Monday, March 30, 2009

Packers announce preseason opponents

While we're still waiting to see what the 2009 regular season holds in the way of scheduling -- other than what we already know about opening weekend (Da Bearz at Lambeau) and Turkey Day (at Detroit) -- we now at least can start to sniff the the new football season.

While specific dates and times are yet to be determined, as well as TV coverage outside of the state, you'll be seeing the Pack play their first two games at home and then wind up with two on the road.

Aug. 13-17: Cleveland Browns (Gold pkg.)
Midwest Shrine Game
TV: state

Aug. 20-24: Buffalo Bills
Bishop's Charities Game
TV: state

Aug. 27-31: at Arizona Cardinals
TV: state

Sept. 3-4: at Tennessee Titans
TV: state

Note for the dim: the date ranges indicated above do not mean the games actually last, e.g., from Aug. 13-17, just that the game will take place sometime during that time frame; that's the "to be determined" part of things at this point. Just so we're clear.

You can learn more here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Packers - gasp - sign free agent

Well this one sure slid in under the radar. The Packers have had their first unrestricted free agent signing of the offseason. And it was for a lineman! But, before you get your hopes up, no, it wasn't for a defensive lineman. Other side of the ball.

The Pack signed 26-year-old guard/center Duke Preston, who was formerly with the Buffalo Bills, to a two-year deal. Preston is an impressive physical specimen at 6'5" and 326 lbs. According to a report in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "A fourth-round draft choice from the University of Illinois in 2005, Preston has appeared in 59 games with 20 starts, all with the Buffalo Bills. In addition to playing guard and center, he has played some right tackle." In other words, he's just the kind of young, athletic, big body type the Pack has been moving toward on the O-line. Still, according to the report, the Packers view Preston as a bit of a project with the potential for a big up-side. Given the questions surrounding the availability of long-time veteran right tackle and fan fave, Mark Tauscher, adding someone such as Preston provides the Pack with a bit of starting insurance upfront. (In fact, because of the expected rehab time for Tauscher's injury from late last season, the Pack will be well into the first weeks of the 2009 season by the time he might be available...which then may force the Packers to go another direction. They'd like to re-sign him, but time and need may force their hand. And that would be a sad way for a home-grown Wisconsin boy like Tauscher to end his career with the Packers.)

You can read more about the Preston signing here.

St. Vince video
Some of you may have already seen this video produced by NFL Films about the now iconic figure of "St. Vince." I just happened to stumble upon it so thought I'd share it with those who have yet to see it, or who want to see it again. It's a nice piece about a genuinely nice guy, as those of you who may have met him at Lambeau Field can attest.

Check it out here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Packers open season vs Da Bearz; also play on Thanksgiving

Despite the ho-hum season last year and the absence of Ol' #4, the Packers remain a huge national TV draw. That's why the NFL rewarded the Pack with an opening weekend Sunday night game at home against Da Bearz. The Pack will beat up on Da Bearz on Sunday evening, September 13, at 7:30 p.m. Central time, and you can bet Lambeau Field will be cranked up. The game will be carried by NBC. This will be the 178th meeting between the two teams; no teams have played each other more.

For the second time in three seasons, the Packers will be playing on Thanksgiving. The Pack will play the Lions at Detroit's Ford Field at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on Thursday, November 26. So make your turkey plans for later in the afternoon, folks. The game will be televised nationally by FOX. According to the Packers, this marks the 33rd Thanksgiving contest in franchise history. At one time, it seemed as if it was always the Packers and Lions on Thanksgiving. Can't you just hear the late, great Ray Scott announcing those games?

Anyway, this is the second straight year the Packers have opened the season with a nationally televised game. Go Pack Go!!!

Only the opening weekend and the Thanksgiving game schedules were announced by the league. The NFL will release the full season schedule in April. The other games announced were: Tennessee at Pittsburgh, Thursday night, Sept. 10; Buffalo at New England and San Diego at Oakland, Monday night, Sept. 14; Oakland at Dallas and New York Giants at Denver on Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving Day).

You can read more about the announced Packers' games here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let the voluntary offseason program begin!

