ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – Not only could the Green Bay Packers be without half their starting secondary when they face the high-flying New Orleans Saints’ passing offense on Sunday night, but they will definitely be without defensive end Datone Jones for the third straight week.
Jones suffered another setback with his injured ankle after practicing on Thursday and now has been declared out for Sunday’s game.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Friday:
McCarthy is still hopeful that Burnett, who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, could work during Saturday’s practice before the team departs for New Orleans.
“Morgan was in here bright and early through the treatments. He’s obviously going through the Friday routine defensively with the walkthroughs and the classroom, so we’ll give him every [opportunity],” McCarthy said. “Plus it’s a night game, too. We have more time.”
Asked if he was more optimistic about Burnett than he was Thursday, McCarthy replied: “He’s making progress. It’s kind of a time-clock type thing just what he’s dealing with.”
Shields, who injured his knee against Miami on Oct. 12 and missed last Sunday’s game against Carolina, is unlikely to play. Jones, meanwhile, practiced hard on Thursday and the ankle did not respond well.
“Datone, actually, he went for it [Thursday]. I appreciate him out there pushing through it,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, watching the individual work with (defensive line coach) Mike Trgovac, you could clearly see he’s not ready. So he’s not going to make it.”
For the Saints, Graham is listed as questionable but is expected to play.
GREEN BAY – The first rule of an interception-free streak: Don’t talk about an interception-free streak.
At least that’s the approach Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is taking with Aaron Rodgers, who enters Sunday night’s game at New Orleans having gone 192 passes and six consecutive games without throwing a pick. The attempt streak is the longest of Rodgers’ career and second-longest in team history to Bart Starr’s 294-pass streak, and the six straight games ties Starr’s team record as well.
It's not that Van Pelt is afraid of jinxing Rodgers' streak; rather, he just doesn't want his quarterback thinking in any way about the streak and keeping it alive.
“Try not to even worry about it. Just keep coaching the same way, stay consistent, don’t put too much emphasis on it,” Van Pelt replied when asked what his approach is with Rodgers. “Sure, we’ll throw an interception at some point. It’s part of the game. There’s a lot of things that come into play.
“But let’s not talk about it, keep plugging along.”
Van Pelt joked that even though he was a backup, he didn’t have many long interception-less streaks because “I was pretty free with the football” – something Rodgers is not.
“When you have a little bit of luck and great decision-making, you get these streaks,” Van Pelt said
Rodgers has spoken many times about the importance of not turning the ball over, and he did so again with reporters who cover the Saints. The last time Rodgers played in the Superdome, as a first-year starter in 2008, he threw a career high-tying three INTs.
“It’s been a staple of how we play around the here the past couple of years, taking care of the football and being in the positive [on turnover differential],” Rodgers said. “Mike (McCarthy) always talks about getting to double-digit turnover margin and we just got there this week with plus-10.
“When you are taking care of the football like that, then you give your football team a chance to win. Offensively, we know that if we take care of it and we turn our defense’s turnovers into points, we are going to have a chance to win.”
GREEN BAY – If they are indeed without Morgan Burnett – and with the veteran starting safety listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game at New Orleans with a calf injury, that’s a very real possibility – the Green Bay Packers are better prepared to absorb such an absence than they were a year ago when Burnett was sidelined by a hamstring injury early in the season.
Although coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that Burnett is having his best season, the Packers may be able to get by without him with Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and emerging backup Sean Richardson.
When Burnett missed the first three games last season with a hamstring injury, the Packers were forced to play Jerron McMillian alongside second starter M.D. Jennings – neither of whom is in the NFL at present.
Clinton-Dix and Hyde have been job-sharing at the spot alongside Burnett, although last week, with cornerback Sam Shields out with a knee injury, Hyde played primarily in the slot while Clinton-Dix got the start and played every defensive snap.
“I think we’ve got much better depth at the safety position,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “Last year when we opened the season, neither one of those guys had played much football. And that’s never easy when you’re going against the caliber of team we’re playing against, to have two ‘young’ guys who don’t have much experience.
