Green Bay Packers: Corey Linsley

A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- His first Pro Bowl appearance seems like a foregone conclusion, although the selections won't happen until next month, but Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is finally getting his due.

Nelson will be featured on the cover of this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, which contains a story by Tim Layden about Nelson's roots growing up on a farm in Kansas to his rise to NFL stardom.

SI called Nelson "the NFL's most dangerous deep threat."

"I'm really happy for him," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "The thing that I always like to bring up with Jordy is his character. He is an excellent teammate, a great locker room guy, a great leader. Those things go such a long way as far as gaining the respect of your teammates, coaches, fans, the guy throwing you the ball. The guy loves playing football, but he loves being a part of something special."

Nelson went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark in last Sunday's win over the Minnesota Vikings and appears likely to surpass his previous career high of 1,314 yards from last season. He has topped the 1,000-yard mark in three of the last four seasons.

His yardage total (1,066) ranks fifth in the NFL through 11 games and only three players have caught more than his nine touchdowns. But, according to Rodgers, it's about more than stats for Nelson, who this offseason signed a four-year, $39 million contract extension.

"He does things the right way," Rodgers added. "He cheers for his teammates, he blocks for his teammates. He just loves being a part of something special. We're really blessed to have a guy like that to be one of the faces of the franchise."

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As hot as Aaron Rodgers has been, the Green Bay Packers have something else to thank for their offensive production.

"I think our offensive line has really started the charge here," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It starts up front. To have five guys that continue to play together each and every week, it's so important for that unit, the cohesiveness of our offensive line."

Only one starter, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, has missed a full game this season. And that was only one, the Week 2 win over the New York Jets, when Bulaga was recovering from a knee injury he sustained in the opener.

Guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton haven't missed a start despite battling ankle and toe injuries, respectively.

Rodgers has been effusive in his praise for his offensive line. Last week, he stumped for rookie center Corey Linsley to make the Pro Bowl.

This week on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show, he put in a word for the other four starters – Bulaga, Lang, Sitton and David Bakhtiari.

"They're playing great," Rodgers said.

Rodgers was not hit in Sunday's 53-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Officially, he was sacked once but that occurred when Vinny Curry knocked the ball out of Rodgers' hand, forcing a fumble. The week before against the Bears, Rodgers was sacked only once.

"My body thanks them as well for the way I've been feeling the last couple of weeks," Rodgers said.

Here's what he said about each on his radio show:
  • On Bakhtiari: "Dave has been so consistent at left tackle. When that position becomes an afterthought, you know that guy's playing great. It's almost like the long-snapper, although the left tackle is in on more plays. It's not something you worry about. That's pretty impressive when you've got usually the best pass-rusher on that side, and he's been locking him down really good."
  • On Bulaga: "Bryan on the other side dealt with the early injury he had in Seattle, and he's been playing really, really good. He plays to his strengths. He's great against the bull rush. We talk a lot about angles and how I like to move in the pocket, and those conversations have been great."
  • On Lang and Sitton: "Obviously the two guards, pushing through the injuries, I saw on some Pro Bowl voting that they're both up in the top five, I believe, maybe top six. It would be incredible to get both of those guys to the Pro Bowl. They've been playing incredible. They're just such important parts of our success, and I'm really proud of those guys."
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Early in the season, some of his new teammates wondered if Julius Peppers ever said anything. The veteran outside linebacker was the epitome of a player who led by example, not words.

That's changed.

From his inspired pregame speech last Sunday, which coach Mike McCarthy called "clearly the best one we've ever had" to an impromptu talk at practice on Thursday, Peppers has clearly become comfortable in his new environment.

"We had an instance today where vocally you saw Julius step up and made sure that we were focused, ready to go for practice," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said Thursday. "This is an important practice for us. This is an important stretch for us to make sure we’re focused and ready to go for practice and get a good quality of practice today in. It was good to hear from a guy like that. Obviously Julius, if you know him, he's not the most vocal guy but he has a presence that speaks for itself. For him to speak vocally, it adds that extra weight to it."

