15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.

15

February

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson will stick to his script

Ted Thompson is preparing for his 10th NFL Draft as general manager of the Packers.

Ted Thompson is preparing for his 10th NFL Draft as general manager of the Packers.

Now I don’t want to totally dismiss anything that NFL writer and analyst Ian Rapoport said…but I don’t believe any of it.

For those that missed it, Rapoport said that the Packers could sign as many as five free agents to take advantage of the Packers nearly $28 million in cap space.

Anyone who has been around a stale Ted Thompson press conference knows that the Packers general manager prefers to assemble his team through the lower risk, higher reward of the draft, which actually suits a small-market team just fine.

The Packers have not and are not in a position to be like the Redskins or Cowboys who routinely throw money at free agents just because they can. Washington and Dallas are more suited to sign high-priced free agents because they can absorb more mistakes than a team like the Packers.

But that doesn’t mean the draft is an exact science either. There are guys like Brian Brohm, Justin Harrell and Javon Walker in every draft. Obviously the key is finding out which one truly loves the game of football and which one just loves being the star.

The most important free agent signing Thompson has made was Charles Woodson back in 2006. That pales in comparison to Ron Wolf who brought in the hallmark free agent of a generation in Reggie White and then smartly paired him with free agents Sean Jones and Santana Dotson.

Of course Thompson could try and lure the top defensive end in Greg Hardy who has said is looking for a “crapload of money.” Hardy and agent Drew Rosenhaus have already turned down a contract for four years and $32 million. The 25-year-old wants security after netting 15 sacks, which led to his first Pro Bowl bid.

But Thompson cannot do that because dropping that much this year will severely hamper Green Bay’s chances of signing both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, whose contracts expire after the 2015 season.

Basically what Thompson has to weigh is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ best quarterbacking mind has a limited window of dominance. He will enter his seventh season as a starter next fall and will turn 31 next December. He has four years of being a game-changing quarterback in the NFL. In that time, the roster has to evolve. It not only has to get better around him, but also must prepare itself for Rodgers’ inevitable diminishing return.

16

June

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Profootballtalk.com asked fans to vote on their Packers Mt. Rushmore this week and it created some interesting debate on Twitter and talk radio.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, the Packers Mt. Rushmore needs to consist of four people. It can be players, coaches, executives or whomever that you feel is one of the four most important people in Packers history.

This is a tough one. If there was an actual Packers Mt. Rushmore, it would need to go on the side of a very large mountain because four people is much too small.

As much as I love guys like Ron Wolf and Bob Harlan and acknowledge that the Packers might not be around without folks like them, I don’t know if I can put executives on a Mt. Rushmore. Isn’t putting executives on a Packers Mt. Rushmore kind of like putting Abe Lincoln’s chief of staff on the actual Mt. Rushmore instead of Abe Lincoln himself?

I’m also not sure coaches belong on a Mt. Rushmore. But that means leaving off Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau, which is just asinine.

If I knew that people wouldn’t burn down my house for leaving Lombardi and Lambeau off, I’d probably put Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Reggie White and Brett Favre on my Packers Mt. Rushmore. When the people arrived with torches and pitchforks to take care of me after leaving off Lombardi and Lambeau, I’d remove Hutson and White for the two legendary coaches.

Football will always be about the players to me. You absolutely have to have a good front office and coaching staff to make everything work, and I’ll say it again that the Packers are not the Packers without the executives and coaches I’ve already mentioned (along with many others).

But in the end, you have to wear a jersey and helmet instead of as suit and tie to make my Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Let us know who makes your Packers Mt. Rushmore in the comments section.

(And don’t yell at me too much for leaving Lombardi and Lambeau off my pre-torches and pitchforks Packers Mt. Rushmore.)

Packers News, Notes and Links

31

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

As I was observing the buzz created this week by the U.S. Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage, I couldn’t help but think about former Packers great Reggie White.

Most Packers fan who are old enough probably remember this speech by White in front of the Wisconsin state legislature in March of 1998. White was scheduled to talk about some of his community service work. Instead the Minister of Defense went off about the sins of homosexuality and how being gay is a “decision.”

White also appeared in a few newspaper ads run by Christian organizations wearing his Packers jersey and promoting his opposition to homosexuality.

Can you imagine if White did these things in 2013 instead of 1998? Twitter would spontaneously combust. The comments section at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel would turn into even more of a cesspool than it already is. Collin Cowherd, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless would reach new levels of intolerable. Activist organizations would storm Lambeau Field.

White’s legacy would probably be damaged beyond repair.

Or would it?

I freely admit that I always think of White the former Packer. The image of White burned into my brain is this one, Super-Bowl trophy held high, a sense of accomplishment on his face.

I never think of this image of White, the one of White in a suit and tie, condemning homosexuality and making other disparaging remarks.

Should I think of that latter image? Am I wrong for willfully ignoring the fact that White had some incredibly homophobic views?

I’ve been asking myself those questions this week. I try to justify my justification of ignoring the latter image of White by saying that he has a right to his opinions like any other American. White should be praised for speaking his mind and expressing a view that he knew was probably going to generate a lot of negative publicity.

I also tell myself that there’s nothing wrong with viewing White as a former Packer and nothing more. When actors or musicians spout off with some nonsensical thoughts, I really don’t care. It’s not going to stop me from seeing his/her movie or buying an album. Why should it be different for athletes?

10

July

The Final Chapter: The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: List of All Packers With Wrestling Connections

Clay Matthews raises Edge's hand after a match on WWE Smackdown.

We continue our “Sunday Storytime” with chapter 4 in a series examining the history of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and professional wrestling. This is the final chapter in the series. The introduction to the series can be read here. Chapter 1 can be read hereand Chapter 2  can be read here. Chapter 3 can be read here.