“What we’ve tried to do with Ha is bring him along [slowly]. He played the most plays he’s played last week. I think you’ve seen him show up and make plays each week, where you say, ‘Hey!’ You really like potentially what this guy’s going to be.”
The Packers have long had their safeties be interchangeable parts under Capers, although Burnett has spent more time closer to the line of scrimmage than Hyde and Clinton-Dix. Asked what would change if they played together, Hyde replied, “Nothing at all. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the combination is, it doesn’t change our responsibilities. … Everyone is supposed to know what’s going on. We all watch film together. We all call the same plays. Whoever is in there is going to be fine.”
Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean safeties coach Darren Perry is indifferent to whether Burnett, the team’s leading tackler, can go Sunday night against quarterback Drew Brees & Co..
“They’re still young guys and as young guys, you always worry a little bit because they’re just short on experience,” Perry said. “We’re going into our eighth game and so they still are relatively raw from that standpoint. Again, they’re still learning, still growing.
“Hopefully we can keep it going and keep improving and not make too many mistakes against a really good quarterback. That will be very key, that we execute, we don’t give them anything.”
GREEN BAY – Although Alex Van Pelt would like to see better play from backup quarterback Matt Flynn, he also realizes that because of the number of first-team snaps his ace needs to feel fully prepared, the deck is stacked against the No. 2 QB.
That’s why Van Pelt, the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach, isn’t bothered by Flynn’s two up-and-down performances in mop-up time in place of starter Aaron Rodgers in the team’s blowout victories over Minnesota and Carolina.
“It’s tough for a quarterback. Especially here, where he doesn’t get any reps with the first group,” Van Pelt said. “That’s Aaron’s baby as we go through practice. So there is a little rust when you come in and operate a system you haven’t run for a few weeks.”
Flynn enters Sunday night’s game at New Orleans having completed 3 of 7 passes for 22 yards with an interception (11.3 rating). Nevertheless, Van Pelt said there is no week-to-week competition between Flynn and third-stringer Scott Tolzien for the backup job. Tolzien has been inactive for each of the Packers’ first seven games after making the roster coming out of training camp – the first time the Packers have kept three QBs on the 53-man roster to start the season since Rodgers’ first year as a starter in 2008.
“Matt didn’t have a great day at the end of the game last week, but a couple weeks before [against Minnesota], he had two third-down completions, threw the interception but came back, responded well,” Van Pelt said.
Van Pelt said Rodgers directed a 2-minute drive during Thursday’s practice that scored so quickly that the Packers had enough time to give Flynn a 2-minute drill of his own. He, too, led the offense to a touchdown.
“We had enough time to have another drill. That’s the stuff you need as a backup, and it’s probably unfair to be too critical with the amount of reps he gets,” Van Pelt said. “That’s tough to do.”
Van Pelt, a backup himself as a player, having sat behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills, dismissed the notion that the Packers should be giving Flynn more work in practice in case of emergency.
Last Nov. 4, when Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone against Chicago, backup Seneca Wallace was horrendous when he came off the bench. Flynn, too, struggled when forced into action cold, as he was in a 2010 loss at Detroit when Rodgers suffered a concussion. Flynn did play well with limited practice work last year when he replaced Tolzien and rallied the Packers to a tie with Minnesota.
“In training camp, obviously he’s going to get his reps there, but once the season starts, it’s time to get your guys ready to play,” Van Pelt said. “It’s always a dilemma, and I went through it as a player as well.
“That’s the beauty of that position: You’ve got to be like ‘The Microwave.’ You’ve got to come in and heat up quick, and not miss a beat. That’s part of the challenge of being a backup.”
GREEN BAY – Morgan Burnett missed his second straight day of practice Thursday with a calf injury that now has Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy concerned that his veteran starting safety may not be able to go against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
It’s unclear when Burnett sustained his calf injury, as he said nothing about it after Packers’ victory over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday and he was not on the list of injured players provided by the team following the game.
