2009 December : Packers Insider

QB Aaron Rodgers eyes Playoffs, not Pro Bowl

December 31, 2009 by  
Filed under News

Dec 31, 2009, by Pete Dougherty, Press-Gazette

~In the next 5½ weeks, a quarterback in the NFC playoffs either will add to his legacy as a premier player in the game, or will start one. Maybe it will be Brett Favre enhancing his first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame career, or Kurt Warner improving his credentials for possible enshrinement with a fourth appearance in the Super Bowl.

Maybe it will be Tony Romo, maligned as overpaid and overrated because he has yet to win a playoff game, let alone play for the NFL title.

Or maybe it will be the youngest quarterback in the NFC playoffs, 26-year-old Aaron Rodgers, landing in the national consciousness by advancing to the Super Bowl in only his second season as a starter. 

“The measuring stick is not the Pro Bowl, it’s the number of championships,”

“The measuring stick is not the Pro Bowl, it’s the number of championships,”

But have no doubt, the playoffs that begin in 1½ weeks are where quarterbacks truly gain their reputations — for better and worse.

“Where legends are made,” said Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, a candidate for the NFL’s defensive player of the year. “You only have to win one. Win one, they talk about you forever. You don’t — Dan Marino is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history, but there’s always that asterisk he didn’t win a Super Bowl. So you can win a lot of games and throw for a lot of yards, but if you don’t win the big one, even though there shouldn’t be, there’s a little knock on you.”                 Full story here

Playoff Fever Spreading Quickly

December 28, 2009 by  
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Dec 28, 2009, By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

~As they walked off the field Sunday, the furthest thing from the Green Bay Packers’ minds was head-to-head meetings, conference or division record and common opponents.

The Packers only had the playoffs on their mind.

After beating the Seattle Seahawks, 48-10, at Lambeau Field, and improving their record to 10-5, the Packers were officially in the playoffs. By virtue of the New York Giants’ loss to the Carolina Panthers, they are guaranteed a wild-card spot, something a lot of people couldn’t have imagined seven games ago.

“People were asking if I was surprised we’d be here after being 4-4,” right tackle Mark Tauscher said. “I’m not surprised. We have a lot of high-character guys and we have a lot of talent. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Heading into their regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, the Packers have won six of their last seven games, the only loss a 37-36 shootout at Pittsburgh a week ago. They have reached the 10-victory mark for the second time in four years under coach Mike McCarthy and will enter the playoffs as a long shot for the Super Bowl.

But they’re in it, and all they have to do is look back at the team that beat them in the NFC Championship game during the 2007 season to see that it’s possible to make it to the Super Bowl winning three straight games on the road. Whether they’re this year’s New York Giants or just fodder for a higher-seeded team remains to be seen.

"I'm going to talk about it (the playoffs) all day and all night, the whole week. We have to win against Arizona and not let down. We just have to stay focused." - Jermichael Finley

"I'm going to talk about it (the playoffs) all day and all night, the whole week. We have to win against Arizona and not let down. We just have to stay focused." - Jermichael Finley

“Now we’re in the dance and now we have to show up,” said tight end Jermichael Finley, who has become a key cog in the offense. “I’m going to talk about it (the playoffs) all day and all night, the whole week. We have to win against Arizona and not let down. We just have to stay focused.”

Full Story here

Mike Vandermause column: Green Bay Packers peaking at the right time

December 27, 2009 by  
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Dec 28, 2009, By Michael Vandermause, Press-Gazette

~Ryan Grant was one of the last players in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room Sunday afternoon and was savoring every moment.

Who could blame Grant for hanging around following the Packers’ 48-10 thrashing of the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field, a victory that vaulted them into the playoffs for just the second time in five years?

Grant seemed willing to talk all day about his team, one of the hottest in the NFL heading into the postseason.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Aaron Rodgers, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Aaron Rodgers, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

“I love playing with the guys in this locker room,” said Grant, who ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns and became just the third back in team history to rush for 1,200 yards in two straight seasons. “I’ll get in any type of fight with them because I know they’re going to lay it on the line, especially when it matters the most.”

The Packers needed a victory plus a New York Giants loss against Carolina to secure a playoff berth. They got both, and it has the Packers sizing up their postseason prospects.

When asked if this team is as good as the 2007 Packers, who went 13-3 in the regular season and advanced to the NFC title game, Grant replied: “Absolutely, maybe even better because of the momentum that we have. Guys are fighting, (especially) where we’ve come from as a team.”

