NFC North: Jermichael Finley

Another setback for Brandon Bostick

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
4:50
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Brandon Bostick finally got involved in the Green Bay Packers' offense last Sunday.

But his time might be short-lived.

Bostick
Three days after he caught his first touchdown pass on just his second reception of the season, the backup tight end was sidelined at Wednesday's practice because of a hip injury that might make it difficult for him to play this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's going to be, I don't want to say a challenge to make it this week, but we'll see how the week goes,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

Backup outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, who has a hamstring injury, is in the same category, McCarthy said.

After a promising start to the preseason, Bostick seemed like the tight end most likely to replicate the big-play production that the Packers lost from Jermichael Finley. But Bostick sustained a leg injury in the preseason and even when he returned in Week 2, his role was almost exclusively on special teams.

Before he got on the field Sunday against the Bears for the first series -- and caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal -- Bostick had played only 18 snaps on offense all season, and most of those came in garbage time of blowouts. He played seven snaps on offense and 18 on special teams against the Bears.

Starting guards T.J. Lang (ankle) and Josh Sitton (toe) did not practice Wednesday despite returning from their injuries to play against the Bears. They did not practice last week either and were listed as questionable but played.

"They did the same thing today they did last week," McCarthy said after practice. "They're probably similar to where they were last week."

Here's the full injury report:
  • TE Brandon Bostick (hip, did not practice)
  • OLB Jayrone Elliott (hamstring, did not practice)
  • RG T.J. Lang (ankle, did not practice)
  • LG Josh Sitton (toe, did not practice)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy hinted last week this was coming, that the Green Bay Packers' tight ends -- even seldom-used Brandon Bostick -- might have a bigger role in the offense than they did in the first half of the season.

But even with that forewarning, it was still stunning to see quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw the first two of his six touchdown passes in Sunday night's rout of the Chicago Bears to tight ends. Bostick, who had one catch for 2 yards all season, was the recipient of the first, on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Andrew Quarless got the second, on third-down from the 4-yard line.

Quarless
Bostick
It was the first time since Week 3 of the 2011 season, when Jermichael Finley had three touchdowns against the Bears, that Packers tight ends have caught more than one touchdown pass in a game. And it was the first time since Week 2 of 2007, when Bubba Franks and Donald Lee had touchdowns against the New York Giants, that two different Packers tight ends have caught touchdowns.

"That was definitely great to see Bostick get his first one this year," said Quarless, who now has three touchdown catches (a career high) this season. "He was really excited. As a tight end group, we were really excited to make an impact."

Bostick's touchdown came out of a three-tight-end formation with Quarless and rookie Richard Rodgers along with fullback John Kuhn and running back Eddie Lacy. McCarthy eschewed conventional thinking, which says to take the field goal early in the game, and went for it on fourth-and-goal.

"I had a good play call," McCarthy said. "I felt like we had the momentum, just the confidence obviously in Aaron and the design of the play."

It was perhaps a watershed moment for Bostick, who had played only 18 snaps on offense -- all of it in garbage time of blowout games -- this season before Sunday night, when he played seven snaps.

"It meant a lot to me," Bostick said. "I've been working all season to get myself a chance and I got in there and made a play, so hopefully I'll get more reps. If not, I'll just keep doing what I've been doing all season."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The fake spike got all the attention, but it would have been nothing more than a footnote in Aaron Rodgers' career rather a highly celebrated moment if not for Andrew Quarless.

Quarless
For it was Quarless, the Green Bay Packers tight end, who validated Rodgers' decision to forgo stopping the clock and instead surprise most everyone with his quick pass to Davante Adams on his penultimate snap of Sunday's 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Even after Rodgers and Adams pulled off a 12-yard gain, there was work to be done. The Packers faced first-and-goal at the 4-yard line with six seconds left. Rodgers had time for one, maybe two snaps. And that's where Quarless came in.

"We got out there, and they were in man coverage with [a linebacker] out on Q," Rodgers said, referring to Miami's Philip Wheeler. "And Q had been kind of in my ear most of the day about throwing him the ball when we had that matchup."