The final chapter in our look at the connection between the Green Bay Packers, the NFL and professional wrestling is a database of wrestlers with ties to the Packers. I know I am probably missing some names, so if you know of anyone that I omitted, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add them.

With the lockout (hopefully) ending this week, you probably won’t have to put up with any more pro wrestling posts from me. I had a lot of fun putting this series together and I hope at least a few of you found something a little worthwhile in each chapter.

A friend of mine manages a popular Minnesota Timberwolves blog and is posting about his return to distance running as the NBA lockout drags on. I also recently started running and probably could have put together some amusing posts about my struggles for this site. But seriously, would you rather read about me — a 240-pound blogger trying not to die of a heart attack while running a mile — or Dick the Bruiser?

I’d take Dick the Bruiser every time.

Pro Wrestlers With Connections to the Packers

Vern Gagne
Gagne was a 16-time world heavyweight champion and owner/promoter of the American Wrestling Association (AWA) based in Minneapolis. Gagne never actually played for the Packers, but tried out and was cut during training camp. To help himself get over with wrestling fans in the Wisconsin and Green Bay regions, Gagne would often bill himself as a former Green Bay Packer.

Lex Luger
Luger (real name Larry Pfohl) is a former member of the famous Four Horseman stable and the groundbreaking NWO. Luger spent the entire 1982 season on the Packers injured reserve and was released before the start of the 1983 season.

29

June

Why the Fall of Brett Favre Started Much Sooner Than You Think

It may be like trying to piece together a train wreck you’d much rather not watch again, but given the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV, I think we fans can revisit this without cringing too much.

It’s time once again to look at the disgraceful downfall of one Brett Lorenzo Favre. Yes, everyone has beaten the topic to death the past few years but one thing that has not truly been discussed was the exact moment when Favre’s downfall began.  Some say it was in 2005 with the hiring of Ted Thompson.  Others argue it happened with the firing of Mike Sherman in 2006.

I’d have to partially agree with those who mention Sherman, except they have it backwards. I’d argue Favre’s meltdown began when Sherman was HIRED in 2000.

Wind the clock back to that year if you will: Ray Rhodes had just been fired and Favre was coming off a 22 TD pass to 23 interceptions season after battling a bad thumb all season.  Keep in mind this was two years removed from the Packers trip to Super Bowl XXXII against the Broncos.  Favre experienced his first non-winning season of his career as well.

More than that, players and coaches from the Super Bowl teams had begun to move on. Mike Holmgren was in Seattle, Reggie White was in Carolina for one last season and best bud former tight end Mark Chmura was on trial for sexual assault.   Favre’s mentors and best friend were all gone.

Enter Mike Sherman.  He came in talking about the great history and tradition of the Packers and wanted to make sure his teams were established in the same mold. This was a theme Sherman constantly revisited during his time in Green Bay.

He also talked about Favre as one of the greatest ever and a true legend despite the quarterback barely being over the age of 30.  The overstuffing of Favre’s ego had begun.  Instead of saying that yes, he is great but he still needs to be smart like Mike McCarthy later did, Sherman only praised his quarterback and when question about Favre’s faults (like those interceptions), he just basically shrugged them off as “That’s just Brett.”

The seeds were planted.

The first few years of the Sherman era were productive with the Packers making the playoffs in 2001 after a two year absence and they won the NFC North in 2002.

19

June

The Complete History of Green Bay Packers in Professional Wrestling: Chapter 1 — The Football and Wrestling Connection

That's Packers great Reggie White wrestling Steve McMichael in WCW.

This is chapter 1 in a series examining the history of the NFL, the Green Bay Packers and professional wrestling. The introduction to the series can be read here.

In 1986, Vince McMahon, Jr. was in the middle of transforming the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) from a regional promotion in the northeast to a national powerhouse that would eventually wipe out every other wrestling territory in the United States. McMahon used his deep pockets to lure away top wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper from rival promotions. He also used his marketing and promotional skills to develop many of his wrestlers into larger than life characters with mainstream appeal.

But McMahon was not satisfied with running a successful wrestling promotion. He wanted to create an entertainment empire that happened to involve wrestling. He wanted the WWF to be viewed on the same level as a major movie studio that produced blockbuster films, or a record label with bands that released No. 1 hits.

To achieve this, McMahon knew he needed more than top-level wrestling talent. He needed something that could make wrestling “cool,” something that would appeal to a younger generation and people who normally did not pay attention to wrestling.

The Rock ‘n Wrestling connection was born.

Wrestling Becomes Cool
McMahon partnered with MTV in the mid-80s to reach the younger and hipper audience he was targeting. He also brought in rock singers and celebrities like Cyndi Lauper to broaden the WWF’s brand beyond the scope of traditional professional wrestling.

To be fair, McMahon was not the first promoter to incorporate celebrities and musical acts into the wrestling world. To sell tickets for larger-scale events, wrestling promoters occasionally brought in musicians to perform after matches or local celebrities to make some sort of appearance. But nobody did it like McMahon.

McMahon used celebrities to build the WWF for the long term. In addition to selling tickets, McMahon wanted the celebrities he used to establish the WWF as mainstream entertainment. He had a vision of where he wanted to take the WWF, and he recognized that celebrities could help get him there.

The WWF’s flirtation with celebrities came to a head at the first Wrestlemania, held at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 31, 1985. Celebrities like Lauper, Mr. T, Liberace, Muhammad Ali and Billy Martin helped Wrestlemania reach over a million people through closed-circuit television and establish the WWF as “hip” and “cool.”