NFC North: Frank Winters

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In his first nine seasons as the Green Bay Packers starting quarterback, Brett Favre had two starting centers -- James Campen (two years) and Frank Winters (seven).

Aaron Rodgers will be on his fourth in four seasons after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. And there is a decent chance it will be someone who has never played the position in the NFL.

Tretter
Dietrich-Smith completed his first full season as a starter last year after taking over for Jeff Saturday late in the 2012 season. Saturday lasted just one year after replacing Scott Wells, who was Rodgers' primary center in his first four seasons as a starter.

Perhaps the center-quarterback relationship isn't crucial, but don’t tell that to Rodgers. Shortly after the season on his ESPN 540 Milwaukee radio show, he called it "very important."

He then recalled a conversation he had with Dietrich-Smith during training camp.

"I just challenged him that this was a great opportunity and that he could really set up himself up to be a long-term guy here with a solid performance in training camp," Rodgers said. "And he did that and more.

"He's a very intelligent guy who had a very good season for us, and I'm proud of him in his development, and I hope that he’s around a long time."

Instead, Rodgers will have to adjust to someone new again.

The Packers have plenty of options, although none with any significant experience.

They like JC Tretter, a fourth-round pick last season who played tackle in college at Cornell. But Tretter did not play at all last season after breaking his ankle during the first week of offseason practices in May and only began working at center in November, when he returned to practice from the physically unable perform list.

"I think that kid has a lot of potential to play all five positions," Campen, the Packers' offensive line coach, said after the season. "Will he take reps at center? Yeah, sure he will. Wouldn't be surprised if he's taking reps at guard or tackle. You know, there's a lot of things that have to go through that process, certainly [Tretter] has displayed the ability to play center, yes."

Third-year pro Don Barclay, who played right tackle the past two seasons, could be an option. He worked at center during training camp last summer before he took over at right tackle. With Bryan Bulaga expected to return from his knee injury and go back to right tackle, it could free up Barclay to move inside.

The Packers have no plans to move T.J. Lang to center even though Lang slid over from right guard in two games last season when Dietrich-Smith was injured. The Packers don’t think Lang is a long-term solution at center and also believe he’s far more valuable at guard.

It's possible they could draft another center prospect, although it wouldn't likely be a high pick.

They also could pursue a free-agent center. The best one on the market is Alex Mack, a Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns. Mack currently carries the transition tag from the Browns, who could match any offer Mack gets from another team. The transition tag would pay Mack a $10 million salary this season. The most likely scenario for Mack to leave Cleveland might be in a trade.

Have at it: Skills vs. Team

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
11:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


We stirred up parallel debates in this week’s edition of “Have at It.” We’re apt to do that on occasion. Brett Favre suggested that Minnesota’s 2009 team is the best he has played for, and so we asked you to compare it to the 1996 Green Bay squad that Favre led to a Super Bowl championship.
Glenn James/NFL
Who deserves the nod: Reggie White's 1996 Packers or the 2009 Minnesota Vikings?

Favre qualified his assessment -- “physically and from a talent level” -- but many of you broadened the discussion past the skills of the individual players and into the “best overall team” zone. On that level, very few of you were willing to project championship-level success for the Vikings after five games.

Wrote Robbiemustgo32: “I don't need to look at the rosters, the comparisons ended for me when I read ‘1996 Packers CHAMPIONSHIP group’.”

Adambballn wants “to see the Vikings play somebody” before drawing any conclusions. (Indeed, three of their victories have come against Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis -- combined records of 2-13.)

A few of you attempted some roster analysis. After all, as Cmwernick3201 noted: “Saying the ‘96 Packer team is better simply because they won the SB is invalid to the discussion.”