If Burnett can’t go, the Packers would start Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who had been job-sharing at the safety spot alongside Burnett.
“My concern for Morgan is higher than it was yesterday,” McCarthy said after Thursday’s practice. “Hopefully with today and what goes on [Friday], we’ll see if he can do anything Saturday.”
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday:
Jones has not played since spraining his ankle against Minnesota on Oct. 2. He practiced on Oct. 11 but wasn’t cleared to play against Miami, then had a setback when he practiced on Oct. 15 and didn’t play against the Panthers.
Starks sprained his ankle against Carolina but McCarthy said he looked “pretty good” at practice. Starks certainly looked fine as he ran out of the locker room during the media availability session. Asked when he came back how he felt, he replied, "I feel good." Asked if that means he’d be ready to play Sunday, he said, “Oh, yeah!”
GREEN BAY – A month later, Aaron Rodgers is still talking about how important it has been for the Green Bay Packers to R-E-L-A-X.
The Packers quarterback spelled it out on Sept. 23 on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, and thanks to the Packers’ four-game winning streak, it remains on the tip of some folks’ tongues entering Sunday night’s game at New Orleans.
In fact, Rodgers was asked about the comment during his conference call with reporters who cover the Saints, a team off to a 2-4 start that could use a victory and some relaxation, too.
“First, people were impressed I remembered how to spell it,” Rodgers joked. “I think when you say something like that you take on greater responsibility as a leader and you take some of the focus off the team and I think there is a time and a place for that. Maybe we needed a little something like that before our Week 4 game in Chicago. We responded with a good performance, four in a row, our defense is playing really well, offensively we are starting to get things going a little bit, so every now and then you say stuff like that that sticks. If we had lost Week 4 it probably wouldn’t have gone over as well as it has because we’ve won four in a row.”
Rodgers has also backed up the talk with improved play.
At the time of the comment, he had completed 64 of 102 passes (62.7 percent) for 697 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 95.1. He was averaging 6.83 yards per pass attempt.
In the four games since then, Rodgers has completed 77 of 109 passes (70.6 percent) for 977 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 137.9. He has averaged 8.96 yards per attempt in those four games.
As a result, Rodgers now enters Sunday night’s game having completed 141 of 211 passes (66.8 percent) for 1,674 yards with 18 TDs and one INT for a passer rating of 117.3. He’s at 7.93 yards per attempt.
Of course, for all the attention R-E-L-A-X has gotten, Rodgers’ got a kick out of the creativity he saw from one fan’s hand-drawn sign he spotted in the Soldier Field stands during that Week 4 game against the Bears.
“Still, one of my favorites, on the flip side of that, is at Chicago,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday. “I saw P-A-N-I-C, for ‘panic.’”
That’s one thing Rodgers hasn’t done.
GREEN BAY – After practice and before his usual post-practice press briefing, Mike McCarthy peeked into the Don Hutson Center, where three of the team’s injured players – safety Morgan Burnett, defensive end Datone Jones and No. 2 running back James Starks – were going through rehabilitation sessions.
The Green Bay Packers coach liked what he saw – although he wasn’t making any predictions of whether they, or injured cornerback Sam Shields, would play Sunday night at New Orleans.
“They were going through their workout. They all hopefully looked like they were moving pretty good,” McCarthy said. “We’ll see how all three of them come out. I mean, I don't have high concern, but all three of them are working through those injuries. But I really don't have a read for you yet.”
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Wednesday:
The Packers will practice in pads on Thursday, and it’s possible that Burnett, who apparently suffered his injury during the game, might practice. He said nothing of the injury in a post-game interview after Sunday’s win over Carolina.
McCarthy said Shields did do “some work” on Wednesday but McCarthy didn’t know how much he did and how he fared. But McCarthy made it clear that if the medical staff clears Shields, he will not sit him out merely as a precaution with the bye week next week.
