Saturday, June 24, 2006

Here's a No-Brainer

From the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Sports Poll of the Day:

Should the Packers' name be changed to the Wisconsin Packers?
No (95.2%)
Yes (4.8%)
Total votes: 744 (as of the time of this posting)

What I'd like to ask as a follow-up question is this:
Who are the boneheads that comprise the approximately 5 percent of the respondents who voted "yes"?

Possible answers:
Da Baerz fans -- ViQueens fans -- Members of Congress Looking for a Meaningless but Emotional Election Year Issue -- Conspiracy Theorists (isn't it obvious who's behind this???) -- Earnest T. Bass-style nutjobs

Pick one.*
* Note: above choices are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Harris? Oh Yeah, He'll Be There

An update to yesterday's report of Packers CB Al Harris statement that he might not show up for training camp in an attempt to get a revised contract. According to reports -- and obviously heavily influenced by the post here at (yeah, right) -- Harris' agent has said that Harris will be at training camp when it starts next month. In other words...stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

You Just KNEW This Would Happen

Really. Was it so hard to figure that Packers CB Al Harris was so miffed at the boatload of cash the team gave free agent Charles Woodson that he'd hold out? I know, I know. It was only a month or so ago that Harris and his agent, Jack Bechta, were saying that he would be on hand for all mandatory practices, etc. camp...maybe not. Well, you know how it is...a month is a long time. And daddy needs a new pair of, wait...that's another game. Never mind.

The long and short of it is the same now as it was the moment the Pack signed Woodson: Harris' feelings are hurt. He feels dissed by the six-year, $18.635 million contract extension he signed in September 2004...wasn't forced to sign, but did. Maybe because he signed a deal with $7 million in bonuses that weren't all guaranteed is what's eating at him? Or maybe it really is that seven-year, $39.03 million deal Woodson signed that could pay him as much as $10.2 million in 2006 alone? Maybe it's the deal the Packers gave DE Aaron Kampman that included $12 million in guaranteed money?

A player is always going to feel slighted by someone making more money...which there will always be.

Get over it, Al!

Yes, you are one of the best bump-n-runners in the league and you really were the only real DB the Pack could count on last year. But...YOU SIGNED A FRIGGIN' CONTRACT!!! The average Joe can't decide to stay home from the office or factory or wherever just because the guy working next to him got a bigger raise or a better salary package. That's life. No one -- no one -- ever gets paid what they think they are worth. Truth be told, most people probably get paid more than they should be at certain times. It all balances out. Just do your job. The job YOU signed on to do under the terms YOU agreed to not even two years ago!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Packers Hit the Road for 'TAILGATE TOUR' July 11-14

NOTE: This is a re-posting of an earlier post which the system somehow determined was written in June of 1990...which would have been before blogs were even possible! LOL So, this is a bit out of sequence from when it was originally posted, sorry, but in case you missed it the first time, here it is again.

From the Green Bay Packers eNews:

The Packers Thursday announced plans for the 'Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour,' a four-day, four-city bus trip to take place July 11-14, designed for the team to literally reach out across the state and thank fans in person for their enduring and enthusiastic support of the club through the years.

The event, the first of its kind for the team, will include Chairman Bob Harlan, President John Jones and players Donald Driver, Bubba Franks and Rob Davis. The tour will take place aboard a customized motor coach emblazoned with the logo "Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour" and the phrase "Touching Down in Your Community." The tour will make stops in Milwaukee (July 11) Madison (July 12), La Crosse (July 13) and Wausau (July 14).

The motor coach will make one scheduled stop during the day at a site to be determined in each city. At the visit, tour members will have the opportunity to interact with fans and deliver the message of "thanks." In addition to the planned stops, surprise stops will be made as the schedule allows.

Culminating the day's activities during the 'Tailgate Tour' will be an evening tailgate party in each city from 5:30 to 8 p.m., with a flavor of famous Lambeau Field tailgating, hosted by a local non-profit organization. The parties will feature food and mingling with the Packers representatives. At each tailgate party a football autographed by each tour member will be given away as a door prize. Tailgate party tickets will cost $20, with proceeds to benefit the hosting organization.

