2012 August : Packers Insider

Hot contest at Packers cornerback continues

August 24, 2012 by  
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By Jude Wilbers, FOX 11 Sports

~GREEN BAY – Midway through the pre-season the battle for the cornerback spot opposite Tramon Williams remains hotly contested.

With Davon House out with a shoulder injury, its’ turned into a 3-way competition. When you talk to coaches, it seems to be a near dead heat, with the job going to who shows them the most on the field.

Second-year CB Davon House probably had the job, but despite putting on some muscle since last year, he's once again shown that he cannot stay healthy.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he’s talked with General Manager Ted Thompson multiple times about the position in recent days.

“The corner and safety position hasn’t been set yet. They need to play Thursday night and they need to play well.”

Secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. added, “Whoever plays the best will win that job and that’s part of it. It’s who’s making play’s, who’s not making mistakes, who’s not giving up plays.”

That job according to the Packers depth chart currently belongs to Jarrett Bush. The longtime special teams ace is relishing the chance to start on defense.

“I’m definitely going to hold on tight to it. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a lifetime” said Bush. I’m definitely going to give it everything I’ve got and make the most of my opportunity and take full advantage of it.”

The other veteran in the mix, Sam Shields, has 6 interceptions on his resume in his 2 NFL seasons but inconsistent play has haunted him at times. He’s trying to improve the play he’s put on film.

“Just showing the coaches that I can tackle,” said Shields. “Just getting that trust back, that’s one of the big spots I need to keep working on so I think I’m ready for it.”

The youngest player in the mix, rookie Casey Hayward, saw extended playing time during the game against Cleveland, and thinks he’s done enough to still deserve a shot at the job.

It's been a long time since a rookie started at CB for the Packers, but Casey Hayward has a chance. Still, expect to see Sam Shields line up with Tramon Williams as the other starting CB when Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Mario Manningham's 49ers visit Lambeau in week one.

“I think I have some things I need to clean up a couple things and I think I’ve got a shot at it but everybody’s doing well”, said Hayward in a recent locker room interview.

Defensive backs coach Joe Whitt said the final decision won’t be made on who the starter is, until it has to be. Right now he’s focused on seeing his position group get better.

“I want to see an improvement in play,” said Whitt. “I want to see a level of consistency and playing with an edge, playing with an attitude. That’s as a group. That’s not individually. That’s as a collective group.”

The coaches say the live action of gameday will go a long way in determining who’s job the corner position will be come week 1.

Full story here

DT Daniel Muir moves into the mix with impressive camp play

August 21, 2012 by  
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By Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~When the Green Bay Packers signed street free agent defensive tackle Daniel Muir in March, it barely registered among the bevy of offseason NFL transactions.

Even in Green Bay, it was overshadowed because at the time the Packers were in the midst of a higher-profile courtship with unrestricted free agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove. 

To most, Muir was just a guy who had been around the block, cut by three different NFL teams — the Packers in 2008, the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts at different times in 2011. Given that he signed a one-year, $700,000 contract (the minimum for a fifth-year player) with no signing bonus or guaranteed money, he looked like he might be just another training camp body. 

“I’ve been really impressed with him,” B.J. Raji said. “I didn’t know much about him until he got here, but I’ve really been impressed with how he’s been able to rush the passer."

At best, maybe Muir would be a big guy who could play some nose tackle in the base defense against the run even though he had never played in a 3-4 scheme.

Five months later, Muir has turned out to be that and much more.

Stout against the run, energetic in every drill and with some surprising pass rush ability, Muir has played his way into strong consideration for some playing time at one of the deepest positions on the team. 

“He’s a big, powerful guy,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Tuesday. “But some of those guys you see, they can’t rush. I don’t think that’s the case with Daniel. He does give you some rush, brings some tempo and intensity to the group.” 

Though the 6-foot-2, 322-pound Muir had to adjust to playing the “zero” technique — which means he lines up directly over the center — after playing a shade spot in the Colts’ 4-3 for much of his career, he has fit in well as B.J. Raji’s backup. Capers then slowly worked Muir into the nickel package, which features two defensive linemen who are charged with providing some interior pass rush. 

From the start of camp, Muir showed his pass-rush ability in the one-on-one drills. He has compiled a 17-24 record in the drill, for a winning percentage not too far off Raji’s 14-17 mark. His performance in the drill hardly resembles a guy who has one-half career sack in 43 NFL regular-season games, including 26 starts, from 2007-2011.

“One thing I can do is pass rush,” Muir said. “I’ve always had it. I’ve always been explosive.”

In the final two preseason games, beginning Thursday night at Cincinnati, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said he expects Muir to get a long look in the nickel package to see if the pass rush that he has flashed on the practice field carries over to the game.

Meanwhile, you won’t find Muir stressing out about it, not after what he’s been through. He was cut by the Colts last November after what he called the best month of football of his NFL career, which began as an undrafted free agent with the Packers by way of Kent State University.

As a rookie in 2007, Muir was active for just three games and then couldn’t land a roster spot in training camp the next summer. Indianapolis claimed him off waivers, and he played in 36 regular-season games for the Colts from 2008-11. He was active for three playoff games in 2009, including Super Bowl XLIV. He signed with the Rams as an unrestricted free agent in 2011 but was cut and then re-signed with the Colts last October, but it didn’t last.

He said he found out later he was released because the Colts coaches didn’t like his defensive stance.

“That’s what I was told,” Muir said. “I got released after an eight-tackle game because my stance was too wide. I guess that’s not something they wanted. But at the end of the day, who am I to argue? They’ve had a lot of success over there, so they had to do what they had to do.”

Out of football until the Packers signed him on March 23, Muir said he vowed to approach his next opportunity with a new attitude.

