The only time an NFL offensive lineman gets noticed is during a mistake. I asked Packers offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley to describe the feeling of being public enemy #1 after a holding penalty negates a big play for the Packers.
PE – The offense just made a 40 yard gain that gets called back because you got flagged for holding. Describe that feeling in the ensuing 10-15 seconds when the crowd groans, and the camera is directly at YOU.
David Bakhtiari: I’ll take this one, Corey (in jest). I’ve gotten a fair amount of holding penalties. At times I would definitely tend to disagree. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to make the ref any angrier than he needs to be. It sucks. You definitely don’t want to be a hindrance to your team, but at the end of the day the number one thing is, we want to keep our quarterback clean. So we’re going to do that by any means possible. Because protecting him is our number one priority.
PE – How are you able to move on from a negative play so quickly?
Corey: Actually, Dave taught me a great acronym that I use to really move past the play. And I’m not going to say it because it’s a little vulgar, but…
David Bakhtiari: You can say the acronym though.
David & Corey: F.I.D.O.
Corey: You just “drive on.” Drive on.
David Bakhtiari: You can figure out the rest of it.
Corey: The last play really doesn’t mean anything in the moment. The only thing it is going to do is hinder you. Whatever happened on the last play, whether it was successful or unsuccessful, you have to move past it because you can’t get complacent and you can’t constantly worry about what you did wrong. It’s a great acronym to live by in general.
David Bakhtiari: In our profession you need to have short term memory – good play, bad play, whatever happened before. You want to make sure you clear your mind because the next play is the most important play. It’s not good if you’re thinking, “Ah man, I just got Aaron (Rodgers) hit.” That can give way to a sort of snowball effect. So for us, our number one priority is giving the quarterback enough time to move freely through the pocket and make a good throw.
PE – One thing I’ve always been amazed by and never really fully understood is the process of calling out block assignments at the line, just prior to a play. Is it as difficult as it sounds? Is it always the centers responsibility?
Corey: It looks like it’s the center’s responsibility only, but it truly is a unit thing. WE talk about unit all the time. Especially when you’re talking about shielding and protecting the quarterback, you’re talking about communication. And making sure everyone is on the same page. If Dave sees something that I don’t see and he doesn’t say anything, that’s when shielding and protecting the quarterback goes wrong and sacks happen. It’s a unit effort and that is what is so unique about the offensive line.
David Bakhtiari: Paul I’m not going to sell Corey short. Everything starts with him. He is arguably one of the smartest guys on our offensive line (laughing). Everything starts with him – it’s almost a trickle down effect. Of course there is help here and there from the guards and sometimes the tackles. But the number one thing is that the communication really starts at the center position.
PE – Do fans lose sight of players as people? Is it weird to see dudes that are older than you wearing your jersey? Or fawning over you?
David Bakhtiari: Yeah. It’s more surreal. Because I grew up wearing jerseys of other players. And now to see people wearing my jersey, it’s kind of, I mean, it’s a little different. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of people wearing our jerseys because we are offensive linemen. We really embody the unsung hero role.