I know. That headline doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But it is factual, so at least it has that going for it.

Packers players in Green Bay for the voluntary portion of their offseason training. That includes weight lifting, conditioning, watching film...that sort of thing. Although head coach Mike McCarthy has made it clear that to him voluntary is pretty much the same as mandatory. He can't require players to attend the workouts. But he can certainly remember who was there and who wasn't as things progress toward the start of organized team activities (OTAs), mini-camps, etc. Especially if somebody doesn't show who is under contract but wants to negotiate a new deal.

That description would fit D-back Nick Collins. He has a year remaining on his existing contract. But apparently, taking a cue from last year's shenanigans by RB Ryan Grant, he has decided not to participate with his teammates in these voluntary activities as a way to show that he's a bit unhappy. Collins is back home in Florida. Granted, he and his wife are expecting the birth of a child. But that's likely not the reason he's not in Green Bay. According to an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "...according to a source with knowledge of the situation...he and his agent are frustrated with the lack of attention Collins has received heading into the last year of his contract...". Imagine that: a professional athlete who is unhappy with a contract. Shocking.

While Collins had a breakout season last year -- seven interceptions, led the league with 295 interception return yards, NFC Pro Bowl starter -- the Pack seems to have higher priorities before re-doing his contract. Because of an escalator clause, his contract already will bump up from a little more than $500K to more than $3 million. Given that jump, it would seem the Packers aren't in any hurry to sweeten the pot longer term. Especially since they don't know how well he will fit with the new 3-4 defense.

On the other hand, D-back Tramon Williams is attending these voluntary workouts. And he doesn't have a contract. Yes, kids, it's a topsy-turvy world: you have a contract that gives you a $2.5 million raise and you don't show; you don't have a contract and you do. Hmmm...'tis a puzzlement!

Williams probably has an insurance agreement that would cover his existing salary, $460,000, if he were to get injured while he is without contract. However, if he doesn't have something worked out by the time OTAs start in May, Williams likely won't show because of the greater risk from injury; all he has to be concerned about now is injury from lifting weights, conditioning exercises and watching film with coaches.

Keep an eye on both of these situations as things move toward OTAs and mini-camp. In the meantime, you can read more here if you care to.

Montgomery and Hunter re-signed
Without much fanfare this week, the Packers re-signed two of their back up players: DE Michael Montgomery and LB Jason Hunter.

Montgomery was an unrestricted free agent and apparently had some interest from a few other clubs. But in the end, he stayed with the team he knew and who knew him. Given the dearth of defensive line players on the current Packer roster, keeping someone such as Montgomery, even as a back up, isn't a bad move.

Hunter would show occasional flashes, but as this article notes, "Asked to gain weight to play inside on passing downs last season, Hunter wasn't as maneuverable or as effective on special teams." However, given that the Packers sprung for a $1 million tender offer for him, it would seem they are counting on him to step up his play on a more consistent basis. In the new 3-4 scheme, linebackers are key. Having players whose strengths and weaknesses are known means a greater likelihood of putting them in situations to succeed. Let's hope that's the case with Hunter, even in a back up role and on special teams.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bush is back

No...not that Bush. (Add your own political viewpoint here.)

We're talking about cornerback Jarrett Bush, who was a Packers' restricted free agent. Bush had received an offer sheet from the Titans. The Packers had seven days to match the offer, and did. According to Bush's agent, Derrick Fox, it's a a three-year deal worth $4.5 million. It includes a $1 million signing bonus. Bush's base salaries are $1 million this year, $1.1 million in 2010 and $1.4 million in 2011. Playing time incentives are apparently also part of the deal and can raise its overall value.

So far, a majority of the fan feedback to the article at the online site for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel seems a bit, oh, unsupportive of this move by Packers GM Ted Thompson, shall we say.

While Bush was one of those players who generally played well on special teams -- and hence, why he was of interest to other teams -- he often seemed to be...hmmm...not so spectacular actually playing his cornerback position. Perhaps a new defensive coordinator and staff can get more out of him.

