A “Fine” Mess: Why are the Packers Prey for Dirty Hits?

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Why are the Packers falling victim to hits like this? Their style of play could be partially to blame.

The Green Bay Packers are 1-2 so far in 2013. With this past weekend being Green Bay’s bye week, every aspect of the team has been broken down over and over by a variety of writers.

How the offense is doing, what the defense needs to improve on and the Packers’ lack of a kick returner has been talked about ad nauseum since Green Bay’s defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. They are all important questions that definitely need to be answered when determining the 2013 Packers’ fate.

However, there is one question no one seems to be asking and it’s a curious one at that: Why are the Packers falling victim to dirty plays by their opponents every week?

It’s something you may not have noticed, but it’s the truth. In every single game Green Bay has played so far this season, someone on the opposite sideline has been fined for some type of illegal hit on a Packer player.

In Week 1, while Clay Matthews was also fined $15,000 for his sideline hit on Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers players racked up over $20,000 in fines themselves. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was fined $7,875 for what the league called a late hit on cornerback Jarrett Bush and linebacker Ahmad Brooks was fined $12,750 for a bone crushing roughing the passer penalty in the second quarter.

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Merriweather  was fined $42,000 for a helmet-to-helmet collision with Packers running back Eddie Lacy that left the rookie with a concussion.  Merriweather later took himself out of the game with another helmet-to-helmet hit against James Starks.

The Bengals in Week 3 completed the trifecta when linebacker Vontaze Burfict was fined $31,000 for two hits, one to the head of Packers wide receiver James Jones and a low blow to tight end Ryan Taylor. On the Taylor hit, Burfict was not penalized but Taylor was for his retaliatory shove. Taylor however was not fined by the league.  George Iloka was fined $15,000 for the hit that gave tight end Jermichael Finley a concussion.

It’s happened three games in a row, so that leads to the theory this isn’t just some kind of coincidence and something else is at work here.

One reason that it could be is it that the league is enforcing its rules on an inconsistent basis. The NFL has dished out $6,173,391 million in fines according to Spotrac and the $108,625 that have been incurred from infractions against the Packers makes up around 1.76% percent of that total. Of course, this is football and violent hits will happen but with recent discoveries about long term effects of concussions, the league has to crack down on illegal hits.

It’s also worth noting that some of that $6 million has been contributed by repeat offenders, such as the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh and Brandon Merriweather.  That makes them subject to much stiffer fines and Suh recently was hit with a $100,000 violation.

When you look at what the Packers have been falling victim to however, this only tells part of the story.

Green Bay has been accused of being a “soft” team the last couple years and the other 31 NFL teams have clearly become aware of that.  The 49ers busted the Packers in the mouths in Week 1 and, to the relief of many Packers fans,  Green Bay finally fought back and showed some guts despite the loss.

That said, one game alone is not enough to erase a stigma.  Both games against Washington and Cincinnati, as mentioned above, saw the Packers fall victim to dirty play that was loudly (and correctly) called out on Twitter and other forms of media.  Teams are still going after the Packers because they consider them soft and unable to win a physical, street fight-style football game.

So how do the Packers correct it?

Well, in a way they’ve already begun to.  Early signs indicate a resurgent running game and despite the solid play thus far from James Starks, the physical running of Lacy is really the medicine the Packers need.  Green Bay has not a true workhorse at running back since Ahman Green and Lacy has the ability to just wear down opponents.

This why Lacy needs to return from his concussion and soon. The Packers almost look like a different offense when Lacy isn’t in the lineup. Look at the Bengals game for proof of that.

Then there is the coaching style of Mike McCarthy.  For whatever reason, the Packers seem to let off the gas as soon as they build roughly a 20-point lead.  Green Bay goes into the prevent, both on offense and defense, and this allows opponents to make the score much closer than it seems and even sometimes, incredibly, costs the Packers a games (Indianapolis Colts, 2012).

McCarthy could learn a lot from what the Denver Broncos are doing in 2013.  Peyton Manning has thrown a ridiculous 16 touchdowns and no interceptions one quarter of the way through the season.  It’s a mind boggling statistic that likely won’t be repeated any time soon, but if one quarterback can do it it’s Aaron Rodgers.

Take a look here at what Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post wrote about the Broncos running the score up and showing no mercy.  They just beat the Eagles 51-20 and the comments by the Eagles players show they were feeling utterly humiliated.  What is driving that team? According to Kiszla, it’s the deep burning anger of last season’s playoff defeat and that fire is inspiring fear into their opponents.

Sound familiar? It’s what the Packers should be and can still be.