"We're excited about this new fan initiative for the team," said Harlan. "The Packers have enjoyed such wonderful support from our fans across the state and this is an opportunity for members of our organization and some of our players to go out and see many fans in person and say, 'Thanks.' "

Added Jones: "For so many years we've enjoyed fans coming to Lambeau Field and supporting the team and now we'll have the opportunity to visit them and show our appreciation. This will be a great addition to our community outreach efforts and being able to raise money in the process for some fine organizations is a nice benefit."

More here.

Gannon Visits...Just to Teach

Coach Mike McCarthy invited former NFL QB and MVP Rich Gannon to the team's OTAs on Friday. Not to work with Brett Favre, who had been excused from the practice, but rather to share some wisdom with the young QBs on the squad. That would be Aaron Rodgers, Ingle Martin, Tom Arth and Brian Wrobel. Why would Gannon agree to do this? Well, for one thing, he is replacing Bill Mass as the analyst for the Packers' exhibition games this season, so some firsthand knowledge of these backups will no doubt help in the booth. But more importantly, he credits McCarthy with resurrecting his career when they worked together with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1995-'98.

In a TV interview, Gannon said he told Rodgers to practice with the goal of going 7 for 7 in passing drills. He said he encouraged Rodgers to put some pressure on Brett, "Not that Brett's still not the guy, because he is," Gannon said. Gannon said it was more a case of Rodgers demanding more of himself, as if he was the starter. "It will help him, and it will help Brett," Gannon said. Gannon indicated that he was impressed with Rodger's physical abilities; it's the mental part of the game he has to work with.

Gannon can certainly share what it takes to stick and succeed in the NFL, having bounced around for his first 10 years in the league. He finally got his game together with McCarthy at KC before heading off to Oakland where he achieved Pro Bowl status and won his MVP beating out, yes, our own Brett Favre. Gannon was definitely a late bloomer, always with the potential. McCarthy helped him to achieve it. On Friday, Gannon provided a little payback to his former mentor by sharing some of his insights and professionalism with the young QBs. Nice.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Hawk Swoops Down

OK, I may be beating this bird headline theme (Hawk - Herron, get it?) to death...but I can't resist, sorry.

After missing the second team minicamp and the first two weeks of the Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the Packers first-round draft pick, A. J. Hawk, has finally landed in Green Bay. Hawk was finishing up his coursework and exams at Ohio State, leaving with a criminology degree. He didn't hang around for his Sunday graduation ceremony, though. After finishing things up on Friday, Hawk hopped in his car and drove to GB, saying he wanted to join the team as soon as he could. Hawk joined the #1 defense on Monday working on the weak side. According to reports, he fit right in and appeared to be well up to speed.

Hawk also is going to fit into the community very quickly. Shortly after the draft, Hawk and his fiancee closed on a house in the GB area. His fiancee has also enrolled in courses at UW-Green Bay while looking for work in local TV. (Hmmm...what do you think those local TV execs will do..."Should our station hire the fiancee of the new Packers' linebacker or not..." Yep, that's a toughie alright.)

In any event, Hawk says repeatedly that "it's all football" from here on. May it be thus for a long, long time, Mr. Hawk.

Now a Herron Wades In

Yes, I know that the real heron -- which according to Merriam-Webster is "any of various long-necked wading birds (family Ardeidae) with a long tapering bill, large wings, and soft plumage" (your word of the day, kids) -- is spelled with one "r" while the Herron I'm talking about has two "r"s. That, and this Herron is a second-year running back with the Packers and not a long-necked wading bird. One can carry the ball the other...well...I ever seen one of those birds? They probably could carry the ball. (Hey, is there a rule against that? Could Favre hand the ball off to a bird, have it fly over the line, and land in the end zone? Would that count? Man, the possibilities!)

