Interview with Josh Sitton, RG Green Bay Packers

| May 31, 2011

Offensive linemen don’t get enough credit for their contribution on a weekly basis. Just ask the Packers’ right guard, Josh Sitton. We wholeheartedly agree with the man who we ranked as the #2 guard in the NFL in 2010.

Tell me, how often are the big guys getting a game ball? Do I really need to answer that? Forget O-linemen as a whole not getting their fair share of the spotlight, Sitton individually doesn’t get enough credit even after his phenomenal 2010. How did he not make the Pro Bowl? It’s a head scratcher, but it adds some motivation to get back on the field and crack some heads on the road to another title.

His entire football career, from college recruit to NFL prospect to Super Bowl winner, Sitton has been an unknown. That changed some this year when he was awarded the NFL Alumni Association Offensive Lineman of the Year Award.

We spent some time talking to Josh about his 2010 season, as well as his transition from right tackle to guard through college and into the NFL.

Steve Wyremski (SW): It looks like you’re enjoying the offseason from all the pictures I’ve see on your Twitter of Sawgrass.

Josh Sitton (JS): Yeah, man. I had a blast. I didn’t get into [golf] until after my rookie year and I’m pretty much addicted now.

SW: How’s this offseason after winning the Super Bowl compare to the prior typical offseasons?

JS: Well, obviously it’s completely different. Usually we would be back in Green Bay about the middle of March all the way through the middle of June. Being able to spend as much time at home is completely different. It’s kind of nice. I’m working out at Omni in Pensacola, Florida with Jason. I’m ready to get back to work, but I am enjoying my time off, though. I haven’t spent this much with my family and friends at home in a long time – probably since high school.

SW: Coming out of high school, you were a two-star recruit. You were recruited by three schools: University of Central Florida, Nicholls State, and Alabama Birmingham. None of those were football powerhouses. How have you been able to stay focused and succeed?

JS: It’s funny. I’ve always been kind of an unknown type of guy. Even going into the NFL, I wasn’t very well known. I feel like no one knew who I was. So it’s always been my thing being the guy that no one really knows. That is a motivating factor. I’ve always wanted to be the best and I like to win. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. It could be a video game against my girlfriend or one of my friends … I like to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s a run block or a pass block, I want to win that particular play. That really becomes my motivation when it comes to football – I want to win.

Obviously, coming out of high school, I wasn’t heavily recruited and towards the end I didn’t have a lot of offers sitting on the table. You kind of carry a chip on your shoulder [because of it]. I think I knew how talented I was, but I don’t think a lot of people did. Coming out of college it was the same thing. Everyone said that I’d be an undrafted free agent and I would never play this and that. You kind of carry that with you as well.

SW: You mention being unknown and under the radar, [explain PFF]. We rated you in 2010 +21.1, which ranked you as the #1 RG in the NFL and the #2 guard overall behind the Saints’ Carl Nicks. You also won the Offensive Lineman of the Year Award from the NFL Alumni Association. With all of that, still no Pro Bowl. Does that bother you at all?

JS: You know what, it doesn’t. I’d rather be in the Super Bowl. It really is one of those things where those things come in time. As a football player, my goal is always championships. After you win Super Bowls, those types of things come (contracts, Pro Bowls, whatever it may be). Super Bowl is my main goal. I realize that it’s tough to get into the Pro Bowl. This is a very talented league and the guys that made the Pro Bowl in front of me are all tremendous players and all very deserving. It’s hard. That was just my second year as a starter, so it doesn’t bother me, but it is one of my goals to make a Pro Bowl.

SW: I mentioned that you won the Offensive Lineman of the Year Award from the NFL Alumni Association. How important is it to win an award like that from former NFL lineman?

JS: It means a lot. It’s one thing to win something from the fans or from the media, but to win it from guys that have played the position (Hall of Fame guys and guys that have played a long time in this league), it means a lot. They really know what they’re watching and they really know what they’re talking about, so it really does mean a lot to me.

SW: Going back to college when you played at the University of Central Florida, you were recruited to play D-line, ended up playing RG for a period of time in your freshman year, and you moved over to RT later in your freshman season to play most of your college career at that position. After being drafted by the Packers, you were moved back to RG. How tough is it to deal with the transition from tackle to guard?