The Packers need to go out there and humiliate their opponents.   Some fans might argue about class and dignity and those are definitely important  to the game. However, football itself is an uncivilized game and it’s becoming increasingly harder to win a Super Bowl with a civilized team. See the 2011 Packers for more on that. You can still have class and be uncivilized. It’s not like the Packers need to become the Lions.

Speaking of the Lions, the upcoming game will unfortunately likely expose the Packers to even more cheap shots given the reputation of their opponent.  The league handing out fines and suspensions are all good, but that won’t replace a player that suffered a catastrophic injury on an unnecessary play.

Dirty play sadly will always be a part of the NFL and league is trying to crack down on it, but the Packers can do their part as well.  It’s time for them to get physical and change that “soft” image.  What they have shown so far in 2013 is a start, but there’s still 13 games remaining.

What Green Bay does in those 13 games will ultimately determine their fate this season.  If they can fight back and get into the heads of their opponents, they stand as good a chance as anyone as making a trip to New Jersey in February.

That’s something all Packers fans should agree on.


Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.


34 thoughts on “A “Fine” Mess: Why are the Packers Prey for Dirty Hits?

  1. They do need to show muscle and a plan that goes after the opponent agressively, but there’s a big difference between that and dirty cheap, play..I’m glad to see the packers not resorting to cheap shots in retaliation. Kris is right that a string game will really help, and keeping the opponent on their heels by playing fast and doing the unexpected, no matter how far ahead they are. The lions are prone to losing their composure & resorting to dirty play. Packers can’t fall prey to that. Hopefully lacey and Starks are ready to go.

  2. GB has played 2 of the best defenses in the league on the road. And the other team had one of the dirtiest players in the league. Any passing team is going to get those type of shots on their WR’s.

    But what you said about going into the prevent is absolutely true. Capers is a mathmatician and he plays the odds to win the game – no matter how ugly. MM is stubborn as hell with his gameplan.

  3. The Packers have been inconsistent in their first three games. This is due to lack of reps for the starters in the preseason, 3 new o-linemen, and playing against 2 of the better defenses in the league. As for cracking down on dirty play the league needs to suspend, not just penalize and fine players. First offenders should be suspended for the same amount of games as the player they injure. If no injury than at least one game. 2nd time at least 3 games, 3rd time for a season, after that gone from the league. An approach like this May finally wake up the dirty players. The Packers need to play tough but clean. Dirty play is bad for all parties. The league needs to be tough and consistent on this issue. Thanks, Since ’61

    1. Enjoy your touch football game. Cuz that’s what you’ll have… Already not enough hitting allowed for my taste. When a Defender is soo tentative to hit a player that a QB (a la Cutler) can actually deliver a blow instead of taking one, is proof that the NFL has gone too far in legislating hitting out of the game!

  4. The Packers need to finish games. “You dance with who(broung)ya” If your winning a game through passing than keep passing! If your winning a game with running then run!

    The Packers seem to get a three point lead in the second quarter and then go into prevent? Keep the “friggen” ball out of the opponents skill players hands by methodically moving down the field and scoring.

    It’s great to get the ball and zip down the field in three plays and score. It’s handy at the end of close games. But it’s better to move down the field using up the clock to limit your opponents handling of the ball. You chance losing the ball but that’s what separate’s the men from the boys!

    Crush your opponents each and every time to keep a attitude of power and a air of “undefeatability”. Push and push harder each and every time to hone your skills and legend. The Packers seem to be caring fathers not wanting the opponents to be embarrassed.

    “Those who conquer show no mercy. Those who showed mercy are among the vanquished.”

    1. agree! but one of the biggest things the NFL lacks is consistency in enforcing the rule book. No penalties for the blatant shots to the head? ain’t gonna work, NFL.

  5. Rather than hand out fines in arbitrary gross dollar amounts, the fines should be levied on a percentage of salary basis. The thought being that the penalty remains approximately relative to the player’s pay, so the new guys ‘getting by’ on their salaries aren’t whacked so much more than a 5th year guy who’s in the 1st year of his $50MM deal.

    Imagine a 1st year guy making the league minimum of $405,000 and gets whacked $30,000 – that equates to roughly 7.5% of his pay. The same infraction, the same fine for a guy making $8,000,000 equates to 1/3rd of 1%. If he got nailed at the same percentage and had to fork over $600,000, something tells me he’s not head-hunting any more.

    The whole thing with the rules and the fines has gotten out of control, but if you’re going to have it be part of the game, then the NFL needs to make sure that whatever the consequence is for ‘breaking the rule’, it has to be fair and have the same impact and deterrent effect for everyone.

