Corey Linsley cherished every part of Packers' 2020 run

All-Pro center is one of several veterans facing uncertain offseasons

210127-linsley-story-2560
C Corey Linsley

GREEN BAY – Corey Linsley can't predict the future and certainly isn't going to try.

However, the Packers' veteran center has played enough football to understand what the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season could mean for his own career.

The All-Pro center, who has started all 110 games (including playoffs) he's played for Green Bay, is facing free agency for the first time in seven NFL seasons, after previously signing a three-year extension days before the 2017 regular-season finale.

As the clock hit zero on Sunday's NFC Championship Game against Tampa Bay, Linsley briefly paused to watch the final kneel-down from the South end zone of Lambeau Field before running up the tunnel towards an uncertain offseason.

"It's a lot of emotions going on," said Linsley on Monday. "I feel like I put out some good film and did the best that I could this year. … There's not much to put behind it right now just because with the game and everything, it's the offseason, a lot of it's out of my control. I did what I could this year. That's kind of it."

Linsley is one of 13 Packers players set to hit the open market in March, a list that includes running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, and cornerback Kevin King.

The 29-year-old center had arguably his best season in 2020, playing 734 offensive snaps over 13 regular-season starts (including playoffs) for the league's highest-scoring offense.

Still, Sunday's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers was a bittersweet way for Linsley's season to draw to a close. Not only because of the outcome but also the fact he was unable to share the field with David Bakhtiari after the five-time All-Pro left tackle sustained a season-ending knee injury last month in practice.

"We wanted to win a Super Bowl together. We had talked about it and dreamed about it together," said Linsley, the sixth-longest tenured player on the Packers' roster. "For him, knowing that he wasn't going to physically be a part of that, it hurt me a lot and it sucked.

"But if there's one guy that I would be pick to recover from this and make a full recovery and be better, it's Dave, for sure. I know he's going to be all right but it was tough."

Linsley handled his own share of adversity in 2020. He battled a back injury early in the season before seeing his consecutive starts streak end at 68 regular-season games due to a knee injury that sidelined him for three December starts.

Yet, Linsley bounced back to finish the season on a high note. While he wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl, Linsley received 18 first-place votes en route to becoming the first Packers center to be named first team All-Pro by the Associated Press since Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Ringo in 1963.

In the aftermath of the Pro Bowl snub, Bakhtiari and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were two of Linsley's most adamant supporters in the lead-up to the All-Pro announcement.

"I know it meant a lot to him. How can it not? To be able to be recognized like that with All-Pro," said Rodgers earlier this month.

"I mean Pro Bowl is a great recognition as well but there's a big camp – led by David Bakhtiari – who believe that All-Pro might be more important. … I was just so excited for him to be given that honor. I know how much it means to him, you know he's in a contract year and everything, and that's important. But just knowing him and his lovely wife, Ana, he's just a really good person."

A fifth-round pick in 2014, Linsley has become a valued veteran presence in the locker room. This past spring, he was an instrumental part of the team's social-justice initiatives.

Linsley also was honored for his longstanding partnership with CASA of Brown County when his teammates voted him as the Packers' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The winner of the award will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony the night before Super Bowl LV.

Although there are a lot of unknowns right now, Linsley looks back on the last seven years fondly. He's enjoyed building a friendship with Rodgers that goes beyond the football field.

He cherishes the time spent with his two primary offensive line coaches, James Campen and Adam Stenavich, and appreciates all the laughs he's shared inside the Packers' locker room – many of which came courtesy of Bakhtiari.

"Just the funny stuff that happens day to day, half of it you can't share and the other half you don't want to. That's what I'm going to remember," said Linsley with a smile. "The wins in football and all that, it's great, and it's bittersweet because we didn't get where we wanted to go. But the best times are just hanging out with the guys and laughing."

Advertising