6

February

Green Bay Packers Offseason: Another Veteran Purge Could Be Coming

Packers WR Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver might be a cut Ted Thompson makes this offseason. (Photo: Getty images)

It didn’t take long into Ted Thompson’s reign as Green Bay Packers GM for the unwavering 52-year-old to firmly establish that football moves under his direction would be made without the cling of emotion, void of any sentimental feelings that could effect a given decision one way or the other.

Among Thompson’s first moves as GM in 2005 were the releasing of guard Mike Wahle and safety Darren Sharper and declining to re-sign guard Marco Rivera, three players that were stalwarts for Packers teams that had won consecutive NFC North titles from 2002-04. Despite their undisputed contributions, each was shown the door both because of age and Thompson’s need to manage the Packers’ out of control salary cap.

Wahle was 28 years old and had played in 103 straight games when Thompson released him, but the move saved over $11 million in cap space. Axing Sharper, a 29-year-old All-Pro safety, saved another $4.3 million. Rivera went on to sign a five-year, $20 million contract with the Cowboys after Thompson let him walk at the age of 32.

All three of the moves were spurred by the Packers’ cap situation as he entered the job. No matter how unpopular, each needed to be made to get Thompson back into his salary cap comfort zone.

And while a drastic makeover like 2005 hasn’t been seen since, similar decisions to the ones Thompson made in that offseason have. In the end, making those tough decisions are a big reason why the Packers’ salary cap has never again reached 2005 levels.

Over subsequent years, Thompson released veterans Na’il Diggs (80 career starts, saved $2.9 million) and Bubba Franks (Three-time Pro Bowler, saved over $4 million), traded away an unretired Brett Favre, and let Ahman Green (the Packers franchise leader in rushing yards) and Aaron Kampman (owner of 54 career sacks in Green Bay) walk in free agency.

In 2010, Thompson released cornerback Al Harris, who started seven straight seasons for the Packers but was 36 years old and struggling to come back from a catastrophic knee injury in ’09.

Starting to sound like a broken record?  There was still more roster reshaping to do even after Thompson’s 2010-11 Packers reached the top of the NFL mountain.

28

December

Former Packers CB Al Harris Retires from the NFL

Former Packers CB Al Harris has retired from the NFL after 14 seasons. (Photo: Jim Biever)

Former Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris, who spent seven seasons with the Packers from 2003-09, has retired after 14 NFL seasons.

Harris announced the decision over the St. Louis Rams’ Twitter page on Wednesday. Another knee injury factored heavily into his decision.

Harris tore his right ACL while making a tackle back in Week 10 and has surgery scheduled on the knee for Jan. 13. The Rams placed him on season-ending injured reserve on Nov. 14.

“That’s just God’s way of telling me it’s time to turn the page. I had an awesome time,” Harris said through Twitter. “I thank God for Spags [Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo] giving me the opportunity to come out and I hope I left a positive impression on everybody.”

Harris said that he’d like to stay involved in football through coaching in the future.

In his seven years with the Packers, Harris made 102 regular season starts and intercepted 14 passes.

The Packers acquired him during the offseason in 2002 by trading the Philadelphia Eagles a second-round selection for Harris and a fourth-round pick. Harris went on to start the next 80 games for the Packers at cornerback, pushing himself into the elite status at the position with his patented bump-and-run style.

The most memorable moment in Harris’ Packers career came during the 2003 NFC Wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks, as he intercepted an over-confident Matt Hasselbeck in overtime (“We want the ball and we’re going to score, Hasselbeck said after winning the overtime coin toss) and returned it for a game-winning touchdown.

Harris would then go onto to make the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008, and was an All-Pro pick in ’07.

During the 2009 season, Harris had a catastrophic injury to his left knee on a non-contact play against the San Francisco 49ers. He suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), lateral cruciate ligament (LCL), fibular cruciate ligament (FCL), iliotibial band and lateral hamstring. Harris had surgery eight days later and missed the rest of the ’09 season.

