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Let's (not) play tag: Cobb avoids franchise tag

Mar 02, 2015 -- 3:43pm
 
Photo/USA Today Sports 
Randall Cobb did not receive the franchise tag on Monday, meaning he could hit the open market later this week.
 

GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb is one step closer to finding out what his true market value is.

The Green Bay Packers opted not to use their franchise tag on the four-year veteran wide receiver on Monday, allowing the 3 p.m. Central time deadline to pass without applying the tag.

The Packers have only used the franchise tag twice during Ted Thompson’s 10-year tenure as general manager: In 2008, when it was placed on defensive lineman Corey Williams, who was subsequently traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick; and in 2010, when it was placed on nose tackle Ryan Pickett as a precursor to a long-term deal.

That means Cobb, who caught 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns and went to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement, will hit the open market on March 10 if the Packers and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, don’t strike a deal before then. The Packers have exclusive negotiating rights until Saturday at 3 p.m. Central time. That’s when Sexton can begin negotiating with teams other than the Packers, as the window opens for what is essentially a legalized tampering period.

But it’s likely that Sexton already has a feel for what Cobb’s market will be after attending the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week.

Cobb, a second-round pick from Kentucky in 2011, won’t turn 25 until August and bounced back from missing 10 games with a lower leg fracture in 2013 to have the best season of his career last year. After the Packers signed Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension on the eve of training camp last summer, Cobb said he had more to prove – and delivered.

According to the NFL Players Association, the Packers enter free agency with $33.03 million in cap room with the 2015 salary cap set at $143.28 million, meaning the team could have easily handled the $12.823 million price tag that would have come with using the franchise tag on Cobb.

Instead, Cobb is one of 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers have set to hit the market, along with right tackle Bryan Bulaga; fullback John Kuhn; cornerbacks Tramon Williams, Davon House and Jarret Bush; nose tackles B.J Raji and Letroy Guion; linebacker Jamari Lattimore; and backup quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien.

The Packers also have three restricted free agents: Wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, tackle Don Barclay and safety Sean Richardson.

Eagles sign ex-Packers linebacker Jones

Mar 02, 2015 -- 2:56pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Brad Jones, cut by the Packers a little more than a week ago, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday.
 

GREEN BAY – Well, that didn’t take long.

Proving one team’s trash is indeed another team’s treasure, ex-Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Brad Jones signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, the Eagles announced. Terms of the deal we’re immediately available.

The Packers released the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Jones on Feb. 20 after six seasons with the team. He had one year left on a three-year, $11.25 million deal he signed before the 2013 season after visiting the Tennessee Titans but leaving Nashville without a deal that spring.

Coincidentally, The Tennessean’s Jim Wyatt reported Monday that Jones had visited the Titans before visiting the Eagles.

Jones finished with 293 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles in 76 games (36 starts) in Green Bay. The 28-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick in 2009 out of Colorado and moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker during his second season in Green Bay.

UPDATED: Bush won't be charged following arrest

Mar 02, 2015 -- 7:53am
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Cornerback Jarrett Bush is one of the Packers’ longest-tenured players. 
 

GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers special teams captain Jarrett Bush was arrested Sunday for public intoxication in his hometown of Vacaville, Calif., but will not be charged, according to the Vacaville Police Department. 

Police were called to Evelyn's Big Italian Restaurant early Sunday morning in downtown Vacaville after a fight broke out. According to police, most of the people involved in the disturbance dispersed upon officers' arrival, but a handful of people remained and did not leave after repeatedly being asked to do so. One of those people was Bush, who was then taken into custody for public intoxication.

Police said Bush was cooperative after being detained. And he will not be charged. Bush's arrest was recorded in the Solano County Jail logs.

The Packers veteran cornerback has been with the Packers since 2006 and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 10. He has played in 137 career games with the Packers, mostly on special teams but also as a reserve cornerback.

For Harlan, accommodating fans, Favre was foremost

Feb 27, 2015 -- 4:25pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau Field is set for July 18, after a few details were ironed out Friday.
 

GREEN BAY – Feeling that moving Brett Favre’s induction ceremony to the Lambeau Field bowl wasn’t practical, Bob Harlan tried to do the next best thing with the July 18 celebration Green Bay Packers legendary quarterback’s enshrinement into the Packers Hall of Fame and retirement of his No. 4.

