2015 June : Packers Insider

Green Bay Packers geared up for offensive onslaught in 2015

June 23, 2015 by  
Filed under News

From Adam Schein, NFL.com

~Titletown, USA – When it comes to speaking Mike McCarthy’s language, I consider myself fluent.

Having routinely chatted with Green Bay’s head man on SiriusXM Radio since he took over the Packers in 2006, I feel pretty comfortable assessing his tone and reading between the lines.

McCarthy is entering his 10th season as Packers head coach. He's ready for his 2nd Super Bowl

McCarthy is entering his 10th season as Packers head coach. He’s ready for his 2nd Super Bowl

When I talked to McCarthy on “Schein on Sports” last Thursday, the 10th-year head coach was in a good mood. And why wouldn’t he be? With a successful minicamp winding down, it was crystal clear McCarthy loves the talent and the character of the 2015 Packers. And McCarthy is not one to be subject to hyperbole. Far from it.

Which leads me to make the following declaration: This year’s offense will be, quite simply, the best that we’ve seen during McCarthy’s prolific decade in Green Bay.

And I’m not exaggerating, either. I firmly believe this. I had this feeling before talking to the coach. Now? I’m fully convinced. I truly felt McCarthy’s enthusiasm for the group during our live interview. Listening back to the segment twice more, the coach’s exhilaration was omnipresent. I believe this Packers offense has the talent, balance and coaching to rule the NFL in 2015 — and set new heights for one of the league’s proudest franchises.

Like most great offenses, it starts up front.

McCarthy completely agreed with my assessment that this offensive line is the best he’s had since he’s been in Green Bay. Remember when this unit was the weakness of otherwise promising teams? No longer. This is a young, cohesive, talented group — able to protect Aaron Rodgers and blow open holes for Eddie Lacy. McCarthy gushed — collectively and individually — over David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Corey Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bryan Bulaga.

The White Wall is perhaps McCarthy's best OL since taking over. The starting 5 are fantastic left to right, plus the top 2 guys off the bench have starting potential and have experience behind them.

The White Wall is perhaps McCarthy’s best OL since taking over. The starting 5 are fantastic left to right, plus the top 2 guys off the bench have starting potential and have experience behind them.

Linsley proved to be a great answer at center last year as a rookie. He has talent, smarts and plenty of promise to just continue improving. Re-upping Bulaga this offseason was paramount. This is what Ted Thompson’s Packers do: draft, develop and retain. And this kind of continuity is what makes Green Bay the envy of franchises around the league.

In so many past chats with McCarthy, the bulk of our conversation was spent assessing a rag-tag group up front. How will you make sure to protect your all-everything quarterback? Last Thursday was a far cry from that. And this is fine news for Rodgers, the best quarterback in the game today. (This isn’t up for debate.) More good news for Rodgers: His arsenal of weapons is simply glorious.

The Packers’ offseason MVP has been second-year wideout Davante Adams, the clear “all-star” according to McCarthy.

Davante Adams has shown he has the ability to step up big in the biggest games. He was a key cog in big close wins over New England and over Dallas in the NFC Divisional game.

Davante Adams has shown he has the ability to step up big in the biggest games. He was a key cog in big close wins over New England and over Dallas in the NFC Divisional game.

His hands, speed, work in the classroom, versatility and budding rapport with Rodgers put him in line for a breakout sophomore season. We caught glimpses of his immense potential last season (see: seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown against Dallas in the Divisional Round of the playoffs). Look for Adams to thrive in 2015.

And here’s the beauty for Rodgers (and a scary thought for the rest of the league): Adams is clearly the third option in the passing attack.

The Packers re-signed Randall Cobb before he officially became a free agent. Cobb could have received more money on the open market, but he’s no fool.

Randall Cobb could have gotten millions $ more elsewhere, but he wants to win Super Bowls and there's no better team than the Packers. It's hard to leave Lambeau Field.

Randall Cobb could have gotten millions $ more elsewhere, but he wants to win Super Bowls and there’s no better team than the Packers. It’s hard to leave Lambeau Field.

At the end of the day, I want to win championships,” Cobb said, after signing a four-year, $40 million deal in March. “I feel like being in this offense and this organization was the best place for me to have the opportunity for me to win championships.”

Yes, why leave the best QB in the game? Cobb is a game-breaker that Rodgers looks to on third down and in the red zone. Life is good in Green Bay. And let’s be honest: $10 mil per isn’t exactly chump change.

