NFC North: Donald Driver
"Obviously Jordy is having a Pro Bowl season," Rodgers said after Sunday's 53-20 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Few, if anyone, would argue that.
Nelson ranks third in the NFL with 998 receiving yards and is tops among NFC receivers (although the Pro Bowl is no longer organized by conference). He trails only Denver's Demaryius Thomas (1,105) and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (1,070) in that category. Nelson ranks sixth in the league with 60 catches. And his nine touchdown catches puts him tied for second among all receivers.
But what about Randall Cobb?
He's the only receiver in the league with more touchdowns than Nelson and those he's tied with for second. Despite not catching a touchdown pass on Sunday, ending a streak of six straight games with at least one score, Cobb's 10 touchdown catches still leads all NFL receivers and is second overall behind only Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who has 12.
Sunday marked the second time this season that Cobb (with 10 catches for 129 yards against the Eagles) and Nelson (four catches for 109 yards and one touchdown) each had 100-plus yards receiving in the same game.
How much has Rodgers relied on that duo this season?
He has 19 of his 28 touchdown passes to them. He has completed 73.2 percent of his targets toward Cobb and 65.2 percent of his targets to Nelson, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has averaged 10.9 yards per attempt when throwing to Nelson and 10.8 yards per attempt when throwing to Cobb.
Against the Eagles, he was 13-of-22 for 226 yards and a touchdown when throwing to those two receivers.
Cobb and Nelson have been the perfect complement to one another. Nelson's size and speed on the outside make him a big-play threat, which opens up the middle of the field for Cobb, a prototypical slot receiver.
Against the Eagles, Rodgers hit Nelson for a 64-yard gain down the right sideline on the game's opening series, and the offense took off from there.
"People like to double him a lot, so it frees up Randall and I," said Packers receiver Davante Adams, who also caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles. "So we get to move around a little bit, move around a little more freely when in man coverage. Just getting him the ball, if he doesn't score, one of us will.”
The Packers have had only two receiver pairs make the Pro Bowl together in the last 32 years. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver did it for the 2010 season, although Driver was an alternate. James Lofton and John Jefferson did it in 1982, a strike-shortened season.
Not Jordy Nelson.
Rather, he is stating his desire, something he did last week during the Packers' organized team activities and again Sunday at a charity softball game that formerly belonged to Packers' legends Brett Favre and Donald Driver but now bears the Nelson name.
"My wife and I have enjoyed it," Nelson said Sunday of his time in Green Bay. "Let's see, it's 6 years going on 7 years now. We don't want to go anywhere else. We love it here. We want to be here, and hopefully we can get to that point."
Last week, Nelson expressed confidence that he would get an extension done with the Packers before too long. The 29-year-old former second-round pick is in the final season of a three-year, $12.6 million extension that turned out to be a bargain for the team, considering Nelson's productivity.
He has a pair of 1,200-plus yard seasons in the last three years, including a career-best 1,314 yards last season.
Driver's retirement after the 2012 season and James Jones' departure in free agency this offseason has left Nelson as the elder statesman among the Packers' receivers. That the Packers have lost that pair plus Greg Jennings in free agency since the end of the 2012 season could make keeping Nelson all the more important.
As for Nelson, he does not seem to be concerned about hurting his bargaining power by going public with his preference to remain with the Packers.
Nor does he seem like he has given his agent, Vann McElroy, any directives to try to make up for any money he might have left on the table by signing his last extension before his statistical spike of the last three years.
"What I got in that last deal, I'll never spend it all anyway," Nelson said last week. "So I'm not worried about it."
