3

October

Packers News: Matthews says he will “definitely” play vs. Lions

Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews says he will play Sunday. That's a big deal.

Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews says he will play Sunday. That’s a big deal.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews tweaked his hamstring in Green Bay’s Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the four-time Pro Bowler told reporters Thursday that he will “definitely” play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

After being a full participant at Thursday’s practice, head coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged about Matthews’ prospects for Sunday.

“He took a step today,” McCarthy said, per JSOnline.com. “I’m optimistic.”

The hamstring injury has been a recurring issue for Matthews. After playing all 16 games as a rookie in 2009, Matthews missed one games in each of the following three seasons, and he missed four last year due to the hamstring injury.

According to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Matthews left little doubt as to whether or not he’d be able to play against the Lions.

Obviously, the news that Matthews will likely be in the lineup is big news for the Packers. Of all the elite defensive players in the NFL, Matthews may very well mean more to the Packers than any individual player means to his team’s defense. Matthews may not be the best defensive player in the NFL, but he is the Packers’ pass rush. And even more than that.

Jason Wilde, of ESPN Wisconsin, also suggested via Twitter that Matthews would play Sunday.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has only been sacked three times through four games, which is the least of any quarterback in the league. The presence of recently-acquired running back Reggie Bush has something to do with the low sack count, considering Stafford has been able to get the ball out early and find receivers on short pass patterns.

If the Packers were forced to take the field without Matthews, they likely would have struggled to get pressure on Stafford. Matthews’ bookend, Nick Perry, ranks No. 38 among 41 3-4 outside linebackers rushing the passer, according to Pro Football Focus–two spots behind former Packers linebacker Erik Walden.

13

September

Packers News: Matthews fined $15,000 for hit on Kaepernick

Clay Matthews admitted that his hit on Kaepernick "wasn't very smart," and he's been fined $15,000.

Clay Matthews admitted that his hit on Kaepernick “wasn’t very smart,” and he’s been fined $15,000.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has been fined $15,000 for his hit on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in last Sunday’s season opener, according to NFL Network’s Albert Breer.

Following Matthews’ hit on Kaepernick near the sideline, chaos ensued after the whistle, prompting 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to open his mouth.

“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head,” Harbaugh said, according to the USA Today. “Well, one punch and one open slap.”

But Harbaugh didn’t stop there. He corrected himself and threw a jab of his own in Matthews’ direction.

“If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, not an open slap,” Harbaugh said. “That young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.”

If Matthews is going to take advice from anyone, it likely wouldn’t be Harbaugh who once fractured his hand in a fist fight with quarterback-turned broadcaster Jim Kelly. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy brought up Harbaugh’s comments in team meetings, while Matthews offered a short yet strong response to the 49ers controversial coach.

“I’m an awesome player, not a dirty player,” Matthews said, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

According to beat writer Tyler Dunne, Matthews reluctantly responded to the Harbaugh question after several attempts to move on to questions regarding the next game. But nonetheless, his answer was awesome. In a league polluted with “coach speak” in which athletes talk a lot but say very little, it’s refreshing to hear a high-profile athlete answer in a bold, Thad Castle-type manner.

Note: Comparing the Green Bay Packers to the Blue Mountain State Goats is foolish. Almost as foolish as calling Clay Matthews a dirty player.

Matthews, himself, admitted that he was wrong to hit Kaepernick as the quarterback neared the out of bounds line.

“It wasn’t a very smart play,” Matthews said, per the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I had already committed to hitting the quarterback, and I guess I should have figured he was going to step out of bounds.”

Nonetheless, Matthews’ reputation is certainly in much better shape that that of, say, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined $100,000 for his low block on Vikings center John Sullivan. But as Breer tweeted, comparing Matthews to Suh is apples-to-oranges…or apples-to-giraffes.

26

August

Packers News: Tavecchio released, team down to two kickers

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Just one day after signing street free agent Zach Ramirez, the Green Bay Packers have released kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

Incumbent kicker Mason Crosby has, again, had an up-and-down, left-and-right summer, and it seems the Packers are determined to provide some competition for Crosby all the way up to the regular season. Still, despite his inconsistency, it looks like the job is Crosby’s to lose.

Crosby certainly had a rough season in 2012, missing 12 of 33 regular-season field goal attempts. But believe it or not, his challenger this summer, Tavecchio, has missed kicks in his life, as well. As a senior at California, Tavecchio failed to connect on six extra points.

Now, it’s down to Crosby and Ramirez–another Internet-sensation-turned-NFL-kicker-hopeful. The Detroit Lions signed Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland to compete with David Akers this summer, and the Packers turn to Ramirez–a young kicker with some pretty impressive YouTube highlights.

Obviously, kicking field goals with the wind at your back in an empty stadium in front of one person holding a camera is much different than kicking in front of 80,000 in a packed NFL stadium. But we’ll see how this kicking competition shakes itself out.

During the Family Night Scrimmage, Tavecchio got the better of Crosby, connecting on five of six field goal attempts. Crosby, on the other hand, had an awful night, missing four of six.

At that point, just a week into training camp, Twitter exploded with fans calling for Crosby’s release. However, due to the Tavecchio’s limitations in terms of leg strength, the concept of Crosby being cut in favor of Tavecchio seemed farfetched–at least to me.

I’m not saying Crosby is God’s gift to kicking field goals, but if he’s going to be beaten out for the job, it wasn’t going to be by Tavecchio. You can’t make fun of me for that prediction; however, feel free to point and laugh at my suggestion that Graham Harrell would be a “pleasant surprise” this summer.

In my opinion, Crosby will win the job. He’ll be the Week 1 kicker, although it wouldn’t at all be surprising if the Packers made a change in the regular season, should Crosby’s struggles continue.