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned Jordy Nelson, the best receiver on the team (and one of the best in the NFL). Nelson has notched 43 touchdowns over the last four seasons, and after setting career highs in catches (98) and receiving yards (1,519) last fall, he received my vote for first-team All-Pro.

Perfect playcall. Perfect pass. 16-10 deficit about to be a 17-16 lead with this 90-yard game-changing touchdown. Nelson dropped this. Packers would not score again, and lost.

Perfect playcall. Perfect pass. 16-10 deficit about to be a 17-16 lead with this 90-yard game-changing touchdown. Nelson dropped this.
Packers would not score again, and lost the game, and with it, the NFC #1 seed, meaning they had to play Dallas instead of Carolina, and then had to play the Seahawks in Seattle instead of at Lambeau Field.

McCarthy says Nelson, who’s recovering from offseason hip surgery, is on target to practice fully come training camp and there are no concerns about his health.

And with Lacy, Rodgers has the bell cow he needs to pound the rock on first and second downs. In the past, you could ignore Green Bay’s running attack. Lacy is a physical, powerful stud who demands defensive attention.

With Rodgers, you are always in position to win big. Add in Lacy and the stout O-line, and the Packers become my Super Bowl favorites.

10 lacy 2

McCarthy himself fuels my optimism, too.

The offensive guru decided to give up play-calling duties this offseason. I told McCarthy that I disagreed with the move because of how great he is as a play-caller and the connection he has with Rodgers. But McCarthy explained to me that this had been a long time coming — it was not a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in Seattle on Championship Sunday. In fact, McCarthy revealed that he originally planned on ceding play-calling duties to Joe Philbin following the 2011 campaign. While the Packers led the league in scoring that season, McCarthy wanted to be in position to better oversee every element of the team. This plan changed, though, when Philbin took the head-coaching job in Miami.


Now, with Tom Clements having spent three years as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator, McCarthy feels comfortable handing over the reins. The head coach is thinking big picture; he’s thinking about winning a title.

And this Packers offense should be superior to that 2011 edition, and superior to the 2010 championship group, too.

McCarthy is positive — this is the equivalent to a typical person being over the moon.

That means Packers fans should dream big. Yes, Lombardi Trophy big.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

10 takeaways from Packers’ spring practices

June 19, 2015 by  
Filed under News

By Tyler Dunne, outgoing Journal-Sentinel writer

~Green Bay — Practice concluded, lockers were cleaned out and players broke for summer.

Next up, training camp.

There aren’t too many pressing issues with the Green Bay Packers. The offensive starters are essentially set. On defense, the team needs cornerbacks to develop but will be returning mostly unchanged. That’s how a team that came so close to reaching another Super Bowl probably wants it, too — limited change.

So as the team heads into summer here are the top 10 takeaways from organized team activities and minicamp.

1. Davante Adams may be on the verge of breaking out.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in a Q&A with The Journal Sentinel that wide receiver Adams “could be a star.” Head coach Mike McCarthy called Adams the “MVP” of the off-season. It’s not mere bluster, either. With Jordy Nelson easing back from off-season hip surgery, Adams was Rodgers’ go-to guy all spring.

Davante Adams catches a pass in practice on Tuesday. Photo by Mark Hoffman

His route running has always been smooth and sudden. His size (6 foot 1, 215 pounds) is ideal. And athleticism? Replay the 360-degree dunk Adams posted on social media. Now, it appears he’s gaining Rodgers’ trust, mentally, within the offense. It could all equate to a breakout season from the second-year receiver out of Fresno State.

2. At OLB, Adrian Hubbard caught the McCarthy’s eye.
Asked who stood out in practice, the coach said Hubbard “has had a heck of a spring.” With Nick Perry and Mike Neal sidelined and 35-year-old Julius Peppers taking it easy, the 2014 undrafted pickup Hubbard has gotten a lot of work at outside linebacker. As he said at rookie camp, Hubbard decided to stay in Wisconsin all off-season.

The pads weren’t on in this setting, but he was able to hone his technique. And Hubbard sees the time in town paying off.

Hubbard has always possessed the special size to become a stud. Is he starting to put it all together? OLB is a deep position. Photo Mark Hoffman

Hubbard has always possessed the special size to become a stud. Is he starting to put it all together? OLB is a deep position. Photo Mark Hoffman

“You reap the rewards,” Hubbard said. “You come in and just keep chopping the wood and eventually things happen.”

When the pads come on, pass-rushing men are promptly separated from the boys. But Hubbard found ways to refine his game in this setting.

