ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – Lee Remmel, whose connection to the Green Bay Packers – first as a reporter, and then as a devoted staff member – began when he covered his first game for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1945, has died, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
Remmel joined the Packers’ front office in 1974 and served as the team’s public relations director through 2004, when he became the club’s first official historian. He retired from that position in 2007. His death comes almost exactly three years after his wife, Noreen, died in April 2012.
“The Packers lost a cherished family member today,” Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. “Lee was a key member of the organization for many years and his knowledge of Packers history was unparalleled. He was a great ambassador and through his public relations work, he helped multiple generations of Packers fans learn more about the team. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family.”
Remmel walked the challenging line all public relations staffers must – the one of protecting the organization while also assisting journalists covering the team – effectively, in part because he had once been one of the team’s beat writers. He spent nearly 30 years as a sportswriter and columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and it was reflected in his approach with reporters in his role with the club.
Remmel either covered or worked with every coach in the franchise’s history, beginning with founder E.L. 'Curly' Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, whom he covered, and carrying through Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman and current coach Mike McCarthy. Remmel’s final year with the team, 2007, was McCarthy’s second season in Green Bay.
“He had a tremendous love for the organization, a tremendous love,” former Packers president/CEO Bob Harlan told Packers.com. “Everyone had great respect for his ability as a writer, and certainly if you wanted a quick point in history, there was not a better source than Lee.
“Many times he and I would sit and talk about old, old times -- the Curly Lambeau era and when Vince Lombardi first came to Green Bay. I was always fascinated with the stories he had about those times.”
When Lambeau Field was renovated in 2003, the press box was renamed "The Lee Remmel Press Box."
The annual Lee Remmel Sports Awards Banquet, honoring Wisconsin professional, collegiate, amateur and prep athletes, having been held since 1998; it has raised approximately $225,000 for scholarship funds at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College and area high schools.
Remmel had an especially close relationship with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who did a spot-on impersonation of Remmel’s signature, “Questions, please” and “Does that do it?” catchphrases to begin and end press conferences.
"He's a Packers icon," Favre said upon Remmel’s retirement following the 2007 season. "There will never be another like him. His knowledge of the team and its history has always been impressive. He is sharp as a tack when it came to those things -- truly impressive. He's always had a great sense of humor, too."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback position now has an even greater Wisconsin flavor.
After re-signing ex-University of Wisconsin starter Scott Tolzien last month to likely serve as Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2, the Packers added former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard Wednesday after he worked out for the team last week.
Blanchard’s agent, Paul Sheehy, announced the signing on Twitter, and the move was on the official NFL transaction wire at close of business Wednesday.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Blanchard led UW-Whitewater to back-to-back NCAA Division III titles in 2010 and 2011 after transferring from Division II Northern Michigan. He went 25-0 as a starter and completed 70.4 percent of his passes with 44 touchdowns against just five interceptions during that two-year run with the Warhawks.
Blanchard went undrafted in 2012 but caught on with the Chicago Bears as a free agent and spent time on their practice squad. In preseason play, he completed 9 of 16 passes for 94 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and three sacks (47.4 rating).
After he was released by the Bears with an injury settlement at the end of training camp in 2013 – despite completing 16 of 19 passes for 192 yards with no touchdowns and one interception (86.8 rating) – he spent the second half of that season on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. He spent all of last season on the Panthers’ injured reserve list following a concussion in an Aug. 22 preseason game against New England. Before the concussion, Blanchard had seen limited action, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 10 yards with an interception (2.8 rating).
The Packers have not re-signed former No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn, although it’s possible that the team could bring the unrestricted free agent back if coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson don’t find a quarterback they like this spring. McCarthy has made it clear that he wants to add another young developmental quarterback or two this offseason.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers annual summertime tradition of closing out preseason play against the Kansas City Chiefs ended – or, at least, was interrupted – by a parking problem.
Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said Tuesday that the Packers and Chiefs couldn’t play each other this year in the preseason finale Sept. 3 or 4 because it was the Packers’ turn to go to Kansas City – and another team is slated to be there, too: The Kansas City Royals.
Because the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium and the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium are adjacent to one another, they share a parking lot. And with the defending American League champions set to play host to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 3 and the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Sept. 4, it meant the Packers and Chiefs couldn’t play one another to end preseason play.
“It was our turn to go there,” Murphy said. Murphy didn’t say whether the option was explored to have the Chiefs come to Green Bay for the second year in a row. Last year, the Packers beat the Chiefs, 34-14, at Lambeau Field on Aug. 28.
The Packers instead will close preseason play this summer against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field.
