GREEN BAY—Evan Dietrich-Smith will snap the football for the Tampa Bay Bucs this Sunday, against the team that found him and developed him.
"Sometimes you've got to do what's best for your family. I appreciate everything the Packers did for me, giving me the opportunities they did, all the years I spent there. At the end of the day, you only get so many years in this league and you've got to kind of do what's best for you," Dietrich-Smith told Packers media via conference call on Wednesday.
The former Packers center left the team in free agency. He's been replaced by rookie Corey Linsley, a fifth-round draft choice that's been the starter at center in every game this season. Linsley's play has been praised and his name has even been mentioned for rookie of the year consideration.
"I think he's done a good job. Seeing them on film, it's a big help having three of the smartest guys on offense, two of them beside you and one of them right behind you, all the time. I guarantee that helped his learning curve. Those guys do a good job of helping each other out, making sure everything's going the right way. Campy's (James Campen) done a great job of coaching them up, and making sure he's on top of his stuff. It's just when you watch the offense, you rarely see any of the players on the offense make mistakes. It's a credit to that coaching staff as a whole, not to just one guy but to the entire team," Dietrich-Smith said.
Instead of playing for a Packers team trying to win a fourth consecutive NFC North title, Dietrich-Smith is playing for a 2-12 Bucs team whose season is dedicated to the future. He would appear to be the future at center.
"Obviously, it's not the season we wanted. I think we're moving in the right direction. We've been very competitive in a lot of games, had a lot of tough losses where we were close. It's one of those things that I think we're taking steps in the right direction, we're going the way we want to go, but we still have some things I think we need to accomplish. We're excited for the challenge of this week," Dietrich-Smith said.
His opinion of the Packers?
"From my standpoint, it's a lot more speed," he said of the defense. "From being there so many years, going against Dom, having the big 3-4 guys, that kind of stuff, it's just more speed out on the field now this year. It's just one of those things that the team's built in a certain way, and they're playing to that identity this year; score a lot of points and unleash your defense and let them get after the opposing team, trying to get into a scoring race with you. A lot of teams really haven't been able to keep up," Dietrich-Smith said.
Were it not for free agency, Dietrich-Smith would be snapping the ball, again, to Aaron Rodgers.
"I think he's definitely the best player in the league right now. You can definitely tell Aaron is on top of it this year. I didn't get a chance to see the Buffalo game last week, but besides that game, I don't think anybody in the league has done what he's done," Dietrich-Smith said.
Do the Bucs believe they can beat the Packers?
"I think our team believes we can beat anybody we play. In the NFL, when you step out on the field, you better believe you can beat the team across from you or you already lost. If you think you're going to go out there and you're not going to win, that team's going to hang a bunch of points on you and make you look really bad. I don't think that's the mindset that anybody has," he said.