“No, I don't keep players out for games. If a player can play, he plays,” McCarthy said. “Sam's going through a medical situation and when he's ready, he'll play.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Davon House was not listed on the injury report after dislocating his right ring finger against the Panthers. House practiced with his finger taped over his gloves and said he will most definitely play against the Saints.
“I have to tape it [up], but I’ll be able to go out there and play,” House said.
GREEN BAY – When the phone rang at his Florida vacation home Wednesday, Ron Wolf nearly dropped it. His son Jonathan was with him, and while Wolf hung up, his first words were something to the effect of, “You’re not going to believe this.”
And when Wolf’s phone rang again a few hours later, he still was in a measure of disbelief.
The first call had been from the Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker. The news: That Wolf and Bill Polian had been selected as contributor finalists for election to the Hall.
“Isn’t that remarkable, when you stop to think about that?” the retired Green Bay Packers general manager said during that second call, a phone interview about his selection. “To be in consideration for an opportunity to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?”
Wolf and Polian, who served as the GM for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, were selected Wednesday by the Hall of Fame’s new contributor committee, is made up of nine members of the 46-person selection committee. The Hall of Fame defines a contributor as “an individual who made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.”
Contributors had previously been part of the modern era nomination list that included coaches and players. Since 1963, when the Hall of Fame first opened, only 19 contributors have been elected, and 10 of those were elected in the first five Hall of Fame classes, including six as charter members. By putting them in a separate category, Wolf and Polian would have a better chance at election.
Wolf was on of 26 semifinalists in 2011 but was not among the 15 finalists that year. Last year, again under the previous rules, Wolf was on the initial nominee list but did not advance beyond that.
“If they hadn’t obviously done this, making this particular section eligible, people like myself would never have a chance to get in there,” Wolf said. “Certainly, I’m overwhelmed by it. It speaks volumes about the people I worked with in Green Bay that enabled this to happen. I had a lot of good people there – and a lot of help.”
Wolf would need to receive the same 89 percent voting support that is required of all finalists to be enshrined. He, Polian and seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff will be joined by 15 modern-era finalists, and the selection committee will vote in February on the eve of Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.
Wolf’s NFL career began as a scout for the Raiders in 1963 and he spent 25 seasons in the team’s front office during three separate tenures. In 1976, he was hired as the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager, and while the Bucs went 0-14 his first year and 2-26 overall before he was fired after his second season, when the 1979 team reached the NFC championship game, 16 starters were players Wolf had acquired.
After working for the New York Jets, the Packers hired him late in the 1991 season – and the downtrodden franchise’s fortunes were changed forever. Not only did Wolf hire coach Mike Holmgren, trade for quarterback Brett Favre and sign free-agent defensive end Reggie White, but his drafts yielded 16 Pro Bowl players, and the Packers went an astonishing 92-52 in the regular season on his watch. The 1996 team went on to win Super Bowl XXXI, while the 1997 team reached Super Bowl XXXII but lost to the Denver Broncos.
“That’s a pretty good run, don’t you think?” Wolf said with a laugh.
Considering the Packers had had only three full-fledged winning seasons in the 25 years before his arrival, the turnaround was nothing short of miraculous.
“I wasn’t aware of a lot of things, and [retired public relations director Lee Remmel would keep me informed about things we were doing. And I didn’t actually believe what he was saying to me,” Wolf said. “All the things, ‘The Packers never had this, never had that …’ Things of that nature. It was always ‘since Lombardi.’ Then we get there, we win more games … and all those things I think put the stamp that we really and truly knew what we were doing.”
Wolf would need to receive the same 80 percent voting support that is required of all finalists to be enshrined. He, Polian and seniors nominee Mick Tingelhoff will be joined by 15 modern-era finalists, and the selection committee will vote in February on the eve of Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.
“You’re darn right it’s an honor to be considered,” Wolf said. “We at least maybe got more than our foot in the door. That’s a positive. But there’s so many things that can come into play. I’m just real excited right now over this whole thing.”