The Packers climbed out of a midseason 4-4 hole and emerged playing some of the best football in the NFC. They are 6-1 since mid-November, and with top seeds New Orleans and Minnesota each losing two of their last three games, the Packers have the look of a team that could do some damage in the postseason.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” said Aaron Rodgers, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

“We feel like we’re a very dangerous team,” said running back Brandon Jackson, who scored a career-high three touchdowns. “We’re just playing ball and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”  Full story here

Packers Rout Seattle

December 27, 2009 by  
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Dec 28, 2009, By Pete Dougherty, Press Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers definitely are on a roll and most definitely are in the playoffs.

Whether they’re a legit championship threat isn’t as definite, at least based on the way quarterback Ben Roethlisberger torched their defense in Pittsburgh last week.

But if their 48-10 manhandling of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Lambeau Field came against a toothless opponent that’s limping to the season’s finish line, it at least keeps the Packers one of the hottest teams in the NFL and helped them clinch a wild-card playoff spot with a week remaining in the regular season. 

Ryan Grant brilliantly and athletically leaps through the air, reaching the ball over the pylon for one of his two touchdowns against the Seahawks Sunday.

Ryan Grant brilliantly and athletically leaps through the air, reaching the ball over the pylon for one of his two touchdowns against the Seahawks Sunday.

“I think last week (at Pittsburgh) was a little wake-up call for us,” said Dom Capers, the Packers’ defensive coordinator and a two-time NFL head coach. “But we make a play last week and we could be heading into this last game winning a bunch in a row. What have we won, six of the last seven? I like that. Hopefully, we can carry it over and go to Arizona and play well there next week. This game is such a game of momentum. It’s momentum and confidence, and nothing does more for your confidence than to have that momentum.”

The Packers (10-5) clinched a wild-card playoff spot on Sunday because the New York Giants (8-7) tanked in their home game against Carolina on Sunday, losing 41-9. Whether the Packers are seeded No. 5 or No. 6 in the NFC is to be determined.

The Packers’ wild-card playoff opponent hasn’t been determined either, and could be any one of four teams — Arizona, Philadelphia, Dallas and Minnesota — depending on how the final week of the regular season plays out. All the Packers know for sure is they’ll be on the road, where they’re 4-3 this season.

“Our goal of winning the world championship is right in front of us,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “And that’s all you can ask for, opportunities. You have to get into the playoffs to accomplish that. We’re going to be a road-warrior mentality as we plan for that. But let’s be honest, we still have work ahead of us.”    Full Story here

Packers Punch Their Playoff Ticket

December 27, 2009 by  
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Dec 27, 2009, by Brian Murphy, Packers Insider

~The Packers 3-headed running back monster of Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, and Ahman Green combined for a Packers record 6 RB touchdowns Sunday in a wildcard-clinching blowout win over the miserable Seattle Seahawks. Combined with the surprising home blowout loss of the NY Giants against the Carolina Panthers, the Packers instantly erased the pain of the last-second loss in Pittsburgh 7 days earlier.

Green Bay Packers' Brandon Jackson (32) is congratulated by teammate Ryan Grant (25) after Jackson ran for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Green Bay Packers' Brandon Jackson (32) is congratulated by teammate Ryan Grant (25) after Jackson ran for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Now the Packers will have the luxury of resting some players and saving some scheme next week in Arizona, with the lickliness of having to play the following week’s wildcard game back in Glendale again versus the Cardinals.

Woodson’s palette of many colors

December 25, 2009 by  
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Dec 25, 2009, By Jeff Chadiha, ESPN ~

The massive GMC Yukon pulled into Green Bay’s Austin Straubel Airport on a typically chilly afternoon in the winter of 2006. 

By that point Charles Woodson had settled into the SUV’s seat while contemplating all the options he’d have as an unrestricted free agent following eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders. What he wasn’t doing was savoring much of the visit he’d just had with the Green Bay Packers.

Aside from eating with the coaches and enjoying a brief conversation with his current driver — then-Packers player relations director George Koonce — all Woodson had appreciated about the trip was an on-time departure for his flight home.

Woodson wasn’t moved when Koonce tried one last recruiting pitch while dropping Woodson at the airport.

In his 12th NFL season, Charles Woodson has been a force all over the field.

In his 12th NFL season, Charles Woodson has been a force all over the field.

“So I’ll be seeing you at the OTAs in March?” Koonce asked. Woodson just chuckled.

George kept telling me I could really fit into a place like this,” Woodson said during a recent interview.  “And all I kept thinking was that I was not coming to Green Bay. That wasn’t going to happen.”

It’s interesting to hear Woodson talk about that memory today because he truly realizes how shortsighted he was at the time.

While Koonce saw a gifted player with the chance to join a tradition-rich franchise eager to start winning again, Woodson thought he’d end up wasting away in the NFL equivalent of Siberia. What Woodson couldn’t see then was that he needed a place like Green Bay as much as that organization needed him. And today he’s proved just how beneficial that union has been.