Murphy, who was asked about the change by FOX11’s Justin Felder just before the Packers’ bus was about to depart on the 10th annual Tailgate Tour, didn’t say whether the Packers-Chiefs series might resume in 2016 or if the Packers were tied into a home-and-home series with the Saints now.
From 2002 through 2009, the Packers and Tennessee Titans played each other in the preseason finale each year from 2002 through 2009, and the Packers and Chiefs alternated home games in the preseason finale from 2010 through 2014.Packers 2015 preseason schedule
|Aug. 13-17||at New England||TBA||State|
|Aug. 20-24||at Pittsburgh||TBA||State|
|Sept. 3-4||NEW ORLEANS||TBA||State|
GREEN BAY – Perhaps it’s because he’s seen the health struggles his quarterback, Bart Starr, and several other glory-days teammates are battling. Or maybe it’s because he just eulogized his good friend and offensive linemate, Fuzzy Thurston, only a few months ago.
But when legendary Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer thinks about the fact that he’s still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – and may never get in – the 79-year-old says he is at peace with it.
While his daughter, Alicia, has been very active in social media and with various media outlets in her push to get her father enshrined, Kramer said Tuesday before departing on the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour across the state that he has softened his position after years of disappointment.
“The game of football has been very, very good to me. And it’s just been a wonderful ride,” Kramer said. “I was pretty emotional about it 30 years ago when my guys went in. I got my lip out and [said], ‘Boy, if they call me, I’m going to tell them where to put it; I ain’t going.’
“There’s just a wonderful groundswell of support here in the state for [getting into the Hall of Fame], and it’s just wonderful, but it’s lost a lot of its glamour to me. So many of the guys that I played against or played with are no longer there [in person], so there’s a bunch of young guys that I don’t know.
“It’s like coming to a ballgame here with a bunch of guys that I don’t know and have no relationship with and never really spent much time with it. It’s OK, and it’s fun and it’s great to be with them, but there’s not that relationship that you had with Bart and Paul [Hornung] and Max [McGee] and Fuzz and all the guys. It’s just a totally different thing.
“I’m very comfortable with where I am, and if the Hall comes along, it’d be great. If it doesn’t come along, life is great.”
Kramer, who played right guard for the Packers from 1958 through 1968, was on five NFL championship teams and was a five-time first-team All-Pro pick. He was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1960s and was the only guard to make the NFL's 50th Anniversary team – and yet is the only player from that team not to be enshrined in Canton.
The Packers have 23 ex-players in the Hall, and any chance Kramer has of getting in rests with the seniors committee at this point.
Kramer said he recently went to visit Starr, who has been recovering from a heart attack and stroke suffered last year, in Alabama, and was hopeful that his recovery would continue. But, he said, Starr’s and others’ health issues have been hard to see.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. It’s sweet because I’m kind of the last guy standing in a lot of ways, and it’s bitter because Bart’s having a tough time and several of the other guys are having a tough time,” Kramer said. “I can’t remember something once in a while, which is fairly normal, but I go, ‘Oh is this it? Is that the end of it?’ So I’m aware of it, acutely aware of it, and worry about it.
“But so far, so good. My mouth still works, and my brain still works and I feel good. My golf game sucks like always, but everything else is working well.”
GREEN BAY – While the Tailgate Tour is celebrating its 10th anniversary, Mark Murphy has only been on eight of them. But that’s been more than enough bus trips and stops for the Green Bay Packers president/CEO to get every form of question related to legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
After all, Murphy’s first tour in 2008 came just after Favre’s retirement and before his decision to unretire – which of course set in motion the events of that summer, and made his reconciliation with the franchise necessary.
“We’ve gotten the whole cycle of Brett Favre questions,” Murphy said with a laugh before the bus pulled out of the Lambeau Field parking lot Tuesday morning for this year’s tour. “But I’m sure there will be some Brett Favre questions.”
That’s a given, with Favre set to have his No. 4 retired and be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in July. But perhaps the most pressing question is this: When will the Packers pick a game for Favre to return to Lambeau Field for his No. 4 to be unveiled on the north end zone façade and be celebrated at halftime?
With the NFL regular-season schedule expected to be released next week, Murphy said a decision should come not long after that.
“We’ve got some ideas on how things may go,” Murphy said. “I think it be pretty quick.”
Murphy said he has spoken to the league’s schedulemakers about the team’s ideas for Favre’s return but there is no guarantee that the Packers’ requests or preferences will be accommodated.
“We’ve had some discussions,” Murphy said.
Favre was scheduled to return to Lambeau Field for prime-time games against the Chicago Bears each of the past two years – in 2013 as his relationship with the team warmed, and last fall, after the announcement of the team’s plans to retire his number and enshrine him in the Packers Hall of Fame. Talks with Favre’s camp broke down in 2013, though, and last year, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr’s failing health prevented Favre from returning.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers may have overpaid in the short term to retain backup safety Sean Richardson – choosing Monday to match the one-year, $2.55 million offer sheet he signed with the Oakland Raiders last week – but ponying up the extra cash could pay dividends.