And Quarless knew it was coming.

"Once I got the signal," Quarless said, "in my head I was jumping around already."

Three seconds later, it was a touchdown.

Quarless called the moment "epic for me."

"I believe this is probably my first game-winning touchdown of my career," Quarless said. "So that's definitely a blessing. It just shows the hard work is paying off."

Quarless is not the playmaking tight end the Packers had in Jermichael Finley and probably never will be, but after being somewhat forgotten this summer -- when rookie Richard Rodgers was busy winning the starting job and Brandon Bostick was looking like Finley-lite -- it has become clear that the fifth-year veteran is their best tight-end option. That's because Richard Rodgers has not been able to carry over his play from this summer and worse yet, he has become an untrustworthy blocker. And Bostick can't even do enough in practice to convince the coaches to give him any playing time.

"I'm thankful [Aaron Rodgers] came to me with it," said Quarless, who had only one other catch (for 4 yards) on Sunday. "It just shows how we're building. I'm happy. I'm proud about that."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Midway through training camp, Brandon Bostick looked like the Green Bay Packers' best chance to replicate what Jermichael Finley offered them at the tight end position.

Bostick
Even if he did not win the starting job, Bostick had put himself in position to play a major role in an offense that thrives when it has an athletic player who can operate down the seam like Finley did before his neck injury last season.

So why hasn't Bostick played a single snap on offense yet when he seemingly offers an antidote to the ills of the Packers' passing game?

The leg injury he sustained Aug. 16 kept him out through Week 1 of the regular season, but that is no longer an issue. Bostick has taken his full workload on special teams in each of the last two games, and special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said there's nothing wrong with the way Bostick has run down the field on the coverage teams.

So it can't be the injury that has prevented coach Mike McCarthy from throwing Bostick into the game plan.

From the way offensive coordinator Tom Clements made it sound on Monday, Bostick's practice habits have not warranted playing time. When asked whether Bostick can elevate his play to match what it was in training camp, Clements said: "Sure, he can. It's just a matter of being consistent and getting back into the groove."

Meanwhile, the second-year pro waits his turn.

"I think it's kind of hard to play three tight ends," said Bostick, one of four tight ends on the roster. "You can't play three tight ends. It's whoever's hot right now."

The problem is, no one has been hot. Rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers has started every game but has been a nonfactor in the passing game (one target and no catches in three games) and is a liability as run blocker (see the safety play from Sunday's game), leaving the Packers perplexed about why Rodgers has not been able to carry over a relatively solid showing in training camp.

"Well, I'm not sure of the answer to that," Clements said.

We may already have seen the beginning of a reduced role for Rodgers. Andrew Quarless played nearly three times as many snaps as Rodgers in Sunday's loss to the Lions and caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, but he doesn't have Bostick's ability to stretch the field.

Perhaps Clements and McCarthy will give some of Rodgers' snaps to Bostick in Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears.

"I'm eager," Bostick said. "I'm just ready to get back to where I was before I left off, before I got injured."

With no reason to think Finley will walk back into the locker room given that Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie has not given him clearance to return, the Packers need someone from the tight end spot to take some of the defensive attention away from receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Aaron Rodgers has thrown the ball the way of his tight ends less than four times per game this season -- 3.7 times to be exact. That's nearly two-and-a-half targets fewer than his average of 6.1 throws to tight ends in the previous six seasons. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that tight ends had a large share of blocking assignments in the six quarters the Packers played Derek Sherrod at right tackle in place of the injured Bryan Bulaga. But with Bulaga back from his knee injury, that should not be necessary.

"They're always, for the most part, involved with the pass game," Nelson said of the tight ends. "Sometimes we'll keep them in for pass protection, but they're doing what they're being asked to do."

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

Some of former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley's biggest games came against the Chicago Bears. There was Finley's nine-catch, 115-yard game in 2010 and his three-touchdown game in 2011.

