Thursday, June 17, 2010

Raji will be raging in the middle

We all know that there were big expectations for the big man, B.J. Raji, when the Packers drafted him #9 overall in last year's NFL Draft. While he certainly played well for a rookie, it can probably honestly be said that fans were left wanting in the expectations department.

That's going to change this year. Not the expectations, which are still sky high for Raji and the entire Packers organization. What's going to change is Raji's level of play. How do we know? He told us so. When asked yesterday after the team's organized team activity (OTA) what he'd do if he was the regular guy in the middle -- at the nose tackle slot -- what he'd do, Raji responded quite simply, “Just cause havoc.” That would be g-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-d.

Remember that last season Raji missed a couple weeks of training camp while contract details were being worked out. Then he sustained an ankle injury almost immediately that kept him out for a while altogether and then left him a bit gimpy when he was able to play. He was also bounced around with line rotations, moving back and forth from defensive end to nose tackle and thus couldn't really settle into one spot, perhaps limiting his development a bit in the process.

But now, the Packers have told Raji that's he's the man in the middle this season. And he's already got his game mentality on. It's the kind of talk from a young player that, if he's able to back it up -- and there's no reason to think he can't -- should put him on a Pro Bowl track. Here's what he had to say, according to an article in today's Green Bay Press Gazette: “Sky’s the limit for me, I believe. When I come in and wreak havoc, it will change a lot. It makes the lives of Nick (Barnett) and (Brandon Chillar) and A.J. (Hawk) a lot easier. That’s what the 3-4 is designed to do, get our linebackers running free and making plays. And when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll make the plays myself.”

Good for you, Mr. Raji. We're counting on you to plug that middle. We're looking forward to seeing a lot of havoc anywhere near where you happen to be.

Williams accepts Pack's offer

Cornerback Tramon Williams, according to reports, had verbally agreed to the Packers' restricted free agent tender offer prior to the Monday deadline. But apparently because the required paperwork wasn't yet in place, his "signing" wasn't showing up on the NFL's transaction wire either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Safety Atari Bigby, however, has yet to sign and it is being reported that sources say he is prepared to have a training camp hold out to get a new contract. Perhaps sensing this situation with Bigby, the Packers moved up into the third round of the NFL Draft to select Morgan Burnett. With Bigby absent from the voluntary workouts, Burnett has been getting a lot of work in and has impressed the head coach. "I see Burnett as a very natural, instinctive football player," coach Mike McCarthy is quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as having stated recently. "Things come very easy for him. He's a good communicator. He's a very fluid player in space. His athletic ability and the instincts, he picks up coaching very well."

McCarthy also told reporters that the team is as deep at safety as it's been since he's been at the helm. The Packers are also waiting for (the seemingly always-injured) Will Blackmon and Derrick Martin to return from their injuries of last season and get back in the mix. Depth is good. Considering how little leverage Bigby has you have to wonder why he feels it's to his advantage to not sign his tender and/or holdout. Ah...right...agent Drew Rosenhaus. That might explain it.

You can read a bit more about all these bits and pieces here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jolly signs, Williams and Bigby don't

Tender tussles. No, that's not a description of flag football compared to the NFL kind. It's a description of what the Packers are now involved in with two of their defensive backs, Tramon Williams and Atari Bigby.

Yesterday was the deadline for restricted free agents to sign their tender offers or face the rule that allows their team to pay them 110 percent of the prior year's salary. In short, to take a pay cut.

Facing a potentially nasty legal situation, and with no teams clamoring for his services as a result, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly finally realized that the prospect of losing roughly $1.9 million was probably not a smart decision, and signed his tender offer yesterday before the deadline. Williams and Bigby, however, did not. For Bigby, the difference between his tender offer and the new amount the Packers could impose is only about $54,000. Not pocket change to you and me, perhaps, but apparently not enough to concern Mr. Bigby.

As an article about this situation in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, however, Williams stands to lose some major coin: about $2.58 million this season. Ouch!

Of course, that's assuming he'd play for the reduced amount. As the article notes, if the Packers chose to exercise that 110 percent option -- which they had to do by 11 p.m. last night -- they risk "angering Williams.' Let's hear it, all together: awwwwww.

He may not play most of the season if this is the way it goes, but he apparently can't sit out the entire season. And really, is it in either party's interest for that to happen at all? Nope.

It gets more complicated. Or not, depending upon how the Pack and Williams decide to resolve this little stalemate. Ditto for Bigby, although as already mentioned that's not really as big a concern for either party, it seems.

Be sure to check out the article link above for more details. And stay tuned here for further developments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ahman Green signs with...Omaha???