Having patiently stood by Richardson after he suffered a career-threatening neck injury as a rookie in 2012, the team has long been enamored with the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Richardson’s potential and started using him more extensively on defense toward the end of each of the past two seasons. To general manager Ted Thompson and the coaching staff, essentially paying an extra $1 million to keep him – the Packers had tendered the restricted free agent at the one-year, $1.542 million level – was money well spent to get another year out of him and potentially keep him beyond 2015.
Richardson was starting to see action on defense as a rookie in 2012 at the time of his injury, and had he never undergone single-fusion spinal surgery – forcing him to start the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list – he may very well have earned a starting spot alongside Morgan Burnett that season. After all, the Packers started M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian at that spot – McMillian was cut at midseason and Jennings wasn’t tendered after the season as a restricted free agent – and didn’t bring them back a year later. Richardson and Chris Banjo also received playing time at that position as the Packers searched for answers at arguably their most troubling position that season.
Last year, the team drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and finally got the level of play they’d hoped from Burnett, but Richardson still saw 121 snaps on defense, playing as the third safety in the team’s “Big Okie” base package, as defensive coordinator Dom Capers played Richardson in place of cornerback Sam Shields.
Having lost cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency, the Packers could reconfigure their sub packages to use Richardson more on defense, even though he led the team in special-teams snaps last season.
The Packers are clearly betting that Richardson, having played in all 18 games (including playoffs) last season, is finally in position to become the player they’ve anticipated him becoming. If he does, they would have the inside track to re-sign him next spring, when he’d be set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots didn’t get their rematch in Super Bowl XLIX after the Packers’ Nov. 30 victory at Lambeau Field, but the defending Super Bowl champs will see the Packers again for the teams’ preseason opener.
The NFL released its preseason schedule – or, more accurately, preseason opponents with a window of days when each game will be played – and the Packers’ schedule includes a road trip to Foxborough, Mass., where they’ll face the Patriots sometime between Thursday, Aug. 13 and Monday, Aug. 17.
The Packers will then play at Pittsburgh between Thursday, Aug. 20 and Monday, Aug. 24 before finishing exhibition play at home at Lambeau Field the final two weeks – against the Philadelphia Eagles between Thursday, Aug. 27 and Sunday, Aug. 30, and against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Sept. 3 or Friday, Sept. 4.
All four games are slated to be on the Packers’ statewide preseason TV network, as none of the games were included on the national TV schedule the league released.
That should please Packers coach Mike McCarthy, because it allows the Packers and their opponents to negotiate when they want to play each game. National TV games are locked in to the network’s schedules, which is why the Packers have played games on the opening night of Wisconsin high-school football multiple times in recent years.
In 2013, the Packers had a national game against Seattle on CBS that was locked into Friday, Aug. 23, and last year, they had a home game against the Oakland Raiders on CBS on Friday, Aug. 22.
In 2012, the Packers played all four of their preseason games on Thursday nights, something that thrilled McCarthy.
“I think when you play four weeks in a row on the same day, it’s a benefit because you like training in seven-day intervals,” McCarthy said at the 2013 NFL Meetings.
For the first time since 2002, the Packers won't close preseason play against either the Tennessee Titans or Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers and Titans played each other in the preseason finale each year from 2002 through 2009, and the Packers and Chiefs alternated home games in the preseason finale from 2010 through 2014.
This marks the fourth straight season that the Packers’ four preseason opponents are not on the regular-season schedule. Although the Packers’ 2015 regular-season opponents are set, the schedule won’t be released until later this month.
at New England
GREEN BAY – Don Barclay was supposed to be the Green Bay Packers offensive line’s sixth man last season. Now that the versatile tackle has signed his restricted free-agent tender – something his wife, Brea, announced via her Instagram and Twitter social media accounts – he can reclaim that job as he continues his road back from the knee injury that ruined his 2014 season.
Barclay missed all of the 2014 season after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Aug. 5, and spent the year on injured reserve. He came into camp set to back up both tackle and both guard spots after right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s healthy return from a torn ACL that forced him to miss the 2013 season.
Barclay, who started 21 games over the 2012 and 2013 seasons while Bulaga was sidelined, made the team as an undrafted free agent from West Virginia in 2012.,
Given how early in camp Barclay’s injury occurred, he should be ready to go when training camp opens at the end of July, since Bulaga suffered his torn ACL around the same time a year earlier and was ready for camp.