JS: Well, I was lucky. I played RG my freshman year and then I played pretty much the rest of my career at RT. My senior year, my coach probably did the best thing he could have every done for me, which I hated at the time. He moved me over from RT to LG the fifth game of the season. Then I bounced from LG to RG to RT and back and forth the rest of my senior season. Getting that experience at guard was huge for me and I didn’t realize it at the time. It was probably one of the main reasons I ended up shooting up and getting drafted in 4th round when people weren’t expecting me to get drafted.

It is tough. I remember that week I got moved over to guard [laughs]. I felt super uncomfortable. It’s a very tough transition. I kind of finished [my senior] season off at RT and I went to mini camp and OTAs [in the NFL] and they put me at RG. It’s a little bit different. The guy is right on top of you, so you’re making contact a lot quicker and the guys are a lot bigger and a lot stronger. It is a transition, but at this level you’re going to have to play multiple positions on the offensive line. You have to learn different positions and roll with it.

SW: You were a big part of the win of Super Bowl XLV back in February against the Steelers and the path to ultimately get there. It seems like guys like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and other skill position players get most of the credit for the successful season. How do you feel about that?

JS: Well, most of us have always played offensive line. There’s a few guys that might have been a tight end back in the day, but most of us have either played offensive line or defensive line since we were little or high school at least. It’s always been like that. I always say that we do all the work and everyone gets all the credit. Most of us are that type of guy that it doesn’t bother [us]. That’s just what we do … put on our hard hat, grab our lunch pail and go to work, get our job done, and try to get a win. If you’re being mentioned as an offensive lineman, it’s usually not a good thing. You don’t want to hear your name too much on Sundays.

SW: In 2010, you allowed two hits on the quarterback and no sacks in the regular season (I know Pittsburgh got you in the Super Bowl). That was down from 3 hits and 2 sacks in 2009. Fantastic numbers in both seasons and very similar years to that of Brian Waters of the Chiefs who was a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro. What do you attribute those solid numbers to?

JS: No they didn’t. I didn’t give up a sack in the Super Bowl. Ziggy [Hood] ended up getting him, but that wasn’t my fault. The pressure came from somewhere else and Aaron had to move out of the pocket a little bit.

I gave up a half of a sack in Detroit week 14, but I think you can give everyone a quarter sack [on that play]. All [of] their [defensive] lineman slammed us pretty bad. Anyway, I think it goes back to that will [and] that drive to win. I don’t like to lose, so I don’t want to get my buddy hit back there. It’s a lot of pressure blocking for [the guy] I feel is the best quarterback in league. That’s a lot of motivation trying to keep him healthy. If we keep him upright and healthy, there’s not a lot of teams that can stop him. Everyone sees that. It really goes back to the drive to win. I want to win my block every play. That’s my goal.

SW: If we drill down into your 2010 games, week 15 against the Patriots seems to be your roughest game of the year. We ranked that a -1.4, which was driven by your run blocking that game. Do you agree with that?

JS: I think my worst game was the Detroit game, but I thought I had a pretty decent game versus New England. It wasn’t great, but I think it was good.

SW: That week 14 game against Detroit overall wasn’t your weakest in our ratings, but it was one from a run blocking perspective where you did struggle the most.

JS: Yeah, definitely [laughs]. We can look back at it and laugh about it now and use it [to] say it was motivation, but that week was a bad week for us. I’ll tell ya that much. Losing a game like that in Detroit, which we haven’t done in a few years, was a hard loss.

SW: After those two games, you basically blew up in our ratings from week 16 and through the Super Bowl. Just monster games from you. How do you bounce back from those two rough games and finish the way you did?

JS: We’re professionals. It’s our job to be the best. It’s our job to block. It’s our job to open up holes for the running back. We have to be professionals and do our job. If you don’t, you’re going to be replaced. You just have to know that if you have a bad play or a bad game. You just have to bounce back from it.

A lot of people don’t realize the mental aspect to this game and how tough it can be on you and how stressful it can be. Throughout training camp, you’re worried about your job. Throughout the season, you’re worried about your job. People don’t understand that it’s not guaranteed contracts in this league [and] that it’s tough to stick around. It’s very stressful and you have to realize that you have to do your job to keep it.

SW: Sticking with the running game, was it tough?  In 2010, you had Ryan Grant go down with injury, Brandon Jackson comes in for a little bit as the main guy, John Kuhn’s in there for a little bit as well, and through the playoffs it was more of the James Starks show. Does that become difficult with different guys back there throughout different pieces of the season?

