ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
Eddie Lacy run like Earl Campbell, but if he’s going to bear a resemblance to any Pro Football Hall of Fame running back this weekend, it’s more likely to be Eric Dickerson.
The Green Bay Packers running back, who has been limited in practice because of his eye but is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay, has had multiple people suggested he wear Dickerson-style goggles if he can’t put his contact lenses back in for the game.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of the idea.
“I refuse …” Lacy said Thursday before stopping himself. “I don’t want to say I refuse, because I might [have to] because I think it will be better than wearing contacts. But that’s kind of old-fashioned.”
Perhaps, but as Lacy demonstrated for reporters at his locker Thursday, he’s blind as bat without his contacts. As he peered across the locker room, he couldn’t read the nameplate above backup quarterback Scott Tolzien’s locker. Lacy said he was coming back from an autograph signing when his eye started bothering him.
“Let’s just say I’m very blind,” Lacy told reporters. “I can’t see Scott’s name over there if I close my right eye.”
Meanwhile, the Packers got some encouraging news on right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who still hasn’t practiced because of a concussion but did attend practice Thursday.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday:
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga is still in the concussion protocol process but is “doing good.”
“When they let him out of the building and go down to the Hutson Center, that’s a good thing,” McCarthy said of Bulaga attending practice.
Aaron Rodgers was less than thrilled when the Green Bay Packers let veteran center Evan Dietrich-Smith leave via free agency this spring, ensuring that the Packers quarterback would be taking snaps from his fourth opening-day center in four years.
As it turned out, Rodgers ended up dealing with even more chaos at the position, as intended starter JC Tretter suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game, pressing rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley into service. Linsley joined Scott Wells (2011), Jeff Saturday (2012) and Dietrich-Smith (2013) on the list of opening-day centers – a run that began with the Packers opting not to pay Wells in free agency, either.
And while Rodgers remains friendly with both Wells and Dietrich-Smith, ever since Linsley started and played well in the Packers’ Sept. 4 season-opening loss at Seattle, Rodgers has felt good about the position – and its future.
Asked Wednesday when he realized the Packers were going to be just fine at center, Rodgers replied, “After Week 1. Corey played really well in the first game. There was chatter that week about them trying to get into his head and [how] he and I hadn’t taken a snap in a live game up to that point. After that game, I was pretty convinced that he was going to be OK. And then after two or three, I think we all realized that we had something special.”
Meanwhile, Dietrich-Smith has done just fine for himself, which is why he said in a conference call Wednesday that he harbors no ill will toward his former team as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers prep for Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium.
“I had more than enough games there to prove what I can do,” said Dietrich-Smith, who signed a four-year, $14.25 million deal ($7.25 million guaranteed) that the Packers could have afforded if they’d wanted him back. “I don’t really care. I see it as another game, a game that we want to go out and win. I don’t think they’re going to sit there and say, ‘Hey, we need to get after this guy or that guy,’ or, ‘We’ve got to make sure we don’t let Evan do X, Y and Z.’”
Dietrich-Smith said he has been giving his offensive coaches as much insight as he can into the Packers’ defense, having practiced against Dom Capers’ scheme “ever since I’ve pretty much been in the league.” He’s also seen plenty of film of Linsley, since the Buccaneers and Packers have had a bunch of common opponents this season and Dietrich-Smith has seen Linsley on tape of upcoming opposing defenses.
“I think he’s done a good job. Obviously, it’s a big help three of the smartest guys on offense – two of them right beside you, one of them right behind you – all the time,” Dietrich-Smith said of Rodgers and guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. “I guarantee that helped his learning curve.”
Bryan Bulaga is progressing through the NFL-mandated concussion protocol, and there is a good chance that the Green Bay Packers veteran right tackle will be able to play Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Two days after offensive coordinator Tom Clements, in a departure from what most assistant coaches do when asked about injured players, said he expected Bulaga to be available this week. On Wednesday, Bulaga did not practice but apparently worked out in the weight room – giving further credence to Clements’ prediction.
“[He] looks great,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “[I] saw him in the weight room, in the meetings this morning. [He’s] making progress.”
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Wednesday:
McCarthy said Lacy’s eye issue is “just a situation he has going on with his eye that’s not game-related,” which would indicate that Lacy wasn’t poked in the eye during last week’s game or sustained some sort of other injury.
“I think we’ll be fine there.”