At this stage, there should be little doubt about who deserves to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Woodson’s numbers alone — 70 tackles, eight interceptions, four forced fumbles, two sacks and two defensive touchdowns — should be enough for him to become the fourth cornerback to ever win that award.

Yet those statistics are even more impressive when considering the 33-year-old Woodson is in his 12th season. His play should be declining by now. Instead, he’s raised his game to incomprehensible levels. 

The massive GMC Yukon pulled into Green Bay’s Austin Straubel Airport on a typically chilly afternoon in the winter of 2006.

 

By that point Charles Woodson had settled into the SUV’s seat while contemplating all the options he’d have as an unrestricted free agent following eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders. What he wasn’t doing was savoring much of the visit he’d just had with the Green Bay Packers.

 

Aside from eating with the coaches and enjoying a brief conversation with his current driver — then-Packers player relations director George Koonce — all Woodson had appreciated about the trip was an on-time departure for his flight home.

 

Woodson wasn’t moved when Koonce tried one last recruiting pitch while dropping Woodson at the airport.

 

“So I’ll be seeing you at the OTAs in March?” Koonce asked.

Woodson just chuckled.

 

“George kept telling me I could really fit into a place like this,” Woodson said during a recent interview.

 

“And all I kept thinking was that I was not coming to Green Bay. That wasn’t going to happen.”

 

It’s interesting to hear Woodson talk about that memory today because he truly realizes how shortsighted he was at the time.

 

While Koonce saw a gifted player with the chance to join a tradition-rich franchise eager to start winning again, Woodson thought he’d end up wasting away in the NFL equivalent of Siberia. What Woodson couldn’t see then was that he needed a place like Green Bay as much as that organization needed him. And today he’s proved just how beneficial that union has been.

 

At this stage, there should be little doubt about who deserves to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Woodson’s numbers alone — 70 tackles, eight interceptions, four forced fumbles, two sacks and two defensive touchdowns — should be enough for him to become the fourth cornerback to ever win that award.

 

Yet those statistics are even more impressive when considering the 33-year-old Woodson is in his 12th season. His play should be declining by now. Instead, he’s raised his game to incomprehensible levels.     FULL story here

Barnett the Samarai Bounces Back

December 25, 2009 by  
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Dec 25, 2009 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

These days, when Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett plants his foot, he knows his knee is going to hold up.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some scary moments, like last Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Barnett’s left foot gave way on the soft Heinz Field turf and he couldn’t get his right foot out in front of him, causing him to twist his knee. Barnett tried to walk it off, but he stopped halfway to the sideline and kneeled down to gather himself.

“It scared the hell out of me,” Barnett said. “I went back on it where it’s like, your flexibility, sometimes it feels a little stiff. But I went back on it and it was like, ‘Agggh.’

Veteran linebacker Nick Barnett has found the Packers’ 3-4 defense to his liking.

Veteran linebacker Nick Barnett has found the Packers’ 3-4 defense to his liking.

“But that’s all it really was, it brought it back. My ACL is stronger than it’s ever been. When the doctor pulls this ACL (the right) and that one (the left), this ACL is rock hard. I knew nothing was wrong. They just wanted to make sure I didn’t sprain an MCL or something.”

Practically every day, Barnett has to devote 30-60 minutes of care to his knee, and yet there are still times – mostly the last couple of weeks – that he has to back off from practice on Wednesday and allow some swelling to dissipate. But he’s always back the next day and on Sunday goes back to playing with total abandon and no fear his knee won’t hold up.

It has been 13 months since his 2008 season was ended and he underwent surgery. The level at which Barnett is playing belies the fact he ever injured the knee. Only the most trained observers can tell that he’s not back to 100%, which is almost always the case for those just one year removed from a torn ACL.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s totally 100% now, there’s still a difference between this knee and that knee, so it should get better,” Barnett said. “I just have to come with the same attitude as far as the hunger with working out, which I will.

“The way I feel at the end of this year is better than I’ve ever felt just because the way I prepared and the way I kept it up working out the entire season and kept my body right. It’s so important to do that.”   FULL story here

Green Bay Packers’ Derrick Martin sparks special teams

December 25, 2009 by  
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Dec 25, 2009, By Tom Pellisero, Press-Gazette

~Derrick Martin has been one of the Green Bay Packers’ standouts on coverage teams all season, but he took it to a new level on Sunday at Pittsburgh.

This was virtual ubiquity.