    1. I’ve heard the argument of keeping the player who dished it out as long as the player who got it (I’m not completely on board with it as many particulars would need to be worked out). However, perhaps a silly thought…but what about monies fined by the NFL go to the pocket of the player injured? The NFL claims it goes to charities. I know every little bit helps a charity, but the amounts seem silly. What charity, and how do you get on that list?

      “Why do I have a new prosthetic leg, doctor?” “Well, the hit on Finley brought $15,000 into our charity.” IDK…doesn’t sit well with me. I know that person would love the new leg, etc.

      I’m not against charities getting NFL money. But the NFL seems to make giving to charity with fines a little bit of an afterthought. “He’s done for the season, but the fine against the player that took him out will go to a good cause.”

      I know players get taken care of well beyond what any of us could imagine, but something needs to be done to the offending player to “make it right” with the player that was wronged. I say they attend counseling together, hold hands, and sing kumbaya before playing another down. Maybe not. Rant over.

  6. Converting a few 3rd and 1’s would go a long way toward proving we are not “soft”. Once we routinely convert those so I am not nervous every time that down and distance comes up, I will respect our toughness a bit more. It is play calling as well, but we should be able to go up the middle for a yard any time we want. Imposing our will on 3rd and one should do the trick.

    1. If your passing on those 3rd and 1’s, you still come off a “soft”. If you wanna change that perception you have to convert those by running the ball. But you guys all think it was poor play calling to have Franklin run on 4th and 1. Passing perpetuates the “soft” label cuz teams know you can’t or won’t run it right at them!

  7. Am I getting this right…The Packers lose because of the cheap shot players on those teams we lose to….what a joke and in the running for the best excuse to date.

    The Packers lose for lacking everything the Broncos are showing…period. You can sugarcoat every avenue you wish to defend the Packers and their play and record…the simple point is the Packers are the team with talent to win but play to lose and this gives every team an edge come game time.

    1. I fail to see where Kris suggested that in his post… Can you cite where he said that Packers lose beacuse of cheap shots?

      1. “It’s happened three games in a row, so that leads to the theory this isn’t just some kind of coincidence and something else is at work here.”

        The article implies that teams are playing dirty because the Packers are soft and if hit hard,whether legal or illegal they fold.

        I don’t like the dirty play either but I watch every game of all teams and these type of shots are inflicted in every one.Some are caught and fined and some aren’t and though a late cheap shot may give a victory or loss,this article says its a reason for the Packers whether aloud or implied.

        1. “Speaking of the Lions, the upcoming game will unfortunately likely expose the Packers to even more cheap shots given the reputation of their opponent”…

          The ground work being laid for the why we lost if it happens.

          1. Nowhere did Kris come even close to implying that this is why the Packers lost a game. He’s noting and commenting on a phenomenon which might or might not be a pattern and examining the reasons why it may be happening. You’re way off base on this one…

    2. Is there a way to dislike this twice?
      The article doesn’t even imply what you are suggesting.

      1. My security software doesn’t like allgbp.com for some reason, so I get double thumbs up or down every time I click. It makes me feel like a South American dictator stuffing the ballot box…

        Kind of cool feeling actually. 😉

  8. Excellent post, Kris, and some great food for thought. The Packers need to show that they can dominate a team from start to finish.

    1. Hard to dominate anyone when you quarter back is running for his life. Had to dominate anyone when you start 14 points in the hole because your defense is poor and your special teams are not special. Hard to dominate anyone when you are always starting behind your 20 yard line. Hard to dominate anyone when you can’t score touch down because you can’t make first downs. Hard to dominate when your defensive secondary usually is not in the camera range when passes are caught. You can’t lead from behind. The personal changes should have taken place in the off season to improve talent. That did not happen. Now you have a team with 4 or 5 good players and that is it. A coach that has no imagination and a Personal manager that will not spend big bucks to make changes.

        1. Punter Tim Masthay is averaging 44 yds per punt on 12 punts in 3 games with 5 punts, or 41.7%, inside the 20 yard line with 0 touchbacks and only 4 punts returned for a return yard average of only 4.25! Just bringing some sunshine into your dreary life, Al.

  9. If you’re a DB and you know you’ve got WR catching short passes and running across the middle, what are you told? Hit the receiver so that next time he hears footsteps. Once you get into the WR’s head, the drops start coming. They don’t finish routes as strongly. The YAC go away.

    We’ve glorified the big hits from pop warner on up. What we haven’t glorified is good wrap-up form tackling. My hope is that we’ll see this change as a result of the emphasis on concussion prevention at the lower levels.