McCarthy said he didn’t think Matthews’ biceps injury “is of serious nature” and said Neal, who has had abdominal muscle injuries in the past, was simply “being proactive with some treatment.”
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ locker room is an easy place for a player to avoid these days. Given all the recent renovations and countless places to go when reporters invade the locker room, you don’t need an Ivy League education to figure out when and where to go.
Second-year offensive lineman JC Tretter – a man who does, in fact, have an Ivy League education, having graduated from Cornell – knew what he was getting himself into earlier this week when he came in anyway, with a host of reporters lying in wait.
And when he arrived, he wanted no part of the idea of that coach Mike McCarthy, by his own admission, had put him in a tough spot at right tackle the end of last Sunday at Buffalo, as Bills defensive end Mario Williams beat Tretter off the edge to knock the ball out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ hand in the final minutes, resulting in a safety that sealed the Packers’ 21-13 loss. Tretter was playing because starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga had suffered a concussion earlier in the game.
“That’s not unfair. That’s my job. That’s why I’m on this team – to come in and play that position, no matter how many reps I’ve gotten,” said Tretter, who was set to become the team’s starting center this season – before a knee injury in the third preseason game shelved him for the first half of the season, during which rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley entrenched himself as the starter.
“That’s the position. That’s what I’m supposed to do. So it’s not unfair.”
Tretter ended up playing 15 snaps – including a couple as an extra blocking tight end in goal line/short yardage situations – and actually graded out OK. You know, except for the play that scuttled any chance of a come-from-behind victory in the final 2 minutes.
“I thought JC did some good things,” said McCarthy, who after the game said he called the wrong play and reiterated that on Monday. “I think everybody wants to look at the last play; that would be one of the calls I wish I had back. I wish I would’ve went with my second call there. The protection result of it would’ve been different. I thought JC did a good job.”
It’s unclear whether Bulaga will be cleared for this Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, although offensive coordinator Tom Clements said he expects Bulaga to play.
“I think Bryan will be available,” Clements said Monday.
If not, Tretter said he will be ready. Since returning to the 53-man roster off the physically unable to perform list, Tretter has worked at all five offensive line spots in practice, as he is viewed as the team’s sixth man off the bench. If Bulaga hasn’t passed the requisite concussion protocols in time for Wednesday’s practice, Tretter predicted he’d get additional work at right tackle but would work the other spots, too.
“I’m extremely comfortable (at tackle),” said Tretter, who played tight end and left tackle in college but worked exclusively at center all camp. “I’ll probably take more right tackle reps than I have been just because it’s the position of most need right now, but I’ve been preparing for all the positions every week for the past several weeks now anyways, so I don’t think anything is going to change preparation-wise. I’ll probably just get a few more reps there, but that’s it.”
And while he may have made for a very good starting center, Tretter says he is fine with not having a defined position.
“I’m whatever this team needs me to be, whenever they need me to be it,” he said. “That’s the role I have and that’s the role I want to be able to have at this point – I want to be able to do whatever this team needs me to do.”
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, which ended the Packers’ five-game winning streak and leaves them at 10-4 with two games to play.
Who are you, and what have you done with Aaron Rodgers?: Remember when the Packers quarterback seemed “off” at the start of the season, when the team stumbled to a 1-2 start and Rodgers had to tell everyone to R-E-L-A-X? It seems so long ago given how well the potential NFL MVP had played since, as his team reeled off nine wins in its next 10 games, but on Sunday, Rodgers was the worst he’s ever been statistically. He completed just 17 of 42 attempts – the most incompletions of his career – for 185 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 34.3. Before Sunday, his worst statistical game had been in a Sept. 28, 2008 game, during his first year as the starter, when he had a 55.9 passer rating in a loss at Tampa Bay. The second of his two interceptions, which went off the hands of No. 4 wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, killed a drive on which the Packers had driven from their own 2-yard line to the Buffalo 34 and had the Bills defense on its heels.
Dropping it like it’s hot: While Rodgers certainly struggled, he also was the victim of the highest number of drops in the NFL this year – and the most drops he’s seen during his seven years as the starter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Packers would-be pass-catchers dropped seven passes during the game, the most in the league this year and the most of Rodgers’ career. The biggest drop came during the drive that ended in the INT off Boykin’s hands and came from an unlikely source: Presumptive Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson. On a second-and-8 play from the Packers’ 6-yard line, Rodgers pump faked and had Nelson wide open and all alone for what very well might have been a 94-yard touchdown. Instead, Nelson butterfingered it at the Green Bay36-yard line. Had he caught it and scored, the Packers would have taken a 17-16 lead.