Peppers' increased presence as a leader has coincided with his best stretch of the season. He has a sack in each of the past three games and has a team-leading five for the season.

"It wasn't anything that made me speak up," Peppers said on his Thursday message. "Today was a big practice, a big day in the preparation, so I wanted us to regroup and refocus before we got started. That's pretty much it. It wasn't anything too long."

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A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's too early to consider how games might impact the playoff picture.

At least that's how Packers coach Mike McCarthy sees things heading into Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

And it doesn't sound like that even made the list of media topics that McCarthy asks director of public relations Jason Wahlers to present to the team each week.

"Jason puts together the media topics for the week, and I usually cut it in half because I think of some of that is not that important," McCarthy said Wednesday. "Frankly, I'm not thinking of the playoffs. It's important to think about the Eagles. Today's players are so much more informed because of all the information out there. I think everybody understands the Eagles are in first place in their division. They're also in the NFC. It's not a point of emphasis for us."

But it could be the in back of some people's minds, considering the Packers might need some help to get into the postseason. At 6-3, they trail the first-place Detroit Lions by a game in the NFC North. The Lions (7-2) have the same record as the Eagles, who have a half-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys (7-3) in the NFC East. The Seattle Seahawks (6-3) currently hold the final wild-card spot by virtue of their head-to-head win over the Packers in Week 1.

Yes, there's much to be decided between now and the postseason, but Sunday's game at Lambeau Field could be a difference-maker.

"We still have a couple division games to go, which will be really important, but these will be important games when you start looking at the potential seeding for the playoffs," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “They're in a tight race in the [NFC] East and we’re in a tight race in the [NFC] North. We've got to win these kind of games at home if you want to have a postseason potential."

But, according to Eagles coach Chip Kelly's way of thinking, you could say that about every game.

"That's what I think a lot of people don't realize," Kelly said on a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field. "Game 1, if you win or lose it, affects your record at the end of the year. To start thinking about, 'Does this game have implications?' I think every game you play [has implications]. At the end of the year, everything's so close. Whether you're 10-6 or 11-5, you can look at any game you won or lost during the year that has an impact on it."

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Corey Linsley, like any good NFL rookie, does as he's told.

That was evident Wednesday in the Green Bay Packers' locker room, where he was about to share the story of the apology letter he wrote -- apparently to his fellow offensive linemen -- that quarterback Aaron Rodgers referenced Tuesday on his radio show.

But first, the Packers center had to check with guard T.J.Lang to see if it was OK.

[+] EnlargeCorey Linsley
Brad Barr/USA TODAY SportsPackers center Corey Linsley, No. 63, has earned praise for his play this season from Aaron Rodgers.
A minute later, Linsley returned. The contents of the letter, apparently at Lang's request, would remain classified.

Whatever Linsley apologized for, it probably had nothing to do with his performance this season.

Forget that that he wasn't even supposed to play this season but was thrown into the starting center job in the final week of the preseason after JC Tretter's ankle injury, Linsley has not just performed well for a first-year, fill-in starter. He has done it by any measure, and here's one: the website ProFootballFocus.com, which grades every player on every play, has Linsley ranked as the No. 3 center in the NFL behind only Nick Mangold of the New York Jets and Max Unger of the Seattle Seahawks. Between them, they have seven Pro Bowls -- five for Mangold and two for Unger.

"At some point, there needs to be a little bit of campaigning about him for Pro Bowl, I think," Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "He's played that good. He doesn't have the name recognition yet. A lot of times, you get voted in a year after you deserve to and maybe a year longer than you deserve to, but Corey's been so solid at center for us. I'm really proud of him. He's been a rock in there. He's had two great guys to play next to, but I think they'd say the same thing; that he's been playing a really high level."

The 23-year-old Linsley doesn't spend his off day listening to Rodgers' radio show, but nonetheless those comments were relayed to him by his girlfriend, Anna, who proudly follows what is being said about him on Twitter, or as Linsley described her: "Retweet, retweet, favorite, retweet."

