The veteran offensive lineman has never played center, dating back as far as his high school days. But the Green & White coaches hope to teach this old dog a new trick.
“They just asked me if I would try it this week for emergency situations,” the 31-year-old Peterman said. “I went out there and told them I’d give it a try today.”
While he was surprised the coaches asked him to work at the new position, he’s looking forward to the challenge. For the 6’4”, 323-pounder, the difficulty lies not with the mental aspect of learning the playbook but with the physical demands of playing center.
“My body isn’t what it used to be, but the mind is as sharp as ever,” Peterman said. “I can pick up the Mike, Will or Buck [linebackers]. That’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is actually snapping and stepping.
“If you’re reaching the nose tackle, you’ve got to make sure the quarterback gets the ball before you reach him,” he explained. “That’s very different than if you’re at guard and you’re just reaching somebody.”
His coaches and teammates have been very helpful so far in providing him with the SparkNotes version of Center 101.
“Coach Dev [Mike Devlin] is a great coach. He’s guiding me in the right direction," Peterman said. "Plus, it’s great to have Nick [Mangold] telling me stuff, too.”
Having a lot of professional experience could actually prove to be a hindrance in this case.
“After 10 years playing at guard, you’re set in stone to one way,” he said, “so it’s definitely something different.”
Today was the first step, he said, but the next step is uncertain. He has “no clue” if he will be snapping the ball in either of the remaining two preseason games.
If things go as planned, Stephen Peterman’s work at center in practice will turn out to be a non-story throughout this season. Mangold, the four-time Pro Bowl center, has missed all of two games in his career since we drafted him in 2006, so the expectation and hope is to stick to the game plan.
But sometimes plans change. Injuries do happen, and you have to audible. And at those moments, you can never have too much depth at any position.