But I digress...there's an article in today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Noah Herron, who the Pack picked off the Steeler's practice squad last November to fill one of the spots left by the ever-increasing number of injured Packers running backs. While Herron missed being involved in the Steelers Super Bowl win -- c'mon, is it that big of a deal? -- he says he had a chance to play, get some exposure for his abilities, and maybe become a regular fixture of the Pack's offense. In other words, here's a young man who takes a long-term view. Of course, in the case of most NFL running backs that may only last about four years but, still, it is nice to see such a perspective.

Anyone who watched Big Ten football in the early 2000s, remembers Herron being a key part of Northwestern's offense. In 2004, as the featured back, he averaged 115 yards per game rushing and 29 yards per game receiving. Not too shabby. He was -- is -- a smart, powerful, versatile back. He has good hands, and has enough of the "quicks" to be effective in the open field. One of the other things going for him is that Northwestern used a zone blocking scheme. In other words, he has a bit of an advantage over the other backs participating in the OTAs now given the Pack's move to zone blocking. As a result, with Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport still out until training camping camp, Herron has been getting some work with the #1 offense, apparently supplanting fan fave Samkon Gado for the time being. Because he has been able to pick up the offense a bit more quickly, he is getting a chance to show what he can do. And, according to the article, Coach McCarthy likes what he sees, having singled Herron out for praise a few times already.

As we all saw last year, you can never have enough good running backs. If Herron is able to be as solid a contributor for the Packers as he was for Northwestern, it could be quite a backfield: Green, Davenport, Henderson, Gado, Herron...and perhaps a surprise or two. Now, just keep those fingers crossed that the injury bugaboo which hit so hard last year won't repeat itself again this year. This could be a good offense, folks. If everyone is able to stay healthy.

Here's the article if you care to read more.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Packers Offense Tallies 29!

You heard it here, folks: the Packers offense scored 29 in yesterday's game. What? You didn't know the Pack played yesterday? Did the Packer Fans United blog enter a time warp?

Naaaaahhhhh...just reporting the score of yesterday's annual Brett Favre Celebrity Softball Game held in Appleton, WI. The seventh annual event saw the Packers offense smack the Packers defense around by a score of 29-12. Played before a crowd of more than 8,000, this could have been the last such event, pending Favre's -- sorry to bring up the word again -- retirement after this coming season. It really all depends on that.

In an article in today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Brett and his wife, Deanna, acknowledge that keeping the event going after he retires may be difficult. But it was apparently obvious to those in attendance, according to the article, that the couple was also savoring the moment, not knowing whether this successful annual fundraiser for Brett's charitable Fourward Foundation will continue another year or not. Of course, at this point...well, let's not start that talk again. In the meantime, if you want to read the article for yourself, just click here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

How 'Bout a Little Something for Vince?

OK, the second week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) has ended, with two more weeks to go. Brett Favre has been on hand for both, and will be on hand for the next two, and seems reenergized by the challenge of having to learn a new system. Several key players still are no shows, although apparently for acceptable reasons. Players who were part of the MASH unit brigade last season are making their comebacks and starting to practice. On the flip side of that equation, no injuries of note. Kicking competitions are getting a bit more involved. Donnell "Deadweight" Washington was finally shown the door. And Coach McCarthy is happy because he's been able to "install" various parts of his system and the team is getting it.

So, with all that "no news is good news" news, let's take a break from looking at what will be for the Packers and take a moment to reflect on what was.

Yesterday and today at the North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, WI, the 36th Annual Vince Lombardi Golf Classic is taking place. It's one of the longest-running two-day tournaments in the country. Proceeds go to support the organization "whose sole purpose is to raise funds for cancer research, education, patient care and early detection at the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic , Gene Therapy Research Laboratory and Cancer Counseling Center - St. Luke's Medical Center, Milwaukee, WI. Proceeds from this year's Dinner Ball, Golf Classic, Lombardi Walk for Cancer, Milwaukee Food & Wine Experience and Block of Granite Program will bring the amount raised by the Lombardi to over $9.5 million," according to the event's fact page.

