Category Archives: 2011 Training Camp

31

October

McCarthy: Packers’ Focus Shifts To San Diego Chargers

With the bye week now in the rear view mirror, Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers have shifted their focus to the one team standing in their way of becoming 8-0: the San Diego Chargers.

In his post-bye Monday press conference, McCarthy noted that practice today was full pads—something he plans to do twice this week—and the concentration was on fundamentals and getting ready for the Chargers.

“San Diego is an uncommon opponent,” McCarthy said. “We haven’t traveled out to the West Coast this year. We are taking extra time getting ready for this game.”

There was an obvious respect level from McCarthy when asked about the Chargers and their organization, starting with head coach Norv Turner and extending down to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

“A good football team,” McCarthy said. “Norv Turner has always done an excellent job offensively, the way he challenges your scheme. I have a lot respect for Greg Manusky. He does an excellent job [defensively] and they are very well-coordinated. The Chargers have always been a talented football team and that’s no different this year. This will be a big challenge for us.”

He anticipates watching the Chargers and Chiefs tonight on Monday Night Football. The main scouting will be done with coaches film later in the week, but it will help to gauge the pulse of the team. McCarthy also noted that watching the second divisional game between the Chargers and Chiefs is beneficial, as there’s a lot to learn about a team in divisional games, especially the second time around.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s Monday press conference:

  • McCarthy isn’t talking about injuries until Wednesday. He said both Chad Clifton and Mike Neal were “getting better.” Hoping to give a better timeline by Wednesday.
  • The team was excited to promote Brandon Saine. He was impressive during training camp and earned the job. It was a no-brainer based on how he’s worked on the opponent squad. He will have the opportunity to make the gameday 46-man roster. It’s the coaching staff’s job to make sure Saine is ready for that opportunity.
  • McCarthy said it is nice to have good things said about your football team. It beats the alternative. He likes where his football team is right now, but the focus is on getting better. The Packers have more to offer as a football team. There’s a lot of confidence that if we go in week-in and week-out and play our best football that things will take care of itself. When Sunday rolls around, we need to have our best performance.
31

October

Packers Promote RB Brandon Saine from Practice Squad

The Green Bay Packers signed rookie running back Brandon Saine from the practice squad to the 53-man roster after placing fellow rookie back Alex Green on IR, GM Ted Thompson announced Monday. The Packers also signed safety Anthony Levine and offensive lineman Paul Fenaroll to the practice squad and Cecil Newton was released.

The need for promoting Saine arose when Green tore his ACL in the first quarter of the Packers 33-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. The injury occured when Randall Cobb tripped into the back of Green’s legs during a kick return. Mike McCarthy announced last Monday that Green would be lost for the season.

A third-round pick from Hawaii, Green had just three carries for 11 yards and one catch for six yards in limited snaps this season. Depending on when surgery for the injury occurs, Green should be a full-go for 2012.

Saine (5-11, 220) was signed as an undrafted free agent on July 28 and won himself a spot on the Packers practice squad by rushing for 51 yards during the preseason. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State his senior year. He will wear No. 33.

While Green saw limited playing time in the Packers offense, Saine will likely receive less. Green Bay needed an extra running back on the roster, mostly because John Kuhn, who can fill in as an emergency back, is the team’s lone fullback. Expect to see Saine on special teams duty only.

Levine (5-11, 200) returns to the Packers practice squad after being released on Sept. 3. He spent the first 18 games of 2010 on the practice squad but was released during final cut downs this season. He will wear No. 34. It’s safe to say that Levine is over a concussion issue that forced him to miss precious training camp and preseason time this August. He’ll provide emergency depth at safety, a position that has been stretched thin by Nick Collins’ injury.

Fenaroll (6-2, 300) was released by the Atlanta Falcons during final cut downs after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He was a three-year starter at Stony Brook and was named All-Big South in each of his final two seasons. He will wear No. 64. After releasing Newton—Cam’s older brother—the Packers needed another body on the offensive line. Fenaroll is that guy for the time being.

12

October

Packers Send Nick Collins to IR; Ray Dominguez Elevated to 53-Man Roster

The Green Bay Packers finally placed injured safety Nick Collins (neck) on IR Wednesday, as the Packers used his vacated roster spot to elevate G/T Ray Dominguez from the practice squad to bolster an offensive line that has been ravaged by injuries.

Collins, a three-time All-Pro, was hurt in Week 2 against the Panthers as he attempted to make a tackle on Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart. He had successful fusion surgery to repair the injury but his season was ruled over by team physicians.

The Packers waited to put Collins on IR until now, as GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy attempted to find a hole in the roster that needed filling. Chad Clifton’s hamstring injury last Sunday against the Falcons eventually forced the Packers hand. Coupled with an inactive Bryan Bulaga (knee), the Packers went through the rest of the Falcons game with only six healthy offensive lineman.

