Category Archives: Off-Field

3

April

Character Still Matters for the Green Bay Packers

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Packer People, Packers players, Johnny Jolly, Packers character, Packers off the field

Johnny Jolly is proof that Green Bay is a very special place to play.

Another week, another story about an NFL player (allegedly) engaging in shady off-field activities.

This time it’s former Philadelphia Eagles and now-current Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson and his supposed affiliation with a gang. Jackson denies such activity, but the fact the accusation has even been made stains his reputation.

This is just the most recent in a string of stories over the past several seasons involving NFL players and criminal activities. Aaron Hernandez, currently awaiting trial on miser charges, is probably the most severe but there have been so many other instances this entire article would just be a list if all were to be mentioned.

Drunk driving, drugs, domestic violence, assault and the aforementioned murder are just some of the charges levied against NFL players the past several seasons. The league has an image problem and commissioner Roger Goodell has his hands full trying to fix it.

This is why NFL fans, regardless of what team colors they wear on Sundays, should be thankful for a team like the Green Bay Packers.

Since general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy arrived in 2005 and 2006, respectively, the Packers have been able to avoid the off field issues so many other teams have had to deal with over and over again.

The one potential exception to this for the Packers, the past drug arrests of defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, was turned into a positive this past year when Jolly was reinstated by the NFL and was named the team’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient for how he has turned his life around and became a locker room leader (per Aaron Rodgers himself) in the process.

How has Green Bay been fortunate to avoid the distractions a good chunk of the rest of the league often encounters?

Well, for one, character sometimes has to trump talent in the eyes of Thompson and McCarthy and it should. This is why the Packers have passed on players such as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens in the past, despite lobbying by fans and a certain former MVP quarterback.

They might be uber-talented on the football field, but if they cause distractions off the field or disharmony in the locker room, what’s the point? McCarthy and Thompson value a united locker room above all else and they won’t introduce any element that risks upsetting this.

1

April

Cory’s Corner: Shape up or ship out, just ask DeSean Jackson

The Eagles shocked the NFL when they decided to cut bait with DeSean Jackson last week.

Philadelphia was willing to just let a three-time Pro Bowler, who has the wheels to turn any game upside down, walk without getting anything in return.

DeSean Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowler and has averaged 15 yards a reception for the last five years.

DeSean Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowler and has averaged 15 yards a reception for the last five years.

And the reason was because of Jackson’s alleged connection to gangs. The Eagles won the NFC East last year mainly because of the way first-year coach Chip Kelly utilized offensive weapons like Jackson and now they’re telling him to hit the road?

It is definitely a new age in the NFL. I’m not saying that teams will not be lining up for Jackson’s sports car speed, because Jackson will be signed, and probably at a discount, to a contender like San Francisco or Seattle.

But how many times did you see teams willing to part ways with a player and not get anything in return? And here’s the kicker: Jackson didn’t do anything wrong. He was not prosecuted legally and he wasn’t in any other trouble.

Yet, the Eagles did the right thing. After the Aaron Hernandez situation blew up in the Patriots’ faces, you can bet that teams are going to use every available resource to find out dirt about their players. New England wasted a fourth round pick on a budding superstar that may end up behind bars.

The question has been asked if the Packers should go after Jackson. I really don’t see a need. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are better and more consistent. The only way the Packers even think about Jackson is if they suddenly get the feeling that they cannot sign both Nelson and Cobb — which shouldn’t happen.

The Eagles sent a strong message to the rest of the NFL when they opted to just pop the pimple and move on with the risk of scarring. As opposed to throwing ailments and other things at it, hoping that it would eventually clear up.

Most teams are willing to live with questionable off-the-field behavior as long as you continue to perform on gameday. The line between winning and losing in the NFL is that razor thin that teams would rather just look the other way.

30

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

27

March

Mike McCarthy Speaks at Owner’s Meetings

Mike McCarthy

McCarthy spoke about the current state of the Packers at this week’s Owner’s Meetings

As I have been doing for the past few press conferences by Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, I am sharing highlights of his comments along with some of my own thoughts.  As always, enjoy the read and feel free to agree, disagree, cheer or jeer.

Credit for this recap goes to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Mike Vandermause for his great coverage of McCarthy’s comments today via Twitter.

On the offensive line situation heading into 2014: Bryan Bulaga moving back to right tackle. MM likes Bakhtiari at LT. Derek Sherrod will be swing tackle, start out on left side

The return of Bryan Bulaga from his ACL injury last year means more shuffling on the outside.  I have always thought putting Bulaga back at right tackle made the most sense, after watching David Bakhtiari hold his own at left tackle during his rookie season.  Bakh has plenty of room to improve and certainly needs to as he matures, but I have no qualms about his being the starting left tackle heading into this season.

As far as the departure of Evan Dietrich-Smith, the Packers will enter their fourth consecutive season with a new center.  The popular theories on who the current front runners have been second-year man J.C. Tretter and current guard T.J. Lang.  Lang stepped in at center last season in emergency relief and quickly made a case for himself to remain at guard.  Lang wasn’t horrible, but he’s been effective at guard and the Packers don’t need to tinker with a good thing there.

Simpy handing the keys to Tretter is risky for a guy who hasn’t played a single down yet.  McCarthy will need to closely evaluate what he has in Tretter throughout the offseason program.  Pre season game action will tell the biggest tale, as that is obviously the closest look to an actual game that they will have to go on.  Still, Green Bay would be wise to exhaust all remaining avenues to add some talent to the competition at center.  They have the draft in early May, undrafted free agency, and the current free agency period at their disposal.  There will also be roster cuts this summer and we never know who might be on the move.