Martin whipped down Joe Burnett on the Packers’ first kickoff, came out of nowhere to stop Stefan Logan’s sideline punt return and finished with five special teams tackles — an extraordinary number even without considering degree of difficulty and the energy Martin seemed to inject into teammates as he did it.

Derrick Martin has seemingly helped stabilize the Packers coverage units.

Derrick Martin has seemingly helped stabilize the Packers coverage units.

 
“He’s bringing a sense of toughness and urgency and just playing outright out of his mind, pretty much,” cornerback Tramon Williams said this week. “Before now, I don’t think you could just pinpoint out a special teams player who was just dominating in that area. I think that’s what Derrick has brought — that player (coaches) say, ‘OK, this is the player. Watch this guy. This is how you do it.’”

The Packers last had a guy like that before linebacker Tracy White’s surprise release on Oct. 7, 2008. By late last season, then-coordinator Mike Stock was publicly lamenting the lack of a special teams “bell cow” to rally players in the meeting rooms and on the field.

FULL story here

Rodgers, McCarthy on same page for Packers

December 25, 2009 by  
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Dec 25, 2009 ~ By Chris Jenkins, AP Sports

As Brett Favre and Brad Childress squabble in Minnesota, the coach-quarterback relationship on Favre’s former team seems to be blossoming.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he has a good working relationship with coach Mike McCarthy and enjoys plenty of freedom in the Packers’ offense. Still, Rodgers knows his place, making it clear that his coach has full control. 

"He's got veto power and he's got final say," Rodgers said. "But I think he understands an important aspect of the quarterback-coach relationship is that he's calling the plays, but I need to feel comfortable with what we're doing or there's a chance it might not work.

"He's got veto power and he's got final say," Rodgers said. "But I think he understands an important aspect of the quarterback-coach relationship is that he's calling the plays, but I need to feel comfortable with what we're doing or there's a chance it might not work.

“If you make a check, you have to have an answer,” Rodgers said. “And if you make it work, usually that’s your answer. But if you don’t, that leash is maybe going to get pulled back a little bit.”

And while McCarthy calls decision-making one of Rodgers’ biggest strengths, the coach would just as soon not have anyone compare his relationship with Rodgers to this week’s signs of discontent between Favre and Childress.

“We ain’t going there,” McCarthy said Wednesday.

McCarthy, of course, doesn’t want to get dragged back into any Favre-related drama. But Favre’s apparent feud with Childress has been a hot topic around the league this week.

Favre and Childress had an animated exchange on the sideline during the Vikings’ loss at Carolina on Sunday, and Favre said afterward that Childress wanted him to come out of the game. A subsequent report by ESPN, citing unnamed sources, said Childress and Favre have clashed over the in-game authority for calling plays.

Both men sought to put the dustup behind them on Wednesday, with Favre saying the situation was resolved.

Meanwhile, there are no such signs of discontent in Green Bay heading into Sunday’s home game against Seattle.

Aaron Rodgers from Day 1, even in his younger years when he didn’t play, you always felt that his decision-making was probably one of his biggest strengths,” McCarthy said. “He’s gifted physically, but we could not do what we do if it wasn’t for his discipline and his ability to take in the volume of game plan each week and perform on Sundays.”    FULL story here

Receivers Drops helped lead to Loss to Steelers

December 23, 2009 by  
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Dec 23, 2009, by Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

~ Without being asked or prodded, Donald Driver came right out and admitted it was just one of those days. It seemed it was cathartic for him to express his frustration as he walked through an otherwise deserted locker room a day after the Green Bay Packers suffered a one-point loss at Pittsburgh.  

A first-half pass slips away from Donald Driver during Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Driver had a tough day hanging onto the football.

A first-half pass slips away from Donald Driver during Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Driver had a tough day hanging onto the football.

Green Bay’s veteran receiver dropped three passes – let’s not count what was just out of reach – against the Steelers. Though he did what he could to make up for his lapses with his three catches, including a 49-yarder that should have led to a field goal in the second quarter, Driver knows how it goes.

Win that game and the emphasis is on the great plays.

Lose it and let the criticism rain.

“You want to put it on me? Put it on me,” he said with a shrug, knowing that was not the case. The Packers did not lose the game because of dropped passes.

But the drops piled on top of other mistakes on special teams and in the defense. And the Packers receivers have had the maddening case of the drops before. In the early weeks of the season, several receivers were dropping passes. And a few, including tight ends, are dropping them again.

The Packers counted on No. 80 to lead the way then, and they might ask him to fix the problem again.

“You know what, I didn’t fix that. I’ll also say, I didn’t create it, either,” said receivers coach Jimmy Robinson. “But they had to get their heads together and that’s what I did. If I did anything I said: ‘Drive, get these guys together and get this fixed,’ and they did.”   Full article here

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