“You can be a technician,” Hubbard said. “You can work on the little, minute things that you usually don’t. With pads on, you turn into a wild man. Sometimes, you have to work on your finesse moves also.”

3. Rajion Neal has the inside track on the No. 3 running back job.
With DuJuan Harris off to the Minnesota Vikings, there may be a roster spot up for grabs behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Neal stood out as a receiver. At Tennessee, Neal caught 66 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s clearly been working on his hands since. On Thursday, he had a touchdown during a red-zone drill and another long gain in the 2-minute drill, in addition to multiple difficult catches in one-on-one’s vs. linebackers. Right now, he has a clear step on the other running backs. Undrafted signee John Crockett pulled out of practice this week with an apparent ankle injury.

4. Micah Hyde will have a role in the defense again.
The Packers might’ve drafted two cornerbacks in the first two rounds in Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is now entrenched at safety next to Morgan Burnett but count on the third-year pro Hyde seeing a lot of snaps again. He had 59 tackles and two interceptions last season and has picked up where he left off. Inside the 20-yard line Thursday, Hyde broke on one ball for a pass breakup that should’ve been intercepted by a teammate and then picked off an underthrown Brett Hundley ball in the corner of the end zone. He also averaged 15.8 yards per punt return last season.

5. Yes, Clay Matthews will be seeing snaps at inside linebacker.
That much was clear the first day of OTAs in May. The Packers continued to work their best defensive player inside and outside. He slid in for 28.5% of the snaps the last half of the 2014, a number that could grow in 2015. Maybe Jake Ryan, Carl Bradford or someone else develops into a source of reliability, but the Packers want Matthews on the move again in their defense.

6. Don’t expect Aaron Rodgers to confine himself to the pocket.
In two straight seasons Rodgers suffered two serious injuries. But the fractured collarbone and strained calf won’t be forcing the league MVP to stay exclusively in the pocket. While he proved he can play that way — burning Detroit and Dallas for 542 yards and five touchdowns — Rodgers made it clear he’ll continue to make plays outside the pocket.

“Extending plays has always been something I’m pretty good at,” Rodgers said. “I’ve been able to keep a play alive and run or make a play outside the pocket.”

7. Eddie Lacy is looking large.
Again. But it probably doesn’t matter. The Packers running back has carried a few extra pounds into OTAs before and still rushed for 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns. Generously listed at 230 pounds again by the Packers, Lacy said he’s not worried at all about his weight.

Rather, he focused on rest and recovery after another grueling season of contact.

The Packers probably just hope he doesn’t enjoy his mom’s crawdads too much this next month.

8. The young cornerbacks have a long way to go.
Position coach Joe Whitt Jr. feels good about Sam Shields and Casey Hayward, the two cornerbacks who have played a combined 116 games. Everyone else? Not so much.

Randall, here, Rollins, and Goodson have no NFL snaps at CB yet, but are going to be counted on to play, and play well. I love their talent. Photo Mark Hoffman

Randall, here, Rollins, and Goodson have no NFL snaps at CB yet, but are going to be counted on to play, and play well. I love their talent. Photo Mark Hoffman

Whitt has been hard on his first- and second-year corners all spring on and off the field. With reporters, he’s been blunt. Randall, Rollins and even 2014 sixth-rounder Demetri Goodson, he insists, aren’t ready yet.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Whitt said.

9. Defensive linemen are counting on newfound flexibility.
Both B.J. Raji and Datone Jones said they made a commitment to yoga this past year to help their flexibility. Raji believes being too tight might’ve been one reason he tore his bicep tendon, while Jones says his tightness was a major reason he missed at least five sacks in 2014. So with the help of Ryanne Cunningham — who’s not affiliated with the Packers — at Flow Yoga Studio in De Pere, they’ve become more limber.

10. Last year’s finish will be motivation.
For all the cliché responses from players on “moving on,” a few players admitted the way last season ended — heartbreaking fashion at CenturyLink Field against Seattle — will serve as motivation this season. How could it not? It was arguably the most crushing loss in franchise history.

Leave it to Sam Barrington to keep it real on this subject.

“That’s fuel to the fire,” Barrington said this off-season. “That’s firewood right there. So next year, when were trying to rebuild this thing back up, we’ll just throw that into the mix and make the fire even bigger. We won’t forget that.”