I thought pchrisb3443 had one of the less emotionally-charged evaluations:
Overall I'd go with the 1996 Packers and not just because I'm a Packer fan. This year's Vikings have the edge as far as running back and maybe offensive line but that's about it. As good as Jared Allen is, he's no Reggie White even at that point in Reggie's career. And to have Sean Jones at the other end just made Reggie even more effective. Percy Harvin's got one special team TD but he needs a few more to compare to the season [Desmond] Howard had. Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson at TE? No comparison there. The wideouts are close as are the defensive backs. I'd also take the '96 version of Favre over the '09 version but not by too terribly much. Let's not forget the coaching staffs. You've got to go with [Mike] Holmgren and his staff.
EXIT_HERE concluded there is no debate after breaking it down this way:
  • QB: '96 Packers
  • RB: '09 Vikes
  • FB: '96 Packers
  • TE: '96 Packers
  • WR: '96 Packers
  • Oline: Even
  • Dline: Even
  • LB: Even
  • CB: '96 Packers
  • Safety: '96 Packers
  • Special Teams: '96 Packers
  • Coaching Staff: '96 Packers
My take? I’m with those who don’t think it’s worth our time to debate whether Minnesota can match the accomplishments of the 1996 team. It’s way too early in the season, and even Favre circled back this week and admitted he “caught a lot of heat” for even hinting at the suggestion. He emphasized that “we’ve got a long way to go to reach that team.”

As we noted in the original post, the 1996 Packers are the only team in the past 36 years to lead the NFL in most points scored and fewest points allowed. That’s a tremendous illustration of balance at a high level, something the Vikings have the potential to approach but probably won’t achieve. Through five weeks, the Vikings rank No. 3 in points per game (31.2) and are tied for No. 9 in points allowed (18) per game.

As for the rosters themselves, the ’96 Packers had five Pro Bowl players: Safety LeRoy Butler, tight end Keith Jackson, defensive end Reggie White, center Frank Winters and Favre. Based on how Pro Bowl voting works these days, I would suggest the Vikings have five near-locks for that honor: tailback Adrian Peterson, left guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive end Jared Allen, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and cornerback Antoine Winfield.

But when judging the rosters by position, as EXIT_HERE and others did, it’s hard to give this year’s Vikings group more than two advantages. I’ll grant them running back and linebacker, but I’m feeling a bit shaky on the latter. Luckily I’m not a personnel evaluator. Just a two-bit blogger hack who enjoys a good debate.
The 1996 Packers vs. 2009 Vikings
OFFENSE
1996
WR: Antonio Freeman
LT: John Michels
LG: Aaron Taylor
C: Frank Winters
RG: Adam Timmerman
RT: Earl Dotson
TE: Mark Chmura/Keith Jackson
WR: Robert Brooks/Don Beebe
QB: Brett Favre
RB: Edgar Bennett
FB: William Henderson
PK: Chris Jacke
KR: Desmond Howard
2009
WR: Bernard Berrian
LT: Bryant McKinnie
LG: Steve Hutchinson
C: John Sullivan
RG: Anthony Herrera
RT: Phil Loadholt
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe
WR: Sidney Rice
WR: Percy Harvin
QB: Brett Favre
RB: Adrian Peterson
PK: Ryan Longwell
KR: Percy Harvin
DEFENSE
1996
DE: Reggie White
DT: Gilbert Brown
DT: Santana Dotson
DE: Sean Jones
OLB: Wayne Simmons
MLB: George Koonce
OLB: Brian Williams
CB: Craig Newsome
SS: LeRoy Butler
FS: Eugene Robinson
CB: Doug Evans
P: Craig Hentrich
PR: Desmond Howard
2009
DE: Jared Allen
DT: Kevin Williams
DT: Pat Williams
DE: Ray Edwards
OLB: Chad Greenway
MLB: E.J. Henderson
OLB: Ben Leber
CB: Antoine Winfield
SS: Tyrell Johnson
FS: Madieu Williams
CB: Cedric Griffin
P: Chris Kluwe
PR: Darius Reynaud
PR: Jaymar Johnson

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- It was a whirlwind Tuesday, but Brett Favre feels back at home on a branch of the Mike Holmgren tree.

After being chauffeured by his new coach, Brad Childress, (and being followed by a hovering helicopter) from the airport to the Vikings' facility, Favre took a physical, signed his contract, ate lunch, put on his Vikings helmet and hit the practice field.

