GREEN BAY – Since the day the Packers signed Billy Turner, the question has long been asked when the coaches might consider tapping into his background as an offensive tackle.
Well, it finally happened.
After starting all 18 games (including playoffs) at right guard a year ago, Turner made his debut at right tackle in Green Bay's 37-30 road win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
In what was Turner's first start at right tackle in almost two years, the seventh-year veteran held up his end of the bargain during a lights-out performance on an offensive line that's now allowed just two sacks in the Packers' first three games.
It was all in a day's work for Turner, who was making his 2020 debut after missing Green Bay's first two games with a knee injury. His opposition? All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan, who didn't come close to touching Aaron Rodgers.
"He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time so, of course, you don't ever want to let him get a hit," said Turner on Thursday afternoon. "Our mentality as an offensive line is to go out there and to give it everything that we've got every single play.
"It's not necessarily that we're out there just consciously, 'Oh, we can't give up a sack.' You don't want to play tight; you want to play loose and you want to be able to adapt to whatever's thrown at you."
Turner has been in constant motion since entering the league in 2014 as a third-round pick out of North Dakota State, which remains the last time the former FCS All-American left tackle started at the same position in consecutive seasons.
Since then, Turner has started 28 times at right guard, eight at left guard, five at right tackle and even made one spot start at left tackle in 2016.
So it shouldn't come as too big a surprise Green Bay tapped into Turner's positional flexibility against the Saints, starting him at right tackle while Lucas Patrick stood the right guard post that Turner held down throughout last season.
"What we're taught is to know multiple positions," Turner said. "(When) I got drafted and they're like, 'We're gonna make you a guard,' so then I'm playing guard and then next thing you know I'm playing tackle.
"The moral to that story is we all have to be molded into something that can be used like a Swiss Army knife. It's rare that you just call offensive linemen a tackle or a guard."
The Packers shuffled through a lot of personnel the first three weeks, losing starting right guard Lane Taylor in Week 1 to a season-ending knee injury, but they're in position to bring the same starting five offensive linemen into a second straight game, Monday vs. Atlanta, for the first time this season.
Patrick, the hardnosed former undrafted free agent, has started all three games this year between the left and right guard positions.
"Honestly, man, it was like a plant. Growth. From the ground up," Turner said. "You're able to grow with the guy next to you. You're able to kind of develop that connection and once you get into a game-like situation with a guy like Lucas Patrick, who has played multiple positions, you know it's just full steam ahead. You don't really think about anything else because you have trust in that guy next to you."
Turner has some prior experience lining up next to Patrick, who stepped in for center Corey Linsley a few times last season, but the veteran also credits offensive line coaches Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus for keeping their guys ready for anything.
Turner wasn't keen on missing the first two games of the season. Again, this is the same offensive lineman who led the Packers with 1,078 offensive snaps played a year ago.
However, Turner felt good in his 62-snap debut at right tackle. As always, the 28-year-old offensive lineman knows he's only one injury away from needing to slide in somewhere else.
"Being an offensive lineman in the NFL you have to know that you're not always going to just play that one specific position," Turner said. "And kudos to our coaching staff, specifically the offensive line coaches for being able to put us into situations before games where we're playing multiple positions so when a scenario happens … you're able to shuffle around."