21

December

Packers Wednesday Injury Report: No Bryan Bulaga on Sunday vs. Bears

Packers RT Bryan Bulaga was ruled out for Sunday's game with the Chicago Bears.

As expected, the Green Bay Packers will be without right tackle Bryan Bulaga (sprained knee cap) Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Head coach Mike McCarthy announced the news at his Wednesday press conference.

Without Bulaga, the Packers are prepared to start left guard T.J. Lang at right tackle, with Evan Dietrich-Smith at Lang’s natural spot. Dietrich-Smith started two games for Josh Sitton at right guard while Sitton dealt with a knee sprain.

McCarthy also said that new addition Herb Taylor would likely be active as an emergency offensive tackle. Taylor was signed to replace first-round pick Derek Sherrod, who broke his tibia and fibula against the Chiefs and later placed on IR.

Receiver Greg Jennings (knee sprain) was also ruled out. He’s expected back for the Packers first playoff game.

The Packers did welcome back to practice Desmond Bishop (calf), James Starks (ankle), Brandon Saine (concussion) and Chad Clifton (hamstring, back). Starks was a full participant but the other three were all limited. Ryan Pickett (concussion) was held out, and Mike Neal was limited with a new shoulder injury that he suffered during the game Sunday.

McCarthy said that Clifton was “making strides” and wouldn’t rule him out for Sunday, but you’d have to think he’s still a long shot to play. He also said that Bishop would “have a chance to play” if he continues to practice like he did today. It sounded like Pickett was held out solely for cautionary reasons.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s press conference:

  • On Josh McCown, who the Bears announced Wednesday would start against the Packers: “He’s an exceptional athlete. Can make plays with his feet and has a good arm.” If you remember, McCown was the same quarterback who connected with Nate Poole to knock the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs as a member of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 of 2003.
  • Excited about playing last two games at Lambeau Field, especially with a home playoff game to follow.
  • On Bears defense: “Good tackling team and adjust well to how you attack them.”
  • “Big challenge” playing against their defensive line. Offensive line will be well-prepared.
  • On Aaron Rodgers winning AP Male Athlete of the Year: “Huge award. Speaks for itself what he’s done. Well-deserving. He should be NFL MVP.”
20

December

Packers Sign T Herb Taylor; Derek Sherrod to IR

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson announced Tuesday that the team had signed tackle Herb Taylor to replace first-round pick Derek Sherrod on the Packers active roster. As expected, Sherrod was placed on IR.

Sherrod, the No. 32 overall pick in the 2011 draft, broke his leg Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and remained in Kansas City to have surgery. It was learned yesterday that Sherrod broke both the tibia and fibula in his right leg, which means he’ll miss the rest of this season and potentially some of the next. Recovery time for such an injury is obviously extensive.

Taylor was drafted in sixth round by the Chiefs in 2007 and appeared in 18 games, including one start, from 2007-08. Taylor made the Denver Broncos active roster at the end of ’09 before training camp stints with the New York Giants in ’10 and Broncos again in ’11. Taylor had a work out with the Packers in early December, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In college, Taylor (6-4, 305) started 48 games at TCU and twice earned First-Team All-Mountain West honors.

He’ll wear No. 72.

It was interesting that Thompson choose Taylor, a player without a regular season home for two years, to be the guy that replaces Sherrod. Names such as Mark Tauscher and Chris Campbell, a member of the Packers practice squad, have been thrown around since Sunday’s game as potential short-term replacements.

At this point, however, Thompson has earned the benefit of the doubt when selecting players. In just the past 12 or so months, Thompson has found street free agents such as Erik Walden and Howard Green, both of whom have contributed. And Thompson has plenty of tape available on Taylor from the past two preseasons, so the fact that he hasn’t been on a team in two years isn’t as troubling.

Besides, there’s no guarantees that a player like Tauscher, a veteran who can’t stay healthy, or Campbell, a young player still learning the ropes, were any better selections.