Instead of rolling the dice once more with that situation, the Packers promoted Dominguez, an undrafted rookie from Arkansas who can play both inside and at tackle. Dominguez (6-4, 334) had a shaky preseason and training camp but continued to show improvement, which prompted the Packers to retain him on the practice squad after the final cuts were made.

McCarthy said on Wednesday that Dominguez would “primarily play inside,” which doesn’t rule out the possibility of playing tackle but suggests that he’ll get most of his reps at guard. Either way, Dominguez is there for depth purposes.

Bulaga also returned to practice on Wednesday, which is an encouraging sign for his health this week and moving forward. With Clifton out, the Packers are welcoming his return, despite how well both Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod played in their respective roles in Atlanta. The Packers mixed and matched the three at various positions on Wednesday, making it unclear what the plan is for St. Louis. If Bulaga is healthy, however, I’d guess that he remains on the right side while Newhouse starts at left tackle. Sherrod would then be the backup at right tackle should either of those two go down.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

7

September

Packers vs. Saints: 5 Things to Watch in Green Bay’s Week 1 Matchup

By the time the dust had settled on the second half of a Monday night onslaught, the scoreboard at the Louisiana Superdome read as follows: Saints 51, visitors 28.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints had turned a 21-21 tie into an old fashioned blowout, scoring four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes of play against a Packers defense that had held up so well just a year before. Brees was deadly efficient that entire night in Novemeber 2008, completing 20-of-26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns—two of which went for 70 yards.

The 51 points was the beginning of the end for both Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, who was fired after the season, and the Packers playoff chances. After coming into the game 5-5, the Packers left New Orleans beaten and battered at 5-6, limping to a 6-10 finish in Aaron Rodgers’ first season under center.

While the mastermind behind that disastrous performance is gone, the memory of that debacle in New Orleans still remains fresh in the minds of most of the Packers defenders who suffered through that Monday night embarrassment.

Thursday night’s Packers vs. Saints opener doesn’t serve as a rematch, per se, but the Packers are determined to prove that their new defensive scheme under Dom Capers is more than capable of stopping a Saints’ offense that’s still led by Brees and still as explosive as it was in 2008, just a year before they were to become world champions.

Here are some other things to watch in the Saints-Packers matchup:

Dealing with the hoopla

With hosting the NFL’s season opening Thursday night game comes all the bells and whistles of a defending Super Bowl champion. It’s the only game on for the national audience, who by now is starving for regular season NFL action. There is the pregame concert, with Kid Rock and a number of other entertainers scheduled to perform in front of stadium. The Packers will unveil another championship year on Lambeau Field’s facade. Jordin Sparks will sing the National Anthem. There is a ton of fanfare and media reporting before and after the contest.

All this could lead to an overwhelmed team that’s just seven months removed from reaching the peak of the NFL. And of course, the Saints have been there and done that after winning the Super Bowl the year before the Packers. They played the Vikings last September in the Thursday night opener and beat Minnesota. That experience should give the Saints a definite advantage in terms of dealing with the spectacle of the game, right?

6

September

Week 1 Packers Stock Report: Masthay on the Rise, Jones Falling

Punter Tim Masthay falls into the rising category.

The final preseason game has been played, the final cuts have been made and the final 53-man roster has been set. It’s time to play football. Finally.

The Green Bay Packers head into the 2011 season with a roster led by superstars and backed up by role players that gained valuable experience filling in during last season’s Super Bowl run. Packers fans now think Ted Thompson is a personnel genius instead of a GM that is too stubborn to ever win a title. Mike McCarthy is no longer viewed as a coach that chokes away close games, he’s viewed as a coach that has the ability to turn a young roster filled with injuries into Super Bowl winners. The Packers are no longer an intriguing pick to win it all every preseason, they’re a legitimate favorite.

Unlike the stock market in America (and the rest of the world), the Packers are one the rise. If shares in the Packers were being sold on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Jim Cramer would be on your television screen nightly, pounding his fist and imploring you to BUY! BUY! BUY!

Unfortunately, we’ve all learned that the stock market can come crashing down at any moment. Just when you think you have everything figured out and you buy a bigger house, a fancier car and book that luxurious vacation, your portfolio flops and you’re broke.

The Packers portfolio is currently filled with blue chip stocks and other steady investments. But it still needs to be monitored. Which players are on the rise? Which are falling? Which are playing at a steady and consistent level? The Packers Stock Report will be a regular midweek feature here at AllGreenBayPackers.com. It’s an opportunity to step back from the game-by-game emotions and discuss how players are performing in the big picture.