“When I was playing at Indianapolis, I felt like I let people take the joy out of the game for me, at times,” Muir said. “One thing I said is, when I come here I’m going to look at all the blessings I’ve got. I’m married. I’ve got kids. I’m stable. There’s nothing here on a daily basis that should stress me out and have me walking around down. So that’s really one thing I stressed to myself because I’m an emotional dude. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Sometimes I’ve seen myself reverting back to the old ways, and I just have to stop myself. It’s not worth it. Have fun playing.”

Full story here

Packers’ Benson has baggage but carries it lightly

August 21, 2012 by  
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By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – Immediately, Cedric Benson laughs. The memory resurfaces. Of course he remembers that summer night with the Chicago Bears. How could he forget? Everybody took their best shot.

No quick whistle could save the abuse. Play after play, defensive teammates punished the young running back. Maybe it was out of their loyalty to veteran Thomas Jones, maybe they didn’t like Benson’s attitude.

“It’s weird,” said Benson, smiling, “I haven’t really thought about that stuff in a long time. But thinking back on it, maybe they were trying to send a message or toughen me up. I don’t know what they were trying to do.”

"I just enjoy life," Benson said, "and try to be the best person I can be."

Since he entered the league in 2005, Benson’s reputation has been stained. The former fourth overall pick endured an icy partnership with Jones. He was arrested four times in a span of three years. Twice, nobody wanted the guy. Benson spent 114 days without a team after the Bears cut him in June 2008. And this off-season, he lasted six months unsigned.

A 29-year-old with three straight 1,000-yard seasons was unwanted. Teams shied away.

So it begs the question – is Cedric Benson a good guy, a good teammate? Those who coached for and played with Benson insist he is. Benson says he is.

But he’s also a soft-spoken, sincere individual. Benson dismisses the clichéd punk-to-pro narrative, that he evolved from self-entitled to selfless. Benson believes he has always been himself. The Packers will soon discover where this takes them.

“People want you to be a certain way,” Benson said. “There’s no handbook for how to act. But if people require that, then they should make one. I was just being myself. I don’t know how I was perceived, but I was just working hard and trying to be the best player I could be.”

When general manager Ted Thompson and the Packers reached out, it was Benson who brought up the arrests. Not Thompson, not coach Mike McCarthy.

In May 2008, he was arrested on charges of drunken boating and resisting arrest. One month later, he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

In June 2010, Benson was arrested for assault after allegedly punching an Austin, Texas, bartender in the face. And in July 2011 – gory photos revealing the bloody damage – Benson was charged with misdemeanor assault with injury. An altercation with a roommate turned violent.

The Packers didn’t dwell on any of this, Benson said.

The Bears cut Benson in response to the alcohol-related incidents, but the running back said those arrests “don’t even exist” to him because he wasn’t convicted. He believes he was targeted.

As for the roommate, Benson said it was all about “one party trying to resolve things and the other party trying to create things” and that “it was over just him being lazy and needing to get up and make something of himself.”

Benson does realize this baggage may have been one reason he was virtually ignored in free agency this off-season.

“It could have. It could have,” Benson repeated. “But how foolish if it did? If it’s worth anything, you have to look into the situation. They weren’t harsh crimes.”

So if the Packers aren’t concerned about Benson’s off-field issues, as Thompson echoed in a recent news conference, the question is how he’ll adapt to the locker room and the scheme. In Chicago, his working relationship with Jones was septic at best.

Jones was the respected workout warrior, the son of coal-mining parents, a film-room junkie. Benson was the Texas wunderkind, an anointed face of the franchise who held out 36 days and proclaimed himself the starter.

At the time, Benson alleged teammates took shots at him during the aforementioned practice because of their loyalty to Jones. And another practice – irritated with the young back for whatever reason – Jones punched Benson.

“With the point he was at in Chicago and they drafted me in the first round, I think he may have took it really hard or the wrong way,” Benson said. “So our relationship didn’t get off to the best start. In time, things got better.”

Ruben Brown, the left guard on those Bears teams, believes management put both running backs in an impossible situation. Roles weren’t defined, he said. Jones’ career was peaking, yet Benson was named the starter. Tension was inevitable.

As symbolic as the punch may appear – respected veteran smacking immature 23-year-old – Brown downplayed the incident.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys get punched, slapped, shoved to get points across or try to send a message,” Brown said. “No time is it always acceptable, but in our environment it’s not a normal work environment. It’s almost understood. You wouldn’t want that happening in the stock exchange or IBM.”

Multiple times, Brown insisted Benson is a good guy. Brown was 11 years older than the young back, yet the two still hung out and ate dinner together often. Brown doesn’t believe the laidback Benson was a locker-room cancer in any sense.

“He didn’t have any influence on our locker room the way it was portrayed,” he said. “Only his productivity was a factor for us. He was effective with his talent. His personality and how he carried himself and what he was like as a person, it had no bearing in our locker room at all. The offensive line enjoyed him.”

In Cincinnati, Benson finally became the unquestioned No. 1 back. Running back Brian Leonard had preconceived notions about Benson. He heard the rumors, read the reports and half-braced for an arrogant teammate.

Instead, Leonard said, Benson was the exact opposite. Once, unprompted, Benson flew out to Leonard’s charity event in New York City for three days.

On the field, Leonard called Benson one of the hardest workers on the team.

“He goes through a walkthrough like it’s a game,” Leonard said. “He goes at one speed – full-speed all the time. That’s just his personality. Being a first-round pick with all the money he got, to go out and practice as hard as he did, that says a lot about a guy.”

Meanwhile, running backs coach Jim Anderson said he didn’t have a preconceived notion. He never called anybody in Chicago to investigate Benson’s character. He wanted his relationship with Benson to develop organically.

Teammates, he said, respected Benson.

“When it came time to play the game – when the bell rang – he was ready to go,” Anderson said. “We had a good relationship. We just said, ‘Hey, listen, our job is prepare you to be the best that you can be. Let’s do it.’ ”

Rest of story here

Packers rookie Jerron McMillian embraces hard-work life

August 21, 2012 by  
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By Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – There were no mysterious envelopes or middle men. The University of Maine wasn’t like, um, some other schools.