Here's a look at them and their numbers:
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (first-round pick)
- Uniform number: 21
- Last player to wear 21: Charles Woodson (2006-12)
- Other notable players to wear 21: Craig Newsome (1995-98), Bob Jeter (1963-70), Verne Lewellen (1927)*
- Uniform number: 17
- Last player to wear 17: Craig Hentrich (1994-97)
- Other notable players to wear 17: David Whitehurst (1977-83), Jerry Tagge (1972-74), Travis Williams (1967)*, Cecil Isbell (1938-42)
- Uniform number: 94
- Last player to wear 94: Phillip Merling (2012)
- Other notable players to wear 94: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (2000-08), Charles Martin (1984-87)
- Uniform number: 89
- Last player to wear 89: James Jones (2007-2012)
- Other notable players to wear 89: Mark Chmura (1993-99), Dave Robinson (1963-72)
- Uniform number: 91
- Last player to wear 91: Jordan Miller (2012)
- Other notable players to wear 91: Justin Harrell (2007-10), Joe Johnson (2002-03), Brian Noble (1985-93)
- Uniform number: 63
- Last player to wear 63: Jeff Saturday (2012)
- Other notable players to wear 63: Scott Wells (2004-11), Adam Timmerman (1995-98), James Campen (1989-93), Fuzzy Thurston (1959-67)
- Uniform number: 84
- Last player to wear 84: D.J. Williams (2011-12)
- Other notable players to wear 84: Bill Schroder (1997-2001), Andre Rison (1996), Sterling Sharpe (1988-94), Carroll Dale (1965-72), Gary Knafelc (1954-62)
- Uniform number: 39
- Last player to wear 39: Trevor Ford (2009)
- Other notable players to wear 39: Mike Prior (1994-98)*, Darrell Thompson (1990-93), Clarke Hinkle (1933)*, Cal Hubbard (1930)*
- Uniform number: 83
- Last player to wear 83: Tom Crabtree (2010-2012)
- Other notable players to wear 83: Terry Glenn (2002), Jeff Thomason (1995-99), Mark Clayton (1993), John Jefferson (1981-84)
Note: Based on a picture Janis took of his locker and posted on his Instagram account, it appears the Packers have issued the No. 80. It likely has been given to one of the undrafted rookies, although those players have not yet been added to the official roster.
That number has not been worn since Donald Driver, the team’s career receiving leader, retired following the 2012 season. While it has been suggested that number be retired to honor Driver, it should be noted it was also worn by Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton with the Packers from 1978-86.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The pick: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
My take: Over the last two years, the Green Bay Packers have lost their career receiving leader (Donald Driver) to retirement, a Pro Bowler (Greg Jennings) to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency and an underappreciated veteran (James Jones) to the Oakland Raiders in free agency. They needed to fortify their receiving corps even though they still have a pair of standouts in Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. They also are high on Jarrett Boykin, who had a breakout season last year with 49 catches. Cobb and Nelson are entering the final years of their contracts, but this pick should not change the fact that they both will be extended. The Packers' strength is their passing game, so why not give Aaron Rodgers more help?
Second-round success: General manager Ted Thompson has done well with second-round receivers. He picked Jennings in 2006, Nelson in 2008 and Cobb in 2011 -- all in Round 2. Also, he drafted receiver Terrence Murphy in 2005's second round, but Murphy's career came to an abrupt end because of a neck injury.
What's next: The Packers have two picks in the third round, Nos. 85 and 98. The 98th pick is a compensatory selection that cannot be traded.
Since then, much has happened to the 53 players who were on the roster for that 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas.
Free agency, injuries, retirement and declining performance cause roster turnover.
Still, it’s eye-opening that from the group that suited up for the Packers’ last championship, only 12 players (just 22.6 percent) remain under contract with the team for 2014. Another 11 are still officially members of the Packers, but have contracts that expire next month. There are 13 players with other NFL teams, and 17 are out of football -- perhaps for good.
Here’s a look at the status of every player who was on the active roster three years ago today at Super Bowl XLV:
Under contract for 2014
- QB Aaron Rodgers: Threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on the way to winning the Super Bowl XLV MVP, then won the NFL MVP award the next season. Signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension last April.[+] EnlargeWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThree years after being named MVP of Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers is still leading the Packers.
- G Josh Sitton: Started Super Bowl XLV at right guard, but moved to left guard in 2013 and was a second-team, All-Pro selection. Signed a five-year contract extension on Sept. 2, 2011 that averages $6.75 million per season.
- T Bryan Bulaga: Started at right tackle, but moved to left tackle last offseason. A training camp knee injury ended his 2013 season, and he now enters the final year of his rookie contract.
- G: T.J. Lang: Served as a backup, but became the starting left guard the next season. Signed a four-year contract extension on Aug. 14, 2012 that averages $5.2 million per season. Moved to right guard last season.
- WR Jordy Nelson: Caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and went on to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons in two of the next three years. Entering the final year of his contract in 2014.