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is the NFC offensive player of the week – again.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback won the award for the second time this season – and the 10 th time in his career – for his performance during Sunday’s 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers, in which he completed 19 of 22 passes (86.4 percent) for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 154.5 passer rating. The passer rating was the second-highest single-game mark of his career.
It marked his fourth consecutive game with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Rodgers and New England’s Tom Brady (2007) are the only quarterbacks in NFL history to do that in a single season.
With 18 touchdown passes and one interception, Rodgers is also the first player in NFL history to have thrown for at least 18 touchdowns with one or zero interceptions in the first seven games of a season. He’s gone six straight games and 192 pass attempts without an INT.
And while he may not end up with the gaudy numbers he put up in 2011 en route to the NFL MVP – he threw for 45 touchdowns against only six interceptions that year while throwing for 4,643 yards and an NFL-record 122.5 passer rating – Rodgers does believe he is a better player today than he was then.
Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday that he would like to maintain this level of play, as he enters Sunday night’s game at New Orleans having completed 141 of 211 passes (66.8 percent) for 1,674 yards with an 8.5-yard average per attempt, 18 TDs, one INT and 17 sacks for a passer rating of 117.3. Only Denver’s Peyton Manning (118.2) has a higher rating this season.
“I’d like to plateau my peak. I’d like to put together a number of years in a row playing at the same level,” said Rodgers, whose 10 player of the week awards are the most of any NFL player since 2010. “The way ‘11 went and ‘12, those were good years. I was playing the way I want to play and being efficient throwing the football and doing some of the things that I feel like I’m accustomed to doing.
“Last year, I had the [collarbone] injury but was playing pretty good until the injury. This year, it’s just about continuing to grow. I said after the game, I’d like to think I should be better because of the experience and the positive performances and negative performances, the great games and the games you’re frustrated about. It’s about learning through those experiences.
“So, I’d like to think I’m growing as a player. Then, you get older, your leadership role changes. I’d like to think I’m growing and improving as a leader. So, yeah, I think I'm a better player. It’s not always going to show up on the stat sheet or, at the end of the season, the stats might not be as great as they were in ’11, but I’d like to think I’m playing the way I want to play.”
GREEN BAY – After breaking Brett Favre’s NFL record for most career touchdown passes on Sunday night, there was only one current quarterback that Peyton Manning mentioned by name as having a chance to eclipse him:
While that might be mathematically challenging – even if the soon-to-be 31-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback can, as he said last week, indeed play into his 40s – Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday that he does think about his long-term future in the game and what his legacy will be once he calls it a career.
“I think about my legacy, I think about how long I can play in this league. Definitely,” Rodgers said. “Stats like that are directly tied to two things: Consistency, and availability – being able to play for a number of years and stay healthy and obviously play at a high level.”
The 38-year-old Manning has 510 TD passes and counting, followed by Favre (508), Dan Marino (420), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (374), New England’s Tom Brady (372), Fran Tarkenton (342) and John Elway (300).
Among the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks who did not reach 300 TD passes: Warren Moon (291), Johnny Unitas (290), Joe Montana (275), Sonny Jurgensen (255), Dan Fouts (254), Y.A. Tittle (242), Len Dawson (239) and Jim Kelly (237).
At 206 TD passes, Rodgers is 35th in NFL history, behind retired quarterbacks Randall Cunningham (207), Kerry Collins (208), Kurt Warner (208), Jim Hart (209), Terry Bradshaw (212) and John Brodie (214). Other active QBs with more touchdown passes are Arizona’s Carson Palmer (219), Dallas’ Tony Romo (222), Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (229), San Diego’s Phillip Rivers (238) and Manning’s younger brother, Eli. The New York Giants QB has 243 career TD passes.
“There’s two guys over 500, three over 400 and I believe seven over 300,” said Rodgers – who was exactly right. “It’s whittling down here with guys who’ve been able to play for a number of years and play at a high level. You start getting in that category of over 300 and you’re passing up some big names and you’re reaching some incredible names, too.
“You never know.”