Each week, I will select players in three categories:

  • Rising: Playing well, and likely will continue to get even better.
  • Falling: Struggling, or showing signs of a downward trend.
  • Steady: Not surging up or free-falling down, just consistent and reliable.

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
Savvy investors buy low and sell high, but Rodgers is becoming one of those stocks, like Google or Microsoft, that keeps rising. Even though the price is already sky high, and most people can only afford a share or two, it’s still a good investment. After rising to elite status through the final six games of 2010, Rodgers threw for 375 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions this preseason. When he’s not getting sacked, he’s been unstoppable. Even if you can only afford one or two shares, Rodgers is a good investment right now.

5

September

With The 2011 Packers Roster Set, Ted Thompson’s Odyssey Comes Full Circle

Green Bay Packers GM Ted ThompsonIt’s hard to believe where we were three years ago.

I’m not going to recap the events of training camp in 2008.  They’ve been well documented a thousand times over.  Instead, let’s look in depth at the leader of the Green Bay Packers football operations, general manager Ted Thompson and his transformation from a reviled figure to a revered one.

Heading into the 2008 offseason, Thompson was still not really well liked by a large amount of the Packers fan base despite the team being an ill-fated pass away from a trip to Super Bowl XLII.    Cheesehead Nation had not yet embraced his “draft and develop” method of building a roster and implored Thompson to jump into free agency to bring some “instant talent” to the franchise.  Thompson refused to budge.

Throw in the tumultuous training camp of 2008 where Thompson jettisoned a certain three-time NFL MVP and Thompson’s approval rating amongst Packer fans was at an all-time low.  Throw in a dismal 6-10 season and it was getting close to the pitchforks and torches being brought out and used at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

Websites and blogs went up on the internet with the sole purpose of leading to Thompson’s ouster.   Some extremists even said they’d refuse to cheer for the Packers until Thompson was terminated.

Entering the 2009, the stakes got even higher for Thompson.  In addition to trying to rebound from the 2008 campaign, Thompson was faced with the prospect of having to face his former quarterback that he traded away twice a season as Brett Favre joined the Minnesota Vikings.

The funny thing is that despite arguably Favre’s best year of his career and his Vikings beating the Packers out for the NFC North title and coming within a hair of the Super Bowl, the tide slowly was beginning to turn in Thompson’s favor.

One key factor was the emergence of Aaron Rodgers as the Packers starting quarterback.  Rodgers put up good numbers in his first season as a starter, but he was overshadowed by a putrid defense that led to the Packers adopting the 3-4 in 2009 under Dom Capers.  In 2009, Rodgers had numbers that nearly equaled Favre’s but the Packers were ousted in the first round by the Cardinals.

4

September

Updated: Packers Practice Squad Includes QB Graham Harrell and 3 WRs

The Packers signed QB Graham Harrell to the practice squad on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers signed eight players to their practice squad on Sunday, including QB Graham Harrell and three WRs.

Signed to the practice squad were WR Diondre Borel, T/G Ray Dominguez, C Sampson Genus, WR Tori Gurley, QB Graham Harrell, CB Brandian Ross, RB Brandon Saine and WR Chastin West.

All eight signees to the practice squad were with the Packers during training camp.

Harrell: In 18 series during the preseason, Harrell generated two touchdowns and three field goals and a passer rating of 75.7. Packers coach Mike McCarthy appeared to be high on Harrell early in the preseason, but the former Texas Tech standout never caught fire to solidify a permanent roster spot. Perhaps Harrell was doomed to be cut anyway. No. 2 QB Matt Flynn had a firm hold on the backup slot and McCarthy said he wasn’t going touse a spot on the active gameday roster for a third QB.

Gurley: I thought Gurley’s size and success on special teams would earn him a roster spot as a sixth WR, especially since Donald Driver has continued to show signs of aging. The Packers only kept five WRs, however, like they usually do. I didn’t think the Packers would be able to retain Gurley, but I’m sure glad they did. Even though the Packers seem to favor smaller WRs, I think it will be nice to have a bigger WR to bring up if Driver or someone else goes down.

West: He had five catches for 134 yards against the Cardinals, but only managed three catches for 18 yards in the other three preseason games. West flashed some potential at times during camp, but never stood out. In other words, he’s perfect for the practice squad.

Borel: Hey look, another WR on the practice squad! When you throw as much as McCarthy does and rely on receivers to make plays after the catch, I guess you can never hoard enough of them. Borel is very athletic and very raw. I’m guessing Gurley and West will be called up before Borel should an active WR get hurt.

Dominguez: The Packer only kept eight offensive linemen and Dominguez was one of the big guys left out. The Packers converted him from T to G and Dominguez played well enough to merit serious consideration for the active roster. He’ll benefit from the development time on the practice squad.