Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blog Changes

Just a quick note to let readers know that we are going to be experimenting with a new look for PackerFansUnited.com, beginning with our new logo. Thought it was about time to give us our own unique brand identity. Hope you like it. Other than that, we probably will try to keep things pretty much as they are...seems to work fairly well. If we can organize things better, or provide better content, we will do so. We want to keep you coming back.

This may also mean, while changes are being implemented, that things look a bit odd for a while...or maybe not at all. Who knows? It might also means some features are not present, or are missing while we get things tweaked. It may take a while to get some of the favorite links, etc. back in place. And if we don't like the new look, we may revert to the way things were. That old adage, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" keeps popping to mind. Hope this doesn't cause more problems than it's worth. Which means it probably will. But seeing as these are a bit of the slow times in terms of Packers news, etc., it's as good a time as any to start testing things out. So, please be patient.

And thanks for your continued readership!

Corey Dillon to the Pack?

The latest rumors start thusly: a former Packers personnel guy (i.e., George Koonce) mentions in a radio interview that the Pack could be adding a big-name offensive player sometime soon. No names mentioned. This then gets picked up on by ProFootballTalk.com's Rumor Mill section yesterday. Noting that there are just not that many big-name offensive players floating about right now, somehow the speculation started that the player could be former Patriots RB Corey Dillon, who was released by the Pats in March. At 32, Dillon is certainly on the downside of his career. Retirement can't be far off. Still, he did lead the Pats in rushing last year. Certainly has been a solid player through the years. But would the Packers make him their featured back? When the current running back depth chart includes Vernand Morency, Brandon Jackson, Noah Herron and DeShawn Wynn you have to believe anything is possible. An interesting possibility, if nothing but for a veteran presence among the youngsters. But it would also be surprising given the overall youth movement which is now prevailing on the Packers squad.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

#4 at #14? Please.

Well this just isn't right. Brett Favre only the 14th best QB this coming season? Please. You must be joking. That's what Sports Illustrated (SI) football columnist Peter King has to say. He ranked all 32 NFL quarterbacks according to how good of a season he believes each will have this year...just this year. That does give him some wiggle room in what is a very wiggly room to begin with.

But here's who King says will have a better 2007 season than Brett, in order: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Vince Young, Philip Rivers, Jon Kitna, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb, and Steve McNair. Brett, in King's view, is one step ahead of Chad Pennington. OK, we can generally agree that SI does a great job with the swimsuit issue. But this ranking? Oh man. Somehow...not so good. Seriously, would anyone here take Kitna over Brett? Spare me. What about the youngsters? Young, Rivers, Cutler or Wisconsin's own Tony Romo? Maybe someday. But not this season.

Sorry, Mr. King. I'll stick with Brett. He'll win us some games throwing passes that no one else can throw. And he will probably lose a game or two also throwing some of those very same passes. In other words, same ol' Brett. I'll take him.

But you be the judge. Check out King's rankings and reasons for them here. On the other hand, if you'd place more credibility in the swimsuit issue, or at least prefer spending your time there, this link is for you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Barnett's Bust Redux

More information about Packer linebacker Nick Barnett's arrest early Sunday morning has finally emerged. Turns out, according to police reports, he pushed a woman down inside the Appleton nightclub. That earlier event was uncovered when foot patrol police came upon Barnett and another individual arguing outside the club. The victim and some other witnesses provided the info necessary for police to arrest Barnett for battery. Whether or not this is an instance of over-reaction or not, time will tell.

Time will also tell whether or not this incident results in potentially even more serious consequences from the NFL. Given the well-documented problems of several NFL players over recent years, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell implemented a new conduct policy which doesn't leave much wiggle room for the players. And that's what has the Packers concerned. Depending upon how things in this case actually turn out, Barnett could be subject to suspension by the league. That would not be good.

Players need to be smarter in their off-field conduct then ever before. And for some that might be asking too much. Barnett is a player who should know better.

To read more about this incident and possible consequences, check out this article in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Barnett Busted

620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee is reporting tonight that Packers linebacker Nick Barnett was arrested in Appleton, WI, Saturday night following an altercation in a nightclub.

WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee reported that Barnett was in Appleton to play in Brett Favre's charity softball tournament today. They said he was removed from the nightblub about 2 a.m. in handcuffs and charged with battery. He was later released. He did not play in the softball tournament.

The Packers released a brief statement essentially saying little until more facts are known.

Given that Barnett is one of the supposed leaders of the team, folks may have to re-think that one.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Freeman Signed -- to Retire

Remember Antonio Freeman? The guy with the fifth most catches in Packers history? The guy who played a good chunk of the 1996 championship with a cast on his broken left forearm? The guy who made that miraculous catch on his back, in the rain, on Monday Night Football at Lambeau in 2000 to win the game in overtime against the ViQueens? The guy most of us thought was already retired?