Original article here

Confident Goodson eyes larger role in defense for Packers

June 7, 2015 by  
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Photo: Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette Media

From Worldwide Wes Hodkiewicz of the Press-Gazette

~Demetri Goodson doesn’t want to say he was lost.

However, the learning curve was steep for the former Gonzaga point guard-turned-Green Bay Packers cornerback once he arrived at last year’s organized team activities. When his position coach Joe Whitt shouted directions, sometimes a small panic would hit the sixth-round draft pick.

Goodson had questions but was afraid to raise his hand. He didn’t want to draw attention for the wrong reason, especially when sharing a room with veterans like Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush, who knew Dom Capers’ defensive playbook inside and out.

“Coach would tell somebody like a certain thing to do and I’d be like, ‘I have no idea what he’s talking about,’Goodson said. “I was scared to say something because I don’t want to feel stupid or anything like that.”

The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder remained on the fringe of the 53-man roster, competing with practice-squad holdover Jumal Rolle for a reserve role behind Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House and Bush.

In Goodson and Quinten Rollins, the Packers have the best basketball backcourt in the NFL. And Julius Peppers played hoops at North Carolina for the Tar Heels. Where were these guys on the onside kick recovery?

The Packers bet on Goodson’s upside and sent Rolle back to the practice squad (a mistake, as many Packers beat writers said at the time). A few weeks later, Rolle signed with Houston where he finished with 19 tackles and three interceptions in 10 games.

Goodson was inactive for all but one game through November. He didn’t play a defensive snap all season, but his athleticism showed on special teams. He finished the year seventh in coverage-team tackles (six) despite playing only six games.

“He really jumps out at me on special teams,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think at corner he’s still learning more of not what to do, but the identification and what the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage is doing, he’s definitely making progress. Extremely competitive and obviously an excellent athlete. He’s definitely moving forward.”

When the season was over, Goodson went back to Waco, Texas, to train for his second season. He turns 26 this offseason and knew he’d need to contribute more in 2015.

Training with friends and former teammates, Goodson worked on his press technique, tracking deep balls and defending against the slant. Goodson tried to take what he’d learned from Whitt to improve his backpedaling through drills and weaves. He also hit the weights hard. Really hard.

“I didn’t really take a break,” Goodson said. “I just kind of worked out every day, doing drills, ball drills. I put on I think 13 pounds in muscle. Just staying focused on football. When football wasn’t here, it was key for me in making that next jump because I felt that I was going to have to come back in and play.”

He was right. Williams and House signed elsewhere in the offseason. Bush, 31, remains a free agent. Instead of bringing in another high-priced free agent, the Packers bet on Whitt to bring along another collection of young cornerbacks.

They drafted Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins with their first two picks, but the organization likes bringing rookies along slowly during the offseason program. So it’s been Goodson who’s been lining up on the boundary across from Shields on the first-team defense.

Extra reps in the offseason don’t mean you’ve secured a starting job. Two years ago, running back Alex Green started the summer taking snaps ahead of Eddie Lacy. By the end of camp, Green had been released and Lacy was anointed the bell cow.

It helps with confidence, though. Goodson isn’t able to press in the noncontact practices, but he’s challenging receivers on routes. Last season, he consistently went against Jordy Nelson on the scout team. Now, it’s time to show what he learned from those experiences.

“I was nervous last year, to tell you the truth,” Goodson said. “Not scared-nervous, but just nervous being on a whole new team and not really knowing what to go off of. This year, I feel confident coming back and having that whole year to get better. Going up against Jordy every day in practice got me a lot better. So I definitely feel like I’m ready.”

Goodson stops himself when he says he felt lost as a rookie. Instead, he admits to battling confidence issues. After transferring to play football at Baylor in 2011, he had only two full seasons to relearn a position he hadn’t played since high school. The jump to the pros was even more drastic.

Now, he feels ready to compete for playing time and defensive backs will be needed. Goodson saw how quickly players can go down after Williams and Shields left within a few plays of each other in Miami last season, and the defense had to react quickly.

Who knows. the Packers could have something special in Goodson if he physically toughens up. He has a great combination of height and athletic ability. And as shown on the basketball court at the highest level in college, he clearly has the ball skills needed to become a playmaker.

Whether he stays in that spot on the perimeter or not, Goodson has his eyes on the quarterback and a larger role this season.

“I feel like when I first got here, I was learning how to play corner. Now, I feel like I’m an actual cornerback,” Goodson said. “Playing cornerback isn’t just going out there and just covering guys. It’s a lot more thinking involved.