Needless to say, the event is attended by a plethora of the Lombardi Packers: Bart Starr, Max Magee, Zeke Bratkowski, Jerry Kramer, Gary Knafelc, Fuzzy Thurston and others, as well as Packers from other eras, such as Lynn Dickey, Don Majkowski, Frank Winters and Tim Lewis, as well as some of today's Pack including Mark Tauscher, Aaron Rodgers and Coach Mike McCarthy. Other sports and entertainment celebrities also are on hand: Bob Uecker -- Mr. Baseball, as Johnny Carson used to call him -- is worth the price of admission alone.

Given that today's area morning weather is cool and rainy, you can bring a little sunshine to the event -- no matter what part of the Packer Universe you reside in -- by making a donation to the charity. If you feel so inclined, just click here to go to their donation page.

And if you plan ahead, maybe next year you can even be on hand for the event yourself, either as a spectator or a player...although the ante for the latter takes a bit more coin, as they say.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog programming...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Favre Talks

He walks, he talks, wait...that's something different. Never mind...

Ol' #4, Brett the Great, spoke to the media yesterday for the first time during the Packers' minicamp/OTA sessions. He looked buffed. He looked energized. And while he admitted that if training camp was called off altogether he would "high five" everyone, Favre still seemed excited about the prospects of the season. This despite the fact that one of his worst fears -- having to learn a new offense -- has apparently come true. There are new twists to this offense, as well as new terminology. Brett says he understands the play concepts, obviously, but is still getting used to the new language. "'Strong right' last year was something totally different," he said. One thing that he said he will definitely be doing before the start of training camp is studying the new playbook. Perhaps that's a good thing: "We have a played called Pennsylvania, which means . . . well, I'm not quite sure what it means. But I completed it today so that's a positive. You can see where I'm coming from." Indeed.

In recognition of the fact that he has a learning curve to go through -- albeit after 16 years in the league and at age 36 -- Favre indicated he will be on hand for the next two weeks of the team's OTAs, although he's leaving it up to Coach McCarthy to determine the days he actually practices. McCarthy had indicated in a press conference earlier this week that they have a plan for Brett and his practice field vs. training room regime is determined by that schedule. Sounds as if the coaching staff is pacing both Brett's on-field repetitions with his training room workouts. Something for the head...something for the body. Favre's overall conditioning is in the same mode as last year, when he hired a personal trainer during the offseason for the first time. Favre said, "I know age works against me, so I have to work twice as hard as I had to before and mentally be as sharp as I have in any of the previous 15 years." He also said that he's thrown more in this offseason that in the prior three years. Brett said his arm feels great, but it's just not in shape.He now feels that taking it slow with his practice throws is the best approach. The episode a few years ago with training camp tendinitis from overthrowing apparently also taught him a lesson. "I realize I am not just in my seventh year and I can just go out and wing it...But before I get some tenderness or something...It's better to be safe than sorry because tendinitis and things like that do take a long time to recover from."

All in all, it sounds as if the plan the coaching staff has for Brett is on track. And from watching video of the press conference, Ol' #4 seems to be gearing up for another great season.

Buh-Bye Now

Perennial deadweight, defensive tackle Donnell Washington -- a former third round draft pick out of Clemson -- was cut by the Packers today. Washington showed up at the first minicamp so out of shape he was held out of practices. Basically sent home, he came back in slightly better shape, according to reports. But obviously Coach Mike McCarthy does not have the vested interest former GM/Coach Mike Sherman had in hanging on to this albatross (no disrespect to either the bird or Monty Python sketch of the same name). As noted in this blog's May 20 "Minicamp Meanderings" post, Washington never played in a game for the Packers. Not only did he not play, he was never even activated for any of the 33 games in which he could have played. With all the competition at the defensive tackle position, and with his obvious (apparently to everyone but former GM/Coach Sherman) lack of motivation, Washington knew his days were numbered. But apparently, he did little to redeem himself with the new coaching staff. Showing up to collect a paycheck you don't earn...sorry, more free ride. Good luck, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Week 1 OTA Wrap and Touchdown Trivia