——————

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.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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.

29

July

Green Bay Packers Release 11-Year Veteran Mark Tauscher

Mark Tauscher

Mark Tauscher's release by the Green Bay Packers was an expected yet heart-breaking loss to fans and the team.

@jasonjwilde: Mark Tauscher has been released by the @packers.”

That tweet, instantly relayed by dozens of Jason Wilde’s followers today, was simple, striking, and emotional all in one. News of 11-year veteran Mark Tauscher’s release by the Green Bay Packers was to be expected; however, many had hoped the statement would be about his retirement instead.

Along with bookend left tackle Chad Clifton, Tauscher has been one of the foundations of the Packers’ offensive line for just over a decade. Selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft, he became a full-time starter after Earl Dotson suffered a back injury early in the season. He has made 132 regular season starts since that time.

Mark Tauscher has earned a large spot in Wisconsin’s heart, and that will make it hard for fans to see him go. A native of the Badger State, he began his football career at Auburndale High School and was a two-time All-Conference honoree. He also actively participated in baseball and basketball, earning state honors in those sports as well.

After graduating from high school in 1995, Tauscher went on to the University of Wisconsin as a walk on, where he played his first few years as a backup to Chris McIntosh. He finally saw playing time during his fourth year in unbalanced line formations, and became the full-fledged starter at right tackle in his fifth and final season. Tauscher was considered an essential blocker in the line that gave success to Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.

As a Packer, Mark Tauscher continued his high level of play and gained further adoration from Wisconsin fans. His work ethic and charm made him one of the great faces of the organization.

The past two seasons have, unfortunately, been an omen to his final days in Green Bay, as he only played a total of 13 games during that span of time. It seemed the injury bug had hit him, with a torn ACL at the end of 2008 and a shoulder injury early last season. He was replaced after the most recent injury by 2010 first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga, who started for the remainder of their championship year.

18

July

Bringing in the Cavalry: A Look at the Packers Injured Reserve

Ryan Grant Injury - Packers injured reserved

Ryan Grant's injury against the Philadelphia Eagles was one of the biggest blows to the offense last season.

With the NFL lockout well into its fourth month now, there has been ample talk of which teams will fare better with a limited offseason. One of those teams, of course, is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But it’s not their championship status that has people convinced they’ll be ready. No, most people point to the (now cliché) fact that they have “16 players returning from injured reserve.”

While this is certainly the case, I started thinking about this claim a little more in depth. I wondered: Will all sixteen of those players really be making a difference?

Sure, guys like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant will have a HUGE impact upon their return. But what about a guy like Spencer Havner or even Brady Poppinga? What are they really going to be bringing back to the table?

Here’s a quick look at each player that ended up injured reserve last year and what their potential impact will be upon their return. They are ordered by the date of their injuries:

Josh Bell, CB

Type of Injury: Foot Sprain
When Injured:
Training Camp (August 10, 2010)
Impact for 2011:
None – The Packers offered Bell an injury settlement during camp, which he refused. After the Super Bowl ring controversy in June, it’s clear the team plans to go on without him next season.

#91 Justin Harrell, DE

Type of Injury: Knee (ACL)
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Harrell could actually be a big influence on the 2011 season; however, one still has to be cautious with his downright unlucky injury history. If Harrell can manage to stay active for more than a game, then he might be able to do some damage along the line. We all know how big of an “if” that is, though.

#25 Ryan Grant, RB

Type of Injury: Ankle
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
High – There’s no question that the Packers severely missed their primary running back for most of last season. Brandon Jackson just couldn’t get the job done, and James Starks, while showing a lot of promise, is still young and relatively inexperienced. Grant will provide some much-needed consistency to the ground game, even if he is splitting carries with Starks.

16

July

Is there ANY Scenario For Brett Favre to Be Back in Green Bay this Year?

