ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
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.”
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers was disappointed to hear Tuesday that Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau Field has been postponed, but Rodgers’ greater concern is with the health of his role model and another of his retired Green Bay Packers quarterbacking predecessors: Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr.
That said, Rodgers still believes Packers fans will see Favre back at Lambeau Field later this season.
ESPN’s Ed Werder spoke with Favre Tuesday and Favre said that because of Starr’s recent health problems, he is unlikely to attend the team’s Nov. 9 Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears as the team and Favre had planned.
A source familiar with the plans said Tuesday that the Packers had put together a celebratory evening for Favre, and while all the festivities had not been finalized, plans were in place for Favre and Starr to serve as honorary captains for the game.
Favre had suggested at the Aug. 4 announcement of his return to the organization that he wanted Starr to be part of the festivities. Starr had agreed to do so before suffering two strokes and a mild heart attack in early September.
Asked by Werder why he and the Packers couldn’t have him return to Green Bay alone, Favre replied, “I'm sure they could, but it was my idea to do it, and now that Bart can't, I just don't think I will.''
Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday that he was looking forward to Favre’s return but Starr’s health is his primary worry.
“I think the key here is Bart and his health. That’s the most important thing,” said Rodgers, who became very close to Starr in recent years. “It’s been obviously tough to hear the news about how he’s doing, but I think he’s improving and we’re all thinking about him and praying for him.
“We’d love to see him up at a game and obviously would love to see Brett up again. It would be great to get both of those guys together and to see both of them. The three of us to be together would be a pretty special moment for me, I know, and I look forward to that happening.”
Despite the expected cancelation, Rodgers expressed optimism that Favre, whose reconnection with the franchise began with Rodgers sharing the stage with him at the NFL Honors event in February 2012, will be back in Green Bay this season. Favre is set to have his No. 4 retired and be enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame next summer.
“I know Brett’s going to get up here I’m sure by the end of the year. They’ll make something happen,” Rodgers said. “But it might not be until it gets a little colder.”
GREEN BAY – Watching running back Eddie Lacy break tackle after tackle – sometimes just to get back to the line of scrimmage – on Sunday left Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang feeling guilty.
And more than how it made them feel, the two Green Bay Packers veteran guards were more bothered by how their inactivity made them look: Bad.
Except Sitton described their embarrassment a bit more colorfully Monday.
“We actually talked about that, T.J. and I,” Sitton said of Lacy, who finished with 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3-yard average) and a touchdown. “We were kind of standing around a couple plays, looking like [expletive], not blocking. And Eddie’s just squirting out of there. He probably did it four or five times. It was impressive.”
According to Pro Football Focus, 34 of Lacy’s 63 rushing yards came after contact. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements did not have an official count of how many tackles Lacy actually broke during the Packers’ 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers, as it was running backs coach Sam Gash’s responsibility to count them.
"I think Sam has the number, but I think it was in the teens," Clements said as he finished his time with reporters Monday. “So that's quite a few.”
GREEN BAY – Sam Shields’ injured left knee is improving, but the Green Bay Packers starting cornerback won’t know when he will be able to play again until he tests his knee by running on it.
Shields said Monday that he suffered a strained patellar tendon when he went down while backpedaling to his pre-snap position before a play against Miami on Oct. 12. The bizarre injury caused him to miss Sunday’s 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field.
Whether Shields could return for next Sunday night’s game at New Orleans depends on if he’s able to test the knee this week and can run pain-free on it – something he didn’t sound overly optimistic about.
“I’m feeling better. As far as time, I don’t know right now because I haven’t ran,” Shields said Monday. “But the pain is slowly going away, so that’s good.”
Shields, who missed six games in 2012 with an ankle injury and two games last season with a hamstring injury, said he would make himself available for interviews again on Thursday with the hope of progressing by then.
With Shields out, Davon House started in his place and allowed only one 5-yard reception. House also had a pass breakup on which he suffered a dislocated right ring finger
“I think I did my job,” House said. “It was a solid game. No impact plays, though. Guarding a really good receiver in (Kelvin) Benjamin, I did my job, so that was a good job, but in my mind, if I was to get a pick, to me that’s an impact play. But to the coaches, they might’ve thought I did awesome because their best receiver didn’t have any catches on me.”
GREEN BAY – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field Sunday:
1. Mr. Perfect: Until he missed an open Richard Rodgers in the end zone near the end of the third quarter, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was carrying a perfect 158.3 passer rating. His numbers ended up being OK nevertheless: 19 of 22 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 154.5 before being lifted for backup Matt Flynn.
The performance marked the sixth straight game that Rodgers did not throw an interception, and extended his career-long streak of pass attempts without an interception to 192. For the season, Rodgers has now thrown 18 touchdown passes against one interception, which went off Jordy Nelson’s hands in the regular-season opener at Seattle.
2. Big-play Clay: Although the official stat book after the game would show only two tackles and one half-sack for Clay Matthews, the four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker had an impact greater than the numbers indicated.
On Carolina’s opening drive, Matthews stuffed Jonathan Stewart for a 3-yard loss. Later, on a Julius Peppers sack, it was Matthews’ bull rush on right tackle Nate Chandler that set up the 6-yard loss. Matthews, who came in with one sack in the first six games, shared a sack with Peppers later in the game, although a questionable taunting penalty overshadowed it. Matthews also had an interception return for a touchdown that was wiped out by a close call on a pass interference penalty on cornerback Tramon Williams, who deflected the pass to Matthews.
In addition, the Packers unveiled a new dime alignment that didn’t have a single true defensive lineman on the field. Instead, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used five linebackers – Matthews, Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and A.J. Hawk – in various configurations, including with Matthews lining up inside as a stand-up inside rusher.
3. Team effort: Just about everyone on the Packers’ offense got involved Sunday. Wide receiver Randall Cobb not only caught his team-leading eighth touchdown pass of the season, he finished with six receptions for 121 yards. Nelson, who got the Packers going with his 59-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the opening possession, finished with four catches for 80 yards. And No. 3 wide receiver Davante Adams only had one catch, but it was a big one: A 21-yarder that made it 35-3 in the third quarter.
The running backs also got going a bit, although the attempt numbers probably weren’t as high as coach Mike McCarthy would have liked. Eddie Lacy ran 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown, and James Starks had seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a left ankle injury.