Saturday, March 21, 2009

Let the voluntary offseason program begin!

I know. That headline doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. But it is factual, so at least it has that going for it.

Packers players in Green Bay for the voluntary portion of their offseason training. That includes weight lifting, conditioning, watching film...that sort of thing. Although head coach Mike McCarthy has made it clear that to him voluntary is pretty much the same as mandatory. He can't require players to attend the workouts. But he can certainly remember who was there and who wasn't as things progress toward the start of organized team activities (OTAs), mini-camps, etc. Especially if somebody doesn't show who is under contract but wants to negotiate a new deal.

That description would fit D-back Nick Collins. He has a year remaining on his existing contract. But apparently, taking a cue from last year's shenanigans by RB Ryan Grant, he has decided not to participate with his teammates in these voluntary activities as a way to show that he's a bit unhappy. Collins is back home in Florida. Granted, he and his wife are expecting the birth of a child. But that's likely not the reason he's not in Green Bay. According to an article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "...according to a source with knowledge of the situation...he and his agent are frustrated with the lack of attention Collins has received heading into the last year of his contract...". Imagine that: a professional athlete who is unhappy with a contract. Shocking.

While Collins had a breakout season last year -- seven interceptions, led the league with 295 interception return yards, NFC Pro Bowl starter -- the Pack seems to have higher priorities before re-doing his contract. Because of an escalator clause, his contract already will bump up from a little more than $500K to more than $3 million. Given that jump, it would seem the Packers aren't in any hurry to sweeten the pot longer term. Especially since they don't know how well he will fit with the new 3-4 defense.

On the other hand, D-back Tramon Williams is attending these voluntary workouts. And he doesn't have a contract. Yes, kids, it's a topsy-turvy world: you have a contract that gives you a $2.5 million raise and you don't show; you don't have a contract and you do. Hmmm...'tis a puzzlement!

Williams probably has an insurance agreement that would cover his existing salary, $460,000, if he were to get injured while he is without contract. However, if he doesn't have something worked out by the time OTAs start in May, Williams likely won't show because of the greater risk from injury; all he has to be concerned about now is injury from lifting weights, conditioning exercises and watching film with coaches.

Keep an eye on both of these situations as things move toward OTAs and mini-camp. In the meantime, you can read more here if you care to.

Montgomery and Hunter re-signed
Without much fanfare this week, the Packers re-signed two of their back up players: DE Michael Montgomery and LB Jason Hunter.

Montgomery was an unrestricted free agent and apparently had some interest from a few other clubs. But in the end, he stayed with the team he knew and who knew him. Given the dearth of defensive line players on the current Packer roster, keeping someone such as Montgomery, even as a back up, isn't a bad move.

Hunter would show occasional flashes, but as this article notes, "Asked to gain weight to play inside on passing downs last season, Hunter wasn't as maneuverable or as effective on special teams." However, given that the Packers sprung for a $1 million tender offer for him, it would seem they are counting on him to step up his play on a more consistent basis. In the new 3-4 scheme, linebackers are key. Having players whose strengths and weaknesses are known means a greater likelihood of putting them in situations to succeed. Let's hope that's the case with Hunter, even in a back up role and on special teams.