Yeah, that Antonio Freeman.

Freeman was last signed in 2004 by Miami but was released during training camp. Other than the Dolphins (no playing time) and playing for the Eagles in 2002 before one last year with the Pack in 2003, Freeman was always a Packer...is a Packer. And that's why he wanted to retire as one. The Packers signed Freeman yesterday to make that happen.

Freeman was not always the fastest receiver on the field, but he was one of the most sure-handed, reliable, and wiliest receivers the team has ever had, as evidenced by catching 431 passes in his eight years with the Pack, making him number five on the team's all-time receptions list. "Free" was also Brett Favre's favorite receiver during the mid-90s Super Bowl runs, and led the Packers in receiving from 1996-99.

Glad to have you back, "Free." Even if it is only so you can retire. Next stop for Freeman will be the Packers Hall of Fame, where he will then become part of a fine quintet of the Packers' all-time reception leaders along with Sterling Sharpe, James Lofton, Don Hutson and Boyd Dowler. Now that's fantasy football!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Favre Sore, Fullback Trials, OTAs Continue

As the optional organized team activities continue in Green Bay, the biggest news to report is that QB Brett Favre sat out yesterday's practice with a sore throwing shoulder. That news came from Brett himself who spoke with the media. He indicated that he thought it was probably tendinitis. He also said he learned his lesson a few years ago when he had a sore elbow, kept throwing anyway, and almost missed his start because of it. With age comes wisdom, Brett! Now, rest.

The other news from yesterday was that Brett was actually late for the first practice session. He had a good excuse, though: Coach Mike McCarthy was reviewing new plays with him and must have lost track of the time...or just decided it was important enough to do that review, especially since he knew Brett would be sitting out anyway. McCarthy told the media that he didn't think he used Brett as well as he could have last year, indicating that generating more movement in the pocket was something he probably should have done, and would be doing this year. So look for plays that are designed to move Brett around...intentionally...we all know that he can do that very well on his own. Now they are going to apparently design these schemes to utilize Brett's ability to make plays on the move. Given the changes and questions about the backfield, that's probably a good thing.

Speaking of backfield (subtle segue, eh?), we all know that the solid and long-time combination of William Henderson opening holes for Ahman Green is gone, Green to Houston and Henderson to retirement. While much of the focus has been on who will replace Green, no less important is who will replace Henderson, a player renowned for his work ethic and reliability. Brandon Miree was the newcomer last year who unseated Henderson until an elbow injury returned the starting job to Henderson. Miree was solid, if not spectacular. Now a third-year pro, Miree has the advantage of working in a zone blocking scheme his entire pro career, first with Denver and last year with the Packers. Other candidates are playing catch up in that effort, and all are rookies. Korey Hall, whom the Packers are trying to convert from linebacker, is one of the possibilities. He was a special teams demon at Boise State and the Packers are having him practice with all those units as well. Combine that with having to learn a new position, a new stance, etc., and Hall has his work cut out for him. But according to reports, the Packers like what they see from him so far. Other candidates include draftee Ryan Powdrell, who was rotating in the second- and third-string offense, and free-agent signee Corey White.

Brett Favre Celebrity Softball Game

If you aren't doing anything special this Sunday -- Father's Day -- and just happen to be in the neighborhood of Appleton, WI, drop in at Fox Cities Stadium for the Eighth Annual Brett Favre Celebrity Softball Game. It starts at high noon. As noted on the official site, "The event will feature Brett Favre and members of the Green Bay Packers. The annual game traditionally matches the Packers offense against the Packers defense. All proceeds will benefit the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, whose mission is to provide aid to disadvantaged or disabled children residing in Wisconsin and Mississippi." This is one of the major fundraising events for Brett's foundation. And, as retirement looms, you wonder how many more of these events there will be, particularly in Wisconsin once Brett retires back to Mississippi. Take advantage of these opportunities if you can.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blasts from the Past: Podcasts with Lombardi Legends

The 37th Annual Vince Lombardi Golf Classic tournament is taking place this weekend in Milwaukee...well, Menomonee Falls actually, a Milwaukee suburb. And it is one of the best places to see a lot of former Packers and other NFL and sports celebrities gathered together. Inevitably, stories turn to days of yore. After all, this is a tournament in honor of The Coach himself. Some stories relate to today, as well. On occasion, a microphone is nearby and we get to listen in.

We are treated to two such episodes in the form of podcasts courtesy of 620WTMJ radio in Milwaukee. Sports poobah (and did you know that the term "poobah" originated in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado?), Bill Michaels, landed both interviews.