In response to Favre expressing his desire to move the event into the stadium to accommodate more of his fans, Harlan, the team president/CEO for all 16 of Favre’s seasons on the Packers roster, Harlan did his due diligence in searching for other alternatives.

Speaking Friday inside the Lambeau Field atrium after the announcement that the July 18 event will be shown to fans inside the stadium bowl on the scoreboard video screens and broadcast live on the Packers’ state TV network and nationally on NFL Network, Harlan said he and the Hall of Fame looked into other possible venues for the event. But the team’s rich history and tradition made him feel as though the event had to take place at the hallowed stadium where Favre starred from 1992 through 2007 – and later played as a visitor with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 and 2010.

Harlan said he began planning the event in the fall of 2013, when he and Favre’s camp – Favre, his wife Deanna and agent Bus Cook – began talking.

“We’ve talked about a lot of options,” Harlan said. “We’ve been going to other venues, for example, if that would help us with the crowd size. [But] this is where it belongs and I think to move it away from Lambeau would be a huge mistake.

“We listened to Brett. I listened to Bus Cook. We’ve tried to accommodate as many people as we could in as many ways as possible with the No. 1 thought always being, ‘How do we help the fans?’ This is where we’ve come to.”

Harlan said he also tried to find ways to get more people into the annual banquet. He said additional tables upstairs inside the atrium will push attendance from the usual 1,000 to 1,600, but that increase was insufficient to get more fans in the door.

Harlan said 25 percent of the available tickets went to sponsors, others went to fans who’d long supported the Hall of Fame and the remainder we allocated for past Hall of Famers, Favre’s family, Packers staff and other dignitaries who will attend the banquet.

“The last time I talked to him was a week ago,” Harlan said of Favre. “His feeling recently has been, ‘It’s the Packers Hall of Fame event, let them plan it. I just want to make sure we’re taking care of the fans.’ I think Brett understands we’ve looked at alternatives. If he said something to us, we’ve certainly discussed it among ourselves.

“I know what this means to fans. This is an once-in-a-lifetime event. We looked at every option.”

Harlan said he did discuss the idea of moving the entire event into the stadium bowl but it was unrealistic because of security issues, staffing challenges and, most significantly, the threat of bad weather which would scuttle the entire event.

“We talked about that,” Harlan said, “There are many negatives.”

Hall of Fame president Denny Tatum said no one is certain just how big the response will be and how many tickets, priced at $4 with net proceeds going to Favre’s foundation, will sell. Initially, the per-person limit for purchasing tickets has been set at eight.

“We really don’t have the slightest idea from the standpoint of fan response,” Tatum said. “I can honestly say from the phone calls that we’ve been receiving – if that’s any measure of active interest, I would say that we will have a stadium that is representative of Favre fans throughout the country.

“I think [a sellout] would be an immense tribute to Brett Favre and his 16 years as a Packer.”

Favre will speak to fans in the bowl at some point during the evening, likely during the dinner portion of the program, before the actual hour-long ceremony begins.

Harlan stressed, too, that this is just the first step in the celebration of Favre’s career. In addition to the July 18 event, his No. 4 will be unveiled on the façade of the north end zone during a yet-to-be-determined game.

“I think it’s very important that everyone keeps another thing in mind. This is a two-part event. Part 1 will take place this summer. Part 2 will take place next fall at a Packers regular-season game when Brett will go on the field, talk to the fans and have his name and number unveiled in the north end zone,” Harlan said. “We visited with Brett and his agent Bus Cook throughout this process. We tried to keep them informed what our plans were.

“This being a first in Packers history, it’s opened a lot of new doors for us. We’re excited about it. It’s a national event that’s going to get a lot of acclaim. We think it will go down in Packers history as the best dinner ever.”

Packers Hall adds fan attendance option to Favre induction

Feb 27, 2015 -- 12:57pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Brett Favre’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame will be shown to fans inside the Lambeau Field stadium bowl on July 18.
 
 
GREEN BAY – If you wanted to see iconic Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame live on July 18, now you can – sort of.

The Packers and the Hall of Fame announced Friday morning that the event will now be shown on the video boards inside Lambeau Field – and that Favre will come out to acknowledge fans inside the stadium bowl at the event – and the induction ceremony will also be televised statewide on the Packers’ network of TV affiliates.

The in-stadium event will allow fans into the seating bowl to watch the ceremony live on the Lambeau Field video boards. Favre also will make an appearance in the bowl to address the crowd, according to the Hall of Fame.