With the 2011 season (hopefully) approaching, let us imagine a hypothetical situation that the Packers could find themselves in:

  1. Matt Flynn gets traded: Matt Flynn turned some heads last season when he made the quarterback transition look easy with Aaron Rodgers sidelined for the Patriots game. It would be foolish to think that other teams aren’t interested in him and former general manager Ron Wolf was fond of saying it was better to trade a player a year early than a year late (and current general manager Ted Thompson is a Wolf protégé).  It only takes one team to see Flynn as the next Matt Hasselbeck to make an offer that the Packers can’t refuse.  As a point of comparison Hasselbeck was essentially traded away for the 1st pick of the 2nd round; would the Packers take Flynn for a 2nd round draft pick? Definitely.
  2. The Packers then stick with Aaron Rodgers and Graham Harrell: The Packers always think of development first and they haven’t brought in a veteran backup quarterback since Rodgers became the starter.  They risked having no depth at quarterback in Matt Flynn’s rookie year and got away with it and might be inclined to do the same this year. With 10 new rookies and a slew of players coming off IR, roster slots are going to be very precious and the 3rd quarterback might be one spot that gets eliminated.  A lot of this will come down to Graham Harrell, but if his development is where Flynn’s was when he was a rookie, then past history proves that the Packers are willing to make that gamble.
  3. Midseason, Aaron Rodgers gets hurt: Heaven forbid, but Rodgers has already suffered 2 concussions and from a medical perspective, having a concussion increases the chance of having another.  Rodgers has also battled various injuries during his time with the Packers and mobile quarterbacks like Rodgers do have a higher risk of getting seriously hurt (see Michael Vick).  It’s not unconceivable that Rodgers could miss a game or two (or a season) due to his play style and injury history.

If this series of events were to unfold for the Packers next year, what should they do?

The Packers should call Brett Favre.

Now before someone brings out the tar and feathers, examine my logic:

30

June

Despite Success, Packers Empty Backfield Formations Will Always Make Me Nervous

Aaron Rodgers needs to get rid of the ball quickly in empty-backfield formations.

Whenever the Packers lined up in an empty backfield formation last season, I got nervous.

Could Clifton and his creaky knees keep a speed rushing defensive end out of the backfield? Could the Colledge/Wells/Sitton interior combo handle a middle blitz without the safety net of a running back? Could Aaron Rodgers make his reads quick enough and get rid of the ball ontime? Could the ancient Mark Tauscher or the young Bryan Bulaga hold up the right side?

These are thoughts that raced through my head whenever Rodgers broke the huddle and set up behind center, all by his lonesome.

“That’s the franchise quarterback standing there all alone,” I would yell. “Somebody go stand next to him and protect him!”

If Julius Peppers or Ndamukong Suh broke through, there’s nothing Rodgers could do besides curl up and hope no major bones shatter while he’s driven to the turf. I resumed yelling: “Do we really want to alter the course of the franchise just so we can get Brett Swain in the game or line up a running back as a receiver?!”

Turns out, I shouldn’t have worried so much. The Packers were good in empty backfield sets.

Football Outsiders charted each team’s success in empty backfield formations last season. The Packers used an empty backfield 11 percent of the time (second most often in NFL) and averaged 5.5 yards per play (11th overall). Their DVOA with an empty backfield was 29.6 percent, ninth best in the league.

These are good numbers. Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much.

Even though the evidence points to empty-backfield success for the Packers, I’ll likely always shudder when Rodgers lines up without at least one partner in the backfield. It’s my nature, I guess.

Whenever I play Madden on the PS3, the Packers are almost impossible to stop with an empty backfield, five wide-receiver set. Somebody gets open, and Rodgers just zips him the ball.

Sophisticated offenses, feakishly athletic receivers/tight ends and rules that favor the passing game are making real-life football more like Madden every season. We’re probably going to see the use of empty backfields increase in the coming years.

That’s not good for my blood pressure. Hopefully it’s good for the Packers.