Home Sweet Home: Wisconsin native Rick Wagner looks to bolster Packers line

National News

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Rick Wagner (71) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(WFRV) – Rick Wagner has seen a few Packers training camp practices, but from the other side as a fan.

Now the West Allis, Wis. native gets to live out what at one time was a dream, and play for the Packers himself.

 “I love the state of Wisconsin. I never want to leave. So, I’m very happy to be home,” said Rick Wagner. “Growing up in the state, I know this is a special place. Grew up a Packers fan. It was a pretty easy decision to come here, and I’m very happy to be here.”

Wisconsin offensive linesman Rick Wagner is shown before an NCAA college football game against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Wagner walked on at Wisconsin and made himself into an NFL offensive lineman. After seven years with stops in Baltimore and Detroit, he signed as a free agent this offseason to be the replacement for right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

“You know, in the NFL you cant choose where you go. You’re happy to have a job anywhere. At this point in my career I’m happy to be here, and it’s definitely a special place,” said Wagner.

Now Wagner walks into an offensive line room full of some unique personalities. Whether that’s guard Billy Turner, who he’ll line up next to, or left tackle David Bakhtiari.

Wagner was already familiar with Bakhtiari from the draft combine when they were drafted in 2013. Now they’re teammates.

“You know, in the NFL you cant choose where you go. You’re happy to have a job anywhere. At this point in my career I’m happy to be here, and it’s definitely a special place,” said Wagner.

“First of all, he’s got a ton of experience. I know he battled through some things last year, but just a veteran presence. He’s about the right things. He fits in the locker room really well in the [offensive line] really well. I’ve been impressed with him just in the limited exposure during the walk-throughs, but he’s locked in ready to go,” said head coach Matt LaFleur.

His teammates in the offensive line room are just now getting to interact with their new right tackle for the first time as training camp kicks off. Center Corey Linsley has already seen how the reserved Wagner can fit in with the Packers scheme first hand.

“Rick, first off, he’s a great dude. He’s take a lot better to, a lot calmer to the playbook adjustments than some of us did last year. That speaks to, probably his intelligence,” said Linsley.

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Rick Wagner (71) during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

On paper it may seem the Packers starting offensive line is already set, but there will no doubt be plenty of competition in camp. That’s after Green Bay picked three lineman in the later rounds of this year’s draft, and guard Lane Taylor returns after missing all of last season due to injury.

In the end the decisions about who will line up come week one still need to be made.

“Yeah nothing is set in stone right now. I mean, you have to roll out five guys. There’s competition all across the board. I think the key for us is to find the best five that fit together,” said LaFleur.

Picking up the Packers blocking schemes and playbook are a big part of what any new offensive lineman must accomplish during the offseason. This year, though, that’s all they’ve been able to do because of the virtual offseason due to the pandemic.

Now it’s go time for Wagner as his first training camp in Green Bay as a player presents an opportunity to put in the work on the grass.

“I mean I’ve jsut got to put a lot of emphasis that every time we get to go out on the field because I didn’t ahve the OTAs. Just going to put a lot more importance on our practices against each other,” said Wagner.

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