Many veteran players can make things uncomfortable when their time is up.
But Packers center Jeff Saturday was, well, mature in the way he handled his benching. He’s being replaced by third-year player Evan Dietrich-Smith, a player best known for having been stomped.
But there was no bitterness from Saturday, who led fan voting at his position for the NFC Pro Bowl team (which tells you more about fan voting than Saturday).
“Obviously, as a player, you want to play. But I support Evan and I know he’s a great player. He’ll get the job done and do what he needs to do to play well and get us a win,” Saturday said, via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com. “Obviously, I [was] a stop-gap here. There’s no surprise as far as that stuff goes. You’re 37 years old. I’ve been around this thing long enough to know that it’s not a long future. I think if ‘Deedy’ plays well, I wouldn’t think they’d go back and make another change. That’s how I look at it. . . .
“We’re at two totally different points of our career. His is on the up-ramp, mine is on the way out. This is football. It’s a business at the end of the day. I think ‘Deeds’ is going to do a great job and give us a good chance to win games.”
For a guy who has started every game he’s played since 2000 (202 games), made five Pro Bowls and was named to two All-Pro teams, it would have been easy for him to be bitter, or even absent.
Coach Mike McCarthy gave him an out, never announcing the switch, and Saturday admitted the change wasn’t made for medical reasons.
“I’d be lying if I told you it’s not disappointing and tough. I’m here to play football,” Saturday said. “I told coach, I came here to help win a Super Bowl. Winning the NFC North is great, but that wasn’t why I was here. I looked for more of the postseason. It’s disappointing from that side.
“[But] you can’t be affected by your circumstances. I’m a member of the Packers. It’s not just me. If coach McCarthy thinks that gives us the best chance to win and go on and do things in the postseason, then that’s what it is. As a player, it’s always disappointing whenever someone else goes in front of you. It’s a tough thing to deal with. But I’m going to deal with it.
“Here’s the one thing: I can look at my family, I can look at all my players and say I put the best I could be out there. If that’s not good enough and somebody else is better, then they deserve to play. And I’ve always felt like that. I respect ‘Deedy’ enough to say if that’s his, then he needs to take it and go do a good job with it.”
Even if he’s no longer among the five best options on an offensive line that’s leaked all year, Saturday showed once again why he’s one of the most respected players in the league.