But unless the Packers can find someone to replicate Finley's production, the Bears might not have to worry much about the tight ends during Sunday's game at Soldier Field.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown to his tight ends an average of just 3.7 times per game this season, which would rate as a career low. In his first six seasons as a starter, Rodgers averaged 6.1 attempts per game to his tight ends.

Rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers has started every game yet has been a nonfactor in the passing game, with only one ball thrown his way in three games. Although Andrew Quarless caught four passes for 43 yards (including a 10-yard touchdown) on Sunday against the Lions, he lacks the big-play explosiveness the Packers had with Finley, whose career remains on hold because of the neck injury he sustained last season.

The only way to replicate that might be to use Brandon Bostick, who is the closest thing the Packers have to Finley in terms of athleticism among their tight ends. But the coaches thus far have refused to give Bostick a chance. He was inactive for Week 1 while recovering from a preseason leg injury and played only on special teams the last two games. It might be time for the Packers to give Bostick a shot and see if he can help make something happen down the field like Finley often did.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The lower leg injury Green Bay Packers tight end Brandon Bostick sustained on Saturday against the St. Louis Rams likely will keep him out for the remainder of the preseason.

That also could leave his availability for the Packers' regular-season opener at Seattle on Sept. 4 in doubt.

Bostick
"He's going to be a couple of weeks," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "They were encouraged once they got all the testing done."

Bostick is not expected to need surgery, but McCarthy would not give any other specifics about the injury.

The second-year tight end was injured after he caught a 9-yard pass on the third snap of the Packers' second offensive possession against the Rams. Bostick remained on the field for one more play before taking himself out.

The Packers have been preparing rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers for the starting job -- he opened each of the first two preseason games with the No. 1 offense -- but Bostick is a big part of their plans, too. He has taken many of the first-team reps in the two-minute drill throughout training camp. He has the big-play ability the Packers lose without Jermichael Finley. Of all the tight ends on the roster, Bostick most resembles Finley in terms of size and athleticism.

Veteran Andrew Quarless replaced Bostick on that series against the Rams and went on to lead the Packers with four catches for 58 yards.

However, when it came time to replace Bostick in practice Monday -- at least in the two-minute period -- second-year pro Jake Stoneburner filled that role.

There were no other new injuries as a result of the game against the Rams.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're taking water breaks and serving snacks during training camp practices. They're using a GPS system to monitor players' movements.

They changed their practice plan, flip-flopping their Friday-Saturday in-season schedule, and even within those individual practices they moved drills that used to be at the beginning to the end, and vice versa.

All for one reason: To reduce the injuries that have befallen the Green Bay Packers in recent years.

And what good has it done?

They already have lost two players -- rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay -- who almost certainly would have been on the opening day roster. Both suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments within the first two weeks of practice.

Some injuries -- no matter what the training staff does to keep players energized for practice and regardless of how coach Mike McCarthy designs his schedule -- just have to be chalked up to bad luck.

"Watch either one of those things as it happened, it wouldn't give any sort of indication that it was going to be a bad deal," Packers general manger Ted Thompson said. "It's just the way it turned out."

But so far in camp, the number of missed practices due to muscle or fatigue-related injuries has been low. A year after hamstring pulls were the order of camp, the only serious muscle pull in the first two weeks was an oblique strain suffered by starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsA rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers is showing no aftereffects -- so far -- of last season's broken collarbone.
1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned 30 in December and is coming off the worst injury of his career (a broken collarbone), but you would never know it by watching him now. He has been humming along in training camp as well as he ever has. His command of the offense is so great that McCarthy has been able to cut several practices short because they have not been forced to repeat plays ruined by mental errors. Rodgers reported to camp about 11 pounds lighter than he was last season, thanks to a combination of workouts (which included yoga) and diet.

2. If there's such a thing as a distraction-free training camp, this has been it. They addressed their No. 1 contract concern by signing receiver Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension on the morning camp opened. A few days later, they locked up Thompson with a multiyear extension and said McCarthy would be next. And perhaps they have finally put any bad vibes from Brett Favre behind them when they announced last week that their former quarterback will have his number retired next summer, when he also will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. All of that has allowed the team to focus on its preparation without anything getting in the way.