“You’re not at a big school where they’ll give you checks or whatever they give you,” safety Jerron McMillian said. “You have to work for that, man. I needed a little cash for when I do stay up there.”

Unlike many hot-shot college football stars, Packers rookie safety had jobs while attending the University of Maine. "I don’t want anything to be handed to me,” he said. "I like to work."

So for three summers, McMillian worked at an Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Before that, he tossed luggage around at the Newark Liberty International Airport. McMillian’s days were long, humbling. He drove cars and cleaned cars. Hardly a summer of fun.

Maine was his only Division I scholarship offer. When he was invited to the NFL scouting combine, McMillian was stunned. But now the 5-foot-11, 203-pound fourth-round pick is gunning for a starting safety spot in Green Bay’s nickel defense. To earn the job – and beat out M.D. Jennings – McMillian is trying to remember those days at Enterprise and the airport.

The Green Bay Packers safety always has preferred a life without handouts.

“I don’t want anything to be handed to me,” he said. “I like to work, I like to work. I don’t mind it at all. You have to work in order to get things you want.”

The breakthrough came during Thursday’s 35-10 blowout loss to the Cleveland Browns. In a span of five plays, McMillian stoned Brandon Jackson for a 2-yard loss and a 1-yard gain. Deep in the secondary, his coverage skills were improved. As a reward, McMillian saw snaps with the first-team defense at safety next to Morgan Burnett in nickel Sunday.

All good, McMillian said. Of course he wants to start. But he doesn’t want to change his approach.

The Enterprise gig began from the Maine coaches’ recommendation. If players were staying on campus, they advised finding a summer job. So at Enterprise, McMillian was a utility man. In addition to those pickups and drop-offs for the “We pick you up” company, McMillian washed cars, cleaned out the inside and traveled to pick up new vehicles.

There were some memorable rides. McMillian said he met his share of strange people.

The 9-to-5 job netted him about $8 an hour. McMillian – who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and had a vertical leap of 39 inches at his pro day – squeezed in workouts before and after his job. Typically, McMillian trained at 6 a.m.

Devoid of any mega-conference coddling, McMillian worked because he had no choice.

“I got a little cash in my pocket to help me pay rent,” he said. “Pay rent and eat.”

McMillian kept in touch with his family on the phone, embracing this completely new lifestyle. Maine is Maine. But at his locker Sunday, McMillian defended the area. It’s scenic, he explained, and a lot like Green Bay. He never felt the urge to spend a summer at home.

Staying up north through college – instead of heading back to Hillside, N.J. – kept him grounded.

“It did, just knowing I had a job,” McMillian said. “I had something else to occupy my time. After it was over, I still went back to the field after I was done. You’re kind of tired but you’re like, ‘I’ll sleep later.’ ”

His first ego-swallowing job was at the Newark airport. The summer before his freshman year at Maine, McMillian loaded and unloaded luggage and drove the Tug airplane tow. Wide-eyed, McMillian said he couldn’t believe how some families packed their bags to capacity.

Most important, McMillian learned how to work for a boss at 17 years old.

“You have to be strong mentally,” he said. “People will try to break you, but it’s for a good cause. They’re not doing it to put you down. It’s nothing like that. People like to see you do better. They’re on you.”

Packers teammate and fellow safety Morgan Burnett never had such jobs. The sight of McMillian hurling oversize bags onto a metal crate makes him laugh, but he does see the effect this all had on the rookie.

“It teaches you about being professional, being on time, being accountable, working hard,” Burnett said. “So it really prepares you and gets you ready for a career professionally out of college. Whether it’s football or whatever you do, it’s about showing up on time, carrying yourself properly and handling your business.”

Now it appears McMillian has an opportunity to start. After practice Sunday, coach Mike McCarthy said the Browns game was McMillian’s “best day as a Packer” and that the “reps will continue to come.”

A violent, fearless hitter, McMillian must prove he can cover receivers in space. At Maine, where he had 92 tackles (11½ for loss) and 3½ sacks as a senior, he often played near the line of scrimmage. In Green Bay, the safeties must be interchangeable. He’ll need to shadow the ever-evolving NFL tight end.

Yet when McMillian has a chance to label someone, he’ll take it. Through all those hours of work at the airport and Enterprise, football became McMillian’s release. His most memorable hit?

“I was a junior. Dude ran a slant,” he said. “I came ……… Full story here

Cedric the Entertainer

August 16, 2012 by  
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By Jason Wilde, ESPN Wisconsin

~GREEN BAY – Before Monday, Aaron Rodgers and Cedric Benson hadn’t been in the same room since they shared the Jacob K. Javits Center green room at the 2005 NFL Draft in New York City.

“He kind of left a little bit earlier than I did,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback joked about the team’s newest running back.

Indeed, Benson went No. 4 to the Chicago Bears that day; Rodgers, as everyone remembers (especially him), spent the better part of four hours there, waiting for someone to take him. The Packers finally did, at No. 24.

“I can remember when I was getting picked to go up there (onto the stage), I can remember looking back at him and giving him a nod like, ‘You’re up next,’ or ‘I know it’s coming. Be positive about it,’” Benson recalled after his first day of work with his new team – and new teammate. “But strangely enough, what I remember most is him just sitting there.”

What Rodgers remembers most is what a talented, difference-making running back Benson is capable of being, which is why he was as thrilled as anyone that the Packers signed Benson to a one-year, $825,000 minimum-salary contract Sunday to bolster the team’s depleted running back corps.

“I’ve always kind of watched his career from afar. Being drafted in 2005, I’ve followed the guys I was drafted with and the guys in the green room.

Both guys were first round picks in the 2005 NFL Draft. Their day then, and careers since, have been very different.

