Monday, February 27, 2006

Is it Deja Vu All Over Again?

Ever have the feeling you've been somewhere before? Like a threat of a holdout if a contract isn't re-negotiated? Sure, it's a common enough tactic in sports these days. Especially so in those days of yore when that Drew Rosenwhoisheagain was the agent flavor of the day. When impressionable -- and egotistical -- young players such as, oh, let's say...ummm...Javon Walker believed he was worth x-dollars and, despite a multi-year contract already in place, felt he was worth more than what he had already agreed to.

Well, Packer fans, here we go again. According to a report cited tonight by WTMJ-Radio sports guru, Bill Michaels, Walker and his new agent are again spouting some of the same rhetoric as last year. OK, this is Walker's last year of his contract. But it also coincides with a year in which he is coming off a serious knee injury. Will he regain his outstanding ability? Or will the injury leave him as just another run-of-the-mill receiver? Nobody knows. Including Walker. His strategy is to try to get the Pack to ante up before he has to show whether he can perform at the same level he did prior to the injury. In other words, take the money and run before you have to run. The Packers, especially GM Ted Thompson, will no doubt take a wait and see attitude, which is definitely the prudent thing to do. Walker probably won't report until he has to. That means he will probably miss camp and run the risk -- again -- of possible injury by not being in game shape when he does finally get thrown into the game. If Walker shows flashes of his old self, the Pack can try to re-sign him during the season -- although Walker's ego would no doubt have been so offended he will test the open market after the season ends. If, on the other hand, Walker fails to regain his former ability, the Packers are better off having kept the money in the bank. Keeping Walker, at that point, may or may not be in the Packers' best interests. And that, after all, is what it's all about...not assuaging Mr. Walker's ego.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

If You're Anticipating the Draft, Check This Out

If you're one of those fans who gets into studying the draft, mock drafts, the annual scouting combine, etc., you might be interested in checking out this ongoing column from Yahoo Sports. The author says, "The plan is to update the first-round forecast roughly every two weeks, with changes reflective of free-agent signings, personnel tips, scouting reports, player visits and various pro days over the next two months." It starts with initial impressions and a mock draft. As with a number of other mock drafts, he also shows Mario Williams, defensive end from North Carolina State, coming to the Pack with the #5 draft pick. He acknowledges that Ohio State linebacker, A. J. Hawk, would also be a great pick up for the Packers given needs at linebacker. But he then points out that some scouts think Williams could be the next Julius Peppers. He notes that, "Hawk is more polished at his position and has a more consistent track record, but Williams could be a major game-changer." Stay tuned.

If you want to watch the actual draft combine events, you can check out the NFL Network. You can find the schedule of combine events carried by the NFL Network here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Aikman Thinks Favre Will Retire

In an AP interview, former Cowboys QB, current TV analyst, and newly-elected Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman (whew!) says he thinks Packers QB Brett Favre will retire. Not because he still can't play; Aikman says he believes Favre is still one of the best QBs in the game. Rather, he thinks the Pack's struggles this last season and perhaps going forward in the next year or two, will play into Favre's decision. He compared where Favre's at in his career with where he himself was at the end of his career. "Health was a small factor in my decision," Aikman said. "But it had more to do with, I just didn't think that we were doing what was necessary to be competitive any longer. And I know that Brett is dealing with that currently." He continued, "I don't know then if you ever get back to the level of 100 percent commitment to say, 'Yeah, this is what I want to do,"' Aikman said. "Because usually what happens is that no matter how good your season is, you always go through periods where it's a struggle. The best years we had, with our Super Bowls, we had periods where things were tight. When you're not 100 percent committed, then when you hit those periods, and you're asking yourself, 'Why am I doing this?' And I don't know if you can have your quarterback asking some of those questions."

You can read the entire story here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Carroll Busted

Packers alleged cornerback Ahmad Carroll was busted in Fayetteville, AK, for allegedly arguing with a police officer in a local drinking establishment. Details here.