JS: Yeah, it can be. We get used to a certain kind of running back and then someone comes in and runs differently. Guys hit the hole differently. Some guys take a little bit longer and some are downhill runners and hit it and go. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but it is different. Brandon, Ryan and James all do different things differently. Some things they excel at and other things they don’t. I think Brandon Jackson is one of the best running backs in the open field that you’re ever going to see. James, he’s just almost young and dumb. He just runs to daylight, kind of like Forest Gump. He just runs fast, runs hard, and smiles the whole time. We love it.

Running backs are all different. It doesn’t really matter, we’re paid to try and open up holes and keep Aaron upright. We really don’t care [what running back is back there].

SW: Back in December, Ndamukong Suh told Doug Farrar of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner that you were the best matchup he’s had so far. I know you’ve seen it. Why do you think that is?

JS: I’m not sure. [It’s] probably because we play twice a year. We battle and kick each other’s butts twice. That probably stuck in his mind. I feel the exact same way. He’s definitely my toughest competition that I’ve probably had since I’ve been in the league (not just last year). He’s a hell of a player and he’s just going to get better. He’s super strong, he’s smart, and he’s going to get better and the game. It’s going to be a good battle for, hopefully, quite a few years.

SW: I actually heard an interview of yours back a month or so ago, where you said that with the way your career is headed and Suh’s career is headed, you should be facing each other for quite a while. You seemed pretty confident in that. Why?

JS: I think I’m a pretty solid guard in this league. I feel like if the Packers will have me, then I want to be around with the Packers for as long as I can. I’d love to finish my career there. I think [with] Suh being the rookie defensive player of the year, I think he’s pretty set over there in Detroit for a while. I think that’s pretty obvious.

SW: You mention being a Packer for the rest of your career. Being a fourth rounder, your salary has a base of a little over $500 thousand. I know you had a step up this year for playing a certain percentage of snaps played to $1.2 million. When I look at other RGs we rank you around at Pro Football Focus: Bobbie Williams of the Bengals ($2.6 million / year), Wade Smith of the Texans ($1.8 million per year), and Ben Grubbs of the Ravens (just about $3 million / year)… does stuff like that impact your mindset at all at this point in the way you approach the game?

JS: I think it’s something that you think about. It goes back to the Pro Bowl thing [mentioned earlier]. Those are all secondary to the Super Bowl. You do think about them, but you try not to worry about that kind of stuff. You just go out there and play as hard as you can and be the best player that you can be. Eventually, those things are going to come if you keep working hard and keep playing hard. The coaches notice those things when you work your butt off and you play a lot of snaps, which I did. Coaches notice those things and hopefully those things will come.

SW: Sticking with that, you played over 1,000 snaps in the last two seasons. Great stat.  It shows that you go out there and consistently play. Describe what you feel like after one of these seasons over 1,000 snaps.

JS: [Laughs] Well, this season was extra long obviously. We played 24 games. It’s tough man. It’s tough on the body.  About week 12, you start to get worn down (for me anyway). You just get worn down and feel it on your back [and] your knees. It’s just part of the wear and tear. You learn from some of the older guys how to combat that, how to stay healthy, preventative treatment, and the training room. I used to avoid the training room at all costs, but now I’m in there all the time just icing here and there, getting rubdowns, or whatever. You just learn from seeing the older guys in there doing it and it’s not necessarily because something’s hurt. You’re trying to prevent something from getting hurt. It’s a grind mentally and physically. It’s tough on the body to go four weeks of training camp and 16 weeks of the season. It’s really a grind on you and not a sport everyone can do.

SW: Yeah, I don’t know how you’re out there playing golf right now. How long does it take for your body to get back to feeling normal?  Do you ever wake up feeling good?

JS: About a week after the Super Bowl, I woke up and was like, “Oh crap, my knees feel good, my back feels good … I feel great.” Usually it takes a lot longer than that, but maybe I was just on the high from the Super Bowl. Usually what I do. I know a lot of guys take a couple of weeks off. I usually take a month and a half off or two months off after the season. I might work out a few times here and there, but I don’t do anything crazy. It’s usually a month or so to get your body back fully.

SW: You’ve now been a Packer for three seasons. Obviously a storied franchise with Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Brett Favre, etc., Lambeau Field, and some of the most devoted fans in the game. Tell me about what it’s like to be a Packer.