“This viewing opportunity from the stadium will be a unique complement to a special evening and allow more people to share their excitement with Brett,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement.

Tickets will be $4 each, with net proceeds going to Favre 4 Hope, and will go on sale at 10 a.m. Central time on May 12. Tickets will be available through Ticketmaster in person, over the phone or via the Internet.

The change was prompted by Favre’s interview on Feb. 10 with family friend and noted Packers fan Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, Favre spitballed the idea of moving the event into the stadium, which holds roughly 80,000, instead of the atrium, as the 1,600 seats for the event were immediately spoken for with sponsors, Packers personnel and other dignitaries.

"I know it's been stressful for the Packers especially, but we've gotten a lot of emails as well – it being sold out," Favre told Van Susteren. "In my opinion, I'd like to see us do it in the stadium. I think everyone should have a chance to go.

“The fans are the fans. I think they should have the option to come if they so choose I couldn't tell you if it would be 10,000 or 60,000 but I think they should have that opportunity.”

The Hall of Fame induction is only part of the Packers’ plans for celebrating Favre, who quarterbacked the team from 1992 through 2007 and was traded to the New York Jets before the 2008 season. Favre’s No. 4, which is to be retired as part of the induction ceremony, will be unveiled on Lambeau Field’s north end zone façade at a game during the 2015 season. The Packers reaffirmed that plan in Friday’s statement.

Photo/Taylor Meiklejohn

10th anniversary Tailgate Tour set for April 14-18

Feb 26, 2015 -- 3:59pm
 
Photoo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
The Packers annual Tailgate Tour celebrates its 10th anniversary this spring.
 

GREEN BAY – While Brett Favre won’t be one of the bus riders for the Green Bay Packers’ 10 th anniversary Tailgate Tour – maybe next year, after the prodigal quarterback returns to the fold and has his No. 4 retired – the guest list is an impressive one for the team’s annual goodwill tour.

Scheduled to join Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy are current players Andrew Quarless, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward, prominent Packers alumni Gilbert Brown, Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder and two of the team’s most distinguished alums from the Lombardi Era, Dave Robinson and Jerry Kramer.

The tour is set for April 14 through 18 and will include stops in Menomonie, (April 14), Prairie du Chien (April 15), Baraboo (April 16), Elkhorn (April 17) and Sheboygan (April 18), with tailgate parties held in each city to support a local non-profit organization. There are always a few surprise stops as well.

A local non-profit organization will host each tailgate party, which features food, giveaways, question-and-answer sessions and autographs. Tailgate party tickets cost $30. General admission tickets also will be available for $5 for the Menomonie and Baraboo tailgate party locations, which includes access to the Q-and-A sessions as well as tailgate party activities. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

“The Packers are very excited to embark on the 10th annual Tailgate Tour,” Murphy said in the team’s announcement. “Thanks to the loyalty of our fans, we are celebrating 10 successful years of this event. We are looking forward to visiting several areas throughout the state of Wisconsin, and we are proud to be supporting great organizations during the tour.”

Packers release Hawk after nine seasons

Feb 25, 2015 -- 4:42pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
A.J. Hawk’s nine-year tenure with the Packers came to an end with his release Wednesday.
 

GREEN BAY – A.J. Hawk wasn’t blindsided by the news. And how could he have been? After having his playing time sharply reduced during the second half of last season, the now ex-Green Bay Packers inside linebacker knew his release was a possibility.

So when the Packers informed the 31-year-old Hawk last week of their plans to cut him – a move that they officially announced Wednesday afternoon – Hawk was ready for it.

“The Packers were awesome about it,” Hawk said in a conversation he had with his brother, Ryan, on his personal video podcast. “I have no bitterness and no animosity toward anyone.”

Hawk, the Packers’ first-round pick (No. 5 overall) in 2006, is the second veteran inside linebacker the Packers have released in the past week. The team cut Brad Jones on Friday after six seasons.

Hawk’s release saves the Packers $3.5 million in salary-cap room, and along with the $3.75 million they saved by cutting Jones, they’re poised to be more than $30 million under the salary cap once the cap is officially set. The NFL Players Association predicted last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that the cap would be $143 million.

Hawk departs as the Packers’ all-time leading tackler with 1,118. He made one Pro Bowl in his nine seasons, during the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl XLV championship season – a year he began on the bench in the opener at Philadelphia, when he was only seeing action in the base defense.