As Carroll has been known to say, "C'mon dawg."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Packers odds of winning next year's Super Bowl: 100-to-1

The early Las Vegas odds on next year's Super Bowl have the Colts as the favorites at 4-to-1 with the Steelers and Patriots next up at 8-to-1 (depending upon which bookmaker's odds you are looking at). The Packers? 'bout 100-to-1. Every other team in the North Division is favored ahead of the Pack. Holy kick in the groin, Batman! But at least the Saints and 49ers have even worse odds. Small consolation. What does this all mean? Clearly that the odds prognosticators think the Pack is on a downhill slide. They appear to also be assuming that ol' #4 is going to retire, and that the Pack's free agency situation (see yesterday's blog entry) will be a mess. Let's hope that new Coach Mike McCarthy can prove the oddsmakers wrong.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Free Agency Decisions Coming Up

With the free agency signing period kicking off March 3, the Packers have many decisions to make. Everyone -- including by this time GM Ted Thompson -- knows the team blew it last year by letting both starting guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera depart. Free agent replacements Adrian Klemm and Matt O'Dwyer didn't fill the holes...literally. Actually, O'Dwyer didn't even make it out of training camp. Bad decision, Ted. Bad! Losing Darren Sharper to the ViQueens, despite his Pro Bowl year, seems to have been less of a blow given the overall problems in the secondary as a whole.

This year, Thompson faces decisions on such Packer veterans as Aaron Kampman, Grady Jackson, Paris Lenon, Ahman Green, William Henderson, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher, Mike Flanigan, Craig Nall and Ryan Longwell. Can't keep 'em all. The question is which ones do you really go after and which ones do you keep at a reduced rate given age, injuries, performance, etc. And to whom do you say, bye-bye now?

It would seem that Kampman and Jackson are integral parts of that defensive line which came alive late in the season. Resigning both would be a plus. On the offensive sides of the ball...not easy calls. If you can get Green, Henderson and Davenport back at reduced cost, that would be a real plus, especially given the potential for Samkon Gado when he returns from injury rehab. Fisher is no more than a third-down back. Not what's needed, given the other needs on offense. Flanigan has been a great center, but Scott Wells performed admirably as a stand-in. As for Nall, if Favre returns, Nall is probably gone and the Pack will look to later rounds in the draft to pick up a number three quarterback. If Favre retires and the Pack starts Aaron Rodgers they may very well keep Nall as an experienced number two behind Rodgers...or as the starter if Rodgers falters. Longwell had his worst year as a Packer, arguably because of the change in holders. Despite being the team's all-time leading scorer, he's also made it known he'd like to kick in warm weather or a dome. Given his proven reliabililty over the years, especially given the challenges of kicking late in the season at Lambeau, the Pack should do what they can to keep Longwell on the roster. There will likely be a change at punter this year (see prior blog entry). Changing both parts of the kicking game at the same time might be a real recipe for disaster on special teams. And given the razor-thin margin for error the Pack will have this coming season -- with or without Favre's return -- that might just be the difference between another dismall year or a shot at the playoffs.

The next month or so will tell a lot about whether the Pack is going to try to get back to a playoff caliber team this year or...gulp...start to re...reb...rebui...I can't bring myself to say it. For the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's take on things, check out there story here. (And if you want to get a near-daily report on possible draft picks, check out the MJS's analysis here.)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Packers sign a big leg from Canada.

OK, Packer fans, it's hard to get too jazzed by a street free agent signing -- especially when it's a punter. But given the sorry state of the Pack's punting ever since former GM Ron Wolf let Craig Hentrich depart, this signing may have finally filled a big hole in special teams. The Pack signed Jon Ryan, who the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel describes as "a record-setting punter from the Canadian Football League." That's pretty good, considering he's only been in the CFL for two years!

Ryan had a long punt of 82 yard this past season punting for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and a punt of 92 yards in his rookie season. He had a CFL record 50.6 gross yards average this past season (compare vs. current Packer punter B. J. Sander's gross of 39.2 yards). His strength is distance not hang time...but if you're booming it that far down field it has to take a bit of time, too, right? Obviously, kicking in the CFL means Ryan is also used to kicking in bad weather, a definite plus for success in Green Bay. You can read Ryan's Blue Bomber player bio here.

Ryan joins Sander and two other free agents in battling it out during training camp for the starting job. You can read the full story here.