Billy Turner: Comfortable being uncomfortable

Versatile offensive lineman has proved his value to Packers many times over

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G/T Billy Turner

GREEN BAY – The numbers tell a story that hasn't changed.

Prior to arriving in Green Bay, he had started 12 games at right guard, eight at left guard, four at right tackle and one at left tackle in his NFL career.

Since coming to the Packers, he has started 16 games at right guard, three at right tackle, and three at left tackle.

Welcome to Billy Turner's world, where any stance he takes at any position across the offensive line never really feels like home.

"I would love to say that exists, but you know what, you're right. It just doesn't really exist for me," said Turner, the seven-year veteran now in his second season in Green Bay. "There's no 100% comfort at any of those four positions on the offensive line."

It's a blessing and a curse, but mostly the former in Turner's view. Versatility was the tag that earned him a lucrative free-agent contract in March of 2019 despite not having the name recognition of other linemen on the market, and it's paid off for the Packers in less than two years.

Turner has successfully transitioned from last season's full-time starter at right guard to the team's No. 1 right tackle after the departure of Bryan Bulaga, while also filling in the last three games at left tackle for injured All-Pro David Bakhtiari.

As with all the adjustments up front – which included Turner missing the first two games this season with a knee injury – the Packers' offensive line hasn't missed a beat no matter where anyone has lined up.

The players along with Head Coach Matt LaFleur give a lot of credit to offensive line coaches Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus for that, but attitudes like Turner's go a long way, too – seeing his nomadic existence as more benefit than detriment.

"Honestly, I would rather have it that way than to get comfortable at one position, just given that injuries can happen," he said. "If you're comfortable at one and you have to go to the other it's going to be really tough for you."

His biggest challenge in a Packers uniform may have come last Thursday at San Francisco, where he started his third straight game at left tackle for Bakhtiari but then flipped over to right tackle at halftime when Rick Wagner left with a knee injury.

Afterward, LaFleur admitted "that's not easy" to pull off in-game, yet the coaches asked him to do it because second-year left guard Elgton Jenkins said he felt better about sliding over one spot than switching sides.

How tough was it for Turner? Here's his description:

"This is something that I heard Packers legend Josh Sitton say a few years ago in Miami, and that is, 'It's like wiping your (butt) with your opposite hand.' And if you've ever tried that, I'm sure you know," Turner said. "So, being able to, in the middle of a game, go from one side to the other, it's not necessarily the physical part. You know you're capable of physically doing those actions, those techniques that you've practiced for so long.

"It's really just the mental aspect to tell yourself, 'OK, instead of pushing with this leg I have to push with the opposite. Instead of throwing this hand first, I have to use this hand.' It's the weight distribution and the mentality when you're in sync during a game, you kind of get in the zone and you just get in this mood of doing everything in the right way. And it's just kind of a flow. It's hard to explain."

Bathroom humor aside, that actually explains it pretty well. It's almost natural for him to articulate making changes because he's done it on the football field his whole life, from playing center as a youth to tight end as a high school freshman and then offensive tackle as a sophomore when a varsity player got hurt.

His approach and abilities have earned plenty of respect amongst his offensive linemates as well as within the locker room as a whole, from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on down. Jenkins and Lucas Patrick are younger linemen upholding the versatile mantle, and Turner is the veteran who sets the example.

"He comes in, doesn't complain. Never," Patrick said. "Doesn't complain about where he's playing, what he's dealing with, who he's dealing with. He just goes in and works day in and day out.

"What people don't see is what he puts in in the film room, weight room, every day the stuff to get his body right. And guys like him kind of set the tone of our room."

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Ray Nitschke Field on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

Defensive teammates quickly took notice of Turner's style, too, when he arrived in Green Bay last year. At 6-5, 310, Turner's not small but doesn't appear physically imposing. He's got nimble feet, which is why Stenavich has said he's better suited to tackle than guard, but there's nothing light about how he engages in the trenches.

"The first thing we noticed was how heavy his hands were, but he's not like a heavier guy, you know what I'm saying?" defensive lineman Kenny Clark said. "When he grabs you or when he punches you, you're really going to feel his hands when he gets his hands inside of you. So I think that's what makes him so versatile."

Assuming Bakhtiari returns from his chest injury this week, and he's on track to do so after being a full participant in Thursday's padded practice, Turner will be back where he started this season (and ended the last game) at right tackle Sunday against Jacksonville.

It won't feel any more like home than anyplace else he's played, but that's OK. He'll roll with it, and whatever comes next.

"Just having that mentality to go in there and play multiple positions, I think we've got the right dudes on this offensive line," Turner said. "Not to mention both of those coaches played multiple positions in the NFL and college also. So they have that mentality to be able to coach all positions, but also to mentally prepare us for that to happen at any given time."

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