Veteran running back, Ahman Green, decided to sign with a new team after the Packers decided not to renew his contract. The 33-year-old Green has signed with...the Omaha Nighthawks. Nighthawks??? Omaha??? Is that what it took for Nebraska to opt in to the Big 10, for Ahman Green to sign with this new "expansion" team in the second-year United Football League (UFL)?

Well, it's not as strange as it may first appear. Green is actually returning to his hometown. He played at Central High School in Omaha and then at Nebraska for his college ball.

Green is the all-time leading rusher for the Packers. He was always a class act for the team (unlike someone we'll get to in a moment). Let us wish Mr. Green well in his new endeavor and root for those Nighthawks! He still wants to play, and has something left in the tank as he demonstrated after re-joining the Packers last season. He just might not have enough for the NFL anymore. Nothing wrong with going home to be a hometown hero again. You can read all about it here.

Underwood paid
No, not that kind of getting paid. The other kind of...paying.

According to an article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, "Lake Delton police have confirmed that money was exchanged between Brandon Underwood and two women who have accused the Green Bay Packers cornerback of sexual assault. The Lake Delton Police Department issued a news release Wednesday in response to media reports that Underwood had solicited the two women for sex. According to the release from Chief of Police Tom Dorner, 'money was exchanged between the alleged suspect and the alleged victims before the alleged assault.'"

You can read the full article here. The decision by the Saux County district attorney's office is now expected sometime next week. While Underwood, if the report is correct, could have charges dropped for sexual assault he might wind up being charged with solicitation. It will be interesting to see if the two women involved will now be charged with filing false police reports in addition to whatever other charges they may face. Given the nature of the original allegations, it wouldn't be surprising.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Underwood case still under review

WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee is reporting tonight that the Lake Delton, WI chief of police is stating that there isn't enough information for him to bring charges against Packers safety Brandon Underwood at this time for the alleged sexual assault that two women say occurred this weekend. The police chief said in a televised interview that at this point it's a "he said - she said" type of thing, with the two accusers having changed their stories and there being a lack of consistency.

The report went on to note, however, that the district attorney could still bring charges regardless of what the police decide to do in the case. The TV report went on to mention that money supposedly changed hands between Underwood and the two women. When asked whether the two women were prostitutes, the police chief said, "I don't know."

Josh Sitton, who was one of the players interviewed in regards to the matter and who was not involved, told his hometown Pensacola News Journal that Underwood didn't do anything illegal and the "allegations are very bogus." According to reports on WTMJ-TV, Sitton added, however, that something did happen in another room that was "stupid."

620WTMJ radio's Bill Michaels has a post on his blog that bring out new information from sources he has talked to. Specifically, Michaels reports, "Underwood will not be charged with sexual assault. The charge being considered is solicitation of prostitution. The two women who levied the allegations of sexual assault could be charged with prostitution."

Underwood's attorney also says his client will be cleared. (No surprise there.)

With Packers' OTAs open to the public Wednesday, and Underwood expected to be on hand, it might be the first chance we have to hear directly from him on this matter...or not.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Oh boy...troubles, troubles

Before hitting the news of the day, I should make note of the fact that the reason there has been no post here in a few weeks is because I was off celebrating the 1,200th post of! That occurred with the May 17 post and it's been nothing but non-stop festivities ever since. 1,200 posts! Woo-hoo!!!

OK. That's not true. Well, the 1,200 posts part is. But the celebrating part is not. The reason there has not been a post is I was just waiting to get around to it. Problem was, just like the car keys, I couldn't find that darn round tuit (I know, bad pun, but it's all I got).

Anyway, as the summer rolls on with OTAs, minicamps and finally summer training camp on the horizon, you can be assured we will be back in full coverage mode (or as close as we can get) here at PackerFansUnited. You've come to expect...well, whatever it is you've come to expect from we plan to do our best to deliver...whatever that is.

So, without further ado, let's get to the stories of the day. Unfortunately so, in this first instance.

Brandon Underwood joins Johnny Jolly on the watch list

Fans are well aware -- going back to last season -- of D-lineman Johnny Jolly's run-in with the law back home in Texas. He's had trials delayed, and the latest development is that the prosecutor is ramping up the charges against Jolly, to include, according to reports, that Jolly "bought, sold, funded, transported and aided in the buying, selling, funding and transportation of illegal narcotics including cocaine and marijuana" in Harris County (TX) from 2006 through May 2008." To make his case, the prosecutor has even decided it's worthwhile to use a convicted felon still sitting in prison to testify against Jolly. Read about that here. The prosecutor seems determined to bring down Jolly any way possible. Of course, Jolly didn't help himself any by failing a polygraph test, appearing "deceptive" about matters related to his bond stipulation (apparently related to alcohol). Regardless of how this turns out, no doubt Jolly is facing a league suspension of some kind. Which makes Ted Thompson's addition of two rookies -- second-rounder Mike Neal and seventh-rounder C.J. Wilson -- along the defensive line seem most wise indeed. The Packers obviously had some misgivings about Jolly's availability both short and, perhaps, even long-term, But one of the things that is most curious is that Jolly has yet to sign his one-year tender offer. If Jolly doesn't sign it by June 15 the Packers are essentially allowed to decrease their tender offer to 110 percent of last year's salary, thereby handing a major decrease in money to a restricted free agent such as Jolly. So...facing perhaps career-threatening legal matters...and still not signing a tender in time to make more money? OK...good luck with all that, Mr. Jolly. So much potential...let's hope you haven't thrown it away.