“I feel like I got 10 times smarter than I was last year. Last year, I was out here just holding people. Now, I’m thinking with the game.”

Original story HERE

Man of Christ: Johnathan Franklin: ‘I am supposed to be where I am’

June 7, 2015 by  
Filed under News

Photo by Mark Hoffman

By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — In today’s Journal Sentinel, we explored the lives of players who had the game ripped away from them. The ones with career-ending neck injuries — such as Nick Collins, Terrence Murphy, Johnathan Franklin and Johnny Holland — weren’t able to walk away from the game under their terms. Neck injuries cut their careers short.

These days, Franklin is settling in at Notre Dame as the administrator for student welfare and development in the athletics department.

Here are a few more thoughts from the former Packers running back in addition to the story linked above…

On his new job… “Absolutely love it. I have an opportunity to be in charge of 750 student-athletes, creating these outreach programs. And I just became the liason for five different teams and I have the opportunity to meet with the head coaches and develop captains and leaders amongst the teams. It’s really been a blessing to have this transition and how these opportunities have been created for me. Very rewarding and I’m very thankful.”

On what his job at Notre Dame entails… “Engagement with the players amongst the team. Attending practice, attending games and different types of meetings. Meeting 1 on 1 with the head coach about once a month and talking to him about where his team is at, where his captains are at as far as their mind-set, where they’re struggling as captains and as leaders. What I do is help them develop as better captains and better leaders for their team.”

Lacy & Franklin: They were the Dynamic Duo Rookie RB’s of 2013

On how he can develop leaders and captains… “We had meetings at what’s called the Rosenthal Leadership Academy. We speak about leadership—walking a walk and talking a talk. We talk about knowing your ‘why.’ Why do you want to be a captain? Why do you want to wake up and do the things that you do every day. We talk about being able to call people out on your team. We talk about struggles people have amongst their teams. Me being a captain at UCLA and me having that role and changing that culture, I could relate to a lot of captains and leaders on teams. So it’s easy for me to also bring up with I struggled with. Nine times out of 10 — if not each time — they relate to the same thing.”

On if he has turned a corner himself in accepting his career is over or if it’s a constant battle…“What I’ve learned and my faith has grown so much. I am supposed to be where I am. I know last time we talked, it was definitely an emotional battle and it still is a transition. One, preparing myself as a business man and having that 9-to-5 job is a huge difference being a student-athlete at UCLA and playing in the NFL when you’re around a certain culture and talk a certain way since we’re just talking about football all the time and hanging out in that sense. We’re wearing sweats and a t-shirt to the office every day. Now, we’re talking about politics. We’re talking about laws and regulations. We’re talking the NCAA, athletic directors, I’m wearing a shirt and tie and slacks every day. It’s a different regiment and it’s a different way I have to carry myself. And it’s a different way I have to converse with different people. I think that’s been a transition. Now that football is over, how do I carry myself.”

Mark Hoffman

On if he’s able to sleep easier now… “Oh man. There was a point in time when I was hurt. Crying. Up. Couldn’t sleep. Frustrated. I had a million questions. But I realized that I have one shot at life. Am I going to choose to live my life asking these questions and crying and being frustrated from here on out? Or am I going to accept where I am and conquer it and make the changes that I need to make? I have an opportunity to change student-athletes’ lives and have them accomplish the dream that I had — andappreciate where they are in their life. I’m happy to tell my story.”

“I have a great support system and I’m thankful. I read so many stories about former athletes and how they’re suicidal, they’re depressed, they can’t do anything. They don’t even know how to do anything financially, how they can’t be happy. Regardless of if I’m playing football or not, I’m thankful with where I am in my life. I’m at peace. It’s really a blessing. It really is. It took some time. And I’m still growing. I can’t sit here and say everything is absolutely perfect. But I’m happy where I am, I’m happy where I’m going and I’m thankful for this job and this opportunity.”

On sitting down with athletes at Notre Dame and sharing his story… “That and I’m with over 750 student-athletes as a whole. So I’m creating community outreach programs in the community — if there’s an opportunity for them to visit the hospital, if it’s creating opportunities to read to elementary schools or feed the homeless. If it’s hanging out with kids with autism. Whatever we can to take advantage of this platform even if it’s just me creating a community outreach event from the base, that’s what I do. It’s challenging. It’s challenging to create relationships with 750 students. It’s one thing getting kids into the community, and it’s another thing to get kids into the community and it being a genuine thing. I don’t want them to just be there to be there. I want there to be a takeaway. I want them to grow. I want them to be passionate about it to really make the changes in South Bend that need to happen.”