3. The biggest area of concern last year, the safety position, now may be one their strengths. Micah Hyde's switch from cornerback has gone better than expected, and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks game-ready. Then there's third-year safety Sean Richardson, who has made perhaps more big plays in practice than anyone on defense. If Burnett comes back soon from his oblique strain -- and finally starts to perform like the Pro Bowl-caliber player they thought he was when they gave him a four-year, $24.75 million extension last summer -- then there should not be any concerns.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Packers still do not know -- and may not know for a while -- whether JC Tretter can handle the starting center job. After a rough start to training camp, the second-year pro seemed to settle into the position and was solid in the preseason opener. But given the opener is at the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in perhaps the loudest stadium in the league, there's probably nothing that can prepare Tretter for what he will have to deal with in Week 1.

2. As good as the Packers feel about Nelson, receiver Randall Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy, they don't have many other proven weapons for Rodgers. No one from the tight end group has emerged as the favorite to replace Jermichael Finley, although Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers have had their moments (both good and bad). And among the receivers, Jarrett Boykin has been no better than average in his quest to replace James Jones as the No. 3 receiver. Every time it looks like rookie Davante Adams may take that job from Boykin, he drops a ball.

3. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews participated in every practice during the first two weeks but still is not ready to proclaim his twice-broken right thumb 100 percent. Perhaps it's more of a mental hurdle for Matthews, but he needs to be able to use his hand without restrictions in order to return to his Pro Bowl level. It's hard to tell if Matthews is babying the injury, but in the first two weeks of practice, he took only two reps in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill and lost both. He played a few snaps early in the preseason opener against the Titans and did not seem to have any issues.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Morry GashB.J. Raji, back at nose tackle after spending last season at defensive end, has had an impressive camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • B.J. Raji looks re-energized after moving back to nose tackle. He signed just a one-year contract (worth $4 million) after the free-agent market proved soft, and might be motivated by another chance to test free agency next offseason.
  • Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is preparing second-year pro Datone Jones for a big role. Last year as a rookie, the first-round pick played almost exclusively in the sub packages and hardly ever played in the base 3-4 defense. Now, Jones has been penciled in as a starting defensive end while also playing as an inside rusher in the nickel and dime defenses.
  • If there's a high draft pick who might struggle to get on the field early in the season, it's perhaps third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Much like defensive end Josh Boyd last season, Thornton might not be ready for playing time from the get-go. Last season, Boyd was inactive for the first five games and seven of the first nine before he found a role.
  • The same could be said for fourth-round pick Carl Bradford. The outside linebacker from Arizona State has struggled to make many impact plays.
  • Last year, safety Chris Banjo was signed a few days into training camp and made the team. Receiver Gerrard Sheppard has a chance to do something similar. He was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens five days after camp opened and has made some impressive catches.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the preseason opener looming on Saturday at Tennessee, the Green Bay Packers released their first depth chart of the season.

It was labeled "unofficial."

And there were few, if any, surprises.

At almost every position where there is even a hint of competition, the more experienced player was listed first.

Keep in mind that a year ago, the first depth chart of the season listed Eddie Lacy as the No. 4 running back behind DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks. Harris never played a down because of a knee injury, Green got cut at the end of camp and Lacy became the NFL's offensive rookie of the year. The same chart listed Marshall Newhouse as the starting right tackle and Bryan Bulaga as the left tackle. By then, Bulaga had already blown out his knee, and Newhouse did not start a game until Week 11.