"It's an honor that he would say that, and I feel very fortunate that he thinks that about me," Linsley said at his locker Wednesday. "But for him, this is his 10th season and for me this is my eighth week, ninth week. I've got a long way to go. I've got seven weeks left and a lot more ball to play. I can't be thinking about that. I do feel very fortunate and very honored that he would say that about me."

Linsley, a fifth-round pick from Ohio State, has handled every situation that has presented itself -- from the opening game at Seattle, where Rodgers yelled him at for prematurely launching a shotgun snap into the quarterback's chest (and no, that wasn't the source of the apology letter) to last week when he didn't know until game day whether his bookend guards Lang and Josh Sitton would be healthy enough to play against the Chicago Bears.

There will be another challenge this week from the Philadelphia Eagles, who run as complex a defensive scheme as the Packers have faced this season.

"I don't want to let any of my teammates down," Linsley said. "That's my biggest thing. That's why I prepare. I don't want to point the finger at myself and say I'm the reason why we lost this game. That's what really drives me."

And apparently, he's also quite the writer.

"Especially of apology letters," Rodgers said.

And then Rodgers added: "That's kind of an inside story. He might want to tell it, but you have to ask him."

He might share it some day, perhaps when he's the veteran on this offensive line -- something that seems inevitable based on the way he's played so far.
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- One of the great debates of the offseason in the NFC North was this: Who would have a greater impact with his new team, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers?

The two 30-plus-year-old pass rushers who changed teams in the division within 10 days of each other in March -- Allen going from the Vikings to the Bears and Peppers from the Bears to the Packers.

So far, the Packers have gotten the better end of the deal.

Allen hasn't been able to match Peppers in terms of impact plays.

They have played nearly the identical number of snaps -- Peppers has eight more snaps than Allen -- and Peppers has four sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception to Allen's 1.5 sacks, zero fumble recoveries and zero interceptions. Peppers also has the edge in quarterback hurries, 15-14, according to ProFootballFocus.com, while Allen has seven quarterback hits to Peppers' five, according to PFF.

Sunday will be their first head-to-head meeting in their new uniforms because Allen missed the Week 4 game at Soldier Field because of pneumonia.

Peppers signed a three-year, $26 million contract with the Packers, while Allen's deal with the Bears was for four years and $32 million. In terms of 2014 money, the Packers are paying Peppers $8.5 million, while the Bears will give Allen just $3 million this season.

However, the way each deal was structured -- with massive increases next season -- it's possible neither will play more than one year with his new team.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Corey Linsley called T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton his training wheels.

Now, it might be time for the Green Bay Packers rookie center to ride unassisted.

The best part about Linsley's transition into the starting job was that he had those two veteran guards, one on each side, to help him along. But considering Lang and Sitton did nothing more than ride stationary bikes during Thursday's practice, Linsley is facing the possibility of having to play without one or both.

[+] EnlargeCorey Linsley
AP Photo/Mike RoemerGreen Bay rookie center Corey Linsley could be working next to new faces at guard when the Packers play the Bears on Sunday.
Lang still hasn't recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered in the Packers' Oct. 26 game against the New Orleans Saints, and Sitton has a torn ligament in his left big toe that could keep him out of Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

Although Linsley's play has stood on its own merits through the first half of the season, he admitted this week that he still relies heavily on his two interior line mates.

"They're too valuable of assets to not lean on," Linsley said. "And they're too experienced to even think that someone can't lean on them. For anyone not to lean on them, that would be a detriment to yourself."

A backup until the final preseason game, Linsley had a built-in excuse to struggle after JC Tretter went down with a knee injury in the penultimate exhibition game. But the laid-back fifth-round pick from Ohio State never flinched.

ProFootballFocus.com rates Linsley as the NFL's fourth-best center to date this season, and it's in large part because of his run blocking. Only three centers in the league have better run blocking grades from PFF than Linsley.

But how will he do without Sitton, an All-Pro left guard, and Lang, who is having perhaps his finest season as a pro?

"Honestly, Josh and I haven't been helping him all that much -- as much as you guys may think," Lang said. "He's smart. He knows what to do."