On if he has a 5- or 10-year plan, where he sees himself down the road… “I’m a California guy and I miss that weather. This Midwest weather is killing me, killing me! I’d love to make my way back to California down the road even if it’s an opportunity in Green Bay being in the front office. I do have goals. I do have dreams. Playing in the NFL and my career ending so abruptly, I take things one day at a time. Today is my dream, today is my goal. Tomorrow I’ll develop another dream and I’ll develop another goal. I think it’s just taking things one day at a time. What the NFL has taught me with that injury, I had a goal, I had a dream of playing 10-15 years. I don’t any pain or regret — I’m happy where I’m at — but you’ve got to make the most of what you have today.”

On many other players struggling to adjust to life after football… “Absolutely. That’s why I’m so blessed with the people in my corner and with the faith that I have, understanding that my life is bigger than me. It’s about living for God and being strong. My faith has been strong. It was strong when I was playing and it’s still strong when I’m not playing. And I’m thankful because of that. I’m thankful my faith has not wavered and been lost. I still love this God I’ve been loving since I found him a couple of years ago.”

Original story HERE

Julius Peppers on Seattle: ‘We’re looking forward, nobody’s looking back’

June 7, 2015 by  
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By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — A year ago, Julius Peppers was the new guy in town tackling age and expectations in Green Bay.

He was a 6-foot-7, 287-pound unknown at 34 years old, a player let go by a division rival. And in his first season with the Packers, Peppers delivered as a timely playmaker. In addition to his team-high 43 1/2 pressures, Peppers had a team-high 11 turnovers.

Of course, the reason he signed with the Packers was to win the Super Bowl. And he fell short of that goal at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Championship Game. Peppers is no stranger to agonizing defeats, having lost to the Packers in the 2010 NFC title game and to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl while he was in Carolina.

Now, he’ll need to do it again. At 35 years old.

“We’re looking forward,” Peppers said. “Nobody’s looking back. We’re already past that. It’s a new season. We have new opportunities this year, and we’re looking forward to this season.”

For Peppers, a player with 125.5 career sacks and 57 turnovers, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is the obvious last goal to achieve.

“Win. Win,” he said. “That’s it. There’s nothing else to do but to win.

“I think I can speak for everybody in here — it’s all about winning. That’s all we want to do.”

Without this play by Peppers to strip DeMarco Murray, the Packers would not have even made it to Seattle.

Without this play by Peppers to strip DeMarco Murray, the Packers would not have even made it to Seattle.

If Clay Matthews is playing inside linebacker many snaps again, the Packers will be counting on Peppers’ pass rush even more. He proved in 2014 he can still disrupt a passing game in the twillight of his career. His size and athleticism still overwhelmed offensive tackles at times. Now, he’ll need to do it again.

“There’s always something to improve upon,” Peppers said. “So it’s about finding those things. For me, it’s just about getting back out there and getting a feel for playing the game again, trying to shake some of the rust off. … It’s a lot more comfortable, a lot, in all ways – playbook, relationship with my teammates and just familiarity with everybody around here, so it’s a lot more comfortable this time around.”

Peppers noted the Packers have tweaked a few things on defense.

One thing will remain the same: young players will be looking up to Peppers as a leader. He knew when to speak up a year ago — including an inspiring pregame speech before a blowout win over the Bears — and will be taking on that role again.

This time, he hopes, with a different ending.

“It’s just doing things the right way,” Peppers said, “doing things how you’re supposed to be and setting the right example for not only the young guys but everybody and just trying to do things the right away.”

Original story HERE

Packers NT B.J. Raji says he’s ‘able to do everything’

June 7, 2015 by  
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By Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay — All signs have been pointing to a successful recovery from a torn bicep tendon for Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji, from weight-room theatrics to his overall mind-set as a free agent.

And back in Green Bay for organized team activities, he’s been a full participant. During Thursday’s open OTA session, he took part in individual drills and lined up with the first-team defense. Raji hasn’t been held back at all, saying he’s back at full strength.

“Yeah, I am,” Raji said. “I’m able to do everything.”

And quite possibly, Raji is the No. 1 key to Green Bay’s defense, a massive 337-pounder back at his preferred nose tackle position. Rehab was not easy in that he needed to get all muscles along his arm firing in unison.

“Obviously everybody knows I tore my bicep tendon,” Raji said, “but there were also little muscles and tendons that connect like my wrist and my hand and getting everything back on the same page, that was tough but I had to push through it.”

