Thursday, June 01, 2006

OTA Underway; Harlan and Jones Move Up

Four weeks of OTAs, otherwise known as Organized Team Activities, began yesterday for the Packers. These are not official minicamps and, as such, attendance of the players is not required. But, as you might imagine, it is strongly encouraged to make an appearance during the 14 voluntary workouts. So much so, in fact, that ol' #4 himself is attending right now. On the other hand, 14 players are not in attendance. (Hmmm, one player for each day...coincidence? Or something more incidious? Hmmm...Quick, get me ticekts for the Da Vinci Code. Stat!)

Because these are voluntary workouts, you can't read anything into...well...anything. But of course, pundits still do. Such as speculating about the absence of Al Harris, for example. Reportedly, he is unhappy with his contract -- even though it was signed in Septemeber 2004 and still has nearly four years remaining -- because the Pack dumped a boatload of dollars into free agent Charles Woodson's bank account. Get over it, Al. Seven other projected starters were also absent, although apparently only rookie A. J. Hawk was known about ahead of time: he is still finishing up at Ohio State. But on the positive side, veterans who know the meaning of "team" more so than "I" were on hand, such as Favre, FB William Henderson and DE Aaron Kampman. Kampman was quoted as saying they need to set an example for the younger players and a tone for the upcoming season. What a concept!

The coaching staff will begin installing more of the new system next week and it's at that time that attendance, albeit still voluntary, becomes even more of an issue. As for now, the new projected starter opposite Al Harris, safety Marquand Manuel, made an upbeat assessment of the situation. As quoted in the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Manuel said: "The guys that are here have a chance to get reps. That's how you've got to look at it. A lot of people want to look at the negative side of it all the time but it's a chance for guys to be able to trust the young guys." Manuel became outright philosophical as he continued: "I was a young guy. It took somebody not coming to minicamp or training camp, holding out for me to get my opportunity to show the coaches that I could play. You've got to look at the positive side of it." Indeed. The glass is half full not half empty. (Repeat until convinced.)

One other tidbit of news emerging is that rookie Will Blackmon, expected to get work at cornerback and especially as a returner on special teams, had surgery on the foot injury he suffered during the last minicamp. Coach McCarthy indicated in reports that they are not sure how long he will be out. He said he hoped he's back in time for training camp. Also, as expected, McCarthy confirmed that OL Kevin Barry had surgery on his torn quadriceps muscle and is in rehab; he's likely out for the year.

Harlan and Jones Move Up

Longtime Packers President Bob Harlan, responsibile for overseeing the resurrection of the Packers and turning Lambeau Field into a year-round -- rather than 10-days-a-year -- destination, was named CEO Wednesday. Harlan will chair the Packer's Executive Committee until May 2007 when, due to the organization's rules, he will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70. At that point, Harlan will formally be elected by the Board as chairman emeritus. John Jones, who assumed the title of Packers President yesterday, will then be elected President and CEO. Nice and tidy succession plan, don't you agree?

Jones, who Harlan recruited away from the League offices in 1999, is now the 10th President in Packers history. He has a great sense of the history and uniqueness of the franchise. Having worked for the League's Management Council prior to coming to Green Bay -- in fact, being one of the individual's responsible for the last collective bargaining agreement that incorporated the salary cap and revenue sharing provisions that help keep the Packers competitive -- you can be sure Jones will fight for those aspects of League operations that will keep the Packers THE Packers. That includes making sure the new commissioner values the Packers place in the League as much as outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue does. As Jones was quoted in the online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "If Green Bay is healthy in the National Football League, we think that's very important for the success of the league as a whole." You bet.

Good luck, Mr. Jones. And thanks, Mr. Harlan.