GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers wasn’t ready to make any bold proclamations or assessments of the Packers’ offense based on a handful of non-padded offseason workouts.
After coming off the practice field on May 21, however, there was one particular individual who caught the attention of the Packers’ two-time MVP quarterback – Billy Turner.
“The guy I have to say I’m really excited about is Bill at right guard,” Rodgers said during the early portion of organized team activities this spring. “Just his presence in the huddle, he’s a big dude and he’s a no-nonsense guy at times, but he’s also got a dry sense of humor. He’s been a great addition to that group.”
A draft-and-develop organization by design, Green Bay has rarely ventured into the free-agent market for offensive linemen over the past 15 years. In fact, prior to bringing in Turner, it had been seven years since the Packers had signed an unrestricted offensive lineman to a multi-year deal.
Turner’s acquisition was one of four Green Bay made during a ferocious start to March’s free-agent period, bringing NFL life full circle for the 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman who has seen the highs and lows of the business.
The Packers had their eye on Turner before the Miami Dolphins took him in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Cut from Miami in 2016, Turner bounced around from Baltimore to Denver before becoming an established starter for the Broncos.
Lauded for his versatility and experience in the outside-zone run scheme, Turner has starts at both tackle and guard positions on his NFL resume. While he lined up mainly at right guard this spring, Turner also took a few snaps at right tackle whenever the Packers were being mindful of Bryan Bulaga's reps.
Off the field, it hasn’t taken Turner long to adjust to his new position room. Equipped with a thoughtful and introspective personality, Turner has fit right in with his new teammates.
“Billy’s fantastic,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “I had a fun relationship with him right off the bat. I’m not a man to believe in a grace period of becoming friends. I just jumped right into the deep end with him. Billy’s a good dude. He’s got quite the personality. I’m happy that he’s in our offensive line room.”
Bulaga, the longest tenured offensive lineman on the roster by three years, welcomed the addition of Turner with open arms and has enjoyed the reps he’s been afforded alongside his teammate.
Since T.J. Lang’s departure after the 2016 season, Bulaga has had to adjust and adapt to playing next to a carousel of right guards, which was even more challenging last year when Bulaga’s rehab from ACL surgery prevented him from seeing any in-game action until the preseason finale in Kansas City.
Bulaga returned to form in 14 starts for the Packers, but injuries elsewhere caused him play alongside three different right guards (Byron Bell, Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick) during the final month of the season.
The opportunity to gain familiarity with Turner’s game this offseason already has their partnership ahead of the curve Bulaga has grown accustomed to.
“I think it’s been great,” said Bulaga of lining up next to Turner. “When you’re playing next to someone new, you have to learn each other’s ins and outs, what they are very good at, what they’re maybe not so good at, and you have to adjust your game to fit that. I think Billy and I have done a really good job kind of working through those things with each other.”
The Packers are keeping their fingers crossed for a healthier season for the offensive line, but they’re as deep at the position as they’ve been in years with several experienced backups.
Veterans McCray, Patrick, Jason Spriggs and Alex Light spent all of last season on the 53-man roster, while 2018 fifth-round pick Cole Madison was a full participant in the offseason program after returning to the team this spring.
Turner might be the new guy in town, but coaches and teammates have noticed he takes his job as a veteran seriously. Once the regular season begins, the Packers hope the 27-year-old will prove to be a catalyst in stabilizing the offensive line for years to come.
“He’s got a great attitude,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “He’s really good in the room, really good out in practice. He’s hungry to get better just like all the other guys.”