Favre Signs With Vikings
ANALYSIS/FEATURES

Favre signs with Vikings
No camp? No problem
Favre vs. Vikings' schedule
Reaction from Green Bay
Pasquarelli: Nothing's for certain
NFL Nation on Favre's return
Fantasy: Risk vs. reward
Sifting through the buildup
Favre's top 10 moments
Vote: Favre's impact on Vikings

VIDEO

Carter rips handling of situation
Gruden, Jaws break down move
Mortensen on Favre's return
Schefter analysis

Favre is back in the NFC North, and more importantly he's back in the West Coast system -- his comfort zone. Childress coached for Andy Reid, who coached for Holmgren. He's expected to quickly fit into Minnesota's system, much more than he ever did in his four-plus months with the New York Jets. Favre always seemed like he was playing catch up in 2008.

"(Minnesota's system is) Much easier from a system standpoint," Favre said. "Still have to learn the guys and stuff, but it was so much easier today just to call the plays I was familiar with. Those guys in New York last year were great kind of conforming the offense a little bit to where it was functional for me. But it was difficult. I really didn't think it would be as hard as it was.

"Whereas here, there's little subtle changes in the offense that may take a little (time), but the formations, the protections, the routes and stuff are the same. Today I didn't miss a beat calling those plays."

Favre ended his retirement this year nearly two weeks later than last year when the Packers traded him to New York. But because of his familiarity with the Vikings' system and their coaches (Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell coached him in Green Bay), Favre seems ready to make a run with the Vikings.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In a miracle of modern transportation, I managed to make it from Detroit's practice facility to Minnesota's in less than five hours. Thanks to a bit of a delay while Brett Favre and Brad Childress got their stories straight -- er, took care of some last-minute business -- I made it on time for the biggest news conference in recent Vikings history.

AFC West pal Bill Williamson and I will be churning out a steady stream of posts as the evening continues. But for those of you who are impatient, here are the highlights of what we heard:

  • The deal apparently came together quickly. Childress said he called Favre on Monday to gauge his interest. Favre immediately jumped at the opportunity. Although he had previously ruled out re-recruiting Favre, Childress said he always considered the situation "fluid" and decided he had a "small window" to make one more run.
  • Favre didn't have a solid answer for what had changed in the three weeks since he turned the Vikings' contract offer down. But he did admit that Dr. James Andrews found an old rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder during surgery on his biceps tendon this spring. Andrews did not repair the injury, and both Favre and Childress said they are confident he can continue playing with the injury. That was a bit of a head-scratcher, but so it goes for now.
  • Favre's response to those who have grown tired of him changing his mind: "Don't watch." Favre went on to quote former Green Bay teammate Frank Winters, who often said: "Dude, it's America." As in, it's a free country.

More to come.

Posted by ESPN.com staff

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

  • Lions rookie linebacker Zack Follett has found out there is a lot to learn in making the jump to the NFL. Follett: "An NFL defense compared to a college defense is nowhere near -- complexity, the little details. If you turn your head at the wrong time for a split-second, the coaches are on you pretty tough."
  • Will expanding the regular season hurt the appeal of the NFL? Terry Foster of The Detroit News ponders the possibility.

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

  • Adrian Peterson has cut back on his off-the-field endeavors to focus on becoming a better all-around football player. Peterson: "Through the past two or three years, I've had the experience of doing too much and not really being able to dedicate the time I would like to working out and preparing myself. I've really cut back a lot this year. I have more time to study film and really just focus on the most important things that make those things possible off the field. Get my body prepared."
  • Vikings center John Sullivan knows nothing is going to be handed to him as he tries to replace the departed Matt Birk. 
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers ignored the rush Saturday night and stared downfield as if they had all the time in the world.

Favre's return to Lambeau Field wasn't surreal. It wasn't awkward. It wasn't ironic, even as Favre walked through the Packers locker room and stood on the same stage from which he made his emotional retirement announcement.

The only tension emanated from a slew of reporters gathered to document any slip-up, veiled shot or outright criticism that might come from Favre or a Packers official. No one came close. In fact, it was as if Lambeau were packed in a time capsule and insulated from worldly events.

Favre spoke publicly three times -- at a news conference, then to accept the Packers Hall of Fame MVP award, and finally to introduce inductee Frank Winters -- and never referenced his standoff with the organization. Winters touched on it only briefly in his acceptance speech, thanking Favre for showing up during "a tough time."

General manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy reportedly were in the crowd but they were out of sight to the media. Former Packers player Larry McCarren, who served as the emcee of the banquet, asked that the night be reserved for inductees Gilbert Brown, Al Treml and Winters. McCarren noted that "there are bigger problems in the world than the one the Packers Nation is wrestling with now."

Favre, who has been known to meander from topic to topic while speaking in public, kept to the script Saturday night.

"Frank asked me a couple months ago if I would do this," Favre said, "and I was honored. ... It was a privilege and an honor to play with Gilbert and Frank and work with Al. And I congratulate you. As a roommate and friend, they don't come any better than Frank."

At $125 per plate, the paying customers tonight were among the Packers' most loyal fans. They gave Favre a standing ovation at the banquet, one that appeared to take him aback. A few shouted individual messages of support.

Many reflected the torn feelings of former Packers guard Marco Rivera, who was among the former players in attendance.

"I understand where both sides are coming from," Rivera said. "I understand the position that Brett Favre is coming from. I understand the position the Packers are in. It's tough when you played football for so long to walk away. I had to walk away for [back] injuries. It was tough for me to put the TV on and watch football. I understand both situations and I hope something can be resolved, but it's up to both parties.

"I really don't know what they're going to do. But at some point I think they'll get past this."

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- It could never happen this way, right? Too easy, huh?

Brett Favre is not only in Green Bay, but as we type these words he is sitting in the atrium of Lambeau Field, waiting to induct his friend Frank Winters into the Packers Hall of Fame. Somewhere in the same room, we're told, is Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.

(The event is closed to the media, so we can't tell you for certain that Thompson and McCarthy are there. They were scheduled to be.)

Assuming everyone is here, how hard would it be for Favre, Thompson and McCarthy to lock themselves in an office and find an endgame to the month-long public drama that has engulfed the franchise? There are hard feelings on both sides, to be sure, but what better time will there be to resolve those problems?

There are many who believe Favre's bridge to playing again in Green Bay is permanently burned. But at some point, he and the Packers are going to have to solve this problem. Even if Favre decides to remain retired, there is still the issue of his long-term relationship with the franchise.

Absent a reconciliation, would Favre consent to having his jersey retired at Lambeau Field? Would he participate in alumni events? Or would one of the most celebrated players in Packers history enter retirement estranged from the organization?

There is a lot of pride and a few egos involved. But with players reporting to training camp a week from Sunday, the timing for a resolution will never be better.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 
 AP Photo/Mike Roemer
 Brett Favre, right, jokes with Frank Winters during a news conference before the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame induction banquet on Saturday.

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- On this weekend, at least, Brett Favre kept his word.

He walked into a media auditorium with one of his best friends, former Green Bay Packers center Frank Winters, at about 4:15 p.m. central time. The two posed briefly for pictures. Favre broke the obvious tension by slapping Winters in the gut.

Dressed up -- for him -- in a gray suit and a button-down shirt (no tie), Favre walked into the hornet's nest without hesitation. He might have reversed his decision on retirement, but Favre kept his commitment Saturday to introduce Winters here at the annual Packers Hall of Fame induction.

Favre appeared for about three minutes at a pre-event news conference, telling a few stories about Winters and saying he was "honored" to be at the event. He did not take questions -- a team spokesman said Favre did not want to detract from the festivities -- and isn't expected to address his month-long standoff with the team.

"A lot of people around the NFL and the United States were probably thinking Brett wouldn't show up today," Winters said. "But I knew deep down inside that he would. He told me he would be here."

Favre and Winters first met in 1992, when Favre showed up in Green Bay as a 252-pound quarterback. Winters asked him if he was a linebacker.

"From that point on," Favre said, "we were inseparable. What an unlikely friendship: Union City, New Jersey, and Kiln, Mississippi. I guess the old saying about opposites attract is true."

Favre said tonight's induction is part of the Packers mystique.

"That's the thing about Green Bay," Favre said. "It's a special place. There is a lot of tradition. You think of the Packers, all these great names, and for Frank to be honored, it's a special thing."

