Friday, February 26, 2010

NFL Combine spurs O-line draft dreams

As the NFL Scouting Combine churns away in Indy, thoughts naturally turn to what the Packers will do in the draft. And, especially, what they'll do with their first round pick.

Packer fans know all too well that the number one priority is the offensive line, with tackle a key need on both ends of the line. Venerable veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are nearing the end of the road, unfortunately. Clifton may be able to hold up one more season, and where would the Packers have been without Tauscher coming back late in the season to bolster the right side? But, clearly, there are needs sooner rather than later.

That's why it's encouraging to read this article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. It begins thusly: "It's a deep, talented draft for offensive linemen, exactly what the Green Bay Packers needed as they plot their strategy for the first two rounds."


The article notes that there are probably five tackles that are guaranteed first round picks and that, unless the Packers trade up (not likely, given GM Ted Thompson's tendencies), the top three will be gone by the time the Packers pick at number 23. A number of mock drafts have the Packers selecting Iowa junior Bryan Bulaga (6'5"-1/2, 314 lbs). He's also the fourth highest ranked tackle according to an informal assessment by four NFL personnel wonks, as noted in the article. This despite the specs: Bulaga’s arms were measured at 33-1/4 inches (tied for 28th among the 45 O-linemen tested) and his hands at 9-1/4 inches (tied for last). That concerns some personnel folks because of reach, etc. But remember other physical specimens who didn't exactly measure up one way or another? Oh yes, there was that Mark Tauscher kid from Wisconsin who wasn't drafted until the seventh round.

Stories abound for every team of highly touted picks who were a bust and late rounders who weren't supposed to do much who became longtime stalwarts on a team. Until it's game time, you never know for sure.

But as Packer fans, we can only hope that there is enough of the veteran component on the offensive line to balance off the rookie play. The key, whoever is lining up, is to protect one of the best young QBs in the league, Aaron Rodgers, and open some holes for Ryan Grant and whoever else may be carrying the ball. Given the depth of the draft for offensive linemen, the Pack should be able to pick up a gem or two for next year and beyond...just what they need.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Packers to Pickett: tag -- you're it!

As alluded to here yesterday, and as finally done in fact, the Pack decided not to risk losing NT Ryan Pickett in free agency because they couldn't get a contract deal done. Instead, they placed the franchise tag on Pickett. That in effect keeps him off the free agent market. With the tag, the Packers can meet any other offer Pickett might receive and if they decide they don't want to match an offer they'll receive two first round draft picks as compensation.

The cost to the Packers for this tag, assuming that Pickett signs the tender, is just over $7 million for the season, more than double what Pickett received this last season. But clearly, the Packers value him and what he did to bolster the heart of the Packers' #1 run defense. GM Ted Thompson said in a statement: "Ryan has been a good teammate and productive player for us on the field and also a good representative of the Packers in the community. We look forward to having him be a part of our future."

You can read more about the Pickett tag here.

The Packers also signed S Derrick Martin to a two-year contract reportedly worth $1.9 million. While not so great in coverage this last year, Martin earned his stripes -- if not this contract renewal -- on special teams where he became one of the top performers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Packers personnel moves ahead?

The last few weeks have been...hmmm...not so busy for Packer fans. Not much happening. But of course, things have been happening inside 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.

In fact, there is a report that the Packers may wind up putting a franchise or transition tag on NT Ryan Pickett. The Packers and Pickett's agent have been discussing a contract for a while but nothing is firm yet. As this story in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out, "Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reported Tuesday evening that the Packers plan to franchise Pickett if a deal isn't reached before Thursday, the final day NFL teams can put tags on their soon-to-be free agent players." If the Packers put the franchise tag on Pickett it will more than double his salary. Wouldn't seem as if there would be much incentive for the agent to get things done at this time given the automatic boost in salary that comes with either tag designation.

Westbrook and Tomlinson interested in Packers
620WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee was yesterday reporting that both Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson, veteran running backs released recently by the Eagles and Chargers respectively, indicated their interest in playing with the Packers this coming season. Both have apparently indicated that they are looking for a Super Bowl ring and believe the Packers are well-positioned to make that run. Both runners have been outstanding in their careers. Westbrook has been injury-plagued, however, and Tomlinson is nearing the end of the road. Would Packers GM Ted Thompson take a flyer, as they say, on one of these backs as back up to Ryan Grant? Are either an upgrade over Ahman Green? And what about trying to pick up a legitimate running threat in the draft?