Now another Packers player may be in hot water.

The news broke yesterday afternoon that seven Packers players had been interviewed by Lake Delton, WI police in conjunction with an alleged sexual assault. Six of the players were found to have had no involvement with the incident. But police said a seventh player, identified today by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as second-year safety, Brandon Underwood, was still under investigation. He says it was consensual, the two women (yes, two), said it wasn't. You can read about the Underwood situation here. According to the article in today's Journal Sentinel, "(Lake Delton) Police Chief Tom Dorner said he doesn't expect to conduct more interviews. He said he would take the case to the district attorney on Monday or Tuesday to consider charges." You can view the actual police report of the incident from within the linked article; just scroll down and click on the graphic link you'll see. As with the Jolly case, it would be likely that regardless of outcome a league sanction of some kind against Underwood may be forthcoming. The league doesn't like this kind of publicity, let alone activity, as Commissioner Roger Goodell has demonstrated in a few other recent incidents.

The players were in Lake Delton, which adjoins the Wisconsin Dells resort area, to participate in a charity golf tournament hosted by LB Clay Matthews. Some of the players interviewed are among the many Packers scheduled to participate today in a charity softball game hosted by WR Donald Driver in Grand Chute, south of Green Bay.

This flurry (OK, just two that we know of) of behavioral problems is starting to remind us of the bad ol' days of the 1980s when Mossy Cade and James Lofton made news for all the wrong reasons. Let's hope these matters get resolved justly for all parties concerned and we can get back to focusing on football.

Lambeau changes?
The Packers have been holding focus groups in Green Bay and Milwaukee to talk with fans about the possibilities of expanding Lambeau Field. The whole idea, of course, is to somehow generate more in-stadium revenue for the team as that revenue stream does not have to be shared with other teams. In order for the Packers to stay close to big city teams with new stadiums such as the Cowboys and Giants, they will have to look at every way possible to generate needed revenues. You can read about the variety of ideas the team is considering here. Of course, being the fan friendly -- and shareholder owned -- team that they are, if you have any better ideas you think the team should consider, be sure to send them on to the team.

Another topic that has popped up since the awarding of the 2014 Super Bowl to the The New Meadowlands Stadium jointly owned by the Giants and Jets is the possibility of a Super Bowl ever being played in Green Bay. After all, if a Super Bowl can be played in one cold weather venue then why not another? Esteemed sports pundits have waxed wistfully about how there would be no better place than Lambeau Field to host a Super's the best place to watch a football game, Lombardi, history, the Ice Bowl, etc. But then the realities of a Super Bowl kick in. It is noted that a Super Bowl today is more about what goes on off the field than on it. There needs to be plenty of off-field party space, hotel rooms, etc., etc. Green Bay and its surrounding area is just not set up to handle such an event, they say.

As a Packer fan, I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, it would be great to see Lambeau Field host a Super Bowl. I'd probably try to be there myself if I could. However, as a realist, I also have to say...nope. Sitting outdoors at Lambeau Field in late December or early January is a battle of survival against the elements. People are dressed in parkas and snowmobile suits, each doing their best imitation of the Michelin Man. And for those who have never been to Lambeau, let me share with you that the seating -- apart from your luxury box digs -- is on metal benches with numbers marked on them...yep, just like most college or high schools stadiums. With 70,000+ fans crammed onto these benches, attired as they are, you're lucky to get one cheek (if you know what I mean) on that bench...and you better have a blanket or two under that cheek to keep it from going numb by the end of the first quarter. It takes a tough breed to stand up to that kind of weather. Packer fans know how to deal with it. Unfortunately, many if not most of those who would likely be attending a Super Bowl wouldn't have a clue how to stay at least moderately unfrozen in such circumstances. Remember, we're looking at around the beginning of February for the 2014 Super Bowl. The mean temperature for Feb. in East Rutherford, NJ is 30 degrees; in Green Bay it is 20 degrees. Oh, and yeah, there is that thing called snow, too.

To Packer fans, Lambeau Field will always be the premier stadium in football. It doesn't need a Super Bowl to add to that status.