GM Ted Thompson put him on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start the 2010 season, but Harris would never play another down for the Green Bay Packers. He was released on Nov. 8, 2010.

16

October

Packers vs. Rams – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: Packers 24, Rams 3

Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams:

Here is my unfiltered game day blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

It’s #Throwbackweekend in Green Bay and the Packers are looking to go 6-0 against the winless Rams. Al Harris returns to Green Bay, along with Brady Poppinga. Harris will be matched up against the Packers’ explosive receiving corp and will have all he can do to make his homecoming a successful one. Good luck, Al. You’re going to need it.

Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Sorry, no pregame comments again this week. I was making a batch of chicken and wild rice soup and lost track of time. Call me Martha Stewart. Or Betty Crocker.

Packers vs. Falcons – First Impressions – First Half:

That club on Morgan Burnett’s hand looks vicious. I wouldn’t mess with him if a scrap breaks out on the field.

The Rams move the ball on their first drive, but stall and settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt that Josh Brown misses. Jackson ran up the middle on 3rd and 11, a conservative call to make sure the Rams remained in FG range. I hate the conservative call on 3rd and 11 if I’m a Rams fan. You’re the Rams. You’re 0-4. Three points won’t beat the Packers. Take a chance and go for the first down.

Weird holding call on Newhouse, but Rodgers takes a sack anyway and the Packers have to settle for a FG. I have a sense that this offense will have no problem moving the ball today even though they were held to a FG on this first drive.

AJ Hawk is showing some life today.

DJ Williams blocks nobody and Starks gets stuffed for a loss. I much prefer Crabtree to line up as the blocker on those plays.

Kuhn stopped on 3rd and 2. You have Aaron Rodgers and a bunch of good WRs, and your third-down call is a pitch to Kuhn from the shotgun?

The Rams get the ball back and start moving it again. I’d like to see a little better pass rush from the Packers on early downs.

Packers stop the Rams on 4th down and take over near midfield.

16

October

Packers vs. Rams Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford leads the winless St. Louis Rams (0-4) into Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated Green Bay Packers (5-0).

The basics 

When: 12:00 CDT; Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011

Where: Lambeau Field; Green Bay, WI

TV: FOX; Chris Myers and Tim Ryan with the call, Jamie Maggio on the sidelines

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Sports USA Radio, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio)

Series: Rams lead, 43-46-2 (Packers won the last regular season game, 36-17, in St. Louis on Sept. 27, 2009)

Five things to watch

1. Throwback jerseys, throwback offense?

For the second time in as many seasons, the Packers will wear their 1929 throwback jerseys. Some love the brown-on-blue-on-yellow-on-tan color combination, some hate it. But like the ’29 team that went 10-0-1 and won the NFL championship, the Packers could look to the ground game on Sunday to move the football against the Rams. While it won’t be Verne Lewellen or Johnny “Blood” McNally lining up in the backfield, the Packers will likely use a heavy dose of their own duo of James Starks and Ryan Grant against the NFL’s worst rushing defense. St. Louis is giving up almost 180 rushing yards a game, which is a ridiculously high number in this age of football and 34 yards higher than the next best team. The opposition is averaging 5.3 yards every time they run the ball on the Rams defense.

The Packers are still a passing team and will want to throw it plenty against the Rams banged up secondary, but there’s nothing wrong with attacking such an obvious weakness in an opponent. An effective running game could also take pressure off the Packers offensive tackles. Marshall Newhouse will be making his first career start at left tackle on Sunday, and Bryan Bulaga might have some rust after missing two games with a knee injury.

2. Mistake prone

Few teams in the NFL have self-destructed at such critical points like the Rams have this season. Take the Rams 17-10 home loss to the Redskins in Week 4, for example. St. Louis had nine penalties, seven sacks allowed and six dropped passes in that contest. St. Louis was probably lucky that Rex Grossman played so poorly, because the final easily could have been 35-7 or worse with the way the Rams played through the first three and a half quarters.

15

October

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers-Rams with Ryan Van Bibber

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times, the Rams SB Nation blog, to preview Packers-Rams.

