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30

June

Former Packers DL Jolly Receives Medical Clearance

Johnny Jolly

Jolly is one step closer to a potential return to the NFL

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the doctors of former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly have given him the medical clearance to resume his football career.

I’m not writing this because I think Jolly will be back with the Packers or even to suggest that the Packers look into evaluating and clearing him.  Jolly’s story last season carried with it a tale of redemption and hope.  While his performance was anything but stellar, he was a good addition to the team and proved worthy of a roster spot.

Jolly received encouragement from his doctors earlier this year when the surgery was performed and a portion of his hip bone was grafted to help fuse his spine.  At that time, all Jolly could do was wait and see how it healed and if doctors would be confident enough to allow him to play football again.

Today, at least part of that wait is over.  Jolly’s clearance by his doctors is the first step to his potential return to the NFL and a sign that the procedure was a success, at least from a medical standpoint.

However, before any team would sign Jolly, their doctors also have to medically clear him.  Being cleared by his own doctors is one thing.  Being cleared by a team doctor is another and especially if we’re talking about the conservative medical staff in Green Bay.

Packers fans are unfortunately all too familiar with the process a player goes through with a serious neck injury.  We have seen some good and great former Packers players not return to the game following a neck injury.  The same players who if healthy, would have multiple suitors for their services and at a healthy rate of pay.  Former safety Nick Collins being a prime example.

Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is also still waiting for a team to medically clear him so he can resume his professional career.  As much as these men offer as players, teams remain cautious about the potential risks associated with a return to this very physical sport following such a serious injury.

As far as the Packers are concerned, the meaning of this news about Jolly today is about nothing more than being happy for a former team member.  As I mentioned earlier, the Packers have seen way more than their fair share of neck injuries to past players and to hear about one that may heal enough to return to the gridiron is welcome news on its own merit.

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12

June

Aaron Rodgers: Healthy, Happy and Hungry for 2014

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers 2014,  Aaron Rodgers injury,

Aaron Rodgers wants another Lombardi Trophy in 2014.

When Aaron Rodgers speaks, Green Bay Packers fans listen.

In two recent interviews, one with Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the other with Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Rodgers made some comments that should have fans giddy with excitement about the upcoming Packers season and also about the quarterback himself.

The first thing that really stood out in both interviews is that Rodgers seems to be very happy and content with where he is in life. For a player who has a made a name for himself playing with a chip on his shoulder, this is a big change.

In the interview with Vandermause, Rodgers said, “I think I feel good about where I’m at in my career and then also in my life that I’m going to live my life and deal with whatever comes and be comfortable. I think that’s the biggest thing. … Now I’m settling into my place in this league and my place off the field.”

Regarding the infamous chip on Rodgers’ shoulder, he said via the conversation with Dunne that he now knows he’s proven a lot of his “initial critics” wrong and now it’s about “proving to myself and my teammates that I can continue to be the best every day.”

For a player who always had the urge to prove people wrong, this is huge. Rodgers now knows he not just belongs among the NFL elite but also that he is universally placed there by his peers. He expects to remain there for the rest of his career.

The second thing that raises some eyebrows in both interviews is how excited Rodgers is about the 2014 team.

In the interview with Dunne, when asked how much separates the Packers from the San Francisco 49ers, Rodgers give a short yet pointed reply: “Not much.”

Short answers from Rodgers usually implies anger. Packers fans know what happens when Rodgers is angry. It’s clear the quarterback has had it up to here with getting beat by the 49ers. You’d have to think Rodgers would love to get yet another shot at his childhood team in the playoffs come January.

Regarding the 2014 team, Rodgers is excited about the addition of Julius Peppers to the defense and the return of many injured players from last season to health including Casey Hayward and Bryan Bulaga.

23

May

Bradford Uses Tragedy to Overcome Obstacles

Carl Bradford

Carl Bradford: “People can’t see the lion roaring inside me”

The Green Bay Packers used this year’s fourth round pick on Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford.  There were probably not many followers of the Packers who were more excited than I was and I’ll come clean right here and now: I’m an ASU alum and a season ticket holder.  It was homerism at its finest when the pick was announced and I expressed my excitement all the way down the road I was driving on at the time.

In a story written shortly after Bradford was drafted by Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the opening paragraph talked about how the Packers seemingly chose to ignore conventional wisdom when they made the pick.

At 6’1″ and with 30″ arms, Bradford’s measurables didn’t necessarily scream “3-4 outside linebacker”.  I always chuckle a bit when I hear scouts and media talking about a player’s arm length.  I see how it can be helpful, but so many football players have had very successful careers with “short arms” before.

Still, Bradford isn’t the type of player you envision when you think of a good pass-rushing linebacker.  By contrast, the Packers brought in undrafted rookie linebacker and Adrian Hubbard out of Alabama.  Hubbard stands at 6’6″ and 245 pounds.  Bradford was drafted, in the fourth round.  Hubbard wasn’t, largely because of a potential heart condition.

In football and the NFL, measurables simply don’t tell the whole story.  In Bradford’s case, they barely tell the story.  By now, many have heard how Bradford lost his father, Roy Bradford, early last year to a heart attack.  At home in Louisiana, Roy collapsed suddenly into his son’s arms and was pronounced dead when paramedics arrived.

The loss of any family member, under any circumstances, is a hard pill to swallow.  In Bradford’s case, it was no different.  ASU head football coach Todd Graham talked in Dunne’s piece about how Bradford didn’t talk much about the loss of his dad and that it was clearly affecting him.  The grieving process is different for everyone.  Bradford went through the tough part and had his ups and downs.