That’s where Hawk found himself at the end of the 2014 season, as well, as the Packers moved outside linebacker Clay Matthews inside on some downs and expanded the role of second-year linebacker Sam Barrington.

"You could almost feel it in the air throughout the second half of the season," Hawk said of his release after his role was reduced. "I've been preparing for it for a while now mentally, but now it's real."

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, in a statement released by the team, said: “A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons. He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community. We wish A.J., his wife Laura, and the rest of their family all the best."

ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reported last week that Hawk played through bone spurs in his ankle last season, an issue that required surgery after the season ended – even though Hawk repeatedly insisted he wasn’t playing hurt, even while his friend, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, said publicly that he was.

Hawk’s official designation on the NFL transaction wire Wednesday was waived/failed physical. He said in his conversation with his brother that he intends to keep playing.

“I'm ready for some new opportunities,” Hawk said. “I feel good. Hopefully I get a chance somewhere else.”

Sharp dressed men: Packers can wear new alternate third uniform in 2015

Feb 24, 2015 -- 10:57pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
The five-year window for the Packers having to wear their 1929 throwbacks has closed, so the team can wear a different third jersey in 2015.
 

GREEN BAY – The Cleveland Browns’ logo didn’t exactly undergo an extreme makeover.

One of the NFL’s most storied franchises – even if it hasn’t experienced much success in recent years – the Browns altered their color scheme and tweaked their logo, unveiling the changes Tuesday. They have yet to unveil their new uniforms.

The Green Bay Packers’ iconic G won’t be changing, and the last time the organization made any noticeable changes to their uniforms was when coach Forrest Gregg did so in the mid-1980s. So the Packers won’t be undergoing any sort of uniform renovation anytime soon.

That said, the Packers are free to create a new alternate third uniform this season. According to NFL rules, because they selected their 1929 throwback uniforms as their alternate unis in 2010, it was the only alternate uniform they could wear for a five-year period. Now that that time has expired, the Packers are able to choose a different third uniform. The Acme Packers gear is on clearance at the Packers Pro Shop, so it seems unlikely that the Packers would commit to those get-ups for another five-year period.

The Packers’ 1929 replicas were navy blue jerseys with a gold circle on the chest, tan pants, and brown (to mimic leather) helmets until the NFL required teams to wear their regular helmets whenever wearing alternate uniforms. The Packers then wore their gold helmets with the decals removed. The Packers won the first of their 13 NFL championships in 1929.

The league allows for teams to wear their alternate jerseys a maximum of three times per year, although the Packers chose to only wear their alternate uniforms for one game each year.

The Packers haven’t announced any plans for an alternate third jersey in 2015, but it’s a safe bet that they’ll have something planned for this season. Perhaps it’ll even be something with a futuristic look instead of a historic one.

One thing seems certain: Their regular uniforms won’t be changing. Retired GM Ron Wolf learned early on in his tenure, before rebuilding the team into a Super Bowl champion, how resistant Packers fans are to changing uniform fashions when he suggested the Packers go back to the navy blue color they had back in the Acme Packers days -- an era that the team now celebrates with its throwback uniforms.

Nonetheless, it might be fun to imagine what an updated Packers uniform might look like.

The folks at Baker Branding and Design, a Twin Cities-based company that has done design work for many familiar everyday products, took a stab at redesigned Packers and Minnesota Vikings uniforms two years ago. The group actually provided three different Packers concepts, shown below. The last of the three harkens back to the team's historic uniforms while delivering a modern twist.

 
 
Photos/Baker Branding and Design  
Tags: Uniforms

McCarthy: 'I've never had an offense this good'

Feb 21, 2015 -- 8:40pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks the 2014 offense was the best of his head-coaching tenure.
 

INDIANAPOLIS – Not only did Mike McCarthy think he had the best team in the NFL at season’s end, the Green Bay Packers head coach also thought the offense was the best he’s ever had.

That’s quite a statement given how good the Packers offense was in 2011, when the team posted a 15-1 regular-season record and set the franchise scoring record. But McCarthy is grading on a curve because the Packers had so many blowouts that backup quarterback Matt Flynn saw extended mop-up time action with NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers on the bench at the end of gams.

“You’ve got to be realistic. We scored the most points in the league but our starting quarterback didn’t play five quarters,” McCarthy said at an informal session with beat writers at a hotel restaurant near Lucas Oil Stadium during the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’ve never had an offense this good.”

