NOTE: This article was written before the recent controversy surrounding Nick Barnett, Jermichael Finley, and the Super Bowl team photo. It is not meant as a commentary on that issue, simply as a reflection of all those players on IR not being able to play in Super Bowl XLV.
“Bitter sweet bitter sweet.”
That was the tweet from Nick Barnett on Monday after the NFC Championship Game, and it very succinctly described how some of the Green Bay Packers players on injured reserve must be feeling right now.
Barnett was a first round draft selection (29th pick) for the Packers in 2003, and has started for them at inside linebacker ever since. Though he has never played in a Pro Bowl, he was named an alternate for the game in each of his first five seasons. He made himself into a staple of the Green Bay defense and was a part of the 2007 team that was close to winning the NFC Championship.
So you can understand why this trip to Super Bowl XLV brings some mixed emotions.
For the man who made a fad (and pseudo-business) of the “XLV or Die” mantra, he will still only get to watch – and not play – with his team when they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Dallas.
Jermichael Finley, star tight end for the Green Bay Packers, is another man among the 15 injured reserve players who was calling for this to be a special season. His “YOTTO” (Year Of The Take Over) battle cry was a popular hashtag on Twitter around game time, even after his injury.
But while Finley has plenty of time (and potential) in his career to make a return trip to the Super Bowl, other injured players may not be so lucky.
Barnett is in his eighth year with the Packers and will be turning 30 years old this May. His replacement, Desmond Bishop, has done admirably this season, and even earned himself a contract extension in January. The suddenly-crowded inside linebacker position has people wondering if Barnett will even make it back to the roster next year.
Veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher, however, has even less hope for getting back to, and playing in, the Super Bowl.
Having only started in 12 games over the past two seasons due to injuries, this once-foundation of the offensive line has many wondering if he will be signing his retirement papers during the offseason. Tauscher’s replacement, 2010 first round draft choice Bryan Bulaga, has proven capable of continuing as a starter in that position, and there’s no telling how healthy Tauscher could remain even if he did return for one more shot.
Along with Barnett and Tauscher, star running back Ryan Grant and linebacker Brady Poppinga were both members of the 2007 team that got as close as they could to a Super Bowl without actually making it.
Now that they’ve finally made it, part of the joy for their team has to be mixed with disappointment and perhaps some resignation.
Really, though, every member of the Packers injured reserve list must be dealing with this conflict of emotions. Just about all of them made important contributions during the season to help their team make it to Super Bowl XLV, and to not be able to play can only be heartbreaking.
Sure, they will get the rings and the recognition, but it’s actually playing the game that they love the most.
And that’s the one thing they just won’t get to do.——————Follow @ChadToporski