METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Ryan Ramczyk wasn’t expecting to be thrust into the role of protecting Drew Brees’ blindside.
He has moved up and down the Saints offensive line, and they have needed all of Ramczyk’s versatility.
New Orleans selected the Wisconsin tackle with the final pick of the first round in the NFL draft nearly six months ago. The plan was to groom him to eventually replace 12-year veteran Zach Strief at right tackle, but when Terron Armstead underwent should surgery in June, Ramczyk became the starting left tackle
Then he moved back to right tackle after Strief was injured and later went on injured reserve.
Coach Sean Payton said Thursday that Ramczyk’s “toughness and a mental toughness” has enabled him to handle the movement from side to side. And he’s handling his success like a seasoned pro.
“If you’re around him and you interview him, you get a sense of his demeanor, (like) he’s been in this three or four years at least,” Payton said.
Up next for the Saints (3-2), who have three in a row, are the Green Bay Packers — the team Ramczyk idolized as a youngster.
Ramczyk grew up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, about 100 miles west of Green Bay. Naturally he was Packers fan and expects to have 50 or more supporters in the stadium.
“Growing up as a kid I always watched a lot of the Packers,” Ramczyk said. “To be able to play in that stadium is pretty awesome.”
He’s only played at Lambeau Field once. That memorable moment was in his debut with the Badgers two years ago after transferring from Wisconsin-Stevens Point; He helped Wisconsin beat LSU.
Ramczyk said his father, a lifelong Packers fan, has had a jersey custom-made with the Packers on the front and the Saints on the back, with Ryan’s No. 71.
Armstead has helped tutor Ramczyk, and the rookie has made an impact on him.
“Ramczyk has been the most impressive rookie I’ve ever seen,” Armstead said. “His level of professionalism that he has at such young age is notable. He came in quiet, always willing to work. You make any kind of coaching point or adjustment you see it the next play, instantly input.
“That’s hard to do when you’ve been playing a certain way for a long time.”
Defensive end Alex Okafor said he wanted to test Ramczyk when he started facing him in practice.
“Offensive linemen have the hardest learning curve from college to the NFL,” Okafor said. “He came in with good feet and I think that helped him more than anything.
“You look at that with offensive tackles especially. If they start out with good feet that’ll carry along with them for the rest of their career. You can get stronger, but his feet are as good as I’ve seen and I think that’s helped him a lot.”
Ramczyk has been an integral part of a line that has allowed just four sacks and last week paved the way for a season-high 193 rushing yards against Detroit.
“It’s been kind of a wild road for me going into the NFL and being thrown in the starting lineup and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to stay healthy for the regular season,” Ramczyk said. “I’m going to keep grinding and trying to get better, but it’s been n awesome experience so far.”