6

April

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.

28

July

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Now that Packers training camp is underway, Surviving Sunday is shifting gears a bit.

Gone is the lengthy opening column where I wax poetic about a topic that may or may not relate to the Packers. Also gone are the non-Packers links to non-sports items and other nonsense.

Starting now, Surviving Sunday will be 100 percent focused on the Packers and all the happenings from the previous week’s training camp practices and exhibition games. With training camp in full gear, the Packers are getting serious about the 2013 NFL season. It’s time for Surviving Sunday to get serious, too.

Aches and pains
Before the first practice even started, there were several Packers standing on the sidelines, injured. Perhaps the Packers need to fire their medical staff and just hire a bunch of people who work at a Fed Ex store and specialize in using bubble wrap to protect delicate items.

Here is the list of the walking wounded: DL/OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Davon House (illness) and LB Jamari Lattimore (illness).

Neal and Hayward hurt themselves training on their own and were surprise injuries (although, I’m not sure how surprising it should be any more when Neal turns up injured). It sounds like Hayward and Harris should both be out a week or two, but who knows.

Depending how long Harris is out, it could open up the door for Alex Green or James Starks to A) stay on the team and/or B) impress in camp and move up the depth chart.

If those injuries weren’t enough, rookie WRs Charles Johnson, Kevin Dorsey and Sederrik Cunningham also went down on the first days of practice. Someone needs to make a sacrifice to the football Gods so they show a little mercy on our favorite team. (Update: Sounds like Johnson will be fine.)

Drama and gossip
Aaron Rodgers’ first news conference of camp sounded more like a group of high school kids catching up on the latest gossip than a football media session. Rodgers addressed the Ryan Braun/PED situation — saying “it doesn’t feel great being lied to” — and basically dismissed the recent barbs Greg Jennings sent his way from across the border in Minnesota.

26

July

Rodgers’ Mounting Disappointments

Rodgers Braun

Lately, Rodgers has dealt with more than his share of disappointments in former teammates and friends

It’s not often that we talk about non-football related topics on our shows, but earlier this week during our first installment of No Huddle Radio, we briefly discussed Ryan Braun’s recent suspension from Major League Baseball.

To catch everyone up, Braun reportedly tested positive for steroids in late 2011 and vehemently argued that the test result was “BS”.  Braun appealed the suspension and ultimately won, albeit on a technicality that stemmed from an issue with the chain of custody of the sample that he submitted.

The story was noteworthy here because of a tie that it has to the Packers’ organization.  A big tie.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been friends and a business associate of Braun’s for some time.  Both are the faces of their franchises and revered by fans, or in many cases regarding Braun, were.

When Braun’s positive test surfaced and amidst his assertion that he had done nothing wrong, Rodgers publically went to bat for him.  Rodgers took to Twitter and posted some bold thoughts in support of his friend, using the term “idiots” to describe those who were judging Braun before he was found to be guilty.  Rodgers also tweeted to an individual who questioned his allegiance to Braun and bet a year’s salary that Braun was innocent.  Rodgers was basing his sentiments on what he had been told by Braun, at the time.  As I have said before, Rodgers did what most of us would have done.  He believed a friend, based on their merit alone.  That’s how true friendship works, right?  Most of us normally wouldn’t befriend someone that we didn’t feel that we could trust.  Rodgers clearly had that trust in Braun and his word.

That was before today, when Rodgers spoke on the issue and it is clear that he is less-than-thrilled with the situation and likely, Braun himself.  Here is a recap of those comments from CBS Sports.  Rodgers has often toed a very careful line when speaking about sensitive topics and this was no exception.  He was candid in stating his disappointment in the situation, but did leave us wondering what the state of his relationship with Braun would be from here forward.  Let’s not forget that Rodgers is trying to prepare for the 2013 season and likely wants to put this behind him and focus on football.

9

June

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Sometimes I wonder why Packers players and other professional athletes bother speaking with the media. If it wasn’t mandated by the league, would the incentive to speak to the press be enough to entice players to do it?

In years past, the answer would be yes. These days? I’m not so sure.

Interaction between the media and players is a big reason why sports have exploded in popularity. The media is supposed to be an extension of the fans. By speaking to the press, you’re essentially speaking to the fans. Sports wouldn’t rank as high on America’s cultural landscape without athletes like Joe Namath, Charles Barkley, Pete Rose and Wayne Gretzky being not only great players, but larger-than-life people and ambassadors for their respective sports through interactions with the media.

In other words, athletes used to need the media. Media exposure is a big reason why professional sports is now a multibillion dollar business and many athletes are multimillionaires.

These days, it seems like it’s the other way around. It’s media outlets that need the athletes.