Ah, yes, it's good to start talking personnel again, isn't it?

Packers Fan Fest March 12-13
The sixth annual Packers Fan Fest will be held March 12-13, 2010 at the Lambeau Field Atrium and Don Hutson Center. Many current and former players will be on hand, along with Packers team officials.

Tickets are on sale now. You can get further information here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What the Favre? Part 20

According to an article on Yahoo Sports, and citing his own website, Ol' #4 is thankful for this last season but -- of course -- isn't giving a clue as to whether he'll return to the ViQueens next season (as I've said here before, my guess is he will).

Brett Favre said, "It was truly an amazing experience to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings this past season." Well isn't that special. You can read more of his comments here if you care to. Or just go to Favre's website. That will work for you, as well.

But honestly: do we need to pay any more attention until at least August? Not really.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lombardi Trophy won by Lombardi

In response to an earlier post here asking which team won the Super Bowl, the answer is: it was not the ViQueens.

In a strange bounce of the oblong ball, the Lombardi Trophy was actually won by a Lombardi. In this case, the Saints quarterbacks coach, Joe Lombardi, grandson of the late, great St. Vince.

The Who Dat? Nation is still celebrating in N'awlins. And proud Grampa Vince is beaming that gap-toothed smile down upon his grandson.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl

Hey, does anyone know who won the Super Bowl? (I sure hope that it wasn't the ViQueens!)

Friday, February 05, 2010

And the Commish says...

Yesterday we heard execs from the NFL Players Association telling us that it was highly unlikely there would be football in 2011.

A day later, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says...he hopes they're wrong. So do we, commish, so do we.

Goodell also wants to see a few other things: more games, overseas games, and a franchise back in Los Angeles. He also is not in favor of changing the overtime system. Dang!

If you're interested in learning more about what the commissioner has to say about this and that, and that and this, then you can find this and that here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

NFL Players Association exec sees no play in 2011

If you saw the movie "Spinal Tap" (and if you are a reader here, I have to believe you did), then you might remember Christopher Guest's Nigel Tufnel character saying that while the loudest number on all regular amplifiers was "10", Spinal Tap's went to "11". Because, paraphrasing, it was one more.

I offer this walk down movie memory lane as a precursor to the comments of NFL Players association executive director, DeMaurice Smith, who said today that he viewed the possibility of football not being played in 2011 as a "14" on a scale of 1 to 10. So...let's see...that would be...four more!

Okaaaaaay. That's not good, is it? Especially since the world is also supposed to end in 2012 according to the Mayan calendar. So better enjoy this next season, folks. 2011, no football...2012, no anything. Yikes! That means the Packers gotta win next season's Super Bowl! Oh man...


According an AP article on Yahoo Sports, Smith talked about how tough it would be to sell players on an average pay cut of "$340,000... to save the National Football League. Tough sell. Tough sell.” NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, played the other role in this bad cop - good cop melodrama. Mawae said, "I really and truly in my heart believe we’ll get a deal done. But there’s going to have to be some give and some take and not just taking from one side all the way.”

The league, naturally, looks at this somewhat differently and took exception to some of the numbers and arguments being tossed about by the players union. In fact, our beloved Packers even got dragged into the discussion as a talking point. Because the Packers are the only team whose annual financial statements are public, they are the only ones the union has seen. To help justify its position, the league pointed out that the Packers' profits declined by 40 percent.

Anyway, you can read more at the article link above.

Oh, and if you saw my earlier post today in which I referenced the "out of uniform" cell phone video and sweepstakes campaign the NFLPA has underway, this latest information just reinforces my earlier comment that it's a smart (but rather obvious) public relations effort by the union ahead of the negotiations to try to build fan support by showing that NFL players are just typical guys doing typical things. You know, except with more money than typical guys. Than typical guys will see in a lifetime. But other than that...yeah, sure...

Which team can a Packer fan root for in the Super Bowl?

With the big game coming up on Sunday, the thoughts of many Packer fans might be...OK, still believing that we coulda, shoulda been there, darn it! (Feel free to fill in with your own expletives, as you prefer.)