15

July

Packers News: Morgan Burnett signs contract extension

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

The Green Bay Packers have reached an agreement with safety Morgan Burnett on a four-year contract extension worth $24.75 million, according to Ian Rapoport via Twitter.

Burnett’s deal includes $8.25 million guaranteed.

Following the 2012-13 season, the Packers entered the offseason in hopes of signing several players to contract extensions. The team locked up Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers earlier this offseason, leaving Burnett, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley as the next players in line for new deals.

Burnett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He missed the majority of his rookie year after suffering a torn ACL in Week 4, but he’s started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons.

The Packers will hope Burnett takes a step forward in his fourth year, which is when former safety Nick Collins was named to his first of three Pro Bowls.

Last year was Burnett’s best individual season as a professional. He set new career highs with 123 tackles and two sacks. Burnett’s two interceptions came against the Minnesota Vikings against quarterback Christian Ponder.

It was a matter of when, not if the Packers would strike a deal with Burnett. But with the deal done before training camp, the Packers can now shift their attention to someone else on the roster with an expiring contract.

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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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21

May

Packers News: Charles Woodson signs with Raiders

Former Packers DB Charles Woodson

Former Packers DB Charles Woodson

After another lengthy stint on the free-agent market, former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson has signed a one-year contract to return to the Oakland Raiders, according to the team’s official Twitter account.

Woodson was the No. 4 overall pick to the Raiders in the 1998 NFL Draft. He played eight years with Oakland but had no serious suitors when he became a free agent in 2005.

Late in the free-agent process, Woodson signed a seven-year contract to play in Green Bay where he would go on to play seven seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and was a four-time All-Pro selection during his seven years with the Packers.

Versatility and instincts made Woodson a turnover machine at the peak of his career. His post-game speech, in which he urged the team to have “one mind, one goal, one purpose and one heart” after defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, is referenced on the team’s rings for Super Bowl XLV.

After originally suggesting he only wanted to play for a Super Bowl contendor, Woodson changed his tune as he remained unsigned. The Raiders won  But now Woodson, 36, will return to Oakland to help shore up a secondary that allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL last season.

The Packers, meanwhile, will turn to Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings to fill Woodson’s shoes safety. Both players saw time with the first-team defense Tuesday at the Packers first public OTA of the 2013 season.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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26

April

Packers News: Aaron Rodgers signs contract extension

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

According to the team’s official website, the Packers have signed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a multi-year contract extension.

The move was announced Friday by Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Rodgers is now the highest paid player in league history after signing a five-year extension worth $110 million. Reports are that the contract calls for Rodgers to be paid 40 million in the first year and 62.5 million in the first three years (500K more than Joe Flacco). His salary cap number will never exceed 21M.

“Aaron is a true professional and a special player,” Thompson said, per Packers.com. “He works hard, is humble, and is focused on his actions, on and off the field. He is an excellent teammate and pushes himself and others to be the very best. We are happy to reach an agreement to extend his career with the Packers.”

Rodgers had two years remaining on his previous deal, but the new contract will keep him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

Thompson spent his first draft pick as Packers general manager on Rodgers, the No. 24 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. After sitting behind Brett Favre for three years, Rodgers took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 2008.

In his first season as the starter, Rodgers threw for 4,038 yards, 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His 93.8 passer rating was the lowest of his career, as he’s posted a rating of at least 101.2 in each of the past four seasons.

Widely regarded as the best quarterback in the league today, Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV. He was named league MVP for the 2011 season.

When the Favre retirement fiasco went down in the summer of 2008, some fans were heckling Rodgers in hopes of the team bringing Favre back for another season. But Thompson and Mike McCarthy stood firm in their decision and remained fully committed to Rodgers.

And the rest is history.

During the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, Rodgers tweeted to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, “Good things come to those who wait.” It appears Rodgers was absolutely right.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

26

April

Packers 2013 NFL Draft: Day 1 Grade and Analysis

Packers DE Datone Jones

Packers DE Datone Jones

The first 32 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft are in the books, and the Packers struck gold (and baby blue?) by grabbing UCLA defensive end Datone Jones at No. 26.

Jones was a popular pick among mock drafts, and he was my selection for the Packers in my final mock draft released Thursday. At 6’4″ 283 pounds, Jones has the frame to add another 10-15 pounds and be a difference-maker on the defensive line early in his career.

But when the Packers were on the clock, Jones wasn’t necessarily a no-brainer. A number of players at positions of need were on the board, including defensive linemen Jesse Williams and Sylvester Williams, safeties Jonathan Cyprien and Matt Elam, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

The team’s two biggest needs are/were at safety and on the defensive line. So rather than go with a luxury pick like Patterson, the Packers opted to go with the more glaring need by taking Jones.

A year ago, the Packers addressed the defensive line by taking Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy in the second round and Iowa’s Mike Daniels in the fourth. Worthy suffered a torn ACL late in 2012 and may miss a large chuck, or perhaps all, of the 2013 season. And with Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson set to hit free agency after this season, the selection of Jones gives the team some flexibility along the line.

What they’re saying:

“Because Green Bay plays a 3-4 defense, this kid is an ideal fit. I love this kid’s upside. He fits the scheme. He’s the only one I saw who beat Eric Fisher all week long in one-on-one.” – Mike Mayock (via NFL.com)

“Datone is a very versatile player, played all up and down the line of scrimmage at UCLA. Really flourished in Coach Mora’s new system out there. We think he adds a lot of versatility to our group, should be able to fit in and help our group out.” – Ted Thompson (via PackersNews.com)

“I hate losing and I’m happy to come to an organization like Green Bay, with a winning tradition,” Jones said. “To be able to play at Lambeau Field is crazy. I’m so hyped up right now already. I just want to play.” – Datone Jones (via JSOnline)