Nevertheless, here's what stood out on the first edition of this year's depth chart:
  • Without Jermichael Finley, the order at tight end was Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, rookie Richard Rodgers and Jake Stoneburner.
  • Although coach Mike McCarthy said he has not decided how the backup quarterback reps will be divided up against the Titans, Matt Flynn was listed as No. 2 and Scott Tolzien No. 3 behind Aaron Rodgers.
  • At running back, James Starks was listed as the No. 2 behind Lacy. DuJuan Harris was third followed by Michael Hill, Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.
  • JC Tretter was the top center ahead of rookie Corey Linsley.
  • The No. 2 outside linebacker combination behind starters Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers was Mike Neal and Nick Perry. Neal was the backup to Matthews on the right side, while Perry was behind Peppers on the left even though Perry has been more productive on the other side.
  • Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde were listed as the starting safety duo with Sean Richardson behind Burnett and first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix behind Hyde.
  • At right cornerback, former practice-squader Jumal Rolle was No. 3 (behind Sam Shields and Casey Hayward) ahead of rookie sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson, who has struggled so far.
  • At kickoff returner, it was Hyde followed by Harris, Cobb and rookie Jeff Janis. The punt returners were Hyde and Cobb.
  • The depth chart also included the assistant coaches' locations on game days, and there was one major change. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements is going to the coaches box after previously working from the sideline. He will be joined in the box by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive quality control assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With or without Jermichael Finley, the Green Bay Packers think they have plenty to work with at the tight end position.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Mike Roemer/AP PhotoCoach Mike McCarthy says rookie Richard Rodgers is among the tight end group that showed major improvement from offseason work.
Although coach Mike McCarthy once again refused to close the door on a possible return by Finley, who remains unsigned and in medical limbo, he expressed overwhelming confidence in a group that, at least on the surface, appears to lack a standout player.

"I like our tight ends," McCarthy said Friday during his annual pre-training camp news conference. "I think that's a group that we've really got to get a lot of pad work. I mean, if there was ever, if you wanted to say, 'OK, what group progressed?' You went, 'OK, wow' [about the tight ends] in spring."

Given that Andrew Quarless, who finished last season as the starter following Finley's season-ending neck injury, did not practice at all during the offseason, McCarthy must be impressed with newcomers Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.

The Packers picked Rodgers in the third round and signed Lyerla after a rookie tryout. Rodgers was one of the most impressive performers during the organized team activities and minicamp, and while Lyerla did not flash as often, he has the physical tools that would have warranted being drafted had there not been those much-publicized, off-the-field issues.

Another intriguing prospect is Brandon Bostick, who showed some receiving ability late last season before a foot injury ended his year.

Nevertheless, that group would look far more formidable with a healthy Finley, who visited with Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie last week to go over the latest tests on his surgically fused neck. However, there has been no indication McKenzie gave Finley medical clearance.

"I actually haven't seen Pat, Dr. McKenzie in quite some time," McCarthy said. "I'm not even sure the last time him and Jermichael talked or visited. We're still open to [Finley returning] and watching that. Jermichael Finley is a Green Bay Packer in my opinion, and obviously he's going through a medical situation. First and foremost, you just want him to get healthy."

The Packers reported to training camp on Friday morning with 89 players on their roster, meaning they still have room for one more player. The first practice is Saturday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
Jermichael FinleyJeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsFree-agent tight end Jermichael Finley has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nothing has changed between the Green Bay Packers and free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who is attempting to continue his career following neck fusion surgery last fall, but he is scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie for the second time in the last seven weeks.

That meeting will take place today, according to ESPNWisconsin.com.

Perhaps that's why Finley tweeted the following on Thursday morning:

However, an NFL source told ESPN.com that Finley's tweet did not mean the Packers had cleared Finley medically or were in negotiations with him. The source said "there’s nothing going on" with Finley and the Packers in terms of contract talks.

Finley last met with the Packers' medical staff on May 28 in what was described at the time by a source close to the situation as “a formality” because Finley had not checked in with the Packers recently.

According to USA Today, Finley was expected to undergo more tests this week. It is possible Finley's meeting with McKenzie is to review those results.

Finley, 27, has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. That injury left him momentarily without movement or feeling in his extremities. Finley underwent surgery on Nov. 14 to fuse together the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in his neck. That was the same fusion that former Packers safety Nick Collins had following his 2011 neck injury. The Packers released Collins the following offseason because their doctors, including McKenzie, did not believe it was safe for him to continue his career. Collins has not played since.