One of the best things about the Packers' offensive line this season has been the continuity. Only one of the five linemen -- right tackle Bryan Bulaga -- has missed a start this season. And that was only one game, Week 2 against the New York Jets.

"The best offensive lines in my opinion are the ones that play week-in and week-out," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The timing, the communication, particularly the non-verbal communication happens so fast at the line of scrimmage, so it's definitely a big part of the flow of your offense."

Without Lang and Sitton, Linsley, with all of eight starts to his credit, would become the veteran on the interior of the line. Lane Taylor filled in for Lang after he left the Saints game with a sprained ankle in the first quarter and would make his first start. Ditto for Tretter, who would be the other starter. He hasn't even played in an NFL regular-season game yet. He came off the temporary injured reserve list on Monday.

"I have to be prepared so that I’m comfortable," Linsley said. "I've got Lane and JC next to me. Obviously anybody is a drop-off from Josh and T.J. They're two of the best in the league, but they're both good players. JC's extremely intelligent, a heck of a player, a heck of an athlete. We'll prepare so that there's not a drop-off."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- JC Tretter is back, and he's back at one of his old positions.

The Green Bay Packers listed the second-year pro as the backup at left tackle, the position he played in college at Cornell. He's also listed as the No. 2 center on their latest depth chart released on Tuesday.

Tretter
Tretter was activated from the injured reserve/designated to return list on Monday, replacing tackle Derek Sherrod, the former first-round pick who was released in a somewhat surprising move.

Tretter spent the entire offseason as the starting center and was on track to be the opening-day starter until he sustained a knee injury during the third preseason game. He has not played since. In his absence, rookie Corey Linsley has played so well at center that the Packers don't plan to go back to Tretter.

Sherrod had been the backup at both tackle spots, but the Packers listed starting right guard T.J. Lang as the backup at right tackle.

However, Lang's status for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears is unclear after he sustained a sprained left ankle in the Oct. 26 loss at the New Orleans Saints. Lane Taylor finished the game in Lang's place and is listed as the backup. However, it's possible the Packers would use Tretter in that spot if Lang can't play.

Sherrod cleared waivers on Tuesday, making him a free agent.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Derek Sherrod is now in some dubious company.

When the Green Bay Packers released him on Monday, he joined Justin Harrell as general manager Ted Thompson's only first-round picks no longer on the roster.

Like Harrell, the 16th overall pick in the 2007 draft who played in just 14 games because of back and knee injuries, Sherrod's career was doomed by injury.

Offensive lineman JC Tretter, who had been on the temporary injured reserve list, replaced Sherrod on the Packers' roster.

Sherrod, the 32nd pick of the 2011 draft, broke both the fibula and tibia in his right leg playing in a backup role late in his rookie season against the Kansas City Chiefs. He missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing emergency surgery to insert a rod into his leg and then needed another surgery on his ankle the following offseason.

He finally returned to the active roster last November and played in seven games, almost exclusively on special teams. He played only six snaps on offense in 2013.

This season, he saw extensive action in two games. He filled in for right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was injured in the opener against the Seattle Seahawks and then missed the Week 2 game against the New York Jets. In those two appearances, Sherrod allowed three sacks. The game against the Jets was the only start of Sherrod's 20-game, regular-season career.

The decision to cut Sherrod also could be an indication the Packers plan to move Tretter back to tackle or at least use him at multiple positions in a utility role similar to what Don Barclay did before his knee injury. Tretter had converted to center this offseason and was on track to be the opening-day starter until he sustained a knee injury in the third preseason game. Now, the Packers plan to stick with rookie Corey Linsley at center. Tretter, a fourth-round pick in 2013, played tackle in college at Cornell.

Earlier on Monday, coach Mike McCarthy hinted that there were roster moves coming, but there was no indication the Packers would dump a former first-round pick. Eight of the Packers' 10 first-round picks since Thompson took over as general manager in 2005 remain on the roster.

Sherrod was scheduled to become a free agent next March after the Packers declined to pick up his option year last offseason.