- OLB Clay Matthews: Forced a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl that the Packers recovered and turned into a touchdown to pad the lead. Four-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension last April.
- LB A.J. Hawk: Started and made seven tackles in the Super Bowl. Was released two months later, only to re-sign a more salary-cap friendly deal. Is under contract through 2015.
- CB Tramon Williams: Broke up three passes in the Super Bowl, including the one that sealed the game on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers’ 33-yard line in the final minute. Entering the final year of his contract. Scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2014, and could be a candidate to be released or restructured despite a strong finish to last season.
- K Mason Crosby: Made a 23-yard field goal in the game and signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract on July 29, 2011. Struggled in 2012, but bounced back last year to post his best season.
- P Tim Masthay: Capped his first season with the Packers by averaging 40.5 yards and allowing the Steelers just 5 yards on punt returns in the game. Signed a four-year, $5.465 million contract extension on July 26, 2012.
- LS Brett Goode: Has been the long snapper since 2008 and signed a three-year, $2.715 million contract extension on Oct. 13, 2012.
- CB Jarrett Bush: Special teams player who was pressed into defensive duty in the game after injuries to Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, and intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the second quarter. Signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract on March 26, 2012.
- RB James Starks: Started the Super Bowl and rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries. Battled injuries most of his career, and might not be re-signed.
- WR James Jones: Caught five passes for 50 yards in the game, and signed a three-year, $9.6 million contract on Aug. 2, 2011. Caught 59 passes for a career-high 817 yards in 2013, and could be a re-signed despite his age (will turn 30 next month).
- DT Ryan Pickett: Started the game, made two tackles and was in on the play in which Matthews forced Rashard Mendehall's fourth-quarter fumble. Played in all 16 games last season with a base salary of $5.4 million, but might be at the age (34) where the Packers let him walk.
- DT B.J. Raji: Capped a strong 2010 postseason with a pair of tackles in the game. Finished his rookie contract in 2013, and reportedly turned down an $8 million-per-year offer last season.
- DE C.J. Wilson: Started the game, but played only 14 snaps. Biggest impact came the night before the game, when he kept things loose in the team hotel by playing piano and leading a team sign-along. Finished his rookie contract in 2013.
- FB John Kuhn: Played on both offense and special teams in the game. Signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract on Aug. 1, 2011.
- CB Sam Shields: Suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of the game. Had his best season in 2013 while playing under the restricted free agent tender of $2.023 million. Will command a big contract either from the Packers or another team in free agency.
- LB Robert Francois: Went back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster throughout the 2010 season, and played on special teams in the game. Played last season under a one-year, $725,000 deal, but tore his Achilles tendon on Oct. 6.
- TE Andrew Quarless: Caught one pass for 5 yards in the game. Suffered a major knee injury the next season and missed all of 2012. Returned last season to catch 32 passes for 312 yards (both career highs) in the final year of his rookie deal.
- QB Matt Flynn: Served as Rodgers’ backup but did not play in the Super Bowl. Left after the 2011 season as a free agent, and after stints with Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, he returned to the Packers last season for a one-year minimum deal and played in five games after Rodgers broke his collarbone.
- C Evan Dietrich-Smith: Was inactive for the Super Bowl. Became a starter late in 2012 and for all of 2013, when he played under the restricted free agent tender of $1.323 million deal.
- WR Greg Jennings: Started and became just the third player in team history to catch multiple touchdowns in a Super Bowl by recording touchdowns of 21 and 8 yards. Signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings last March.[+] EnlargeMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike McCarthy and the Packers have seen a lot of roster turnover since winning Super Bowl XLV.
- G Daryn Colledge: Started at left guard, but left in free agency a few months later to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Cardinals. Has started every game for the Cardinals since.
- C Scott Wells: Started at center and remained with the Packers through the 2011 season before signing a four-year, $24 million contract with the Rams. Has missed 13 games over the past two seasons because of injuries.
- LB Desmond Bishop: Became a starter earlier in 2010 after Nick Barnett's wrist injury and made nine tackles in the Super Bowl. Also recovered the fumble that Matthews forced. Signed a four-year, $19 million contract in 2011, but was released after missing the entire 2012 season because of a hamstring injury. Signed with the Vikings last offseason, but appeared in only four games.
