NFC North weekend mailbag

June, 2, 2012
6/02/12
8:00
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Hey, whaddya say we throw together a weekend mailbag? Comments, questions, criticism and praise are always welcome through the mailbag, Facebook, Twitter or skywriting.

Via Facebook, Kona reacts to the latest lively comments from Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley: "oh goodness.. As usual, the media blowing things out of proportion…."

Kevin Seifert: In truth, those of us who are used to hearing Finley hardly blinked at his comments, which came after last Wednesday's organized team activities (OTA).

For those curious, Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com offers a succinct rundown. Finley said that he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers "didn't have chemistry" in 2011, suggested he needs to "freestyle" more on the field instead of playing like a "robot" and insisted that Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are "going to have to show me a little more" before he assesses their level of play.

Some of those comments, particularly the one about chemistry with Rodgers, drew national attention. Here is what I'll say about them: We long ago learned that Finley has a way of making general sentiments sound more dramatic and that he rarely is as convinced about an assertion as he appears to be.

In the case of Rodgers, Finley was simply referring to their minimal work together last offseason because of the lockout. By "freestyle," he didn't mean he plans to ignore playcalls. He simply wants to play with more instinct, which is what the NFL's best players routinely do. On the other hand, I'm not sure if I can interpret his comments on Gronkowski and Graham other than to say he wants to see how they respond to defensive adjustments.

With all of that said, at some point Finley will need to clean up his method for public expression if he wants anything he says to be taken seriously. In Green Bay and around the NFC North, he's more or less viewed as a harmless loose cannon. But eventually something he says will strike a teammate or coach -- or opponent -- the wrong way, if it hasn't already. Trouble would ensue.

From a national perspective, there will be upwards of 2,880 players on NFL rosters this summer. It's too much to ask national media members and fans to know Finley well enough to brush off his words without taking a closer look.


Chris of Detroit questioned our criticism of Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew for not addressing his team's off-field issues in a public manner: I believe that you don't realize that Mayhew rarely addresses the media for good or bad. [Coach Jim] Schwartz is the face of the organization, he has and will always address such in-house issues. Since Mayhew took over he has addressed the media once before and after the season, rarely any other time especially with off the field issues. Mayhew has taken a lot of heat from local media for is lack of access to the media, however they all praise him for being consistent and allowing his coach to be the face of the franchise. While I agree that a GM should be held accountable for his draft class being in trouble, I give him credit for not being vocal during good and bad times as the Lions GM.

Kevin Seifert: Believe me, I'm well aware that Mayhew rarely speaks publicly and that the Lions' set-up calls for Schwartz to speak for the franchise on most matters. But I still don't think it's right for Mayhew to hide behind that structure in times of unique circumstances.

I fully understand why Mayhew wouldn't want to speak regularly. He wants his actions to speak for themselves and doesn't want to be put in a position to evaluate coaches and players in a public manner during the season. Rare is a general manager who comments on, say, a coach's decision to bench a quarterback or go for it on fourth down. And by all indications Mayhew maintains that policy on both a local and national level. It's not as if he has separate rules for different reporters or outlets.

I guess I just saw six incidents in five months to be beyond the daily operation and structure of any NFL team. It's not quite a crisis, but it is a dire-enough situation that team vice chairman Bill Ford called it "disappointing, very disappointing" and "a shame" last week.

I don't believe that Mayhew has an obligation to "to take the heat" from a throng of media because he "deserves" that punishment. Again, I thought it was unfair in this case for Schwartz to do all of the explaining and to be cast alone in the spotlight for something that is not only this serious, but also something an issue for which he does not have ultimate responsibility.


In the comments of this post on Chicago Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, WINDYCITYWOMBRAIDERRETURNS notes that two first-round picks of former general manager Jerry Angelo -- Carimi and Chris Williams -- could "make or break the season."

Kevin Seifert: In a way, it's interesting to see so much discussion on the Bears' relative lack of attention to their offensive line when two former first-round picks could conceivably be among their five starters this season.

Our commenter is no doubt hoping that Williams makes a career comeback and overtakes the left tackle position from J'Marcus Webb. That might be too much to ask, and it's quite possible Williams is headed for a year as a swing left/right tackle before departing the franchise in 2013.

But even if that's the case, it's not clear if Webb has any better chance than Williams to develop into a fixture at left tackle. That circumstance places further scrutiny on Angelo's failed attempt to lock down the position with Williams five years ago.


Brandon of London, Canada, remains concerned about Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder after reading this post: While I would usually 100% agree with your feeling that you can't read too much into OTA's and off-season practices etc., but shouldn't the Vikings be extremely concerned that Ponder cannot even succeed when there's 0 pressure against their historically last bad secondary of last season (plus a few rookies)? Shouldn't now be when he's wowing people and being over-hyped?

Kevin Seifert: There is something to be said for that. I mean, it's far more common to read enthusiastic coverage of a player lighting it up during spring drills than the other way around.

And to be clear, my post wasn't meant to suggest that Ponder struggled through the OTA that I watched. He had one really bad mistake that I saw, one that seemed rare even in this kind of setting. But he also made his share of nice passes. He was inconsistent, which isn't totally unexpected for a player going through his first NFL offseason, and I thought that positive/negative was implied in the "fits and starts" headline.

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