The Packers also made changes to their practice squad on Monday. They signed running back Rajion Neal and linebacker Joe Thomas -- a pair of rookies who were with the Packers in training camp -- and released tight end Ike Ariguzo and defensive end Joe Kruger.
Each week, readers are invited to submit mailbag questions via Twitter using the hashtag #PackersMail. During this week's bye, there were several questions with an eye toward the future. So with no game to look forward to on Sunday, it's a good time to look at some of the big-picture issues facing the Green Bay Packers:

Demovsky: Obviously, it depends on where the Packers are picking and who is available but much like last season when it was so obvious the major weakness was at safety, this year's gaping hole is at inside linebacker. When the Packers couldn't land C.J. Mosley or Ryan Shazier in the first round of last year's draft, they inexplicably ignored the position all together. Now, you can't fill every hole in every draft, and they clearly upgraded their safety spot with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and found other contributors with receiver Davante Adams and center Corey Linsley. General manager Ted Thompson will have to do the same at inside linebacker in next year's draft. It's the biggest problem his team faces right now. Demovsky: I asked defensive coordinator Dom Capers this past week whether he needs to settle on someone next to A.J. Hawk, who clearly isn't going away, and he said he likes the rotation of Sam Barrington, Jamari Lattimore and possibly even Brad Jones, although it seems Jones has fallen out of favor. Capers likes splitting duties between Barrington and Lattimore because he feels he doesn't have to overload a young player, but it sure looks like he's searching for someone to step forward and make an impact. Demovsky: Desmond Bishop is on the Arizona Cardinals' roster, so he's not an option. Like it or not, the Packers coaches trust Hawk, so they're not going to take a player off the field that they don't have to worry will blow an assignment. Barring injury, don't expect to see Barrington and Lattimore as the main ILB pairing. Demovsky: The reason he was working out so intensely before the game was that he knew he was going to be inactive, and he needed to get some conditioning work in since he wouldn't get any during the game. With Janis, this was the expected path given how raw he was coming from the Division II ranks, so it's not surprise that he has been inactive more often than not. It's not necessarily a case of bad practice habits but rather getting himself acclimated to this level of football. Also, a guy like fellow receiver Kevin Dorsey can do more on special teams, so he'd get the nod on game day over Janis for that reason alone. Demovsky: It more of a sign that the Packers' defense can't get any stops. Or that the only way it can get stops is via the takeaway. It's no coincidence that the Packers have been involved in two of the three games in NFL history where there hasn't been a single punt. This defense can't get off the field on a consistent basis. Demovsky: I wrote about that possibility this past week. JC Tretter has been working at guard, among other spots, since he returned to the practice field two weeks ago. If they feel like he's ready to come off the temporary injured reserve list, then guard is a very real possibility.

A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers are expected to activate JC Tretter off the injured reserve/designated to return list before their next game on Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears.

But where will they play him?

That's something the coaches are discussing during this week’s bye.

"We'll answer the JC Tretter situation here I would think this week some time," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said as the Packers began their bye week.

Tretter won't get his starting center job back despite spending the entire offseason with the No. 1 offensive line until he fractured his knee in the penultimate preseason game. Rookie Corey Linsley now has a firm hold on that job, and Garth Gerhart was promoted from the practice squad to back him up.

The Packers will need a roster spot to activate Tretter, so Gerhart's position as the No. 2 center is tenuous.

But if the ankle injury that knocked out T.J. Lang from last Sunday's loss at the New Orleans Saints keeps from playing against the Bears, then Tretter could be a possibility at right guard. Lane Taylor finished the game against the Saints for Lang, but Tretter might be a better option, considering how well he played at center before his injury and some of the problems Taylor had, especially as a run blocker.

"We're still working through that," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said earlier this week.

Tretter returned to practice two weeks ago -- the earliest possible date allowed under the temporary injured reserve rules -- and has practiced at all the offensive line positions, including tackle, where he played in college at Cornell.

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Packers hang with Pearl Jam

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – You might have seen T.J. Lang's picture from backstage at Monday night's Pearl Jam show in Milwaukee.

The Green Bay Packers right guard posted a shot of himself and teammates Matt Flynn, Corey Linsley and Josh Sitton with the band's frontman, Eddie Vedder, on Twitter.