Raji wouldn’t get into details at his locker but said the Packers do have a plan in how they’ll utilize himself and Letroy Guion, the nose tackle who replaced him when he went down in late August. The team, he said, will “plan on displaying our abilities, no matter where we are.”

At this point, with the bicep, Raji can let go and play.

“I am there,” Raji said. “I did some things back home that allowed me to get that confidence going. I worked with my technique coach and we did some things on the field with punching bags. Working with some other NFL guys, my confidence got back quick. Here, it was just making sure my technique and my hands and feet and everything were good.

“I don’t want to pick up where I left off. I want to improve. I think I have a lot to offer and my group has a lot to offer. My first obligation is to make sure our young guys are coming in, ready to go. And I think as a unit, Coach Trgo and Coach Montgomery, when I came back and I signed, they put a lot of effort into our program and I think everybody’s bought in. So I’m excited.”

Original story HERE

JC Tretter hopes third season’s a charm

June 7, 2015 by  
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By the wonderful Lori Nickel of the Journal Sentinel

~Green Bay— No one would blame JC Tretter if he felt robbed.

He did everything right, turned in a great four years at Cornell, got his degree. He was chosen in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers in the 2013 NFL draft.

And then in his first organized team activities he suffered an ankle sprain so bad he missed his whole rookie season.

Yet he came back from it so strong, and showed so much potential early, that the Packers had the faith to pencil him in as a starter for the 2014 season.

Not just any starter.

Aaron Rodgers’ starting center.

Then near the end of training camp last Aug. 22, he suffered a knee injury in a preseason game vs. Oakland.

While Tretter had his leg propped up in a scooter, and wheeled around from the meeting room to the treatment room to the locker room, Corey Linsley came in from Ohio State and wowed everyone with 16 regular-season starts and an all-rookie team selection from the Pro Football Writers Association.

So maybe that’s why there seems to be no one more enthusiastic about practicing in the OTAs this spring than the 24-year old, 6-foot-4, 307-pound Tretter.

Not only practicing, but back at center. Tretter thinks he will play mostly there for the rest of these OTAs and for the veteran minicamp later this month. It is the position he feels he’s at his best, and most comfortable.

“I think it just fits me,” said Tretter. “I know the offense, I make all the calls.

Mark Hoffman

“I took a back seat at center at the end of last year. So it is nice to get back at center and to work at some things at center again. And then I will slowly start moving around.”

After Tretter was placed on injured reserve last season, the Packers used their “designated return” tag on him so he wouldn’t be out for the entire year.

While the team reported the injury as being to the knee, Tretter will only say he suffered a lower-leg injury, not wanting to get into specifics. Rest was all he could do to heal.

“I would say this injury was tougher than the first one,” said Tretter. “The timing was tough; I was looking into the season, getting going, and then it hits. It definitely took me significantly longer to wrap my mind around it. It took me a week or so to get past it.

“Now I try not think about what happened since then. Or what could have been.”

Tretter returned to the field Nov. 3. He did not start again but played in 10 games (including playoffs), mostly on special teams and some backup duty on the offensive line.

He also moved to all four other lineman positions.

“Yep, during practice, I was hitting all of them,” said Tretter.

It required a lot of thought and a mastery of the entire playbook.

“And not just, ‘this is my job.’ You have to change your mind,” said Tretter. “You get up there in your stance and you think, all right, I’m a…left guard. I’ve got a totally different checklist of things to look for.”

This off-season, the two centers, Tretter and Linsley, have worked closely together. They’re friends, sharing the same sarcastic personalities as well as a desire to break down the offense.

“I think our entire room has that, which is nice; you can get on people and they don’t take it personally,” said Tretter.

“We both know the offense inside and out. If we see something, we have that conversation. What are you looking at, we have this now, what are you thinking? What do you think about that linebacker, he’s a little far backside, what are you going to call?

“We pick each other’s brains. Everybody is going to have different calls with the things we can do.”

When the minicamp ends, Tretter will go home to Buffalo for a traditional family gathering over the Fourth of July holiday. Soon after that, he will return to Green Bay

Original story HERE

Peppers has makeup to defy Father Time another year

June 3, 2015 by  
Filed under News

From Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers in 2014 got exactly the player they thought they were getting when they signed Julius Peppers as a free agent.