For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to pick on the radio show Green and Gold Today. Before I do, I want to make clear that I listen to G&G Today daily and love it. I trust Jason Wilde on the Packers more than any other reporter and Bill Johnson is the rare combination of over-the-top, yet insightful.

But two things bothered me about the show this week and illustrate why I wouldn’t speak to the media if I were a pro athlete in this day and age:

  • Greg Jennings didn’t use Aaron Rodgers’ name in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week. This may or may not be Jennings dissing Rodgers. Either way, Johnson said, “Last night when I read that I felt like a sucker. I was defending Greg Jennings. I thought he was different. I didn’t think he was just another dopey wide receiver that all they care about is the number of catches they get. All of that just went out the window. To me, he’s just another selfish guy…” Really? One quip in an interview changes your entire viewpoint on Jennings as a human being? So if Jennings just ignores the interview request from the Pioneer Press, would Johnson still think Jennings is a swell dude? I know Jennings probably doesn’t care what Johnson thinks of him, but how does Jennings benefit from doing an interview like this if people are going to make judgments about his entire character based on a comment or two? Jennings doesn’t benefit. But Johnson’s radio show sure does.
4

March

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Empty Sundays

I know I’m supposed to be outraged about the Saints paying bounties for big hits that injure opposing players, but I’m not. I’m not saying what Gregg Williams and the Saints did was right, or that it should go unpunished, but I can’t work myself up to be outraged about the issue like so many others.

Is this bounty system really that big of a revelation? Are we truly shocked that something like this was (is) going on in the NFL?

I’m not.

I always assumed some sort of bounty system existed and it was just one of those things that got treated with a wink and a nod, kind of like when pitchers in baseball used finger-nail files or sandpaper to doctor the ball back in the day.

That doesn’t make it right, but it makes it one of those issues where people’s reactions get under my skin. Now everyone is condemning Williams and the Saints for being big evil monsters that were out to tear off the limbs of opposing players and collect cash for maiming their NFL brethren.

Bounty or no bounty, defensive players are looking to deliver a giant hit on every play. If that big hit results in a player getting carted off, so be it. Some players also take cheap shots. These types of players play for many teams, not just the Saints or some other team with a bounty system.

The NFL can issue as many fines and suspensions as it wants (and it will, and should), but this type of mindset won’t go away. Perhaps the other teams currently using a bounty system will stop, but those cash incentives will be replaced with other tokens of appreciation.

A coach praising a player during film sessions for bone-jarring hits, teammates buying dinner for whomever knocks out the opposing QB, sharing laughs and re-enacting certain violent plays over a few beers — those are a few ways players and coaches will continue showing appreciation for hits that leave another player woozy or unable to return to the game.

That’s just how football works and I don’t see it changing any time soon. It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean is should be accepted. But I just can’t get that worked up over it.

Charles Woodson, the Draft and Wednesday Night Football

26

February

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

Sundays are rough without football, especially after how the Packers season ended.

I love Sundays, but I love Sundays more when football is on. Football makes you forget about your hangover from Saturday night and the fact that you have to go back to work on Monday. Football also makes you feel less guilty for lazing around on the couch all day, eating food that raises your cholesterol and swearing at your TV.

Now we’re stuck with the NBA, NHL, MLB and golf on Sunday for the foreseeable future. I like all of those sports, but none of them makes a Sunday like football. Those other sports are for the other six days of the week.

Sunday is for football.

To kill the time on these offseason Sundays, I’m going to publish Surviving Sunday: Packers New, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived.

It’ll be a regular notebook-style column that opens with a random thought or rant (like the one you’re reading now), followed by some quick opinions on a couple of key issues related to the Packers that I didn’t have a chance to cover with a full post during the week. From there, I’ll include links to must-read/must-see stories, videos and blog posts from the previous week and a preview of possible Packers storylines for the upcoming week. I’ll close each Surviving Sunday with a few words on a subject unrelated to the Packers.

I hope you enjoy reading Surviving Sunday as much as I enjoy putting it together. Anything to get in a little football on Sunday, right?

Scott Wells, Bryan Bulaga and the NFL Combine

  • Ted Thompson needs to sign Scott Wells. Unless Wells is asking for the moon because he wants his comeuppance after the Packers were mean to him early in his career, Thompson needs to make this one work. Wells is an upper-echelon center. If there’s one thing that occasionally rattles Aaron Rodgers (or any QB), it’s pressure up the middle. Wells does a good job of setting the Packers pass protection and keeping those interior pass rushers out of No. 12′s face. For what the Packers need him to do, he’s worth a 3-year deal in the $17-20 million range.