Justin Britt’s method on the football field is simple:
Don’t think. Just do.
“You got to get to the point where you’re not thinking, you’re just reacting and playing football,” the Seahawks’ rookie right tackle said. “Or you have a plan and you go out there and execute your plan. You can’t really think about what could go wrong or anything. You just have to go out there and play.”
Britt’s first career start Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers includes a few significant circumstances. And while starting for the defending Super Bowl champions in the NFL opener at CenturyLink Field is a remarkable achievement for a rookie, the spectacle of the event doesn’t concern him.
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There are other pressing matters at hand.
How important is Britt’s role Thursday night? “Protection is one (thing) that we want to make sure that we focus on,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel said this week.
Britt will face veteran pass rushers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers — two of the league’s best. The Packers may also look to test the rookie to avoid trying to break through All-Pro left tackle Russell Okung’s side more than needed.
“I think they will until he shows that he can handle it,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “Once it’s on tape, I think people will try to game him and pressure him. He knows that, we’ve talked about it. It’s up to us to prepare him and for him to be able to handle it and adjust as the game goes.”
The Packers have altered Peppers’ role slightly from previous seasons. They’ll ask him to play in both two-point and four-point stances. Peppers’ threat in rushing the passer will also make it difficult for the Seahawks to double-team Matthews.
“They’re really good up front,” Okung said. “They’re active, they move around a lot, pretty active. Tough group of guys. It’s going to be a great challenge and test moving forward.”
It may be Britt’s first career start in the pros, but to him, it’s just his fifth game in a Seahawks’ uniform. Britt started all four games this preseason.
“I’m just going to go out there and play. I’m not going to overdo it,” Britt said. “I’m just going to prepare like it’s another game.”
Seattle drafted the Missouri tackle in the second round this year with the idea he would replace departed starter Breno Giacomini.
Britt established himself as the lead candidate in one of the more talked-about position battles in training camp, then beat out veteran tackle Eric Winston, whom the Seahawks eventually cut, and second-year pro Alvin Bailey.
He’s earned the opportunity to play alongside fellow linemen J.R. Sweezy, Max Unger, James Carpenter and Okung opposite a versatile Packers’ defense. In being the leader in the right-tackle competition all summer, Britt has had plenty of time to adjust to his teammates.
“I feel like me and J.R., our communication is improving and we’re getting better and on the same page more often,” Britt said. “We’re just working on it day by day. It won’t be perfect, but we’re trying to be.”
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Britt has shown athleticism, power, and also versatility. He started 24 games at left tackle in college and six at right tackle.
“He did pretty well in preseason,” Okung said. “He’s been learning everyday, but that’s expected out of a rookie — to come in here and play snaps and really get some time under your belt. But obviously he’s earned a job, and now he has to show that he’s capable of doing it.”
Cable was impressed with Britt’s ability to adjust and fix things as they happened after the first few plays in the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, and then carry those changes into the following series.
Britt has prepared for the Packers’ defense by watching film, film and more film. His takeaway is the same viewed by Okung and Cable.
“They’re a physical team. They’re high motor, a lot of energy, a lot of effort,” Britt said. “They do what they do really well. We have to be on top of our game and I’m excited to go out there and play against them.”