- OLB Frank Zombo: Started the game and had the Packers’ only sack of Roethlisberger but battled injuries the next two years and was released. Signed with the Chiefs last year and appeared in all 16 games.
- CB Charles Woodson: Started at cornerback, but broke his collarbone late in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. Played two more seasons with the Packers, who released him last year. Returned to his old team, the Raiders, and played in all 16 games last season.
- DE Cullen Jenkins: Played 36 snaps and had a pair of quarterback pressures. Left in free agency the following year and signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Eagles, who released him after two years. Signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the Giants last season.
- TE Tom Crabtree: Played on both offense and special teams in the Super Bowl, catching one pass. Left last year to sign with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent, but was limited to seven games because of injuries.
- CB Josh Gordy: Was inactive for the game, and the next season was signed off the practice squad the by the Rams. Spent the past two seasons with the Colts.
- G Nick McDonald: Was inactive for the game, like he was for every game that season. Was released in training camp the next year, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the Patriots. Did not play in 2013, but was recently signed by the Chargers.
- OLB Erik Walden: Was inactive after suffering an ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game. Played the next two seasons before signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Colts last year.
- DE: Jarius Wynn: Was active but did not play. Played in Green Bay through 2011, and with the Titans and Chargers before landing with the Cowboys last season.
- FB Quinn Johnson: Inactive for the game. Was traded to the Titans in 2011. Has played in 24 games for the Titans over the past three years.
- T Chad Clifton: Started at left tackle, but his long career with the Packers ended when they released him after he played in only six games in 2011. Was never signed by another team.
- WR Donald Driver: Started the game and caught two passes for 28 yards before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Retired after the 2012 season as the team’s all-time leading receiver.
- S Nick Collins: Started and made a key early play when he returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Suffered a neck injury in Week 2 of 2011 and hasn’t played since.
- DT Howard Green: Claimed off waivers earlier that season and started the game. His hit on Roethlisberger led to Collins’ interception return for a touchdown. Returned in 2011 and played in all 16 games, but has not played since.
- WR Brett Swain: Posted a team-high four special teams tackles. Was released the following season and played briefly with the 49ers. Was cut in training camp last season by the Seahawks.
- S Atari Bigby: Played on special teams. Signed with the Seahawks the following season and played in 15 games. Played in eight games with the Chargers in 2012, but did not play in 2013.
- CB Pat Lee: Special teams player who saw action on defense after injuries to Woodson and Shields. Played one more season in Green Bay before splitting time in 2012 between the Lions and Raiders. Did not play in 2013.
- RB Brandon Jackson: Played as the third-down back, but did not have any carries in the game. Caught one pass for 14 yards. Signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns in 2011, but missed all of that season and played in only two games in 2012.
- FB Korey Hall: Caught one pass for 2 yards and made one special teams tackle in the game. He played in 13 games with the Saints in 2011, and retired after going to camp with the Cardinals in 2012.
- S Charlie Peprah: Led the Packers with 10 tackles (including nine solo stops). Returned as a starter in 2011, when he had five interceptions, but was released shortly before training camp in 2012. Played in five games for the Cowboys in 2012.
- LB Diyral Briggs: Made one special teams tackle in the game, but never played in another NFL game.
- LB Matt Wilhelm: Made two special teams tackles, but seven-year career ended after that game.
- G Jason Spitz: Played on special teams. Left in free agency the next year and signed a three-year, $4.05 million contract with the Jaguars, who released him in training camp last summer. He signed with the Seahawks, but was released on Oct. 12.
- TE Donald Lee: Played in the game, but did not have a catch and was released two months later. Played in nine games for the Bengals in 2001.
- QB Graham Harrell: Inactive for the game. Remained with the Packers until he was released in training camp last summer. Also spent time briefly with the Jets before being released.
- RB Dimitri Nance: Inactive for the game. Was released by the Packers the following summer and never played in another NFL game.
- CB Brandon Underwood: Inactive for the game. Was released in 2011. Went to camp with the Raiders in 2012 and Cowboys in 2013, but did not make either team.
And it wasn't because the Green Bay Packers quarterback, who missed the previous seven-plus games because of the injury, got battered around in practice last week.
"Ever since I tried to shovel my driveway and actually slipped on some ice, I had a pretty good feeling I was going to be able to fall and not have some major issues," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "Thankfully, no one in my neighborhood was out there watching or videoing me because that would have been great YouTube material."