Let’s get to the questions.

14

October

2011 NFL Season Week 6: Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams Preview–IT’S A THROWBACK TRAP!

Admiral Ackbar has a warning for the Green Bay Packers

It’s finally here. The weekend many of us Packers bloggers and fans have been waiting for: Throwback Weekend! No clue what I am talking about? Look here for all the details from our friends at CheeseheadTV.

Lost amongst all the hype for the festivities is that there is an actual game to be played at Lambeau Field on Sunday! The 5-0 defending world champion Green Bay Packers take on the 0-4 St. Louis Rams.  The Packers will be wearing their 1929 throwback jerseys that they wore against the 49ers last season, hence why it is called “Throwback Weekend.”

Last Week in Review

The Packers got off to sluggish start against the Atlanta Falcons on national television, trailing 14-6 at the half.   After the break however, the defense came alive and Aaron Rodgers kept doing his thing as the Packers shut out Atlanta in the second half and won 25-14.  Rodgers completed 26 of 39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns while throwing to 12 (12!) different receivers.

The Rams mercifully had their bye week.

Rams players to watch

QB Sam Bradford

With the arrival in the offseason of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it was expected that he would take Bradford’s game to the next level after his stellar rookie season a year ago.

We’re still waiting.

Bradford has all the tools.  He’s smart, he’s accurate, and he’s poised.   Of course, no quarterback can put up big numbers while on their back.

In four 2011, Bradford has completed 49.7% of his passes for three TDs and one INT.  The glaring statistic is that he has been sacked 18 times (that’s more than four times a game).

With an aggressive Packers pass rush, Bradford’s life won’t be getting better any time soon.

RB Steven Jackson

Jackson does not run around you. He runs over you.

One of the most bruising backs in the league, Jackson has gone over the 100 yard mark each of the last two times he has faced the Packers.  With a passing game that is struggling badly, Jackson will need to carry the load if he hopes to lead his team to victory.

1

August

Free Agent Status of Former Green Bay Packers

Tracking the free agent status of Packers released this offseason, with the exception of Al Harris, who was released during the 2010 season.

 

 S Derrick Martin: SIGNED WITH GIANTS  

UPDATE: Martin and the New York Giants agreed to a one-year contract on Monday, August 15. 

The Packers released Martin on March 3.

Despite being an important special teams contributor, the Packers let go of Martin early in the offseason. Injuries likely played into the decision, as Martin suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Redskins.

Little has surfaced about team’s potential interest in Martin, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t find a team for 2011.

LB Brady Poppinga: SIGNED WITH ST. LOUIS RAMS 

The Packers released Poppinga on July 29.

UPDATE: Poppinga has reportedly agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Rams and was observing Rams practice on Tuesday night. He should get a chance to start at outside linebacker for St. Louis.

Much like Tauscher, Poppinga had similar factors working against him.

At 32 years old and coming off an ACL injury, Poppinga was due $2.34 million in 2011. For a guy that was going to be a backup and play primarily on special teams, that price tag was way too rich for the Packers liking.

He was also miscast in the Packers 3-4 defense, and he’ll likely look to team that runs the 4-3 as his next destination. Poppinga visited the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, but there was no word if a contract had been put in place.

LB Nick Barnett: SIGNED WITH BUFFALO BILLS

The Packers released Barnett on July 29, saving $5.9 million in cap room. Barnett then signed a three-year, $12 million deal with Buffalo Bills on July 31.

The Bills got a serious upgrade at linebacker, as Barnett averaged almost 110 tackles in his first seven seasons with the Packers. He’ll bring a veteran presence to a team that needs leaders on defense.

Barnett was expendable to the Packers after Desmond Bishop had a breakout season in his absence. Green Bay signed Bishop to a four-year, $19 million contract in January, putting the writing on the wall for Barnett’s eventual release.

TE Donald Lee: SIGNED WITH PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The Packers released Lee on March 3. On July 29, Lee signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.