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Packers adjusting their offensive line

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Green Bay Packers' decision to shuffle their offensive line was based on the need to protect the team's most important asset in quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

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After doing postseason evaluations of schemes and players and ranking each player on the roster, coach Mike McCarthy and his staff determined that Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton were the team's best offensive linemen.

McCarthy said their ranking led the coaches to having the best blockers protecting the blind side of Rodgers. Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension last month that made him the NFL's highest-paid player.

McCarthy said Sunday after the conclusion of the rookie camp that he and his staff put a lot of thought into the move, but that the idea behind it isn't very complex.

``How you utilize your personnel is a constant conversation, and it's no different this year,'' McCarthy said. ``Frankly, we felt Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton were our two most accomplished offensive linemen, and just going back to the old-school theory of how you structure your offensive line, we wanted to put those guys on the left side.''

When organized team activity practices kick off May 21, Bulaga will line up at left tackle, Sitton at left guard and former left guard T.J. Lang at right guard.

At right tackle will be former left tackle Marshall Newhouse, who'll compete with Don Barclay who started the final six games at right tackle last season, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod, who hasn't played since breaking his leg at Kansas City on Dec. 18, 2011.

The Packers also selected a pair of offensive linemen last month in the draft, adding Colorado's David Bakhtiari and Cornell's J.C. Tretter in the fourth round.

In the one rookie camp practice open to reporters, Bakhtiari lined up at left tackle and Tretter at right tackle, although McCarthy said they moved around during subsequent practices.

McCarthy said Sunday that he likes the competition the shift creates at right tackle, as Newhouse, Barclay, Sherrod or the rookies could win the starting spot.

``Everybody involved on the right side has some history there. Marshall's played the right side, T.J.'s played the right side, Barclay's played the right side, so we're just trying to make as much competition as possible,'' McCarthy said.

``We feel with Bryan and Josh, we've solved the left side and those guys have some history together, so there's a number of different things that went into it.''

The reshuffling of the line comes after Rodgers was sacked a league-high 51 times last season and the Packers' running game ranked 20th in the league in rushing per game (106.4) and 22nd in yards per attempt (3.9).

Bulaga, the team's 2010 first-round pick who took over at right tackle during his rookie season, played 587 snaps last season before suffering a hip injury that ended his season on Nov. 4.

Sitton went to his first Pro Bowl as an injury replacement last season. McCarthy said he watched Sitton closely as he played left guard during the Pro Bowl.

Barclay was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie free agent when called upon to fill in for Bulaga after Lang struggled at right tackle.

Barclay was inconsistent and was better as a run-blocker than pass-blocking.

At the NFL meetings in Arizona in March, McCarthy had said that he wanted to see improvement from the left side of the line, but the coach said Sunday that he hadn't made up his mind about shuffling the line at that point.

``I hadn't made a final decision yet. But one thing was clear: We needed to be more productive as an offense,'' McCarthy said. ``When you don't win the Super Bowl, you hear about all the negative things that you are on offense. The reality is, we were fifth in the league in scoring (and) No. 1 the year before. So, why? You look at the run game, you look at the players you have.

``We've always built game plans and taken the things we've learned from scheme evals and do things with the scheme with guys we know are going to be here. So, how can we best utilize the individuals we know are going to be here? It's great that these rookies are here, but I can promise you there's not one play that we put in because we thought we were going to draft two tackles in the draft. That's just not the way it works.

``We've built a system of offense that has the ability to take advantage of any players' talents. And more importantly focus on the ones we know are going to be here. And we felt Bryan and Josh were our two best answers for the left side.''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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