JS: I love it, man. Right after I got drafted, we came up for mini-camp and OTAs and you can just feel the tradition at Lambeau and around the city. You can just see the fans and see how passionate they are. There’s just a different feeling there [with] the Hall of Famers, all the pictures, trophies, banners, and everything around the stadium. Walking on the field is a different feeling from any other place and I really believe you can feel it.  It’s great, man. After I got drafted, I was a little bit weary going up to this cold place in Green Bay, Wisconsin but after I got there and got a chance to enjoy it, the fans really embrace you and take you in. It’s like a family and it’s a really great place to play. I feel very lucky.

SW: In the trenches, what do you think is the one thing that the average fan doesn’t really know that goes on in there?

JS: A lot of times, they don’t really show on TV all the extra fights that go on. They show some of them, but not all of them. I know that may be a common answer, but there’s a lot of scrapping that goes on and a lot of extra shoving, pushing, and punching. Usually the TV cuts away from [it]. I try not to do that as much to save my energy, but it really does go on.

SW: While you played at UCF, you played with Brandon Marshall for two seasons. Do you think he gets a raw deal from the media?

JS: I don’t know, man. Brandon’s done a few things that I’m sure he’d like to have back. Brandon’s actually a really great dude. He’s always been really great to me. He’s a really cool and really nice guy. A lot of times, he’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s tough. When you do a couple of things, it’s going to stick with you. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. You have to learn from your mistakes, move on, and get better. You can’t really worry about how you’re portrayed in the media. That’s just part of the game. Unfortunately, he’s been in a few situations where people are going to [view] him [negatively].

SW: I know you play fantasy football. Let me ask you this … say it’s Packers/Lions and you’re up 7 with 3 minute left in the game and you have Calvin Johnson on your fantasy team. Does your fantasy team performance ever creep into the back of your mind during the game and you start thinking about letting the d-lineman through to stuff the run or get a hit on Aaron?

JS: [Laughs] No, dude. Absolutely not, but I’ll tell you this … fantasy football gets talked about a little bit because they put stuff up on the Jumbotron. If my guy’s leading in receiving that day, I’ll be like, “Oh, hell yeah.” On the field though, no one thinks about that.

SW: The Packers right now, you guys have a pretty young core: Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley … I could go on. You guys are coming off the Super Bowl victory. Is this the making of a dynasty like the 49ers in the 80’s, the Cowboys in the 90’s, or the Patriots in the 2000’s?

JS: Certainly, our goal is to repeat. There’s no doubt about that. There’s been a lot of pressure on that. We haven’t gotten a chance to sit around as a team really since the Super Bowl, but our goal is to go and repeat. We feel like we do have a lot of young talent. I really feel like the only thing to stop us is us. I really think this team goes as far as the offensive line goes and as Aaron goes. If we can play well, keep Aaron healthy, and have a decent run game I think we’re pretty tough to stop.

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Josh Sitton looks like he’ll be a fixture of the Packers’ offensive line for the foreseeable future. At least he will be if the Packers are smart and lock him up long-term after this lockout mess is past us. If he performs like this again in 2011 and isn’t selected to the Pro Bowl … there’s something seriously wrong.

Follow Steve on Twitter: @SteveWyremski

  • hounddog

    Missed the question about what he thinks of Failey pairing with Suh.

  • Steve Wyremski

    Yeah, that would have been interesting I suppose, but so would have several other questions. Unfortunately, I have to cut the questions off somewhere. Thanks for the feedback.

  • tru_psu1914

    As a die hard Packer fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. It was great seeing his sense of personality and humility. Go pack go!

    Lineman never get respect partly because the media doesn’t know enough about the game to shed light on who deserves the recognition and who doesn’t. So when it comes time for Pro Bowl voting, fans just look at the Madden ratings, and yardage of the top running backs and click away. Its a shame really.

    • Steve Wyremski

      That’s exactly why we wanted to get a guy like Josh on. O-linemen are a huge factor in this game and they’re rarely talked about. I’ve seen people write, “you know it’s the offseason when you see something like this” in regards to this interview being conducted and published. The fact is that Josh is a long-time target, as are many other offensive linemen. They’re a huge part of the game and need to be recognized more than they are.

      I’m hoping there will be more of this in the future.