He was a difference maker, maybe the second-best player on their defense, behind Clay Matthews. Peppers’ sacks total (seven) doesn’t necessarily reflect that, but according to Pro Football Focus, his 50 combined sacks, hits and hurries did. That’s the same number Matthews’ put up as a pass rusher.

General manager Ted Thompson saw enough to bring back the 35-year-old Peppers this season for the second year of his three-year contract, and at $9.5 million, which is $1 million more than the Packers paid him last year. Now it’s Peppers’ charge to defy the NFL’s actuarial tables for another year and play at a similar level as in ’14.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers (56) visits with Clay Matthews during organized team activities June 2 at Clarke Hinkle Field. (Photo: Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media)

You can’t know for sure what’s going on in a person’s head, but the Packers have to take it as a good sign that Peppers has no plans to quit football after this season. That suggests he feels good physically and mentally even after 13 NFL seasons.

“Body still feels great,” Peppers said after the Packers’ organized-team activities practice Tuesday. “I feel like if I wanted to play — I’m saying this now, in June — that I may be able to play a couple years after this season.”

Thompson was willing to count on Peppers for another season because the outside linebacker is among the most gifted athletes the franchise has seen in recent years. His impressive frame is only part of the story — at 6-feet-7 and 287 pounds, he’s huge for a position where 6-4 and 255 pounds is prototypical size. What stands out almost as much, though, is Peppers’ injury history, in that there isn’t much.

He’s never had a major injury in his life and has missed only two NFL games because of injury in his 13-year career. That was because of a sprained MCL in 2007. The only other games he missed were the final four of his rookie season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. That means he’s played in 202 of a possible 208 games.

He played through a broken hand with the Carolina Panthers in 2009 and another sprained MCL with the Chicago Bears in 2011. All things considered, that’s remarkably injury-free for such a long career and means his body has weathered professional football far better than an overwhelming majority of players.

“A little luck in there,” Peppers said. “Being blessed physically, having some great genes. Working hard. It’s a combination of all those things.”

This was a game-saving, and season-saving, play Peppers made on Demarco Murray in the NFC Divisional Game. Dallas had the momentum and a 4-point lead, heading into Packers territory in the third quarter. Murray may have taken this one to the house without the strip. Only #28 Sean Richardson may have been able to stop him otherwise.

In recent years, Peppers has changed the way he trains in the offseason to accommodate his age. He has cut back significantly on the volume of his workouts, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. He looks like the same player who joined the Chicago Bears as a 30-year old in 2010, and his listed weight of 287 pounds is only four pounds more than the 283 he weighed at the NFL scouting combine in 2002.

Incredibly, he takes a full month off from training after the season, and then later in the offseason commonly takes a week off here and there, based on how he feels. Earlier in his career, he wouldn’t have considered taking off that much time from working out.

“That’s what works for me,” he said.

Defensive lineman B.J. Raji said that the qualities that stand out after observing Peppers for a little more than a year are his flexibility and diet. He’s never seen Peppers engage in or talk about extra stretching, but when watching Peppers play he sees a naturally limber athlete. Raji also never has talked to Peppers about diet but has noticed that Peppers’ two or three meals each day at the team’s facility are always healthy.

“I think his flexibility allows him to stay injury free,” Raji said. “He has obviously God-given explosion and strength. And nutrition. He’s been here for almost two years now, and he’s very conscious of what goes into his body.”

One reason for the Packers to think Peppers can have the kind of impact he had last season is that while it’s unusual for a 35-year-old to still be a good pass rusher, it’s far from unprecedented.

Using Peppers’ seven sacks last season as the benchmark, since the NFL started tracking sacks in the 1982 season, a player 35 or older has had at least that many 33 times.

Peppers also made a huge play on Romo in the game. Peppers earned every dollar. He’s still a special player.

The most was Trace Armstrong’s 161/2 in 2000, when he was 35, followed by Reggie White’s 16 with the Packers in 1998, when he was 37. Players 35 or older broke double digits in sacks 15 times, including three in multiple seasons: Chris Doleman and Kevin Greene did it three times each, and Bruce Smith twice.

Peppers doesn’t need a double-digit sack season to be worth the $9.5 million. But he needs to play like last season, when he made enough plays and put on enough pressure to be considered a disruptive player.

The Packers also probably need to cut back a little on his playing time — his 73.9 percent of defensive snaps in 2014 probably needs to drop into the 60s this season to improve the odds he’ll be healthy and sharp in January.

The bet here is, the Packers will get their money’s worth.

Original story from Pistol Pete HERE