Not pictured was quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But he was there and met one of his rock heroes before the show.

"Well we did hang out and talk for a little while backstage before the concert," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "And he did say that he was [a Packers'] owner. A buddy had gotten him a stock certificate a few years back."

Vedder, a Chicago-area native who remains partial to his hometown teams, donned a Packers' jersey during the show with the No. 10, which is Flynn's number. But the jersey was not Flynn's. Rather, the Packers had one made up with that number to commemorate the 1991 Pearl Jam album "Ten."

"People thought Flynn had given him the jersey, and Flynn obviously played along or maybe in his mind believed it was a Flynn jersey that he was wearing," Rodgers said. "I'm pretty sure it said "Vedder" on the back."

Vedder gave Rodgers a shoutout during the show, however, Rodgers said the story the singer told the crowd about asking Rodgers if he’d be interested in a trade to the Bears for quarterback Jay Cutler was a tall tale.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If JC Tretter had been a first-round pick, he'd probably be labeled as a bust by now.

Tretter
Two injuries in two years have prevented the Green Bay Packers' offensive lineman from even playing in an NFL game yet. Justin Harrell and Jamal Reynolds were practically run out of town for less.

But here was Tretter on Wednesday, just a fourth-round draft pick trying to get his career going again. He practiced for the first time since he sustained a fracture in his left knee during a preseason game nearly two months ago. He did not play at all last year as a rookie after he broke his ankle during an offseason practice.

He can't play in a game until Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears, the first game for which he would be eligible to come off the injured reserve/designated to return list, but even then he might have a hard time seeing the field.

"It would be nice," Tretter said. "It's just careers go different ways, and there's been a few bumps in mine."

The Packers spent all offseason grooming Tretter to take over as the starting center. He had gained the confidence of the coaches and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, the coaches and the quarterback have found the same level of trust in rookie Corey Linsley -- so much so that barring an injury there's little reason to think Linsley doesn't have a firm grasp on the job.

"I can't get my starting job back for at least the next three weeks, so I'm not really worrying about it or thinking about it," Tretter said. "I'm just going out there and playing football again. I'm just enjoying practicing again."

But where that leaves Tretter in the long run is unclear. He was drafted as a tackle coming out of Cornell in 2013 but the Packers thought he had the potential to play center, which he proved with a solid preseason until the injury.

Perhaps his future will be back at tackle, where the Packers have two free agents to be -- starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga and swing tackle Derek Sherrod.

"I've always been a team player and whatever the coaches want from you, that's what this job is," Tretter said. "I've just been focused on getting back and being healthy. Right now, there's really no need to worry about it. There's three weeks until any decision needs to be made about anything. So, right now it's just working hard, making sure everything stays healthy and then in three weeks we'll worry about what we need to worry about."
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Green Bay Packers' offensive line had no idea the fake spike was coming.

Right guard T.J. Lang heard Aaron Rodgers yelling "clock, clock," indicating he planned to spike the ball. Center Corey Linsley heard Rodgers make a protection call, which told him to be ready in case a play was on.

As Rodgers came to the line of scrimmage with the Sun Life Stadium clock running down in Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins – 15 seconds, 14 seconds, 13 seconds – he raised his right hand and made a fist just before he ducked in under center.

Perhaps that was the signal to receiver Davante Adams.

"Don't be giving away our secrets now," Packers wideout Randall Cobb warned Adams as he was asked about the play.

Whatever the signal was, Adams knew what was coming next. Rodgers took the snap with 12 seconds left, hunched over like he was going to slam the ball into the turf to stop the clock and then dropped back five steps and fired the ball to Adams in the right flat.

Jordy Nelson, who was lined up as the slot receiver on the same side of the field, never even came out of his stance.

"I didn't [know]," Nelson said.

The key was this: Rodgers saw Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan playing well off Adams – at least 10 yards back – as he came to the line of scrimmage.

"It's one of those things that you don't really tell anybody what's going on," Rodgers said. "You're just yelling 'clock' and signaling 'clock' and then right before I snapped it, I looked out to the right and they were way off outside, so I just kind of faked it and moved."