Then came last season where he used all of that emotion, both good and bad, to finish out his collegiate career with a second-straight solid season for the Sun Devils.  Eight and a half sacks along with an key interception returned for a touchdown late in the season against UCLA.  Below are highlights from that game with Bradford as a feature.  Fast forward to 2:16 to see that particular play.

20

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

As we sit here waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the NFL draft to come around, now is as good a time as any to look back on Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s draft classes.

This draft will be Thompson’s 10th. Let’s rank his first nine classes best to worst, even if it’s still too early to judge some of the more recent classes.

  1. 2005. How do you not put the draft where Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins in your top slot? I scratched my head when Thompson took Rodgers (apparently he couldn’t find a trade partner in time), but, unlike 23 other general managers, Thompson pulled the trigger and rescued Rodgers from the green room at Radio City Music Hall. It might have been a bit of a head-scratcher at the time, but now the Packers have the best quarterback in the league. The Packers would probably still have one of the best safeties in the league if Collins didn’t have his career shortened by a neck injury. Thompson’s first draft was 2005 and was a helluva way to start off as the new general manager. I suppose if you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, you could say Thompson’s drafts have all gone downhill since.
  2. 2009. After taking B.J. Raji ninth overall, Thompson traded back into the first round to nab Clay Matthews. He also picked up T.J. Lang in the fourth and Brad Jones in the seventh. Yeah, Raji fell off a cliff last season, but let’s not forget what he did to help the Packers win a Super Bowl. When Matthews is healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic defensive players in the game. Grabbing a starting guard in Lang and solid backup/fringe starter in Jones later in the draft gave 2009 a slight edge over…
  3. 2008. I probably would have given 2008 the nod over 2009 if not for Brian Brohm, a complete bust of a pick in the second round. But Thompson did end up finding his backup quarterback/oh-crap-what-if-Aaron-Rodgers-flops option later with Matt Flynn in the seventh round. Before finding Flynn, Thompson took Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finely and Josh Sitton. Yeah, that’s a helluva haul.
15

April

QB Matt Flynn Reportedly Re-Signs with Packers

Matt Flynn led a fiery comeback for the Packers. And in some ways, the tie is a win.

Flynn will reportedly return to Green Bay in 2014

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN and via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Matt Flynn have reportedly come to agreement on a new contract.  Terms have not been announced and Schefter reported this after confirming with a source close to the Packers.

Flynn was signed by the Packers last season in late November after losing their first two games following the injury to starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Flynn took over for Scott Tolzien and amassed over 1,100 yards passing with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

More importantly, Flynn helped keep the Packers afloat until Rodgers’ return in late December.  In relief of Tolzien against the Minnesota Vikings, Flynn helped guide the Packers to a tie after the Vikes had built a 23-7 lead.  Flynn also led victories against the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys and came within a late touchdown pass of pulling off a comeback win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Prior to Flynn’s signing, the fact that he remained unsigned by the Packers was a mystery to many.  Flynn hadn’t reportedly received any interest from other teams after the 2013 season and it was often said that Flynn’s best opportunity in the NFL was in Green Bay, where his career began in 2008.

After leaving Green Bay and signing a lucrative deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, Flynn bounced around the league, spending time in Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo before he was released by the Bills and spent a few weeks on the street.  It was not that surprising that other teams weren’t beating down the door to talk to or sign Flynn.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said that he wants to have at least three quarterbacks in training camp and with Flynn signed, Green Bay should enter 2014 with him as well as Rodgers and Tolzien.  The Packers could also add a quarterback in next month’s draft or via free agency afterward.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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13

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

6

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Take a look at this NFL mock draft at Drafttek.com. There are three tight ends selected before a running back is chosen with the 50th overall pick.

Last year in the actual NFL draft there were two tight ends selected before the first running back was snatched off the board (Giovani Bernard at No. 37).

When I was growing up, running back was the glamour position. When we went out for recess to play football (this was back when you could still play tackle football at recess), everyone pretended to be Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith, not some tight end. Most teams wouldn’t dream of taking a tight end over a promising running back in the draft.

Times have changed. Running back is a de-valued position in today’s NFL. That’s not breaking news. But has the de-valuing gone too far?

The top two teams in the NFC last season, Seattle and San Francisco, based their offense around bruising running games. The Packers turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to keep their heads above water after Aaron Rodgers broke his collar bone. Even with Tom Brady at quarterback, the Patriots pounded the ball on the ground early in the season, outrushing opponents in three of the first four games and starting 4-0.

Even on pass-happy Denver, with Peyton Manning at quarterback and a stable of exceptional receivers and tight ends, running back Knowshon Moreno finished with almost 1,600 total yards from scrimmage.

For a while, the NFL also appeared to be de-valuing the safety position, but that might be changing.

Only three safeties were picked in the first round from 2008-11. In the last two drafts, four safeties have gone in the first. In the opening days of NFL free agency, the top safeties on the board flew off the shelf for big money.

I think a lot of teams are emphasizing the safety position again because they see the importance of versatility in today’s game. Safeties are often best suited to handle multiple tasks: provide coverage over the top, match up against a tight end, play the slot, stop the run, drill whoever has the ball, occasionally blitz, etc. Take a look at the Seahawks and 49ers again — both were strong at safety.