Rodgers said he fell on his back while shoveling but was not hurt.
"I was wearing my Chuck Norris shirt, though, so I felt like that kind of gave me some sort of protection," Rodgers joked.
That said, Rodgers did admit to being conscious early in the game about taking any unnecessary hits, which explains why he slid early on a second-down scramble on the game's opening drive. On the Packers' game-winning drive, however, Rodgers showed no hesitation on a third-down scramble in which he drove forward for the first down.
He called that play "purely reactionary."
While he did not experience any issues with his collarbone, he said his calf muscles cramped up during the final drive and still were a little tight.
In discussing his return, which helped the Packers win the NFC North and advance into Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field, Rodgers reiterated that he didn't feel rusty and -- take note Greg Jennings and Donald Driver -- took responsibility for both of the interceptions he threw.
"Yeah, they were both on me," said Rodgers, who was criticized by Jennings and Driver for not taking the blame -- even if it wasn't his fault -- for interceptions in the past.
A day after Packers coach Mike McCarthy called Rodgers' game-winning, 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds remaining Rodgers' "finest hour," the quarterback said that as far as a regular-season game, it was "probably right at the top."
But Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly radio show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee that he has no plans to stir things up with his former teammate.
“Well, I’m not going to approach it with any bitterness or any malice towards him,” Rodgers said. “I choose to remember the great times that we had together, the great wins, the incredible moments. That’s what I like to focus on. Regardless of what he wants to remember, that’s the things, the positive things that I focus on. But I think we’re definitely past all that stuff, and he’s with them, and I’m focused on the guys we got and getting those guys ready to play.”
To review, Jennings, who signed with the Vikings in the offseason after playing his first seven seasons for the Packers, was critical of Rodgers in a story published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in July. During the interview, Jennings referred to Rodgers by his uniform number and not his name.
“Don’t get me wrong, ‘12’ is a great person,” Jennings said at the time. “But when you hear all positives, all positives, all positives all the time, it’s hard for you to sit down when one of your teammates says, ‘Man, come on, you’ve got to hold yourself accountable for this.’ It’s hard for someone to say that now because all they’ve heard is I’m doing it the right way; I’m perfect. In actuality, we all have flaws.”
Former Packers receiver Donald Driver furthered the situation when he attempted to explain Jennings’ comments during an interview on ESPN Radio’s "Mike & Mike."
“We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else,” Driver said at the time. “If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route’ than for the guy to be like, ‘Well, I ran the wrong route.’ Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won’t look bad, but he didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that’s the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that’s what Greg was probably referring to.”
It will be interesting to see what approach Jennings takes. He is scheduled to speak with reporters who cover the Packers via conference call on Wednesday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you were expecting Aaron Rodgers to come out firing on Thursday, after another one of his former receivers made critical remarks, you have the Green Bay Packers quarterback all wrong.
Earlier in training camp, after Greg Jennings offered a public apology of sorts for the comments he made that were critical of Rodgers, I asked Rodgers if he would like to react. He politely said no.
So it wasn’t a surprise that Rodgers remained low-key after Donald Driver went on ESPN’s "Mike and Mike in the morning" on Thursday and more or less reiterated Jennings’ critical remarks. At some point, likely in his next scheduled media availability either after Saturday’s preseason game at St. Louis or at his locker next week, Rodgers will address it. Or at least be asked about it.
To review, Driver said during his radio appearance: “We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else. If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route’ than for the guy to be like, ‘Well, I ran the wrong route.’ Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won’t look bad, but he didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that’s the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that’s what Greg was probably referring to.”
But Packers coach Mike McCarthy took it head on when asked on Thursday whether it’s ever the role of the quarterback to take the heat when a receiver runs the wrong route. Although Driver’s name was never mentioned, it was clear McCarthy knew the genesis of the question.
“We can talk about Donald Driver’s comments … I didn’t understand it,” McCarthy said. “And frankly, I think Aaron manages his job responsibility very well. To answer your question specifically, accountability is throughout your whole football team. The quarterback position, we take a lot of pride in the way it’s coached. That’s the most overly criticized position on our whole team internally.”