The surgeon who performed Finley's fusion, Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers' doctor, has reportedly cleared Finley for football activities. Since becoming a free agent in March, Finley also has visited the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, but neither team offered him a contract.

However, according to USA Today, the Steelers offered Finley a contract that he said included "money [that] ain't what it's supposed to be."

Finley, who completed a two-year, $14 million contract, has a disability insurance policy that could pay him $10 million tax free if he is unable to resume his career.

The Packers don't have a clear-cut starter if Finley does not return. However, rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers was impressive enough during the offseason practices that he is a strong candidate for the job.

Camp preview: Green Bay Packers

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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NFL Nation's Rob Demovsky examines the three biggest issues facing the Green Bay Packers heading into training camp:

Replacing Finley: The longer tight end Jermichael Finley remains unsigned, the more likely it appears his time in Green Bay -- and perhaps in the NFL -- is over, despite his desire to continue to play. The team's reluctance to clear Finley after last season's neck injury falls in line with its philosophy on similar injuries. Just last month, it cut ties with another player who suffered a neck injury last season, running back Johnathan Franklin. The Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless to a two-year, $3 million contract in March, but that's hardly starter's money. The door is open for rookie third-round draft pick Richard Rodgers, who performed well enough during the organized team activities and minicamp practices (which Quarless missed because of injury) to move into the starting spot. Rodgers has the kind of dynamic athletic ability that Finley brought to the position. The wild card there is Colt Lyerla, the undrafted but talented rookie from Oregon. Had Lyerla not left the Ducks' program and run into trouble subsequently last year, he might have been a high draft pick. The Packers also will have to assess whether Brandon Bostick can make a bigger impact than he did last season.

The safeties: We know the Packers used their first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Now what? It's time to see whether the former Alabama standout can make an immediate impact. One thing was clear based on the offseason practices: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not going to hand the rookie a starting job. Unlike Morgan Burnett, who lined up as a starting safety from his first practice as a rookie in 2010, Clinton-Dix played mostly with the second-string defense in OTAs and minicamp. At some point, perhaps even when training camp opens, Capers will insert Clinton-Dix with the starters, and he may never relinquish that role. But the Packers believe they have options in case Clinton-Dix is not ready to start from the outset. Converted cornerback Micah Hyde took almost all of the reps alongside Burnett with the No. 1 defense this offseason, and coach Mike McCarthy would like to get Hyde on the field more often than just sub packages. Using him at safety, at the very least in the base defense, would be one way to accomplish that. The Packers also like third-year pro Sean Richardson, who has shown some playmaking ability.

Capers on the hot seat: With so much of the offseason focus on improving the defense -- from tweaks to the scheme, to changes on the coaching staff, to the addition of high-priced free-agent pass-rusher Julius Peppers, to another first-round pick on that side of the ball -- it's worth wondering what might happen if none of that equates to significant improvement on Capers' side of the ball. McCarthy spent more time than usual this offseason working with Capers on changes to the scheme. At the very least, that was an indication McCarthy was not happy with the direction the defense was headed, although it was not problematic enough for McCarthy to make a change at the position. He trusts Capers and his scheme, but clearly there were issues that troubled him. The Packers slipped from 11th overall in yards allowed in 2012 to 25th last season. Injuries hit Capers' unit hard last season, but McCarthy is not willing to use that as an excuse. Rather, he charged Capers with adjusting his scheme so that it will be more adaptable to plugging in players if injuries strike again.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the last two weeks, you've heard quite a bit from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who sat down recently with ESPN.com for a wide-ranging interview.

It's a good time to compile the best of Rodgers' comments in one place.

So here's the 30-year-old quarterback as he approaches his 10th NFL season:

Rodgers
On becoming more comfortable in the spotlight, such as when he was photographed recently with new girlfriend Olivia Munn: "I'm just going to live my life and enjoy my relationship and realize that comes with it. I still enjoy what little privacy I have left, and I'm going to hold on to that. But I'm not going to let that stuff bother me in ways that it used to."