It’s fun to get Cedric in here,” Rodgers said. “I think he can really add some experience. He’s a very talented guy. He’s coming off three really good seasons.

“It’s good for our team to have guys who have had success other places come here, add to the team, add some leadership to the team, some experience. I think it’s going to be a good transition for him. He’s in a spot where he can be around some other veteran players and have maybe more of a leadership role than he’s had at other teams. There’s high expectations for him but we have no doubt he can come in and meet those expectations.”

While the 29-year-old Benson didn’t live up to expectations in Chicago, he has indeed been productive, putting together 1,251-, 1,111- and 1,067-yard seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals the past three seasons. Although it’s unclear what role Benson will have with the Packers – starter James Starks (turf toe), No. 3 back Brandon Saine (hamstring), undrafted rookie Du’ane Bennett (knee) and now fullback John Kuhn (ankle) are all sidelined with injuries – Benson knows full well that in the Rodgers-fueled offense, the run won’t be the Packers’ bread-and-butter.

“It’s different because it’s really quarterback-friendly, pass-heavy,” said Benson, who won’t play in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field, meaning he’d debut on Aug. 23 at Cincinnati against his former team. “It’s just kind of dedicated to letting the quarterback run the offense, so there’s a lot of calls and there can be a lot of changes depending on looks that the defense … so it’s just hard and you just want to get used to hearing all those things and actually what they mean and stuff.

“I definitely have a goal to still rush for 1,000 (yards) and things like that – 1,000-plus, and set up some big numbers. I understand it’s not a run-first team and the run is not real heavy here, but there’s (going to be) times where a back gets the ball 25 times. And I’m sure if things are rolling, the run game is set to a standard that we’re hoping to achieve, it could be way more carries than that. (I’m) just staying positive and optimistic about it and I know when I get my opportunities, I’m going to make the best of it.”

For his career, Benson has played in 91 games (66 starts) and has rushed for 5,769 yards and 31 touchdowns on 1,529 carries (3.8-yard average).

Rushing

Year Team G Att Yds Avg Lng TD
2011 Cincinnati 15 273 1,067 3.9 42 6
2010 Cincinnati 16 321 1,111 3.5 26 7
2009 Cincinnati 13 301 1,251 4.2 42 6
2008 Cincinnati 12 214 747 3.5 46 2
2007 Chicago 11 196 674 3.4 43T 4
2006 Chicago 15 157 647 4.1 30 6
2005 Chicago 9 67 272 4.1 36 0
Receiving
Year Team G Rec Yds Avg Lng TD
2011 Cincinnati 15 15 82 5.5 11 0
2010 Cincinnati 16 28 178 6.4 24 1
2009 Cincinnati 13 17 111 6.5 19 0
2008 Cincinnati 12 20 185 9.3 79 0
2007 Chicago 11 17 123 7.2 19 0
2006 Chicago 15 8 54 6.8 22 0
2005 Chicago 9 1 3 3.0 3 0
Fumbles
Year Team G FUM Lost
2011 Cincinnati 15 5 2
2010 Cincinnati 16 7 5
2009 Cincinnati 13 1 0
2008 Cincinnati 12 2 1
2007 Chicago 11 3 2
2006 Chicago 15 — —
2005 Chicago 9 1 1

The 5-foot-11, 227-pound Benson attended practice Monday and, in accordance with NFL rules, was not in pads. Instead, he went through a variety of individual drills, spent extra time with Rodgers and running backs coach Alex Van Pelt and listened in on huddles to try and pick up the new system.

Coach Mike McCarthy, who was among those who watched Benson’s workout in Green Bay on Friday, believes Benson is a good fit for the Packers’ offense because the offense is trending toward more one-back formations, which is Benson’s strength. But the coach also acknowledged Benson’s shortcomings, including his ball security (12 fumbles, including seven lost, the past two seasons) and his pass-blocking, which is not a strength.

“Cedric Benson’s a good fit for us. He’s been a very productive running back,” McCarthy said. “(I’m) very familiar with the statistics, very familiar with the film study. (Ball security) is a football fundamental that we obviously pay a lot of attention to and try to emphasize as much as we can in practice, and he’ll be a part of that.

“Once again, we studied the film. We have an idea of what kind of player we’re bringing in because he’s a veteran, an accomplished player. His pass protection and ball security and the things he’s done in the past, it’s always a transition. Some people believe in certain things are done certain ways. We’ll teach him like we teach the rest of the guys. And I’m confident he’ll be able to pass protect in our system.”

Meanwhile, McCarthy seemed unconcerned with Benson’s off-the-field issues, which has led to four arrests and a one-game suspension to start the 2011 season for a pair of misdemeanor assault arrests. For his part, Benson said he’s a changed man.

“You have to live and you’ve got to learn and you’ve got to grow. If you’re not doing that then you’re not doing yourself any favors in life,” Benson said. “I think we’re always changing, we’re always growing as people and I think life is a life-long lesson … no matter how old you are, no matter how wise you may be. I’m definitely a different person now than I was then.

Full story here

Cedric Benson eager to prove himself with Packers

August 16, 2012 by  
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By Weston Hodkiewicz, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~GREEN BAY, Wis. – The signing of Cedric Benson was in no way a conventional move for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

Yet, there the 5-11, 227-pound running back stood at Monday’s practice, wearing shells and shorts (per new collective bargaining rules) for his first practice with the team after finalizing his contract Sunday. 

On the field, Benson has question marks as the eighth-year NFL veteran looks to show there’s still tread left on his 29-year-old tires following 1,529 regular-season carries and 5,769 career rushing yards. 

Both first round picks in the 2005 NFL Draft, here QB Aaron Rodgers hands it off to RB Cedric Benson. The Entertainer still thinks he can entertain for over 1,000 yards this season for the Packers. I think he can go much higher than 1,000.

Off of it, there are undeniable red flags. A pair of offseason arrests aided his departure from the Chicago Bears in 2008, and two more misdemeanor assault arrests in Cincinnati led to him serving a one-game league suspension in Week 8 last season.