26

March

Patience and Proactivity Pay Off for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

General manager Ted Thompson runs the Green Bay Packers football operations his way.

The Thompson way is characterized by accumulating draft picks, developing drafted players, re-signing young Packers players on the rise, and largely avoiding bidding wars with players leaving other teams during the opening of free agency.

Depending on the fans prospective, this is usually a love or hate relationship. Fans either love the draft and develop approach or long for big name signings in free agency.

However, Ted Thompson has utilized a combination of patience and proactivity to bring his vision of building a franchise to life.

Thompson isn’t afraid of free agency. Rather, he waits until the initial frenzy is over to avoid overpaying players. Doing this has yielded quality players in the past, including Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who were both signed in 2006.

Both Pickett and Woodson were integral players in the 2010 Super Bowl run, and when looking back at their contracts, they appeared to be relative bargains when compared to their contributions to the team.

When free agency opened in 2014, Thompson appeared to be quiet. While teams like the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints were throwing money around like they printed it, Thompson waited.

By waiting until the overpaying binge subsided, he was able to sign defensive end Julius Peppers at a very competitive contract (3 years, $30 million) and bolster the interior defensive line with Letroy Guion (1 year, $1 million).

Will Peppers have the same impact as either Woodson or Pickett? We certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

Rather than panicking and overpaying impeding offensive free agents running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless, Thompson was able to bring them back for a modest investment (2 years, $3.17 million and 2 years, $3 million, respectively).

Not only is Thompson patient, he’s also proactive.

He’s great at extending players before they ever hit free agency. Similarly, he has knack for re-signing his own players in that small window between when their contracts expire and when they’re able to test the market.

26

March

Why Haven’t The Packers Resigned Matt Flynn?

Matt Flynn

In case anyone forgot, the 2013 Packers will always be remembered as the “oh shit, Aaron Rodgers got hurt” season.  After Rodgers broke his clavicle against the Bears, it became quite apparent that the Packers front office had been unusually caught with its collective pants off by having no viable backup to keep the team afloat.  This all started in training camp and the preseason as the Packers cut incumbent backup quarterbacks Graham Harrell and BJ Coleman, leaving former 1st round pick and overall bust Vince Young as the presumed backup, only to release him at the 53 man cut deadline.  After all that, the Packers front office signed Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien to actually backup the season.  Obviously the football gods didn’t look favorably to all this as Seneca Wallace got hurt almost immediately into his first start for the Packers and left an unproven and inexperienced Scott Tolzien to start for the Packers against the Giants and part of the Vikings game.  It was only when the Packers got to “plan F” did they get really desperate and call back old buddy Matt Flynn, who took over halfway into the Vikings game, managed to scrape a couple of tight wins against the Falcons and the Cowboys and managed to do just enough to keep the team afloat until Rodgers came back to play the Bears in the season finale with playoff hopes on the line.

This story is something that the Packers can ill afford to repeat; in all honestly the Packers did not get into the playoffs last year, the Bears and Lions were just even less deserving of a playoff berth.  So the question really becomes, why are the Packers repeating 2013 by not resigned Matt Flynn and what reason could they possibly have?

Matt Flynn would not be an expensive backup, after bombing out in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, its pretty apparent that the only team that has any value for Flynn is the Packers, and thus his asking price would be low due to no competition for his services.  There has been no news of Matt Flynn taking any visits with any other teams and no rumors that any other team is even interested.  Furthermore, Flynn missed out on the free agent signing rush, where some backup quarterbacks commanded as much as a $5 million average over 2-3 years.  As such, the best Flynn will likely see is a 1 year veteran minimum, which for a player with 6 years of experience means $730,000.

25

March

NFL Approves Rule Changes

NFL Owners meeting

NFL Owners voted to approve rule changes at this week’s meetings

With the NFL owner’s meetings taking place this week, one of the major topics of concern are the proposed rule changes.  I’ll delve into some of those shortly.  There have already reportedly been three rule changes that have been approved to take effect immediately starting in 2014.

The first has to do with the process of instant replay.  NFL owners voted to allow referees to communicate with the officiating command center in New York during on-field reviews.  Previously, referees were afforded several angles of a play under review and then had to make a final ruling.

Now, the command center in New York will closely monitor and begin reviewing potential reviewable plays right away.

When the official contacts them, they will likely have already viewed the play and can help guide to the correct ruling.  The final call is still the referee’s to make, but the command center will ensure that all aspects of the review and play are correctly assessed.

The next is the elimination of a “roll up block” to the side of a player’s leg.  This was a modification of a previous rule that banned roll up blocks from behind.  The biggest beneficiaries of this rule are likely to be defensive players.  Many knee injuries had occurred to players who couldn’t see such a block coming.  After many rule changes that have seemingly favored the offense, the defense scores one here.

The last is the elimination of the “slam dunk” touchdown celebration.  While the exact reasoning for the rule change hasn’t been explained, it would likely be due to the few instances where the contact with the goal posts caused them to become altered or uneven.  The process to correct this is a quick one, but I think we can all live with a little added protection to the integrity of something that affects a score.

The most famous user of this touchdown celebration ironically may have just played his last down this past season: Tony Gonzalez.  When told about the rule change, Gonzalez tweeted that he is glad he got out when he did.  Another tight end who will be coming up with a new scoring celebration is Jimmy Graham.  Graham is currently negotiating with the New Orleans Saints on a long-term contract.