One compelling conversation is with Packers great Jerry Kramer, one of the best guards to ever play the game and who is still not in the Hall of Fame...but that's a whole other topic. In this interview, Kramer talks about his fight for better pensions and treatment of former NFL players. He has created an organization dedicated to this effort called Gridiron Greats which, by the way you can find in the Links area of PackerFansUnited.com. You can listen to this podcast by clicking here.

Michaels also hosted a one-of-a-kind roundtable discussion with a group of Packers who played in the Ice Bowl 40 years ago: Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Max McGee, Bob Jeter and Zeke Bratkowski. WTMJ's Jay Sorgi also helped facilitate things. Check it out here.

Barry Released

Packers offensive lineman Kevin Barry -- of "U71" package fame -- was released by the team yesterday. Barry was a favorite of former coach Mike Sherman for the power run blocking scheme he favored. However, with the move last season under new head coach Mike McCarthy toward a zone blocking scheme Barry no longer was a good fit. He was also hurt in training camp, rupturing a thigh tendon which sidelined him for the season. A Racine, Wisconsin native, Barry was a fan favorite. Being released by the Packers stung a bit, according to reports. But immediately upon being released his agent began receiving calls. A player of his size and ability, assuming he can make a full recovery from his injury, will certainly find a place somewhere in the league. Good luck, Kevin. It was fun watching you pancake opposing players. Just hope you don't do it to any of your former teammates any time soon.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

OTAs Underway...Favre and Rodgers Full Speed Ahead

The non-mandatory OTAs (optional team activities...or something like that) began on Wednesday of this last week. And the best news for Packer fans was that QB Brett Favre was cleared by the team docs to fully participate. The second best news was that backup QB and heir apparent Aaron Rodgers was also cleared to do the same. As you may recall, Brett had ankle surgery in the offseason to take care of a lingering problem, and Rodgers broke his foot late in the season.

There will be a total of 12 OTAs, and Brett will participate in 9 of them. According to Packers.com, Coach Mike McCarthy says Brett is already throwing the ball well. Which means that his receivers better be up to speed in terms of looking for the ball as soon as they come out of their break. Brett's presence, although not required, is certainly a key factor in getting in sync with an assortment of young receivers.

By the end of these OTAs, McCarthy says, the entire offense for the season will be installed. That means he and Brett working closely together to help determine what's working and what can be eliminated from the offensive scheme.

Jackson Happy to Be in Camp

Because he was unable to attend the May minicamp -- the first after the draft -- because of a league-required orientation in Los Angeles, rookie RB Brandon Jackson is really making a determined effort not to let that missed opportunity prevent him from competing for the starting spot. He basically has been in Green Bay ever since, working out and studying the playbook. He understands that, for now, Vernand Morency is slotted in the starting role. But he also understands that the Packers are not necessarily sold on that idea just yet. A bit of a surprise pick for filling the RB need, Jackson has his work cut out for him. But apparently, he is showing the kind of cuts and burst that the Packers are looking for in the post-Ahman Green era. You can read a good article about Jackson here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Harlan on Jones

It has been a somewhat quiet week in Packerland, other than the Board meeting on Wednesday to discuss the situation with President John Jones, his leave of absence, and making the necessary arrangements to keep CEO Bob Harlan in place despite the team's mandatory age 70 retirement rule. (Oh yeah, there are a series of voluntary team practices underway...more on that in another post.)

Harlan spoke at a news conference on Wednesday and indicated that he personally had seen possible management problems emerge with Jones last fall, but wanted to wait to see if they were resolved with time. They weren't. And other staff members came to Harlan with their concerns, as well. It was at this point that Harlan -- before stepping down as CEO and turning the reigns of the team over to his hand-picked successor, Jones -- decided he must tell the executive committee of the problem. It was then that the executive committee, acting on behalf of the full board of directors, placed Jones on leave. The full board unanimously affirmed the executive committee's decision on Wednesday.

It is still unclear as to exactly what these "management" problems and concerns were. The team made it clear, however, that there were no issues with personal conduct or ethics. What, then? According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Packers officials have not detailed what Jones did as a team executive that would have caused him to fall from favor. An NFL source has said that questions surfaced on Jones' ability to manage the franchise." That sure narrows it down, doesn't it?

What will become of Jones? Although it is possible he could return to the team it certainly would not be as CEO and might not even be as President. And whether he would want to or not after such a curious and public "leave" action remains to be seen. Look instead to other candidates arising for the positions. Expect the Packers to take their time, too. With Harlan remaining on, there is no rush to fill a job slot. The Packers will want someone with solid NFL experience and in particular an appreciation for what makes the Packers the Packers, and what will keep the team economincally viable; in other words, someone that will fight tooth and nail for continued revenue sharing and salary caps.