Now with Green Bay, Benson says he’s a changed man. He made similar comments in an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio last month during which he got emotional talking about his checkered past and the fact that no NFL team signed him after the Cincinnati Bengals let him go. 

“I’m definitely a different person now than I was then,” Benson said after practice Monday. “I think with that stuff still lingering around, naturally people tend to reflect on the bad things you’ve done as opposed to the good things. I think it was just, I got emotional in the fact that I’ve moved on from that, but yet it still seems to follow me.” 

With the Packers backfield hurting, Benson’s arrival couldn’t come with better timing as coach Mike McCarthy was forced to cut Monday’s practice 20 minutes short after fullback John Kuhn exited with a sprained ankle.

Kuhn’s departure left the team with three healthy backs in undrafted rookies Marc Tyler and Nic Cooper and second-year running back Alex Green, who is on a rep count after he had reconstructive knee surgery.

“That’s big,” said Cooper, who is the team’s only healthy fullback. “On top of the talent we already had, you bring in somebody like that and as talented and experienced as he is. Even today, he helped me out on some pointers. That’s big getting a guy like him. It’s big for the organization.”

That doesn’t mean, however, Benson won’t have to prove he can still play to earn his paycheck. 

According to ESPN NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt, Benson’s contract is for one year at the seven-year veteran minimum of $825,000 with no guarantees. If Benson doesn’t make the roster, the Packers wouldn’t owe him any more than his weekly training camp per diem. 

The one thing working in Benson’s favor is his durability. He has played in 82 games since 2006 and hasn’t missed a contest because of injury since Nov. 29, 2009. 

That reliability allowed Benson to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards with six or more touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Despite coming to a pass-first offense, he’s not giving up those aspirations. 

“I definitely have a goal to still rush for 1,000,” Benson said. “I understand it’s not a run-first team and the run is not real heavy here, but there’s times where a back gets the ball 25 times. And I’m sure if things are rolling, the run game is set to a standard that we’re hoping to achieve, it could be way more carries than that.” 

Benson has his weaknesses. He has averaged more than 4 yards a carry once in his last five seasons and has never been much of a receiving threat out of the backfield. Last season, he had 15 receptions in 15 games for 82 yards.

He’s also developed a bit of a fumbling habit. After coughing up the ball seven times in his first five NFL seasons (935 carries), Benson has fumbled 12 times over the last two years (594). 

“That’s all part of the evaluation,” McCarthy said when asked about the fumbling. “Very familiar with the statistics, very familiar with the film study. It’s a football fundamental that we obviously pay a lot of attention to and try to emphasize as much as we can in practice, and he’ll be a part of that.”

Benson will practice again Tuesday in shells but won’t play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. That means the first action he’ll likely see in a Packers uniform will come on the road next week against his old team, Cincinnati.

Full story here

Limited explosiveness from Cedric Benson

August 16, 2012 by  
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By Kevin Seifert, ESPN
~After another offseason spent discussing their offensive balance, we all know the Green Bay Packers won’t suddenly turn themselves away from their potent passing game. What they would like to do, as we noted in our Packers Camp Confidential, is increase the number of explosive runs they produce to help take the edge off defenses aligned to play the pass.

Last season, the Packers ranked No. 24 in the NFL with 29 explosive runs, defined as runs that gain at least 12 yards. Speaking this summer at training camp, quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested the team will work this season to identify plays that give it the best chance at explosiveness — even if the run-pass ratio doesn’t change.

While Benson does not have the breakaway speed of a RB like Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles, he does break arm tackles and can move the chain like Corey Dillon did for the Champion Patriot teams of the early 00's.

Cedric Benson: Career Rushes of 12+ Yards

Year Rush TD
2011 16 2
2010 14 1
2009 27 2
2008 15 0
2007 12 1
2006 8 1
2005 6 0
Total 98 7
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

So I thought it was worth looking into the history of running back Cedric Benson, whom the Packers signed this week to aid their injury-depleted backfield. Our general impression of Benson is as a hard inside runner and not really a breakaway threat, but sometimes the numbers can be surprising.

In this case, however, they were not.

The chart, courtesy of Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information, breaks down the 98 explosive runs in Benson’s seven-year career. That equals roughly 6.4 percent of his total carries over that span, which ranks 18th of 24 running backs with at least 1,000 carries since Benson’s rookie season of 2005.

The league average of explosive runs per 1,000 carries over that span is 7.7 percent.

Benson hasn’t played in many dynamic offenses during his time with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, but at his roots, he is a 5-foot-11, 227-pound bruiser whose career average is 3.8 yards per carry. As Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said when the Packers signed him, Benson will get what’s blocked for him.

The hope for Benson and any running back in the Packers’ offense is seeing more run-friendly defensive alignments, with fewer players in the box, than most teams see. A team looking for a veteran running back in August can’t be picky, of course. Benson might well have been the best available. But historically speaking, Benson isn’t the type of runner who can help the Packers fulfill their quest for extra explosiveness. After another offseason spent discussing their offensive balance, we all know the Green Bay Packers won’t suddenly turn themselves away from their potent passing game. What they would like to do, as we noted in our Packers Camp Confidential, is increase the number of explosive runs they produce to help take the edge off defenses aligned to play the pass.

Benson was the #4 overall pick in the 2005 Draft that had Aaron Rodgers going late in round one to the Packers. They are reunited now from the Green Room that day.

Last season, the Packers ranked No. 24 in the NFL with 29 explosive runs, defined as runs that gain at least 12 yards. Speaking this summer at training camp, quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggested the team will work this season to identify plays that give it the best chance at explosiveness — even if the run-pass ratio doesn’t change.

So I thought it was worth looking into the history of running back Cedric Benson, whom the Packers signed this week to aid their injury-depleted backfield. Our general impression of Benson is as a hard inside runner and not really a breakaway threat, but sometimes the numbers can be surprising.

