GREEN BAY — Looking back, Josh Sitton said, it worked out for the best.
He’d always enjoyed his non-work visits to Chicago — come to think of it, given the Green Bay Packers’ annual success against the Chicago Bears, he enjoyed his work trips, too — and he and wife Kristen have found a home away from home in the Windy City.
“I love Chicago,” Sitton said as his current team, the Bears, got ready for Sunday’s game against his former team, the Packers, at Soldier Field. “I’ve been coming down here since I was a rookie in Green Bay, so I’ve always loved the city. So it’s been fun.”
Even though the way his tenure with the Packers ended — by being unceremoniously dumped at the end of training camp in 2016, after eight-plus seasons in Green Bay — was anything but fun.
This marks the second straight game in which the Packers have faced one of their former Pro Bowl guards. On Monday night, they faced T.J. Lang, who left in March as a free agent, joining the Detroit Lions on a three-year, $28.5 million deal. On Sunday, it’ll be Sitton, whom the Packers surprisingly cut in the final year of his contract after three Pro Bowl appearances.
Unlike Lang, who had the offseason to think about not finishing his career in Green Bay — something he wanted to do, even though he ended up signing with his hometown Lions — the timing of Sitton’s career change didn’t allow for much contemplation. Sitton signed a three-year, $21.5 million deal (with $10 million guaranteed) one day after the Packers released him.
“You’re always going to be upset about it. There is the human side of it, the emotional side of it,” Sitton admitted during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters this week — after initially dismissing his departure as part of the business. “(But) honestly, I had to get right to work here in Chicago right away. So that made it a lot easier for me to deal with.
“I’m trying to learn a new offense, and learn a new team, and, hell, just learn where I had to be for meetings, learn a new building. Things as simple as that. So my mind was kind of going with Bears stuff a lot. So it was a pretty quick process.”
The now 31-year-old Sitton is in the second year of that three-year deal and is protecting rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who was elevated to the starting job after veteran Mike Glennon played poorly in the Packers’ Sept. 28 victory over the Bears at Lambeau Field. Sitton missed last year’s Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field due to injury, so that was his first game against his former team in his old stomping grounds. Sunday will mark the second time he’s faced the Packers at Soldier Field.
“I thought there would be more emotions, or more something, than there was. It was just kind of like playing another game, honestly,” Sitton said. “You have so much to do on game day. You’re so focused on doing your job, you can’t really think about where you’re at, or where you’re playing.”
Sitton said the back problems that troubled him off and on during his time in Green Bay haven’t flared up too much this season — “I’m not getting any younger, though,” Sitton said — and Bears coach John Fox likes the impact Sitton, who sometimes rubbed people the wrong way in Green Bay, has had in Chicago’s locker room.
“He’s been a great addition,” Fox said. “I think Josh is really, really smart. I think guys gravitate to that because he understands defenses, he understands how it relates to the calls we’re making. I think he’s been a good sounding board for all of those guys. We’re fairly young, and he’s got a good football intelligence, which I think always helps and the other guys gravitate to him.”