Wednesday, January 26, 2011
XLV: It's called a 'team' photo for a reason
By Kevin Seifert
Based on reading your comments, some of you are outraged that members of the Green Bay Packers' injured reserve list won't be in the team's official Super Bowl XLV photograph.
Some of you are upset that two of the affected players, linebacker Nick Barnett and tight end Jermichael Finley, have expressed their disappointment publicly.
And many of you think this issue is inconsequential and thus not worth discussing in a national forum, regardless of whose feelings might or might not be hurt.
I can honestly see each point and don't feel compelled to join any particular side.
As Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out, the Packers feel logistically hamstrung by the prospects of conducting off-site rehabilitation for 15 players who won't be part of the game. As a result, the team's injured players won't join their teammates in North Texas until next Thursday -- two days after the photograph is scheduled to be taken.
On the other hand, it's clear we have at least two prominent players who are bummed out during what should be the best two weeks of their year. But is this an injustice? Or just an unfortunate consequence magnified by the Super Bowl microscope? To answer that question, I reached out to ESPN.com contributor Ross Tucker, who played seven years in the NFL and also addressed the issue in Wednesday's Football Today podcast.
The Super Bowl photograph, Tucker said, is the manifestation of the most basic element of the game. It's the team. Eliminating a segment of players from the group erodes the team-first idea.
"Everything you preach about getting to the Super Bowl," Tucker said, "everything you talk about is team, team, team. 'We're in this together.' You should 'sacrifice your individual goals and do what's best for the team.' These guys on IR, they've kind of made the ultimate sacrifice. ... These guys have kind of given themselves up for the team and they want to feel like they're a part of it. All those guys were a part of it in a major way, especially for a team that barely got in the playoffs. Those guys were all a part of it."
Indeed, speaking to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Barnett said there is tremendous symbolism and importance to a Super Bowl photograph.
"In our team meeting room, there are pictures of past championship teams that line the wall, and we stare at them every day," Barnett told Silver. "There's a spot there that's empty -- that was for us, this year. We'd go in there and visualize being on that wall, and think about the effort it would take to get there. You'd see guys like Ray Nitschke up there, and that's motivation. So, now that we've gotten to the Super Bowl, to not be on that wall ... well, it's disheartening."
The Packers' football operations are run by two no-nonsense men in general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. They could change course on this issue if they think it's important enough, perhaps by scheduling the photograph to be taken in Green Bay before the team departs. Tucker suggested, and I agree, that neither man probably spent much time worrying about the team picture one way or the other while making logistical preparations for the Super Bowl.
It's a fact of NFL life that that players on injured reserve tend to feel isolated and disconnected from the team. The Super Bowl magnifies everything, and this episode is no different. As we prepare for a wild and mostly celebratory week, consider it a reminder that single-minded focus on a championship can sometimes leaves hurt feelings in its wake. It's a fact of NFL life.
Earlier: Barnett set off the story with a series of tweets Tuesday. Tight end Jermichael Finley weighed in Tuesday night on ESPN's SportsCenter.