In this case, however, they were not.

The chart, courtesy of Jason Starrett of ESPN Stats & Information, breaks down the 98 explosive runs in Benson’s seven-year career. That equals roughly 6.4 percent of his total carries over that span, which ranks 18th of 24 running backs with at least 1,000 carries since Benson’s rookie season of 2005.

The league average of explosive runs per 1,000 carries over that span is 7.7 percent.

Benson hasn’t played in many dynamic offenses during his time with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals, but at his roots, he is a 5-foot-11, 227-pound bruiser whose career average is 3.8 yards per carry. As Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said when the Packers signed him, Benson will get what’s blocked for him.

The hope for Benson and any running back in the Packers’ offense is seeing more run-friendly defensive alignments, with fewer players in the box, than most teams see. A team looking for a veteran running back in August can’t be picky, of course. Benson might well have been the best available. But historically speaking, Benson isn’t the type of runner who can help the Packers fulfill their quest for extra explosiveness.

Full story found here

Jerel Worthy starting to come on for Packers

August 9, 2012 by  
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By Dan Arkush, Pro Football Weekly

~It certainly hasn’t taken long for Packers second-round DE Jerel Worthy to fit in with his new teammates. In the team’s early training-camp practices, his amiable rapport with teammates, both young and old, is instantly eye-catching.

So is his big-time burst off the ball.

“The one thing you see right away is just how quick he is right off the snap,” said one team insider.

Packers NT B.J. Raji, who is likely to be spending lots of time alongside Worthy in nickel situations, couldn’t agree more.

“He has a lot of ability,” Raji told PFW. “He understands what we do from a schematic standpoint. He’s a good 3-4 end with size and great quickness, and he really should help us apply more pressure up the middle. He’s a smart kid who learns real quick.”

Worthy had been up and down in the early stages of training camp before coming up big under the lights Aug. 3 in a noteworthy performance in the Packers’ “Family Night” practice.

He also appears to be a good kid with excellent character.

“I’ve never seen a rookie who is so involved and wants to know as much as he can about everything,” said free-agent addition Anthony Hargrove, who is spending as much time observing his new surroundings off the field as participating in drills on the field with his eight-game suspension to start the season for his alleged involvement in “Bountygate” stuck in legal limbo at presstime. 

OLB Nick Perry was the first round pick, but many experts think second round pick Worthy might help the Packers defense more this season as a rookie.

“Even though he was a hot high pick, he’s very humble and attentive,” added Raji. “He’s not afraid to ask a lot of questions.”

In a perfect world, the Packers’ No. 2 pick out of Michigan State will quickly develop into a younger version of ex-Packer Cullen Jenkins, whose inside pass-rushing ability has been sorely missed since his exit to Philadelphia last offseason as a free agent.

“You know, that’s a pretty tall order at this point,” said Raji. “I mean, Cullen is probably the best pass-rushing tackle I’ve seen since Warren Sapp was playing. But I do think Jerel will do some good things and establish his own identity.” 

Part of the Defensive Draft 2012: Green Bay Packers second-round draft pick Casey Hayward (29) participates in a drill during NFL football rookie camp, Friday, May 11, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Up to now, daily team observers tell us Worthy has looked better overall than first-round LOLB Nick Perry, who has had his share of struggles converting from defensive end.

Original story here

Early praise doesn’t go to rookie OLB Dezman Moses’ head

August 5, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Green Bay Press-Gazette

~The minicamp completed and first impression made, Dezman Moses rounded up his things and headed back home to Willlingboro, N.J.

During those tireless weeks of the Green Bay Packers’ offseason program, the 6-foot-2, 249-pound outside linebacker impressed both coaches and pundits alike with his physicality, high ceiling and general ability to pressure the quarterback. 

Moses’ performance even drew praise from defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who raved about his instincts and ability to pick things up quickly. 

Dezman Moses draws a hold from offensive lineman Herb Taylor.

Sure, it all built his confidence, but Moses made it a point to leave the adulation in Green Bay. After all, NFL roster spots aren’t given away in June – they’re earned in August. 

“That was a nice starting point, but it means nothing until it’s the first week of the regular season,” Moses said. “You can’t let it go to your head because it means nothing. You have a bad camp and it could be over, and I understand that. It’s really a motivating thing, but at the same time, I understand what the situation is. I understand what I’m up against.” 

After going undrafted out of Tulane, the 23-year-old Moses fielded a handful of NFL offers, but sought out the Packers because of their 3-4 defense. 

Moses was an undersized 4-3 defensive lineman at Tulane but still thrived en route to becoming the program’s fifth all-time leader in career sacks (15½) in only two seasons. Still, Moses always felt he was more suited to play linebacker, the position he originally signed up for at the University of Iowa before transferring after his sophomore year.

 He got that opportunity in Green Bay, a place that’s been a recent haven for late-round or undrafted rookie linebackers. Last season, two players – Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore – not only made the team following the lockout, but remained on the active roster throughout the season. 

With a full offseason to prepare, why couldn’t Moses be next? 

“He has that hunger and passion inside of him and that drives him,” Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “He’s a fine young man and he’s extremely coachable. 

Dezman Moses could give the Packers pass rush as much of a boost as first round pick Nick Perry.

He has a good heart and I put a lot of stock in the heart. That’s the people who I want to surround myself with, and if you’re a hard worker, you have a chance.”

Full story here

Packers’ Thompson building his legacy

August 5, 2012 by  
Filed under News

From the Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – Ted Thompson, a spare part for a decade as a player with the Houston Oilers, has become one of the most successful team-building executives in the National Football League.

Since returning to the Green Bay Packers as general manager in January 2005, Thompson has outlasted all but seven of his peers who had comparable job titles and responsibilities at the time.

He ranks with the New York Giants’ Jerry Reese, Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert and San Diego’s A.J. Smith among the leading GMs in the NFL. 