Barclay declined all interview requests during the season, so it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to do once the offseason program begins on April 20, but his healthy return would mean the Packers have their top seven linemen – the five starters plus Barclay and JC Tretter – back for another season.
Barclay received the low tender of $1.542 million, meaning if he had signed an offer sheet with another team and departed, the Packers would not have gotten any compensation. The Packers must decide by Monday whether to match the one-year, $2.55 million offer sheet their other restricted free agent, safety Sean Richardson, signed with the Oakland Raiders earlier this week.
Soo proud of @barclay_67 for signing his contract today for another great year with the Packers! It's been a long year, sometimes tough, but a learning experience in itself! We are so proud of how hard you've fought to get back to where you are to have this opportunity! Looking forward to an amazing year with the Packer family! Cooper, Rocky and I are soo lucky to have you! Go Pack Go! #health&familyishavingitall #ACLrecovery #packernation
GREEN BAY – If the Green Bay Packers and coach Mike McCarthy are indeed serious about fixing their god-awful special teams units, then it’s going to cost them $2.55 million to keep one of the remaining core players they have in that department: Safety Sean Richardson.
Richardson signed an offer sheet with the Oakland Raiders Tuesday, and an NFL source confirmed that it’s a one-year, $2.55 million offer, as initially reported by NFL Networks Ian Rapoport. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein reported that the one-year deal is made up of a $1.35 million signing bonus, a fully guaranteed $1 million base salary and a $200,000 roster bonus payable at the start of training camp – meaning that essentially the deal is fully guaranteed.
The Packers have until Monday to decide whether to match the offer or let Richardson go to Oakland, where ex-Packers director of football operations Reggie McKenzie is the general manager.
In 2009, the Packers faced a similar dilemma with special-teams ace Jarrett Bush, who was also a restricted free agent at the time. Bush signed a three-year, $4.5 million offer sheet with the Tennessee Titans, and the Packers matched it – deciding his emergence as a special-teams contributor made him worth retaining, even though he saw limited action from scrimmage.
Over the past six months, the Packers have lost – or gotten rid of – many of their special teams contributors after the unit finished dead last in the 32-team NFL in Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin’s annual rankings and two major special-teams blunders directly contributed to the team’s season-ending NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 18.
Bush, coincidentally, is an unrestricted free agent and has yet to be re-signed.
The Packers tendered Richardson with the minimum one-year, $1.5 million restricted free agent qualifying offer, meaning they would not receive any compensation if they chose not to match his offer, given that he entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt.
After suffering a neck injury as a rookie in 2012 that required single-spinal fusion surgery of the C5 and C6 vertebrae, Richardson returned to action during the second half of the 2013 season. Last season, he registered a career-best 17 special-teams tackles while playing in all 18 games, including playoffs.
At least one person wants the Packers to bring Richardson back: Starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who credited Richardson with helping him through his rookie season last year.
Sean please don't leave me.— Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (@haha_cd6) April 7, 2015
GREEN BAY – After studying the idea of utilizing variable ticket pricing at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers ultimately found that such an endeavor would be too complicated to make work.
With two season-ticket factions – the Gold package, held by those who were season ticketholders at Milwaukee County Stadium, and the Green package, held by former Lambeau Field-only fans – Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said at the annual NFL Meetings last month that the club struggled with a way to implement such a policy.
Gold package season ticketholders traditionally get tickets to the second and fifth regular-season home games, plus one of the two home preseason games. Green package season ticketholders have the other six home games and one preseason game.
“We studied it, and to be honest, we really wanted to move to variable pricing. But with our unique situation, we couldn’t really find a solution that was equitable,” Murphy explained. “And it’s really for two reasons: The first one is the fact we have two ticket packages. You looked at it and one or the other would say, ‘That’s not fair, I’m paying this or that.’”
The other reason, Murphy said, is the Brown County ticket lottery, which was part of the team’s agreement with the county and stadium district when Lambeau Field’s redevelopment referendum was passed 15 years ago.
“You have the lottery and so [ticketholders will say], ‘Geez, I have a ticket and I have to pay $150 for mine,’” Murphy said. “So, that was really the thought process.”
Several NFL teams have gone to the variable pricing model, including NFC North division rival Detroit, so fans wouldn’t pay as much for lesser games – or meaningless preseason games – but would pay more for higher-profile games. This season, the Packers have home games against division rivals Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit, plus the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, and Seattle Seahawks.
Murphy said one thing the Packers would like to do would be to give their season-ticketholders – since tickets are annually sold out on a season-ticket basis – the flexibility to re-sell their preseason game tickets via Ticketmaster at below face value if they don’t intend to use them.
“”I think that would be considered a benefit,” Murphy said.