Billy Turner has brought toughness, creativity to Packers' locker room

Right guard gutted through ankle injury in regular-season finale against Detroit

G/T Billy Turner
G/T Billy Turner

GREEN BAY – With Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga both out with injuries, Lucas Patrick gazed down the Packers' sideline in the second half of the regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions and surveyed who could be the next man up should another injury arise on the offensive line.

Then, it dawned on the third-year lineman there was no one else left.

With backups Alex Light and John Leglue both inactive, it meant Patrick (in for Linsley at center), Jared Veldheer (in for Bulaga at right tackle), Elgton Jenkins, David Bakhtiari, and Billy Turner had to go the distance on the offensive line.

That's what made Turner gutting through a second-half ankle injury against the Lions that much more impressive to Head Coach Matt LaFleur, who praised the right guard for his toughness in the aftermath of the Packers' 23-20 road win over the Lions.

"(At first), I was like, 'Man, I wonder if Al will come in, and then it's like, 'Wait, it is just us,'" Patrick recalled thinking. "When you're going and we're calling plays and we're rolling, these are the five we got and we're going."

Turner, lauded for his durability when the Packers signed him back in March, stayed on the field from beginning to end in playing all 88 offensive snaps against the Lions. A starter in all 16 games, Turner led the offense with 1,076 snaps played in 2019.

The only snaps Turner missed all season came on a pair of kneel-downs against Washington in Week 14. And he wasn't going to let a tweaked ankle in a critical road game change that.

"To be honest with you, that's really never anything that slips into my mind," Turner said. "Unless I physically am not able to walk off that field, I'm going to be out there finishing pretty much every game.

"That's how I am as a person. That's how I am as a player. That's how I was raised and how I've been throughout the course of my career."

The Packers earned a bye week with the victory, giving Turner, Bulaga, Linsley and the rest of the Packers' roster extra time to rest and recover prior to this Sunday's NFC Divisional playoff game against Seattle at Lambeau Field.

Turner sat out the two practices the conducted last week but returned on Monday. Asked if his ankle was "Yeet" – a popular locker-room catchphrase Turner was wearing on his shirt at the time – the sixth-year veteran agreed, before adding "I'm good to go."

While the opportunity to be one of remaining eight teams vying for the Lombardi Trophy is something every player in the Packers' locker room appreciates, it means that much more to Turner, who had never been to the playoffs before until this season.

"It's cool, man. It's definitely another box that I'm able to check off throughout the course of my career," Turner said. "It's going to be fun and I'm definitely very thankful to be here with the Green Bay Packers, and be able to go to the playoffs."

Along with resting his ankle, Turner used last week's bye to distribute the customized coats, jackets and sweatshirts he and students from Excelsior Elementary School designed last month for the Packers' locker room. Working with Miami fashion designer Chad Johnson, Turner aims to promote positivity with what he calls "The Irie Project."

In partnership with The Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay, Turner used the initiative to distribute more than 700 winter coats to the area children in need, both in Green Bay and back in Turner's home state of Minnesota.

Packers G/T Billy Turner donated 350 coats to children at his coat giveaway Friday afternoon.

The locker-room response was overwhelmingly positive once players saw the jackets and sweatshirts hanging in their lockers. Several players, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, took to social media to thank Turner for the gift.

"A lot of people looking at the project will look at the product, the coat, the hoodie, as being the unique part," Turner said. "But for me, the unique part was able to work with kids, allowing them to create things that professional athletes are going to wear and also being able to donate coats to the less fortunate."

The Packers' offensive line has been battling an illness that's worked its way through the locker room over the past month. Turner, himself, was a late add to the injury report one day before Green Bay's Week 14 meeting with Washington.

With the team scheduled to practice again on Wednesday, there's hope the unit will be back to full form for Sunday's matchup with the Seahawks. After a five-year wait to play in the postseason, Turner is eager to contribute to a potential Super Bowl push.

"The way a team works is you always strive for excellence," Turner said. "There's definitely gains and strides that could be made and I think that us being able to have this bye week has definitely helped us to progress in that area of our game, whatever that may be.

"I think we're still on that rise going towards that peak."

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