Favre is scheduled to make a more formal speech later this evening during the banquet, where he and his wife, Deanna, will sit at Winters' table. Numerous members of the Packers' organization are also scheduled to be in attendance, including coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson, but there have been no indications of a meeting or any other event that could bring resolution to Favre's situation.

Tonight's ceremony, which is closed to the media, has been sold out for months. The attendees are mostly friends of the organization, and Favre should be able to spend most of the evening under the radar.

"He told me he was going to be here and I believed him," Winters said. "I told him if he didn't want to come, it would be all right. I didn't want him to be harassed and make it a big deal. But he said no, it was all right."

Winters said he speaks to Favre regularly but never sensed that tonight's event would be awkward for him.

"You've got to remember," Winters said, "I asked him a long time ago, before this came about," Winters said. "Our friendship goes back a long time."

"Basically, when I talk to Brett now it's basically about what's going on with the kids. We don't really talk much football. I don't think it's awkward. I'm sure there are a lot of people who would like to ask him a lot of questions. But it's a special night for a couple of guys and I'm just going to keep it at that."

Favre in Green Bay for ceremony

July, 19, 2008
7/19/08
5:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- Brett Favre kept his word to one of his best friends today and is in Green Bay to induct center Frank Winters into the Packers Hall of Fame.

Favre introduced Winters to reporters assembled here at Lambeau Field but did not address his current standoff with the team. He left the room without taking questions.

We'll bring you a fuller report soon.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- Former Packers defensive lineman Gilbert Brown just met with the media assembled here at Lambeau Field for the Packers Hall of Fame induction.

As Brown reminded reporters, he is a man of few words. So his reaction to the standoff between the Packers and Brett Favre was pretty predictable.

"All I know is tonight is Gilbert Brown, Frank Winters, Al Treml," Brown said, referring to tonight's trio of inductees. "That's all I care about. The three guys going in."

Pressed on the issue, Brown said he hasn't had time to think about Favre's situation.

"All I've had time to think about is what I'm doing," Brown said. "Everyone can't sit around thinking about everyone else. I'm a grown man, too. He put his pads on just like me. I ain't got time to worry about him."

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, WIS. -- Yes, we're here on-site for what promises to be an interesting scene Saturday night at the annual Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame induction. As of this morning, quarterback Brett Favre is still expected to present inductee Frank Winters and thus will be in the same building with Packers general manager Ted Thompson and the rest of the team's front office. (Favre also is scheduled to appear at a news conference for the inductees but is not expected to take questions.)

We'll bring you details of the scene as soon as we can.

Here's a quick look at the division on the final quiet weekend before training camps begin:

  • Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf turned down an opportunity to comment on the Packers' tampering charges against his team. When asked by Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, Wilf said: "Let's put it this way, I look forward to the opening game in Green Bay." (The Packers and Vikings open their season at Lambeau Field on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Game on, as they say.)
  • Wilf, linebacker Chad Greenway and other members of the Vikings organization were in Iowa City on Friday to participate in flood cleanup.
  • The Chicago Bears have extended their training camp contract with Olivet Nazarene University through 2009.
  • While Favre's presence has brought national attention on Green Bay tonight, it's only fair to point out the banquet is to honor Winters, former defensive tackle Gilbert Brown and longtime video director Al Treml.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Today's best in the NFC North...

  • Brett Favre will be in Green Bay no later than July 19, when he is scheduled to present former Packers center Frank Winters for his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. As of Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Favre was still expected at the event.
  • The Lions are in negotiations with all of their draft choices and don't expect any holdouts, Detroit COO Tom Lewand told The Detroit News. The Lions' first training camp practice is scheduled for July 24.
  • A prominent Milwaukee radio host says public sentiment is turning against Favre. "People are sick of the will he or won't he," Drew Olson of 540 AM tells Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Slow news day in the Twin Cities.)
  • In an interview posted on the team's Web site, here's how Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner assessed the team's quarterback competition after reviewing spring practices: "I'd say it's even. Both guys [Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton] are doing a real good job. I'm very pleased with the way both guys are playing." (Excellent coach-speak, coach.)

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8