But, we're not. Yes, reality sucks, doesn't it?

So, for those who will watch -- which, most of us probably will -- the question then is, which team do we root for? There's the standard bit about rooting for the team from your own conference, in this case, New Orleans. That does have a lot going for it. After all, after what the city of New Orleans as been through, the Saints are the feel-good story of the football season. And they are the underdog. America loves the underdog. But best of all, they beat Ol' #4 and the ViQueens (yes, I know, some argue that Ol' #4 himself beat the 'Queens, but that's a conversation for another day). If for no other reason than that, the Saints should get a nod.

Then there's the Colts. Peyton Manning. Arguably the best ever, so they say, if Indy wins this game. Midwest team. Has that going for it.

But, there are other connections which Packer fans might want to throw into the equation. For example, did you know that the Colts head coach, Jim Caldwell, is from Beloit, Wisconsin? And, to his credit, he hasn't lost sight of his roots. Caldwell seems to be almost the mystery man of NFL coaches. But he is far from that back in his local community. Check out this article to learn more about Caldwell and maybe find a few reasons to root for him and the Colts.

On the other sideline, though, will be an assistant coach with a familiar name to Packer all football fans. In fact, the Super Bowl winner's trophy carries that same name: Lombardi. That's right, the quarterbacks coach of the Saints is Joe Lombardi, grandson of the late, great St. Vince himself. He's apparently done a good job of not riding family coattails. Seems very much his own man. So, if you want to root for a Lombardi, you still can if you root for the Saints. And you can read more about Joe here.

Colts vs. Saints. Should be a lot of points on the scoreboard at the end of the game. And should also be a fun game to watch...whichever team you finally decide to root for.

NFL Players Association sweepstakes
No, we're not talking about the odds of the collective bargaining agreement being re-worked before it expires. Or how much cash might be on the table for free agent signings.

We're talking about a marketing effort from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) itself designed, as the press release says, "to create awareness and interest in the NFLPA and players out of uniform" (note: italics theirs). Now, if that image might not exactly be what you want to think about...perhaps reframe that to see this as a rather smart public relations move ahead of the collective bargaining negotiations designed to show that NFL players are just typical guys doing typical things. OK, sure, they make more money in a year than most typical guys will see in a lifetime...but other than that...

Anyway, they are mounting a large effort around the Super Bowl to get fans to text “NFLPA” to 21534 on their cell phones. When you do, you will "get an exclusive video featuring Brandon Jacobs, A.J. Hawk, Matt Hasselbeck and Darren Sharper in their lives off the field. Fans who text it will also receive an entry to win a trip to the 2010 NFL PLAYERS Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles." Regarding the video, notes the press release, "In most instances, the video is delivered to the mobile phone via MMS, meaning that fans with 'regular' phones without Internet plans are able to receive the video just as smartphone consumers are."

As they say in commercials: But wait! There's more! From the press release: "...the campaign allows participants to encourage friends to enter the contest via mobile video invitations and, in doing so, receive up to five additional entries into the contest. After entering the sweepstakes, all participants have the option to also enter their address to receive a special collectible gift from the NFLPA."

So, if you want to get short videos sent to your cell phone showing how NFL players are really just like you except with a lot more money, better looking girl friends, and a lifestyle you will only be able to experience through videos like these, then text away. And remember: while the videos are free, "Standard text messaging rates do apply." Hey, you'll even get to sign up to receive an unspecified "collectible." Go ahead, live on the edge...just like the players do.

(Note to readers: in no way was compensated in any way for this editorial mention...darn it!)