What a way to end it.: Despite all their problems, the Packers still had a chance to drive for the game-winning score in the final 2 minutes. After the defense, which gave up 12 points on the day, got the offense the ball back with 1 minute 58 seconds left to play, Rodgers lined up in the shotgun for the first play. But with starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga in the locker room with a possible concussion, his replacement, JC Tretter, was beaten badly by Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who with his left hand poked the ball out of Rodgers’ right hand for a fumble. Running back Eddie Lacy recovered – making it a dead ball, as NFL rules state that only the fumbling player can recover the ball in the end zone with under 2 minutes to play – for a Bills safety, ending any hope of a comeback win.
AMHERST, N.Y. – At midweek, safety Chris Banjo was leaning against a table in the Green Bay Packers locker room, talking about the challenge of spending the season on the practice squad after seeing action in all 16 regular-season games last year.
Eligible for the practice squad because of a change in the rules this season, Banjo was resigned to spending the year there and his goal was to be named the practice squad player of the week, which would have earned him a seat on the team charter on Saturday.
Instead, he received a spot on the 53-man roster, as the Packers called Banjo up from the practice squad to replace inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury.
“I have a lot of respect for Chris Banjo. I call upon him in meetings as if he’s up and active on game day and it keeps his mind fresh,” safeties coach Darren Perry said during the week. “Chris has a great heart. He’s a great teammate.
“I like to think Chris has gotten better and he’s continued to grow [while on the practice squad]. We just haven’t been able to see it on Sundays, but you see it in practice, you see it in meetings. Chris is working his butt off. I’m blessed to be able to coach him and hopefully he’ll get his opportunity.”
That opportunity came Saturday. Although Banjo called this season “bittersweet,” he was prepared to spend all year on the practice squad and merely help out wherever he could. While he may not be on the active 46-man game-day roster Sunday, at least he’s taken another step.
“Obviously as a competitor, you want to be at the highest level you can possibly be at – be able to compete and play every week,” Banjo said on Wednesday. “Obviously I’m not gaining playing experience, but being here and taking things off of film, I try to grow as a player every single game, even though I didn’t play in the game. I still feel like I’m making strides.”
GREEN BAY – If Jerry Rice could pick one quarterback in today’s NFL to catch passes from, it’d be the same guy who threw him the ball during a pre-draft workout more than a decade ago: Aaron Rodgers.
In an interview with the Talk of Fame Network’s Clark Judge, Rice said he’d pick the Green Bay Packers quarterback as the one current QB he’d want to play with.
“And the reason why is that I think he makes everyone better around him,” Rice said. “His execution on the football field is just unbelievable. He has accuracy, a strong arm, can throw the ball on the run, can throw the ball anywhere on the football field. Just an exceptional quarterback.
“I would want to line up with this guy today. (Imagine) the things that we could do on the football field. Aaron Rodgers can make every throw possible.”
If somehow it happened, it wouldn’t be the first time Rodgers and Rice connected. Before the 2005 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worked Rodgers out on campus at the University of California, and then-Bucs coach Jon Gruden brought Rice along to catch passes from Rodgers during the workout.
“And Aaron Rodgers freaked out. He couldn’t hit anything. He was throwing the ball high and all over the place,” Rice said. “But to watch him now and to watch him go out and compete … he’s doing a good job.”
Rodgers has told that story a few times over the years, including to the Tampa Bay media during a conference call with them before a game in 2011. The workout was for Gruden, then-quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and then-general manager Bruce Allen.
“Jon … said he had a surprise for me after we kind of watched some film and talked some ball,”' Rodgers recounted. “One of my childhood, favorite players, being a huge 49ers fan growing up, Jerry Rice comes walking down the steps, and I get to throw passes to him.
“Think about a 21-year-old kid throwing to one of your idols, how nervous you think you would be, I was that and then some. I overthrew him a couple times, but it was exciting to be able to throw to him and to work with Jon and Paul, great coaches who had been around the game a long time.'”
Two days before the draft, according to Rodgers, Gruden called him and suggested that the Bucs would likely take him if he was on the board at No. 5. Instead, they took Auburn running back Cadillac Williams, who became the NFL's offensive rookie of the year before suffering two major knee injuries that derailed his career.
“I don't fault them for taking Cadillac,” Rodgers said. “He had an incredible college career and a great rookie season. He was slowed down by some injuries.