On what he would do if he were in tight end Jermichael Finley's situation: "I would want to play until they told me I couldn't play anymore. He's younger than I am, and we're competitors. We have to be in our arena doing what we love to do, so it would be near impossible to keep me off the field. I'm sure he feels the same."

On his perfect attendance record in the offseason program: "This is such an important time, I think. This is when you can really get to know your teammates because it's a more relaxed atmosphere. There's no pressure on what we're doing. You have a lot more time and a lot more energy so that when you're done here today, you can go spend time with your teammates, you can go hang out. So this time of the year can start to build that chemistry with your teammates, and I've always found that's really important to success for a team."

On fellow Packers' legendary quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre: "I've always thought it would be fun to do something, the three of us, some sort of sit down where we could all talk about our experiences. I'm sure that's three interesting perspectives on this place and the appreciation for it. But Bart's been a great mentor and a great guy. It was a blast to win his award, and I think Brett's ready to be welcomed back the way he deserves to be welcomed back, and that will be exciting."

On what he likes about this year's team: "I think we’re a bigger, more physically intimidating team. We haven’t had the kind of physical talent as far as size here in a while. I think there's been times – I think back to playing Jacksonville in '08 in Jacksonville [a 20-16 Packers' loss], some of the battles we've had with our division teams at times – where you walk on the field and feel like you're kind of a JV team. We've still won a lot of games looking like that, but it's fun when you walk around the locker room and you've got guys like [Julius] Peppers, [Adrian] Hubbard, Datone Jones and then with Derek [Sherrod] back with his size, adding size at receiver, tight end with Richard Rodgers. We just haven't had guys in some of these positions with those body types, and that's exciting."

On whether the Packers' offense can be as explosive as it was in the record-setting 2011 season: "I think there's a chance."

On new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt: "Alex and I are real good buddies, and it's been fun working with him. He sees the game through the eyes of somebody who played the position, so it's a different perspective. But I think he's been harping on a lot of things and wants to hold me accountable like Ben [McAdoo] and Tom [Clements] did, but he's attacking it a different way and I've been responding really well."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Just about every time Aaron Rodgers stepped on the field in 2011, the Green Bay Packers were a threat to score.

On the way to winning his first -- and to date only -- MVP award, Rodgers set the NFL record for passer rating (122.5) and set franchise records for touchdown passes (45), passing yards (4,643), completion percentage (68.3) and yards per attempt (9.25), among others.

Rodgers
And he did it in 15 games, resting in the season finale against the Detroit Lions to prepare for the playoffs.

As a team, the Packers set club records for points in a season (560), yards (6,482) and passing yards (5,161 gross and 4,924 net).

But you knew all that already.

What you want to know is whether Rodgers and the Packers' offense can ever be that explosive again?

To answer that question, first it is necessary to understand why the 2011 offense was so unstoppable.

"I think our personnel was so good and our confidence was so high, and teams hadn't quite adjusted to what we were doing," Rodgers said in an interview last week. "They were still giving us a lot of one-high [safety] rotation defense because they were worried about [running back] Ryan Grant, and they were worried about us controlling the football the way we liked to.

"And because of that, we had so many one-on-one matchups for [receivers] Jordy [Nelson] and for Greg [Jennings] and for James Jones and [tight end] Jermichael [Finley], and that just allowed us to really be dynamic on defense. At the same time, our defense was giving up some points as well, so we had a lot of opportunities so we put up a lot of yards and a lot of points."

Another productive running back, reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy, could force defenses to play the Packers like they did in 2011, when they had to respect both the run and the pass.

"I think there's a chance, but I think that you're still going to see, other than the first game because Seattle is going to play a lot of one-high like they always do, Eddie is going to get a lot of respect this year," Rodgers said. "But I think he's still going to get an opportunity to prove that he can do it again."

Coming tomorrow: Rodgers on relationships with his coaches.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last day of minicamp typically has a last-day-of-school feeling, with players eager to begin their summer break, but spirits were dampened in the Green Bay Packers' locker room on Thursday after receiving word that running back Johnathan Franklin's neck injury will end his career with the team and most likely in the NFL.