But questions now arise among the Packer faithful as to how this may affect fellow corner Tramon Williams, who is much more of a key figure in the Packers' secondary. A holdout might be forthcoming.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Packers Fan Fest notes

The Fifth Annual Packers Fan Fest took place yesterday and today at the Lambeau Field Atrium. And, perhaps for the first time, it was not a sell-out. Management, players and fans all attributed that rare circumstance to the current economic situation.

Another nod to current situations related to retiring Ol' #4's number. Packers President Mark Murphy indicated that would probably not happen this season. He told reporters that both sides probably need a bit of time to pass before that happens. And, Murphy pointed out, the Packers had already had to cancel one such retirement ceremony, implying that they'd just as soon wait to see if Mr. Favre is, in fact, retired for good this time. As to renewing the marketing deal the Packers had on the table to Favre last year, that is apparently not a given. Something would likely be done. But whether it would be along the same lines as the Pack extended to Favre last season appears questionable.

Kampman on board with new "D"
New Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers told reporters that one of the first players to come to see him in his office was defensive end Aaron Kampman. According to Capers, Kampman wanted to know what weight Capers wanted him to play at. The two apparently had quite a good conversation, leaving Capers with the impression that Kampman is excited about the new defensive scheme. That's a good thing. Because for the Pack to have any chance with the new 3-4 defense this season, Kampman really has to have a great season...wherever and however they play him in the scheme.

Bush gets offer from Titans
Restricted free agent defensive back Jarrett Bush was signed to an offer sheet by the Tennessee Titans on Friday. Terms were not yet known. According to a report on, "The Green Bay Packers retained a right of first refusal to Bush by making him a one-year tender offer of $1.01 million last month. Green Bay has seven days to match or pass on the offer sheet. If the Packers match it, they keep Bush and assume the terms of the offer sheet. If they pass, Bush moves to Tennessee and the Packers receive no draft pick compensation, since Bush originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent."

As the article notes, "Bush started one of 47 games in three seasons, but the former Utah State standout can help a team in a lot of ways, including as a nickel back. He has double-digit special teams tackles in each of three seasons in the league, including 17 last season." At 6'2" and 200 pounds, Bush can play either corner or safety, and delivered some big hits on special teams. But with the Packers' signing of D-back Anthony Smith this last week, Bush might very well be expendable.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Packers announce offseason schedule

According to a press release from the Green Bay Packers:
The Green Bay Packers have set the bulk of their offseason schedule leading up to training camp for 2009.

Following the start of the offseason strength and conditioning program on Monday and the NFL Draft in late April, the Packers will hold their annual rookie orientation from May 1-3.

Organized team activities (OTAs) then begin on May 26 and will run through June 18, with the team holding three on-field OTAs per week during that four-week span. The offseason schedule then concludes with a three-day, full-squad mini-camp from June 23-25.

Training camp is slated to begin in late July, but the team's exact reporting date has not yet been set. Players generally report to training camp 15 days prior to the first preseason game.

Key Offseason Dates
  • Packers Fan Fest: March 13-14 (tickets still available)
  • Beginning of Packers' offseason program: March 16
  • NFL Draft: April 25-26
  • Rookie orientation: May 1-3
  • Packers Tailgate Tour: May 11-14
  • Organized Team Activities (OTAs): May 26-June 18
  • Full-squad mini-camp: June 23-25
  • Packers Hall of Fame Induction Banquet: July 18
  • Training Camp: late July (exact reporting date TBD)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

In need of defensive line help, Packers sign a safety

As has been rumored for the last several days, the Packers had interest in adding free agent Steelers safety, Anthony Smith, to their roster. And so they did.

Smith was a 10-game starter in 2007, but disappeared last year. At age 26, he is young and said to be loaded with athletic ability. The knock on him has been his maturity. As noted in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report on the signing, "Smith's career took a wrong turn in Week 13 of 2007 when he guaranteed a victory on the road against the New England Patriots, who then hammered the Steelers, 34-13." Worse, Smith was the safety in coverage who got burned on two of those Patriots' touchdowns.

You can read more about Smith, his past play, and why the Pack decided to take a shot on him despite possible attitude adjustments that might be necessary on his part, here.

It's great that the Packers are dipping into the free agency pool. Just a shame there's nothing on the D-line front so far.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A break from the usual...