Dolphins fans had seen this before. Their own Dan Marino executed the fake-spike play to beat the New York Jets on Nov. 27, 1994.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAs the clock ticked on the final drive, Aaron Rodgers kept his fake spike play a secret from just about everybody.
Rodgers' masterful decision would have been negated if the rookie Adams didn't have the savvy beyond his years to get out of bounds once he realized he would not reach the end zone. Without a timeout left, anything short of the end zone or the sideline would have ended the game and fueled the cockamamie criticism of Rodgers for his lack of comeback victories.

Adams, who had six catches for 77 yards, caught the ball at the Dolphins' 14-yard line and trucked down the right sideline, where Finnegan and cornerback Jamar Taylor shoved him out of bounds at the 4-yard line with six seconds remaining.

At that point, Rodgers -- whose record improved to 5-13 in games decided by three points or fewer and 7-25 in games in which he has trailed by eight points or fewer in the fourth quarter, according to Football Outsiders -- needed to finish it off.

He might have had enough time to get two chances at the game winner, but when he saw linebacker Philip Wheeler on Andrew Quarless -- a mismatch in his mind -- he changed the call at the line of scrimmage and fired to his tight end in the right corner of the end zone with 3 seconds left, and a drive that started at the Packers' 40-yard line with 2:05 left was completed.

So was the comeback.

"I just told A-Rod just now, 'That was epic for me,'" Quarless said. "He said that was fun for him, too."

As Quarless reached for the sky with the ball in his right hand to celebrate his touchdown, Rodgers ended up on his back. He stayed there for a second or two, pointing in the air as Lang came over to him. The celebration continued on the sideline, where Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy embraced.

There were other factors critical to the final drive – Lang's third-down fumble recovery that set up a fourth-down conversion to Nelson among them – but the fake spike will be the one to remember. It led to Rodgers' second go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute of a regular-season game; the first came in Week 17 last year to Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears.

"That's how you want it," said Rodgers, who threw three touchdown passes. "You want the opportunity to make a play at the end."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Each week, I ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then deliver the answers over the weekend. This week, we will lead things off with a couple of questions about contract situations and then hit on a few other topics as the Green Bay Packers (3-2) spend the day traveling to Florida for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins (2-2).

Demovsky:: Maybe it's Randall Cobb who wants to wait until the season is over, or at least wait until he has more bargaining power. Remember this summer when he said he had not done enough to warrant a new deal? What Cobb surely meant was he had not done enough to get the kind of money he wants. The fact that he has six touchdown catches already through five games this season hasn't hurt his bargaining power but if he's going to approach Jordy Nelson money (around $10 million per season), he's going to need to produce more catches and yards. It's likely there already have been preliminary talks between the Packers and Cobb's agent, Jimmy Sexton.

Demovsky: If we've learned anything about the way general manager Ted Thompson operates, it's that he prefers youth. Davon House is an ascending player. Tramon Williams, while playing at a higher level right now than House, will turn 32 next March at around the time he would hit free agency. House said recently that there have not been any talks about a new deal, but he might be the kind of player (one still on his rookie deal) who would be inclined to do a contract sooner rather than waiting until next March.

Demovsky: Based on the way coach Mike McCarthy was talking on Friday, the Packers have no plans to pull rookie Corey Linsley out of the starting lineup. So where does that leave JC Tretter? For this year, it means that he's likely the backup center once he's eligible to come off the temporary injured reserve list (He can begin practicing next week but can't play until Nov. 9, per the IR rules). Next season, however, he could move back to his old college position, tackle, especially if the Packers do not re-sign Bryan Bulaga and/or Derek Sherrod.

Demovsky: Jeff Janis hasn't played much in the first two games that Jarrett Boykin missed with a groin injury. He got only one snap on offense against the Bears and played only in garbage time against the Vikings, when the Packers had the game well in hand. It will be interesting to see this week whether Janis or Kevin Dorsey, who was promoted from the practice squad this week, would get called first to play on offense Sunday against the Dolphins. 

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