GM Ted Thompson has assembled the best roster in the National Football League. The Packers are, again, the Vegas betting-line favorites to win the Super Bowl this season.

In Thompson’s first four seasons, the Packers had just one winning season, one playoff appearance and a losing record (32-34).

As his tenure has lengthened, so, too, has Thompson’s impact on the roster and the entire football operation. In the last three years, the Packers have won at least 11 games three times, reached the playoff three times and captured one Super Bowl title.

Green Bay and New Orleans share the NFL’s best record of 40-14 since 2009.

In an interview Friday with the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn, the ever-reticent Thompson discussed the season ahead and many players, including Donald Driver, A.J. Hawk and Scott Wells.

Q. This team is coming off a 15-1 season and its quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, might be the best player in the league. Do you expect the Packers to be in contention this season and, if it falls right, win it all?

A. Well, every year is a new year. We look at it that way. I do expect us to have a good team. If we play well we’ll have a chance to win games.

Q. Given the 28-year-old Rodgers, the relative youth of so many star players and the overall strength of the Packers’ roster and systems, should the Packers be in the hunt for championships for years to come?

A. We kind of look at this in a smaller, simpler way. We’re looking at San Francisco (Sept. 9). That’s where we’re focused. To look out beyond that, the NFL’s too hard. This is a hard, hard business. As soon as you think you’re a little something then you’re going to get killed. I think our team understands that. Our team’s confident in what we can do. I don’t think you look at something like that until 20 years, when you look back and add it up, you know? I don’t have the luxury of looking that far out.

Q. At the stockholders meeting last month, a good share of the 12,500 attendees stood and cheered after you were introduced. For the guy who was widely vilified for a certain trade in 2008, it was pretty impressive. In all seriousness, did that mean anything to you? If not, what does?

A. I think it’s appreciated. I think anybody in their jobs likes people to think you’re doing a good job. Certainly in this unique situation here with the Packers, there’s shareholders, these are owners of the team. You would want that group to have confidence in you. We try to do things that instill confidence in the people out there. But at the end of the day it still doesn’t matter. You still have to try to win games. It’s like the old saying, ‘I’m with you, win or tie.’ It was very nice. The shareholders have always been pretty gracious. They know I’m not going to talk about accounting or something.

Q. People wouldn’t be supporting Ted Thompson if they haven’t come to the conclusion that he knows more and works harder at team building than many of his competitors. It might be called giving you the benefit of the doubt. Do you deserve it?

A. I don’t know that I have that. I don’t feel that I have that. We don’t do our jobs thinking, ‘OK, we’ve got people that think we’re really good. So we must be really good.’ We take for granted we’re in one of the toughest businesses you can be in. You can’t take anything for granted. You can’t stop trying. You can’t stop getting better. We talk to our scouts that way, our players, myself, everybody. It’s nice that people say good things about you but it doesn’t really mean anything in this business.

Q. If the Packers keep winning and establish a dynasty, accolades will continue to come your way. It’s Hall of Fame weekend. Has Ted Thompson ever thought about one day being enshrined in Canton?

A. No. I’ve never, never, ever thought of that. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that.

Q. Before Canton calls, you would have to work at least several more years. You’ll turn 60 three days before the NFC Championship Game in January. How’s your energy level these days? When would you like to retire from this job?

A. I feel good. I like our group. I like the people I work with. I haven’t really thought about retirement. That question comes up every year (here), by the way. That’s probably the only time I ever think about it. Everything’s good. Nothing lasts forever.

Q. What is it like as a GM to watch Rodgers directing your team every Sunday?

A. It’s very nice. He’s very skilled at his position. He’s a very good teammate. He’s very well-regarded by most of his peers in the locker room. I think that says a lot. Because NFL players don’t give that sort of respect out easily. He’s also a heck of a player.

Q. Rodgers has three years remaining on the deal that he signed in November 2008. It averaged $12.7 million. How will you go about ensuring that he finishes his career in Green Bay? Have you decided when would be the best time to extend his contract?

A. Well, the short answer to that is we never discuss specifics or specific players of what we may or may not do. Needless to say, what we try to do as an organization is try to stay ahead of the curve and make sure we’ve got guys secured for the long term. Those things will be addressed at the proper time.

Q. Do you share the coaches’ confidence in Graham Harrell’s ability to perform well and win as the No. 2 quarterback?

A. Yeah, I think Graham does a nice job. He’s very confident as a quarterback. He carries himself like one. You can tell. He takes charge of the huddle. He’s very smart. He hasn’t played a lot in the NFL.

Q. Three of Rodgers’ favorite targets – Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb – were drafted during your tenure, all in the second round. There were concerns about Jennings’ size and speed, Nelson was labeled a luxury by some and Cobb was viewed more as a return specialist. What are your thoughts about their development, and is it gratifying to know the role you played in getting them here?

A. We think all three of them are very good players. They certainly add a lot of spark to our offense. When they do good, then people clap for me when I come out in front of the shareholders. If they weren’t doing good then they wouldn’t clap for me.

Q. Did you or Russ Ball in so many words inform the agent for Donald Driver that he needed to take a substantial pay cut to be back in the plan for this season?

A. We would never discuss what we may or may not have talked about with an agent or any of our players. We’ve never discussed the business side of things.

Q. Not only did Driver accept about a 50% reduction, he became a national celebrity of sorts by winning “Dancing with the Stars.” It looks like he can still play. Is he in danger of being cut? Is it smart football to have a 37-year-old backup on the roster?

A. Well, we’re just getting started in training camp. Donald Driver has proven his worth over his career. I think Donald will do his thing and we’ll be fine. We hope it’s smart. I don’t think he’s a normal 37-year-old player.

Q. Your record drafting offensive linemen was hit or miss early. Now the Packers are starting Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse from the 2008-’10 drafts, and an excellent foundation looks to be in place for years to come. How did you do it? How good is the group?

