an appropriate manner.

That's where Billy Turner comes in – the charismatic seventh-year veteran who's become a locker-room favorite in Green Bay through his positive personality and versatile skill set over the past two years.

Even now, days out from the NFC Championship Game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers smiles thinking back the first time he met Turner after he signed with the Packers in March 2019.

"I knew nothing other than when I met him, he asked to be called Bill," said Rodgers on Wednesday. "At that point, I don't think I knew anyone under 50 named Bill.

"Here's this mountain of a man with dreds and glasses and a super-cool outfit wanting to be called Bill. That was pretty interesting. I think he's definitely one of the unsung heroes of the season for so many reasons."

Perhaps the biggest reason is his versatility. Turner started all 18 games (including playoffs) at right guard a year ago before relocating to right tackle this year following the return of veteran guard Lane Taylor.

At least, that was the plan until injuries surfaced. First, Turner would make three midseason starts at left tackle for Bakhtiari after he injured his ribs against Tampa Bay in Week 6.

By December, Turner slid back to right guard due to shuffling on the offensive line in the wake of Corey Linsley going on IR with a knee injury of his own. Just when it looked like he might go back to right tackle, Turner was asked to slide back to left tackle after Bakhtiari's incident in practice.

To date, according to Pro Football Focus, Turner has played 423 snaps at right tackle, 292 at left tackle and another 244 at right guard. And the 6-foot-5, 310-pound lineman hasn't just filled in – he's thrived.

"The reality of this football season for me is no different than my entire career," said Turner last week. "I never know what position I'm playing — from a Monday, to the day before the game, or two days before the game like it was with Dave. You just never know."

The Packers' offensive line has been in constant state of flux for most of the year, with Taylor landing on season-ending IR back in September after tearing his ACL in the opener at Minnesota.

Yet, the Packers still led the NFL in scoring (31.8 points per game) behind the most efficient red-zone offense in the last four years (80%). Rodgers, a favorite to win his third MVP award in two weeks' time, was sacked just 21 times, his fewest in a 16-game regular season.

Turner has been a big reason for Rodgers' uniform staying so clean this season. While Turner isn't as burly as most NFL offensive linemen, his athleticism seems to be what separates him from others at his position…or positions.

"I've always felt Billy's best position was tackle, in general," offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. "When we could move him out there, I felt better having him out there. Him going to left tackle, he's played a lot of different positions over his career. … He's a pretty reliable guy in general.

"If he can get his mind right that week for whatever position he's going to play, I feel really good about him out there doing his thing and being productive."

As he's had more time to settle in at left tackle, Turner has only gotten better. He and the offensive line kept Rodgers clean last Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams, enabling the Packers to put up 484 total yards and 32 points on the NFL's top-ranked defense.

One win away from the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance in a decade, the Packers know they'll have their hands full against Tampa Bay and Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul this Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Rodgers has confidence Turner is ready to do his part, especially after being twice pitted against Chicago's All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack in 2020. As much as Rodgers misses Bakhtiari, he puts Turner's calmness and preparation right up with those of Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and all the other great tackles that have come before him in Green Bay.

Turner appreciates the support but that doesn't shake his focus off the real goal – advancing to, and winning, the Super Bowl.

"I've never been a guy to brag or to gloat or to rest on any type of accomplishments or anything like that," Turner said. "The only thing that I am chasing is a victory at the end of that week and championships. That is it. Super Bowls are more important to me and championships and helping this team win games are more important to me than anything else."

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