At almost the same time McCarthy spoke on Thursday, Driver posted a series of Tweets attempting to clarify his comments:
Tweeps: Listen I can't believe people would think I'm talking about Aaron. Aaron is a great person and a good friend. He will tell you that— Donald Driver (@Donald_Driver80) August 15, 2013
I've always told him never forget where you came from. He knows that. But the issue is between him and Greg. I love them both. Great friends— Donald Driver (@Donald_Driver80) August 15, 2013
Said Driver: “We’ve always said that the quarterback is the one that needs to take the pressure off everyone else. If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route’ than for the guy to be like, ‘Well, I ran the wrong route.’ Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off the guys so we won’t look bad, but he didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. But I think that’s the difference. You want that leadership, and I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it. You have to earn that respect at the end of the day, and I think that’s what Greg was probably referring to.”
However, Driver added that “no one knows exactly what happened between those two. I didn’t see anything during the season; I didn’t see anything after the season. But you just never know, you never know what types of things happen between them.”
When asked if Rodgers is a nice guy, Driver said: “He’s a nice guy. I think that’s what you have to respect. I played with him five years so I was able to experience everything he went through. I saw when he first got drafted, he came in with a chip on his shoulder in that draft, and it shouldn’t have been Alex Smith [taken No. 1 overall]. That’s the way the guy is. I’ve always told Aaron, ‘Don’t forget where you come from because the people are the ones who put you on that pedestal. You didn’t put yourself there.’ I think that’s what we learning now. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, I think he’s a great guy. I’m friends with Aaron.”
Retired Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver made some headlines over the weekend by telling reporters that he would be in shape and ready to resume his career should the team reach out to him this season. The sentiment is admirable, but I think we can all agree that only a catastrophic series of events would put the Packers in position to need Driver back.
Don't forget that last season, Driver was active for 13 games and got on the field for only 150 snaps -- about 14 percent of the Packers' total plays. Those figures would have been lower were it not for a number of injuries suffered by other receivers. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb combined to miss a total of 13 regular-season games.
Jennings departed via free agency, but the Packers are set to move forward with Nelson, Cobb and James Jones as their top three receivers. They have two promising reserves from last season in Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross, and they also drafted a pair of receivers in Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey. It's nice that Driver will be ready, but it's difficult to see a non-emergency path for him to return to the field with the Packers.
Good morning everyone. I hope you all had a great week.
The lights in NFC North blog headquarters are back on and we're humming along at full strength. But I can't say the same for three of our division teams, who are packed up and scattered across the country until the start of training camp next month.
The Minnesota Vikings have a three-day minicamp starting Tuesday, which will be the last football activity we'll see in a while. Before hitting that, I'll do my best to catch us up from last week in the event you were waiting on me to do that.
First, a morning tour of weekend coverage around the division:
- Offseason hype is closer to hope, former NFL player Matt Bowen writes for the Chicago Tribune. There are no guarantees the Chicago Bears' new offense will hit the ground running, Bowen writes.
- Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at the Bears' leftover offseason issues.
- Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure is looking for consistency in his third season, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Knee rehabilitation is easier for Lions receiver Ryan Broyles the second time around, according to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Justin Rogers of Mlive.com writes about the relationship between Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and a boy who suffers from a rare auto-inflammatory disease.
- Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com profiles the off-field endeavors of Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
- McCarthy has found a balance between life and football, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Retired Packers receiver Donald Driver said at his charity golf event that teams have called him about playing in 2013 but that he would only play for the Packers, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He did say he would be in shape if the Packers called him at midseason.
- Mark Craig of the Star Tribune speaks with Minnesota Vikings receiver Greg Childs, who is attempting to return to the game after tearing the patellar tendons in both knees last summer.
- Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press goes one-on-one with Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Thursday was an opportune day for retired Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver to be at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn. In this "SportsCenter" appearance, Driver offered an honest assessment of Urlacher's declining skills and predicted he will retire.
Asked what Urlacher could offer a new team, Driver said:
"I think the only thing he can offer is the leadership part of it. One thing about it, Urlacher has slowed down a little bit. You all get up in years -- especially myself -- you know you can still play the game and you think you can still play the game. But at the end of the day you have nothing to prove."
Last season, Driver accepted a pay cut to return to the Packers for a final season and ultimately spent most of the season on the sideline. When the Packers informed him they would move on this year, Driver retired rather than pursue a job elsewhere.
"[Urlacher] is going to have to sit down and make some tough decisions," Driver said. "But I think he'll retire as a Bear. This might be it for him."