A. Drafting never will be an exact science. What we, along with everybody else in the NFL, covet are offensive linemen. Defensive linemen as well. They’ve done a good job developing themselves. Our coaching and strength and conditioning staff have done a good job with them. We think they give us a little bit of a push.

Q. Have you second-guessed yourself on only going so far in negotiations with Scott Wells before he left for St. Louis?

A. You always go back and you see what you did and what you didn’t do, and maybe you could have done this a little bit better. We certainly made a pretty concerted effort to keep him. For whatever reason, it’s free agency and he chose to do something else.

Q. For 15 years or more the majority of players seem to have liked playing in Green Bay. Wells took a hard line and never forgot being benched early in 2009. Could things have been handled differently to keep a top player like that on the roster?

A. Those are the kinds of things we have philosophical discussions about. You don’t have the benefit of hindsight at the time. He was a guy we wanted to keep and we weren’t able to do it.

Q. With half a dozen or more veteran starting centers available, the Packers waited a week after losing Wells before selecting Jeff Saturday as his replacement. What was it about Saturday that you found attractive? After seeing him for a week, how much does he have left?

A. I think Jeff’s still got a lot of football player in him. Obviously, he’s extraordinarily smart, especially his wisdom of the game and how to play that position, the little nuances. You see that in practice. They’re subtle, they’re hard to pick up. It gives him an advantage. I think he’ll fit in really well. We do a lot of two-minute stuff, a lot of shotgun stuff. We had our rankings in free agency just like we do in the draft. When you look at his track record, he’s kind of an unusual older fella, too. He hardly ever misses a game or a practice. That’s just been his modus operandi.

Q. Why did the Packers release Chad Clifton three days before the draft? You didn’t add a tackle of consequence, and Derek Sherrod isn’t practicing. And, has Clifton told the Packers he’s retired?

A. We released Chad just because we felt it was close to the end of the line. He’s had a lot of injury things. He had the thing (back) that bugged him late in the season last year. Those are hard things to get over. We just felt like it was the prudent thing to do at the time. I haven’t heard anything (about retirement).

Q. You said goodbye to Ryan Grant and are trying at running back with some young players. Are you good enough at the position?

A. I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good. We have a body of work. We liked everything we’ve seen out of James (Starks). The whole key with him is keeping him out there. He’s fresh and having a good camp. The other guys, we liked what we saw when we put them in games last year.

Q. How far away are you from fielding a better defense, one to rival those in 1996 and 2010, when the Packers last won the Super Bowl?

A. Well, we’re hopeful. It’s an offensive-driven league and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to play defense even though it sounds easy. We’ve got a good group of players. It will take a number of players, not just 11. It’s going to take all different kind of packages and options. Our hope was to get Dom (Capers) some more options for him to do his stuff. We’ll see. So far, so good.

Q. In your postseason studies, were you more down about the Packers’ inability to play the pass better or the run better?

A. You can watch last year’s defense and we can be pretty good at times and force turnovers. It’s remarkable how good we are offensively when our defense gets a turnover. We almost always score. The difference in doing that or getting off the field on third down sometimes results in 75 yards of offense. We gave up some big plays. Probably didn’t get as much consistent pass rush as we’d like. But I will kind of stick up for them. Our guys played hard, they got a lot of turnovers and they helped our team.

Q. You’ve now seen Jerel Worthy rushing against NFL linemen. To what degree do you think he can contribute to the nickel rush as a rookie?

A. He is a youngster and is learning as he goes along. But he’s got a lot of energy.

"He's god some God-given talent."

Looks like he’s got some God-given ability to play.

Q. At least Worthy is playing the same position in nickel that he did in college. Nick Perry is in the throes of a major conversion from USC. Do you think he can allay some coaches’ concerns in coverage and recognition in time to be a major contributor this season?

A. I think he’s got a chance. We’re going to ask Nick to step in and help us out. So far, he’s done fine.

Q. Do you think another rookie from the Big Ten, Mike Daniels, might wind up reinforcing the pass rush as much if not more than Worthy?

A. We’ll see. He’s been dinged up after missing some of the off-season because of an existing condition (shoulder). He plays with a tremendous amount of energy. It’s what we saw at Iowa. He’s got a chance to give us a little spark.

Q. Three players on defense – Anthony Hargrove, Mike Neal and Erik Walden – face suspensions of one to eight games for far different reasons, and all three remain on the roster. As the organization’s point man on football, do you think this tends to tarnish the Packers’ image?

A. I hope not. I can’t really speak directly to any of these things. But that’s not our normal way of doing things. We certainly are not proud of that.

Q. Johnny Jolly is 29, a convicted felon and hasn’t played football in more than 2½ years. Now that he has applied for reinstatement, would you take a chance on Jolly if he is reinstated or fear that he might relapse and bring shame to the organization?

A. I wouldn’t try to get ahead of the curve and make any sort of comment on that. I don’t think it’d be appropriate. It’s a hypothetical.

Q. Are you pleased with the five-year, $33.75 million contract that the Packers extended A.J. Hawk on the eve of the lockout last year?

A. I never discuss business publicly.

Q. Hawk and unsung D.J. Smith appear to be competing for a job in both the base and nickel defenses. Would you support or even encourage a scenario in which Smith played over Hawk even though Hawk’s salary is the sixth highest on the team?

A. Yeah, we’re just getting started. We try to make football decisions and not focus too much on the money thing. So we’ll see how that works out.

Q. Some cornerbacks have been able to make a productive move to safety late in their career and others have failed. In your discussions with the coaches, what was your viewpoint on Charles Woodson being able to handle it in base?

A. Charles can play a lot of different spots. I think a lot is being made of it. The fact of the matter is there’s not going to be all that much difference from the way he played in the past and the way we’re going to play him in the future. Charles Woodson is a football player.

Rest of story here

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