OK, Packer fans, a slight diversion from the usual team-related fare.

We're going just a bit farther afield. Don't worry. We're still dealing with a Wisconsin sports icon. In this case, the great Bob Uecker. Yes, more generally known as the long-time radio voice of the Milwaukee Brewers. Some true sports geeks will also recall that he actually did have a major league baseball career, beginning with his hometown Milwaukee Braves, and after brief detours with the Cardinals (where he actually won a championship ring in 1964) and Phillies, ending his career with the Braves after their move to Atlanta. OK, only had a career .200 batting average...but, hey, he was in the bigs,man! Still, the late, great Johnny Carson always introduced Ueck as "Mr. Baseball" the 64 times he appeared on The Tonight Show.

Of course, for some, Uecker will always be TV's Mr. Belvedere. Wait...or was that the butler's name? Whatever.

Anwyay, check out the clip of comedian Artie Lange on David Letterman sharing a few Uecker stories. You can find it on this page. Then look for Lange and clip title, "Artie Lange and The Cough Button."

We'll return to our normal hand-ringing over the Packers' free agency non-participation sometime soon. Keep checking back.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

OK, this is not good...

So, the Pack has $30 million in salary cap room and any attempt to bolster a thin defensive line through quality free agent help has seemingly vanished as the few available top candidates signed elsewhere. Which leaves the Pack with basically Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, Cullen Jenkins, Aaron Kampman and Justin Harrell (well, he's on the roster anyway) as the defensive line. How and why the Pack didn't seriously go after help to bolster what was already the weak link in last year's defense is a mystery. Granted, both the Redskins and Giants threw a boatload of money at Albert Haynesworth and Chris Canty, respectively. And, probably to most people's way of thinking, overpaid. Certainly this was Packer GM Ted Thompson's point of view, who is never one to throw away money. That was also the case with Colin Cole, whom the Packers lost via free agency to Seattle. While Cole was starting to finally make an impact, with $6 million of guaranteed contract money, Seattle definitely overpaid.

The problem is, that established the market. And there weren't that many quality free agent defensive linemen available to begin with. Reportedly, the Pack has had some discussions with the agents for San Diego's Igor Olshansky, Baltimore's Marques Douglas and New England's Mike Wright, but nothing firm. In fact, other reports were circulating yesterday that Olshanksy had come to terms with Houston.

So where does this leave the Pack? Apparently shifting gears and looking for a safety instead. Go figure.

Check out this article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for more on that approach, as well as a few other free agent possibilities.

Bottom line is that unless somehow the Pack captures lightening in a bottle with one of the middle-of-the-road or over-the-hill free agents still on the market, or gets lucky with a draft pick, new defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to have to be very creative with his schemes. Because right now, the Pack's defensive line situation is looking precarious at best.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Packers miss out on Canty, lose Cole

The Packers, somewhat contrary to form, had publicly expressed some interest in Cowboys free agent defensive end, Chris Canty. At 6'7" and a tad over 300 pounds, he would have been a good addition for the Pack's new 3-4 scheme. Well, the Pack can now go back to form: Canty reportedly has signed 6-year, $42 million deal with the NY Giants.

Moving right along...

One of the the Packers' own that they hoped to hang on to, defensive lineman Colin Cole, has reportedly signed a 5 year, $21.5 million deal with Seattle. The loss of Cole hurts what was already a thin defensive line. The Pack had thought that if they couldn't resign Cole they could make a strong run at Canty. Not if you believe the report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, which is showing the Newark Star-Ledger as the news source, and a supposed confirmation from one of those ubiquitous "NFL sources."

The quality free agents who could help the Packers upfront in the new 3-4 scheme is now falling off rather considerably. The Pack may now wind up having to hope that Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly can rotate to hold the point of attack, along with somehow getting a bookend of some kind to Aaron Kampman.

Cole was just starting to come on as a real player and losing him is a definite blow. And not even being able to have a face to face with Canty before he agreed to terms with the Giants is also disappointing. It will be interesting to see what Ted Thompson does now with the $30 million in salary cap room he's sitting on.