At one end of the locker room was fellow running back DuJuan Harris, whose only concern for Franklin was his future health.

"It's not about football; it's way beyond football," Harris said. "Damn football. This is his life. I'm not thinking about football."

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
AP Photo/Morry GashRunning back Johnathan Franklin had 19 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown last season.
At the other end of the locker room was defensive end Datone Jones. No one with the Packers goes back further with Franklin than Jones. They grew up near each other in Los Angeles and committed to UCLA on the same day.

"To see him work so hard to actually make his dream come true and make it to the NFL, man, it's tough to see it end this way, because I knew how hard he worked," Jones said. "He's a special guy. He was a special guy at UCLA, and not only on the field but off the field. He was very involved off the field. One thing I do know: he has a calling outside of football to lift people and bring people's spirits up. Hopefully he can pursue his dream to become the mayor of L.A."

In the middle of the room was running back Eddie Lacy, Franklin's roommate in training camp last season. The Packers picked Lacy and Franklin in the same draft last year, two rounds apart. The two expected to be tied together for years to come.

"He shot everybody in the running back group a text, and it just makes you cherish the moments that you get to play," Lacy said. "We came in together. We got to know each other real good and we spent a lot of time together. He was just starting [his career], and just like that, as fast as you get it, it can be taken away. But from talking to him and still being around him, he has a great personality. He's going to be down a little bit, but that's just any player. He's definitely going to remain positive and keep his faith, so I know no matter what he does after this, he's going to give his all and his personality is great."

Franklin was one of three Packers' players to suffer a serious neck injury last season. The other two players -- tight end Jermichael Finley and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly -- are currently out of football.

Since 2000, the Packers have had at least nine players suffer significant neck injuries. Of that group -- safety Gary Berry, receiver Terrence Murphy, offensive lineman Tony Palmer, defensive end/outside linebacker Jeremy Thompson, safety Nick Collins, safety Sean Richardson, Finley, Jolly and Franklin -- only Richardson has returned to play.

Like Franklin, Murphy, a second-round pick in 2005, suffered a neck injury as a rookie.

Franklin missed the entire offseason program and did not attend the final minicamp practice.

Word that the Packers were concerned that Franklin would not be able to return first came on Wednesday, when two sources told ESPN.com that Franklin's football future was in jeopardy.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers knows what he would do if he were Jermichael Finley.

And the Green Bay Packers quarterback believes most NFL players would do the same thing.

Bush
Finley
"I would want to play until they told me I couldn't play anymore," Rodgers said Monday during a wide-ranging interview. "He's younger than I am, and we're competitors. We have to be in our arena doing what we love to do, so it would be near impossible to keep me off the field. I'm sure he feels the same."

Rodgers said he has been in semi-regular contact with Finley throughout the tight end's recovery from neck fusion surgery. He said he does not know what doctors have told Finley, but he knows his former teammate wants to keep playing. Finley, who is a free agent, still has his nameplate above his locker at Lambeau Field.

"I've talked to him about him and his psyche," Rodgers said. "I haven't talked to him about his specific injury."

Finley underwent surgery in November to fuse his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae after he sustained a spinal cord contusion during an Oct. 20 game against the Cleveland Browns. Finley sustained a hit that left him momentarily motionless and without feeling in some of his extremities. The Packers placed him on injured reserve on Nov. 5.

Finley met with the Packers' doctors late last month in Green Bay but has not yet received medical clearance from the team to continue his playing career.

However, Dr. James Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers doctor who performed Finley’s surgery, reportedly gave Finley clearance shortly before he visited the New England Patriots last month.

Finley has a $10 million disability insurance policy that he might be able to collect if he does not return to football, but Rodgers, like most people, believes Finley's first choice is to play again.

"Yeah, just follow him on Twitter, you'll know what he's thinking," Rodgers said.

On his Twitter account, Finley regularly uses the hashtag #IWillRiseAgain.

"My understanding is he's in great shape and he's doing everything he can," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said shortly after Finley's most recent visit to Green Bay.

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