OK, Packer fans, about the biggest news coming out of last week's OTAs (Organized Team Activities) was that free agent receiver Marc Boerigter was impressing coaches. Boerigter was expected to perhaps be the fourth or fifth receiver in the lineup after Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Rod Gardner. However, since Gardner has been a no-show so far at these voluntary practices, Boerigter is getting lots of work, which equals lots of attention, which may equal a bump up the depth chart. Too early to tell, but reports out of GB indicate the coaches like what they see. Rookie receiver Greg Jennings also continues to turn heads. If Gardner doesn't step up by showing up soon during the remaining days of these OTAs he just may find himself as lower on the pecking order than he might have thought.

All this competition at the wide receiver slot is a good starting point for the topic of scoring touchdowns, something the Pack didn't do quite enough of last year...although one odd bit of trivia is that the Packers did score more touchdowns than Da Bearz who wound up winning the division. Go figure.

The Pack actually wound up better than their opponents in three offensive categories: first downs, third-down conversions, and total yards. But, to paraphrase, all those stats don't mean a thing if you ain't got the this case, TDs.

Do you know who led the team in touchdowns last year? Here's a hint: his name rhymes with...oh to heck with it, nothing rhymes with Gado. Yep, Samkon Gado, who played in only eight games before being lost to injury like so many of his teammates. Gado scored seven TDs in his eight games. Starting running back, Ahman Green, by contrast had no touchdowns in the five games he played before being lost for the season. Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher each had two scores, as did late season replacement Noah Herron. That was it for the running backs. And, as they say, as the running game goes so goes the rest of the offense. We all know how that worked out. The receiving corps saw Donald Driver with five TDs, Antonio Chatman with four, Robert Ferguson with three, David Martin with three, Donald Lee with two and Bubba Franks with one.

Yikes! Well, guess that explains that 4-12 record, huh?

Needless to say, there is an emphasis this year on figuring out how to get the team's skill players into the end zone. What a concept! So far, it seems as if the players are getting on board with the new zone blocking scheme which is designed to provide more lanes of opportunity for the running backs. Open up the running game and the passing game also opens up. Pretty simple. Just gotta execute. Therein is the rub, as they say. Coach Mike McCarthy is working his new team hard with all these additional "voluntary" practices. But when even Brett Favre is in attendance right now, there is a tone being set that last year will not be repeated. No one can control injuries, which was such a contributing factor to last year's debacle. But if the season exhibits the passion that the coaching staff and a majority of the old and new players seem to be bringing to the practice field, last year will be a distant memory very quickly.

Oh, one other bit of trivia emerging from the first week of OTAs: at the end of one practice late last week QB Brett Favre, sat down next to Samkon Gado at Gado's locker for a chat. Not something that happens every day apparently as it was noted by players and press alike. Favre and Gado talked for about 20 minutes. While Gado said he just wanted to learn more about how Favre thought about different things, it was also reported that Favre wanted to let Gado know how important he was going to be in the offense as Ahman Green's back up. Now that's leadership, folks. More importantly, Gado knew that and appreciated the moment. Gotta like that kid. And the old kid too.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cory Rodgers Bust - Mea Culpa

From today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Following (Wednesday's) practice, rookie wide receiver Cory Rodgers, a fourth-round draft choice out of Texas Christian, addressed his recent arrest in Forth Worth, Texas, for misdemeanor gun charges.

According to police, he and two former TCU teammates were mixed up in a brawl at a club that involved up to 60 people after Rodgers, 23, refused to sign autographs and buy drinks for people in the bar.

Rodgers was ultimately charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm and unlawfully discharging a firearm after officers heard two shots and found him in the back seat of his car with a .40-caliber automatic handgun and ammunition in a seat pouch in front of him.