“But I don't blame them at all or don't hold any animosity toward Jon and Bruce or the organization. Everything kind of happens for a reason. Looking back on when they came out and visited me in Berkeley, that was one of my top moments in my sports career, being able to throw to Jerry Rice.”
GREEN BAY – Scott Tolzien didn’t do a cartwheel in the middle of the Green Bay Packers locker room on Friday, but he could have.
The former University of Wisconsin starting quarterback and current Packers backup firmly believes the Badgers got the right man for the job when athletic director Barry Alvarez tabbed University of Pittsburgh coach Paul Chryst – a former Badgers quarterback and assistant coach – to replace the departed Gary Anderson.
“I’m pumped,” Tolzien said. “Just because I know what a great coach he is and what a great person he is. I mean, I’m thrilled – and excited for the future.”
Multiple media outlets, including ESPNWisconsin.com, have reported that Alvarez has picked Chryst, although the hiring can’t become official until next week. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Andy Baggot reported Friday afternoon that Alvarez, who is set to coach the Badgers in the Outback Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1, will interview two more candidates for the position, which must remain posted for one week.
Tolzien said he, like most UW alumni and fans, was taken by surprise when Anderson resigned on Wednesday to become the head coach at Oregon State.
“There was obviously shock,” Tolzien said. “But I’d met coach Andersen a couple times, and he’s an awesome guy. He really is. I mean, you’ve got to do what’s best for your family. Plain and simple. That should be everybody’s priority, really. So I was surprised.
“But I think things are going to be all right.”
Tolzien, who remains close to Chryst but said he has not yet spoken to him, credited Chryst with being vital to his success both with the Badgers – he was a two-year starter and won the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award as a senior – and in reaching the NFL after going undrafted.
“I mean this honestly: Right behind my parents, he’s up there. And that’s sincere,” Tolzien said. “The thing about Paul, he’s not going to be flashy. But he’s real, and he’s always been, ‘I don’t have to talk about it, I’m just going to be about it.’ And there’s just subtle things that the public never knows about that he does, and I think that’s really the core of his character, and that’s what makes him a special person.”
Asked why Chryst is the right man for the job, Tolzien admitted he could have gone on and on about him.
“I think he’s a great coach, first and foremost. But he really cares about this players – genuinely cares about his players, not only on the field but off the field,” Tolzien said. “And that’s an important time in a kid’s life. You go in as an 18-year-old freshman and, hopefully, you become a man by the time you graduate.
“I know Paul, in my experience, was paramount in me growing as a person – not only athletically, but socially and academically. I think that’s what I’m most excited about, being able to tell a recruit, ‘Hey, you don’t understand how much you’re going to grow being with a guy of his caliber.’ And I’m sure he’s going to bring in some assistants who reflect those same qualities. I’m excited that those kids will get to experience what I experienced.”
And while the Wisconsin job is clearly Chryst’s dream job – meaning he is highly unlikely to depart for another program the way Anderson and Tolzien’s head coach, Bret Bielema, did – Tolzien also said that Chryst will understand the challenge ahead.
“I’m sure Coach Chryst would say the same thing right now. It’s great, but I’m sure he’s just excited to get to work,” Tolzien said. “Because we all know it’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. Any coaching is – college or pro. I just know the competitor that he is, he’s going to want to get to work. It’s not let’s talk about it, let’s be about it and let’s prove it every day.”
GREEN BAY – Eddie Lacy’s bruised hip has improved enough that the Green Bay Packers running back is listed as probable for Sunday’s game at Buffalo.
Although coach Mike McCarthy expressed confidence that the Packers would be OK with Buffalo-area native James Starks and No. 3 running back DuJuan Harris handling the workload if Lacy can’t go, it appears Lacy will be in the lineup.
“I think ‘probable’ is pretty confident. He’s getting better,” McCarthy said Friday morning. “I know he did the strength and conditioning work and all the other work in that area today. He’s making progress and hopefully he can practice [Saturday].”
Lacy has rushed 59 times for 296 yards (5.02 yards per carry) over the past three games, his most productive three-game stretch of the season. He was unable to finish the Packers’ 43-37 victory over Atlanta on Monday night because of the hip injury.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report for Friday:
McCarthy wouldn’t say if Lacy’s carries will be limited because of his injury.
“We’ll see how the game goes. But I feel very comfortable going with Eddie and James,” McCarthy said. “It’s something that we spent the whole offseason getting ready for and both guys have done a great job of being three down players. So we can continue to just keep playing [that way].”