  10. Can we please start having coach’s make better in game adjustment’s. When I hear McCarthy say finely was a big part of the gameplan before he went out the game. When he went out the game it messed up wat we where tryn to do. Ok that right there lets me know McCarthy mentality its crap. How do you put a game plan in one inconsistent player. When you have a variety of talented guys. Pluse you know your oline isn’t very good. going up against a tuff dline why don’t you quite the damnnn shotgun and run. Bunch sets to help slow down a teams damn pass rush. When we have a big lead start keeping the foot on a peddle and dominant damn change your mentality McCarthy seriously.

  11. Sorry, but this board seems to have lost all semblance of reason and common sense in the past few weeks.

    At the heart of the article is this half-baked idea: The Packers are taking cheap shots because they are perceived as “soft.” The article doesn’t even attempt to prove it. The notion is simply put forward for everyone to bow down to, whether it makes sense and agrees with the truth or not.

    So now that we’ve accepted this wild assertion as a fact (for no apparent reason), what should we do to correct this terrible problem?

    The suggestion is made, “The Packers need to go out there and humiliate their opponents.” What?? Does any sane-minded person really believe that public humiliation will lead to FEWER cheap shots and dirty plays? Isn’t it a well-known fact that athletes are EVEN MORE LIKELY to take cheap shots when they are getting embarrassed and humiliated? Sorry, but of all the dumb ideas in this article, this one is the dumbest.

    The article also asserts that because the Packers “take their foot off the gas” and “go into prevent” … this somehow leads to an increase in cheap shots and dirty plays. Really? Letting up and calling off the dogs leads to more cheap shots?? Who came up with that idea? Or is this just more senseless babbling?

    Again, according to this article, the solution is running up the score. Never mind that the Packers are the second highest scoring offense in the league, and yet we’re still getting cheap shots. Or then again, the article says that maybe the solution is gaining yards on the ground. But GB is ninth in rushing yards per game, and second in yards per rush, so apparently these “solutions” aren’t working.

    I guess this article is telling me that TOUGH teams who grind out yards on the GROUND and RUN UP the score will not get cheap-shotted by opponents. Never mind that this assertion is completely devoid of logic, let’s just focus on the fact that the evidence doesn’t really support this. The 0-4 NY Giants have scored a paltry 61 points all season (third last in the league), they rush for only 58 yards per game (also third last) and their per rush average is 3.3 (27th out of 32). Yet NOT ONE TEAM has been fined for cheap shots when playing against the Giants. The 0-4 Steelers scored only 69 points so far (26th in the league), and their running game is even worse than the Giants (58 yds/g and 3.2/rush). Yet NOT ONE TEAM has been fined for cheap shots when playing against the Steelers. If the GBP are getting cheap shots because they (supposedly) are soft, can’t run and don’t run up the score, how come people aren’t cheap shotting the Giants or the Steelers? And nobody has committed a “fineable” offense against the lousy teams in STL and CAR, either. Horrifically-bad Jacksonville was the victim of only one “fineable” cheap shot.

    On the other hand, there are three teams in the league whose opponents have been fined EVEN MORE than Green Bay’s opponents: Houston, Minnesota and the Jets. Oddly enough, both Minnesota and Houston are known for grinding out yards with their rugged ground attacks, and yet they take even more cheap shots than “softies” like Green Bay. And Minny is the fifth highest scoring offense in the league.

    Sorry, but this is just a bad article.

    1. Sorry, but your response is classless. I didn’t read the whole thing because it was offensive. Classic example of the consumer-driven-entitlement culture? Ab-so-friggen-lutely.

      Do you realize these guys DO NOT get paid to contribute to the site? It’s a labor of love. And most of the time, the content is pretty darn good. Allgbp.com has become my favorite website for all things Packers.

      If you don’t like an article fine. Feel free to express it. But don’t be a jerk.

    2. Sometimes it’s okay to search for answers instead of already having them. Many of the great thinkers in our human history were the ones searching for answers and not always finding them. It’s path, not the destination, that is important.

      1. Granted, many “great thinkers” have searched for answers to real problems. Throughout human history, though, the world’s asylums have been filled with those who have searched for answers to problems that existed only in their minds.

    3. Excellent comment, Marpag. Unlike another, who has a history of calling other commenters “jerks” on this site, I actually read the whole of your comment. I didn’t find it offensive. IMHO, there was no need for you to apologize in the last sentence of your comment for correctly summarizing Kris’s post as “just a bad article.” Your criticisms of Kris’s proposed solutions to a problem he has surmised (i.e., that the Packers have been subjected to illegal hits because other teams perceive them as “soft”) are supported by facts. It was not “classless” of you to call objectively dumb ideas, “Dumb,” and factually unsupported babbling, “Babbling.” To call a spade a spade is to describe something clearly and directly. You did so.

    4. Personally, if I read something I consider to be “dumb,” I stop reading and just move on without taking the time to belittle the author’s efforts. But that’s just me.

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