"I want to apologize to my family, the Packers organization, my teammates, my coaches, and especially the fans," Rodgers said. "I made a mistake and I have to live with it, so I just want my fans and the Packer organization to know that I'm deeply sorry for the incident that happened and I have to respect the judicial system and I would hope that the fans and the media respect that, too."

Said coach Mike McCarthy: "He's a young man that was in the wrong place and he just needs to learn to not be in that situation again."

OTA Underway; Harlan and Jones Move Up

Four weeks of OTAs, otherwise known as Organized Team Activities, began yesterday for the Packers. These are not official minicamps and, as such, attendance of the players is not required. But, as you might imagine, it is strongly encouraged to make an appearance during the 14 voluntary workouts. So much so, in fact, that ol' #4 himself is attending right now. On the other hand, 14 players are not in attendance. (Hmmm, one player for each day...coincidence? Or something more incidious? Hmmm...Quick, get me ticekts for the Da Vinci Code. Stat!)

Because these are voluntary workouts, you can't read anything into...well...anything. But of course, pundits still do. Such as speculating about the absence of Al Harris, for example. Reportedly, he is unhappy with his contract -- even though it was signed in Septemeber 2004 and still has nearly four years remaining -- because the Pack dumped a boatload of dollars into free agent Charles Woodson's bank account. Get over it, Al. Seven other projected starters were also absent, although apparently only rookie A. J. Hawk was known about ahead of time: he is still finishing up at Ohio State. But on the positive side, veterans who know the meaning of "team" more so than "I" were on hand, such as Favre, FB William Henderson and DE Aaron Kampman. Kampman was quoted as saying they need to set an example for the younger players and a tone for the upcoming season. What a concept!

The coaching staff will begin installing more of the new system next week and it's at that time that attendance, albeit still voluntary, becomes even more of an issue. As for now, the new projected starter opposite Al Harris, safety Marquand Manuel, made an upbeat assessment of the situation. As quoted in the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Manuel said: "The guys that are here have a chance to get reps. That's how you've got to look at it. A lot of people want to look at the negative side of it all the time but it's a chance for guys to be able to trust the young guys." Manuel became outright philosophical as he continued: "I was a young guy. It took somebody not coming to minicamp or training camp, holding out for me to get my opportunity to show the coaches that I could play. You've got to look at the positive side of it." Indeed. The glass is half full not half empty. (Repeat until convinced.)

One other tidbit of news emerging is that rookie Will Blackmon, expected to get work at cornerback and especially as a returner on special teams, had surgery on the foot injury he suffered during the last minicamp. Coach McCarthy indicated in reports that they are not sure how long he will be out. He said he hoped he's back in time for training camp. Also, as expected, McCarthy confirmed that OL Kevin Barry had surgery on his torn quadriceps muscle and is in rehab; he's likely out for the year.

Harlan and Jones Move Up

Longtime Packers President Bob Harlan, responsibile for overseeing the resurrection of the Packers and turning Lambeau Field into a year-round -- rather than 10-days-a-year -- destination, was named CEO Wednesday. Harlan will chair the Packer's Executive Committee until May 2007 when, due to the organization's rules, he will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70. At that point, Harlan will formally be elected by the Board as chairman emeritus. John Jones, who assumed the title of Packers President yesterday, will then be elected President and CEO. Nice and tidy succession plan, don't you agree?

Jones, who Harlan recruited away from the League offices in 1999, is now the 10th President in Packers history. He has a great sense of the history and uniqueness of the franchise. Having worked for the League's Management Council prior to coming to Green Bay -- in fact, being one of the individual's responsible for the last collective bargaining agreement that incorporated the salary cap and revenue sharing provisions that help keep the Packers competitive -- you can be sure Jones will fight for those aspects of League operations that will keep the Packers THE Packers. That includes making sure the new commissioner values the Packers place in the League as much as outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue does. As Jones was quoted in the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "If Green Bay is healthy in the National Football League, we think that's very important for the success of the league as a whole." You bet.

Good luck, Mr. Jones. And thanks, Mr. Harlan.