Favre's offseason planner

Yes, this has been circulating for a little while now, but just in case you haven't seen it, it's worth a chuckle: Brett Favre's offseason daily planner...
  • Jan 24 – Throw inexcusable pick to blow Vikings Super Bowl chances.
  • Jan 25 – Announce that “It’s highly unlikely” you’ll come back to play again in 2010.
  • Feb 1 – Get interviewed for Peter King’s MMQB column. Tell him “no decision” has been made, but “Deanna and I are going home to Mississippi” and give it some thought. Fish for compliments by telling King how banged up I am. Be sure to mention that this gets harder every year.
  • Feb 1-9 – Quality time with family. Also monitor the web for speculation about my future.
  • Feb 10 – Leak to John Clayton I’m retiring.
  • Feb 11 – Deny reports about my retirement.
  • Feb 15 – Formally announce my retirement in teary press conference. Don’t forget to say “I don’t have anything left” and “I gave it everything I had.”
  • Feb 15-19 - Keep schedule clear to watch “Brett Favre Tribute Week” on ESPN. TiVo same on NFL Net.
  • March 1 – Call Adam Schefter to start “second thoughts” rumors.
  • March 2 – Deny second thoughts.
  • March 15 – Dinner with Chilly.
  • March 16 – Call Minneapolis Star Tribune. Say “This is the best I’ve felt in 10 years.”
  • March 20 – Call in with “Mike & Mike.” Insist you’re not coming back but if you did you could compete at a high level.
  • April 22-24 – NFL Draft. Encourage Chilly to draft a QB because you’re done.
  • April 30-May 3 - Skip mini camp.
  • May 30 – Have agent call Zigi Wulf re: new contract.
  • June 1 – Tell Jason LaCanfora “I’m not sure” about coming back.
  • July 24 – Training camp opens. Go fishing in Lousiana.
  • Aug 24 – Sign record contract.
  • Aug 25 - Report to Vikings camp. Tell press “I’m here to win.” Say you don’t want the focus to be on you. Cry.
If it wasn't so true...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What's the Packers' biggest story of decade?

For those who haven't yet realized it, yes, we are now in the second decade of the 21st Century. Count 'em: two!

So, some Packer fans might wonder: what was the biggest story of the last decade related to our beloved Green Bay Packers? Certainly plenty of fodder for the barroom, Super Bowl parties, or draft weekend endurance marathons with that question.

Luckily for all of us, Mike Vandermause, sports editor for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, has done the work for us. Whew! And after reading his Top 10 list, you have to concur that he pretty well nailed everything. Some fans might want to re-work the order on an item or two. But overall...nailed it! And I hope this doesn't steal the article's thunder, but guess what? The biggest story wasn't Ol' #4. Imagine that.

Be sure to check out the story here. And also check out some of the readers' comments. Some great insights from the hoi polloi (look it up!).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Rodgers shines in Pro Bowl; Tarkenton rips Favre

So we watched -- well, some people watched -- the NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday. And we saw Packers QB Aaron Rodgers start the game and acquit himself very nicely, throwing for nearly 200 yards and 2 TDs in roughly a quarter of work. Should have been the MVP. I mean, Matt Schaub? C'mon. Apparently the voting criteria was determined by whoever through the first TD pass of the game. The other highlight of the game for Packer fans was no Packer Pro Bowler getting hurt. That's about the best you can hope for.

But perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend had to do with ex-Packer, Ol' #4, and old ViQueens QB, Fran Tarkenton. The latter, who ripped Brett Favre before in the media for his waffling on retirement, etc., took some time out recently to talk about Favre's passing decisions. You know, the kind he makes at critical times in important games? We're familiar with that sort of thing, aren't we, Packer fans?

Tarkenton called Favre's interception in the closing seconds of regulation a "stupid play" that led to Minnesota's loss. Tarkenton spoke to a Philadelphia radio station and said, "They were the better team. Their offense turned the ball over five times, the Viking offense. But still if he didn't make that stupid play at the end of the game they would have won the game." But wait! There's more: "I have never seen any quarterback much less, well he is going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, make plays like that at a critical time. He has done the same thing in the Giants game (a Packers loss in the 2007 NFC title game). He plays at home, has the better team and plays against Eli (Manning). He was a young kid right? And he throws the pick ... and then he does what he did the other night which was just shameful because great quarterbacks, and he is a great quarterback, they don't do that. You don't see Peyton Manning do that."

Fran: tell us how you really feel, will ya? You can read more here.

While Favre takes his time deciding (again), one "fan" decides

As fans and pundits alike debate whether Favre will return for another year with the ViQueens (my guess is yes), The Onion reports that at least one fan has made an important decision in his life. You can check out The Onion's report right here (and remember...this is only a spoof...but it's a good one):

Packers Fan Announces He Will Return To Drinking For Another Season