McCarthy, who is entering his 10th year as head coach, said the Packers use a grading formula that consists of “16 principles of championship offense and defense.” While he refused to divulge specifics, he said the offense hit on 13 of the 16.

“And the three that we didn’t get, I think we were like one play or two plays off,” McCarthy said.

Both the 2011 and 2014 teams were the league’s highest-scoring, and Rodgers won the NFL MVP award. Rodgers played 1,004 snaps in 2014 and 980 snaps in 2011, as he didn’t play in the meaningless regular-season finale that season against Detroit.  

In 2014, Rodgers came out of blowout victories over Minnesota on Oct. 2, Carolina on Oct. 19, Chicago on Nov. 9 and Philadelphia on Nov. 16.

“You know,” McCarthy said, “if we could play at this level of offense from here on in, it will be the best offense pro football has seen.”

Here’s a look at the 2011 and 2014 numbers:

Packers offense by the numbers:
 
Category
2011
2014
Points
560
486
Yards
6,482
6,178
Passing yards
4,924
4,261
Rushing yards
1,558
1,917
Plays
988
1,001
First downs
353
356
3rd down eff.
48.1
47.2
Red zone eff.
66.2
57.8
Turnovers
14
13
 
Aaron Rodgers by the numbers:
 
Category
2011
2014
Completions
343
341
Attempts
502
520
Completion pct.
68.3
65.6
Yards
4,643
4,381
Touchdowns
45
38
Interceptions
6
5
Passer rating
122.4
112.2

 

Office space: With altered duties, McCarthy may get new workspace

Feb 21, 2015 -- 7:26pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Mike McCarthy’s workday didn’t get any lighter with his decision to give up the play-calling duties, but he may start using a new office at Lambeau Field.
 

INDIANAPOLIS – Mike McCarthy would be thrilled if his decision to hand off the Green Bay Packers’ offensive play-calling to Tom Clements meant that his workload would go down significantly.

But the Packers coach expects to work just as much as he always has – meaning he won’t have free time to get massages and drop some pounds.

“I wish my workload would go down. I’d be in great shape, I’d be down hanging out with [strength and conditioning coordinator Mark] Lovat,” McCarthy joked during an informal session with beat writers at a hotel restaurant near Lucas Oil Stadium during the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’d take play-calling off, show up Sundays and throw a red flag. Hell of a gig, right? That’s not the way this will go.”

The change has been the talk of the offseason thusfar, but McCarthy said he’ll keep doing what he has always done, moving among the offensive, defensive and special-teams meetings. He’ll just be able to spend more time with the defense and special teams than before.

“As far as my day, it’s not going to change,” he said.

And as far as quarterback Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy said, “To be honest, I might be around him more.”

McCarthy said one of his goals with his altered responsibilities will be to do a better job of planning out his day – and he hinted that he might be relocating his office, or at least start using an auxiliary office that’ll be closer to the team’s CRIC indoor practice and teaching facility at the other end of monstrous Lambeau Field.

The CRIC was part of McCarthy’s overhaul of the team’s practice schedule, which utilized the facility for more jog-through and walk-through teaching sessions as actual practice time was scaled back.

“There are some things I need to change,” McCarthy explained. “For as great as an impact the new facility’s made on our program – I thought we hit a home run on the number of things that we changed, better than I even anticipated – it might sound silly, but the stress of having your office at that furthest point of the building and everything you need is down there, I have to change. There’s going to be an office change.

“I’m changing my whole outlook of how I attack the day when the players are [at the stadium], both in the off-season and in-season. That’s something that I felt from the first week [of the new schedule].”

McCarthy said he was sometimes late to get to where he wanted to go because various assistant coaches would want to meet with him and he’d stop at their respective offices. McCarthy’s main office is on the third floor of the administration area adjacent to the Lambeau Field atrium, and with another stadium construction project underway, it’s feasible that he could have another office built closer to the CRIC.

“You’re walking down the hall and the receivers coach or special teams coach or the video director or the assistant strength coach, they need to talk to you. I think the worst thing you can do as a leader is say, ‘I can’t, I’ll have to get you later,’” McCarthy said. “You have to build that into your job responsibility, and you have to build that into your daily planner.

“The more responsibilities you have as a leader, the more flexibility you have to have for your people. When they need you, you have to be able to talk to your people. … Coordinators and play-callers, to me, that’s the toughest job in football. The coordinating or calling the defense or calling the offense, that’s the hardest job in football, in my opinion. As a leader, you have to be accessible to people that you’re responsible for.”

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