Bonus tease: Driver also revealed his reaction to receiver Greg Jennings' decision to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. It included the words "nuts" and "crazy," but Driver also expressed relief that Jennings now won't break his team receiving records.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine includes not only evaluations of draft-eligible players. Teams are also managing their salary cap and negotiating with their own free agents. Meanwhile, the league's competition committee meets to set the groundwork for rule changes and adjustments to be voted on later this spring.
One rule that seems certain to be re-written is the one that prevented the Detroit Lions from getting a replay on a call that gave the Houston Texans a touchdown in last year's Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field. According to the Associated Press, the competition committee will propose a rule change that still allows for a replay even if a coach illegally challenges a play that is automatically reviewed, as Lions coach Jim Schwartz did on Justin Forsett's 81-yard scoring run.
A similar instance occurred in the Week 17 game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, but officials did not take away a review from Packers coach Mike McCarthy because they said it had already been initiated when he threw his challenge flag. Beginning in 2013, the league plans to still penalize the coach but won't take away the replay opportunity.
"The bottom line is that we will get resolution on that play where we will get it right, where the play on the field is correctly administered," said Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president of football operations.
In the end, this issue was nothing more than a loophole that needed to be closed. It will be, and it should be made official at the annual league owners meeting in March.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- If the Lions are going to spend big money on a free agent, writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, it should be on defensive end Cliff Avril.
- The combine will formally open up a make-or-break year for Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
- Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune explains why J'Marcus Webb has the pole position to be the Chicago Bears' left tackle in 2013.
- Interesting theory from David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: The Bears might want to bring back Brian Urlacher to help new coach Marc Trestman connect with the locker room.
- The Bears could ignore offensive line altogether in the draft, writes Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- The Green Bay Packers have learned from their mistake of keeping Donald Driver on their roster last season, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Could the Packers bring back receiver Greg Jennings during the free-agent market? Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explores that question.
- Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune breaks down the Minnesota Vikings' situation heading into the NFL scouting combine.
- In practical terms, the Vikings have $10.6 million in cap space heading into free agency, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- Receiver is a position of focus for the Vikings at the combine, writes Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
It's not unusual for an NFL player to undergo offseason knee surgery, as Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan did last week, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
The type of surgery Sullivan had is not typical, however. A surgeon in the office of Dr. James Andrews performed a microfracture procedure on his left knee that probably will curtail most offseason work. The surgery typically includes drilling small holes in the bone to help spur the healing, or limit the damage of, injured cartilage, and has been associated with serious long-term conditions.
Pelissero reports that Sullivan's injury is not as severe as it could have been, which makes sense considering he did not miss a snap in 2012 on the way to the best season of his career. As always, we'll take our cues on this from the Vikings' offseason action or inaction. If they sign or draft a center, you'll know they are concerned about Sullivan's status. If not, you can assume they think he'll be ready for the start of training camp.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The Vikings are hoping to host the Super Bowl at their new stadium in 2018, notes Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Former Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver has "a chance to flourish in retirement," writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "How Driver lasted 14 seasons with one team is one of the great imponderables of the late 20th, early 21st centuries."
- One of Driver's most remarkable catches was a 61-yard touchdown play against the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
- Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com has the latest on the Chicago Bears' decision to raise ticket prices for 2013. The average ticket price has risen 30 percent since 2009.
- Bears fans are miffed about the ticket increase, according to Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times, but demand remains high.
- The Chicago Tribune has a chart breakdown of the new prices.
- The Detroit Lions signed free-agent cornerback Domonique Johnson to a reserve/futures contract, notes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News is convinced that receiver Titus Young will cause the same issues in St. Louis as he did in Detroit.
Gov. Scott Walker, wearing a Packers jersey with Driver's No. 80, declared Wednesday "Donald Driver Day" in Wisconsin. Mayor Jim Schmitt, meanwhile, said that a statue outside the venerable Titletown Brewery will be identified as Driver and a nearby street will be re-named "Donald Driver Way."
Driver, meanwhile, said that "football was just a starting point" for him and appears set to start a career in television. He will co-host an episode of the Katie Couric daytime talk show, has a book due out in September and will participate in an "Extreme Makeover" series as well.
I guess you can say what you want about the excess of this event, but we should all be so lucky to receive such a sendoff.