If offensive linemen only get noticed when they make mistakes, Green Bay Packers center Scott Wells' relative anonymity can be seen as a sign of excellence.
While fans marvel at the exploits of Aaron Rodgers and his receivers, Packers coaches and teammates point to Wells as perhaps the smartest player on the field.
The eighth-year player out of Tennessee is the brains behind an offensive line that helped Rodgers and the Packers pass their way to a Super Bowl championship last season and a 7-0 start going into Sunday's game at San Diego. Wells comes as close as anybody to mistake-free play most weeks, and he might understand Mike McCarthy's offense as well as anyone.
"I've told Scott this before: It's a lot like growing up in my house as a kid, when your dad's not talking to you, things are going well. I don't talk to Scott very often," McCarthy said.
Packers left guard T.J. Lang says playing alongside Wells has gone a long way toward helping him make the transition from backup to starter this season.
"He doesn't get the recognition I think he deserves," Lang said. "But he's a great player, we all know that."
Wells prefers to defer credit to his teammates, but does seem to feel a certain sense of redemption after briefly losing his starting spot in 2009.
"It was extremely difficult," Wells said. "Anybody with some pride is going to find that extremely difficult. But at the same time, you know in this business, as long as your foot's in the door, you have to wait for the opportunity. And I got another opportunity."
Jason Spitz was given the job in training camp that year and started the season opener, but Wells was called on the very next game after an injury to left tackle Chad Clifton. The line was shuffled and Spitz went to guard.
Wells never gave the job back up; he has started 42 straight games at center, including the postseason. Spitz's Packers career eventually was sidetracked by injury, and he is a backup in Jacksonville.
"We'll never know if I'm a different player because of it," Wells said. "But it was a challenging time in my career, as it would be for anybody and other guys who have been through a similar situation. But at the same time, you just have to press forward, take it all in stride and continue to show up, do your job and take advantage of the opportunities you have. I feel I've been able to do that."
Scott Wells is quick, strong and smart.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Wells has committed only two holding penalties since the start of the 2010 season. He allowed 1.5 sacks last season, according to STATS LLC, and hasn't allowed one this year. He can hold his own against the fiercest defensive tackles in the game. But his grasp of the mental part of the game is even more impressive to teammates.
Rodgers points to Wells and running back John Kuhn as the Packers' smartest players on offense.
"If you look at guys who really are the smartest players on the team, and I'm not going to include myself in that mix, Scott Wells and John Kuhn know the offense as well as anybody and they're able to make checks without me even saying anything," Rodgers said. "It takes a ton of stress and pressure off of me and my film study and my preparation when I know that if I guess wrong, or if I'm unsure about a look, that I know Scotty is going to be right there next to me, a step ahead of me at times, knowing what the call needs to be."
Rodgers had similar praise for former Packers guard Daryn Colledge, who signed with Arizona as a free agent in the offseason. Rodgers says Wells is on the same level.
"Scotty is second to none," Rodgers said. "If you're ranking, kind of, the intangibles, Scott is the smartest and Josh (Sitton, right guard) has the best reactionary skills. Josh just understands the game so well, he's able to make reactionary plays. But Scotty and his smarts take a ton of pressure off me."
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Wells' combination of toughness and quick decision-making have made him the Packers' most consistent lineman.
"It's a challenging position and he's really been consistent for us this year," Philbin said. "I think he's kind of the heart and soul for the o-line. Center's a critical position. These guys have to drive the train, so to speak, and make sure everybody's on the same page. They're the decision-makers in the offense."
Lang says Wells simply "never screws up." If Wells is supposed to give Lang help in a particular protection or run-blocking scheme, he's going to be in the right place at the right time.
"It's inspiring to watch him play, how hard he plays and how much he really cares about winning his blocks," Lang said. "Watching that, it makes you want to be a better player."
Wells is aware of the praise from coaches and teammates, but doesn't want to make a big deal out of it.
"I just try to show up, do my job effectively and help others any way I can," Wells said. "I think as a whole, we're all trying to do the job, come in here, execute, to the best of our abilities. And if everybody does that, we'll be fine."
Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.