Meanwhile, McCarthy said House was headed out of town for further tests on his right shoulder, which he injured while breaking up a pass in the end zone against the Falcons’ Julio Jones.
“He’s not going to be available for the game. I have not been given any updates,” McCarthy said. Asked if there was fear that the injury might be season-ending, McCarthy replied, “I wouldn’t say ‘fear.’ That’s why [he’s] going to see the people that he needs to see. He’s got to get more information. It’s not your everyday injury. He feels better; he’s got his range of motion and he’s really responded very well the last couple days.”
House ventured into the locker room during the media access session and said he is “feeling better,” even though he’s been ruled out.
“I know that they said my shoulder’s come a long way, which is good,” House said. “[I’m] moving around, able to go swimming in the pool and stuff like that, which is good. [I’m] just really trying to build the strength back up.”
House, who suffered a major left shoulder injury in the 2012 preseason opener that forced him to miss the first six games of the regular season, said his current injury is not the same as that severe separation.
“Which is really good,” House said. “It happens. It’s football.”
GREEN BAY – Julius Peppers has developed a well-earned reputation from his coaches and teammates for being a man of few words That’s why the Green Bay Packers veteran outside linebacker’s pregame speech before the Nov. 9 game against his former team, the Chicago Bears, carried so much weight.
But Peppers was downright chatty on Thursday, when he held court with reporters for more than 20 minutes on a variety of subjects, including that he believes this Packers team has something special about it.
A few highlights from that conversation:
On the defense’s collapse in the second half against Atlanta: “We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. We had a bad half of football and that’s what it is. It’s nothing more than that. The good thing is, there’s no carryover to this game. We’re going to start fast this game and we’re going to finish this game. Like I said, we’ll be fine.”
On reminding younger teammates to focus on the Buffalo Bills and not the playoff picture: “Every now and then, something needs to be said. As one of the leaders on this team and one of the older guys – the oldest guy and one of the veteran leaders on the team -- I think there comes a time where you have to point out certain things to some of the younger players, and this is one of those weeks. We’ve got to raise the focus, we’ve got to raise the sense of urgency because now’s the time we need to step on the gas and not let off of it.”
On the Packers’ pass rush as compared to Buffalo’s:“I think it’s been pretty good. The numbers might say something different, but I think overall as a unit I think we’ve been getting pressure pretty consistently. Sacks don’t necessarily show that, but if you watch the film, we have a lot of guys that are around the quarterback pretty consistently.”
On how his 34-year-old body feels as the regular season comes to an end: “I actually feel pretty good right now for it being this late. Some days are definitely better than others, but for the most part every day I come over here I’m pretty fresh. The practice schedule isn’t that rough, they do a great job freshening us up with those ‘STAA’ days. As a team I think everybody is pretty healthy and pretty fresh.”
On how playing outside linebacker has been better for him physically than defensive end: “I don’t want to say it’s easier to play, but it’s not as physical, it’s not as much contact throughout the course of the game as a true defensive end. It’s a little more dropping and you’re not as much in the action with plays away from you. I notice that I haven't been as sore throughout the week.”
On how he feels about living in Green Bay: “I like it. I like it. It reminds me of my hometown (of Wilson, N.C.), actually. Small town, a lot of nice people here. Real, real low key and laid back. I actually, I like it a lot. I didn’t really have any idea how it would be. I didn’t really think about it. When we used to come [for games with Chicago and Carolina], we didn’t even come here. We used to stay in Appleton, and we just drove over. I didn’t really know anything about Green Bay, just the Packers. It was a pleasant surprise when I got here to see it was a whole different side of the town.”
On if he senses the Packers have something really special happening this year: “I’ve had the sense that I’ve gotten here. It isn’t something I’m just now getting. When I first got to this team, saw the personnel, saw the coaches and more importantly saw the chemistry of these guys – saw how people worked around here – I always had a special feeling about this team. So, you know, we’re in a good position where the goal is – the ultimate goal, we know – is to win the championship. We’ve gotten ourselves in a pretty good position where, if we go out and take care of our business and finish things off right, we can do what we want to do.”
On if he’d retire if the Packers won the elusive title he’s yet to get as a player: “That’s waaaay down the line. That’s a couple of months away. The only thing I can focus on right now is getting a win Sunday at Buffalo. That’s as far as my mind, that’s as far as I can allow my mind to go.”