NFC North: Marco Rivera

Tuesday's SportsNation chat brought a nuanced discussion amid the continuing intra-division flow from the Green Bay Packers to the Minnesota Vikings. It's usually assumed that successful general managers only allow veteran players to leave when their careers are on the downturn, but that hasn't always been the case with the Packers' Ted Thompson.

The difference: Thompson is willing to part ways with still-productive veterans when he is relatively certain he either has a suitable replacement or that he can find one imminently. The relevant discussion:

JR. Eau Claire Wi [via mobile]

When will the Vikings start paying Ted Thompson for being their GM too?

Kevin Seifert (2:02 PM)

Ha. Was talking about this the other day with someone. The Packers have been so good at developing young talent that their castoffs are more than worth sifting through. When the Packers release someone or let them leave via free agency, it doesn't mean they can't play anymore. It just means the Packers have younger and/or cheaper players they want to use instead.

Mike (Wisconsin)

Referring to my earlier comment, Thompson had [Aaron] Rodgers and [Mason] Crosby to replace [Brett] Favre and [Ryan] Longwell. They're still trying to find a guard to replace [Mike] Wahle/[Marco] Rivera and a pass rushing 3 down DE like [Cullen] Jenkins. Nick Collins also effectively replaced [Darren] Sharper who also had a few good years left. The career ending injury was more of a fluke thing but you can't deny Packers had Collins to replace Sharper.

Kevin Seifert (2:26 PM)

There's a difference between having good players to replace departed veterans, which the Packers did, and letting players go when you judge their careers to be done, which the Packers did not. They have released players who still have some tread on the tires. In most cases it was prompted by having a worthy replacement on hand, but that doesn't mean those players' careers were over when they were released.

Otto (Happy Hour)

About the Thompson comments. It was definitely an unknown that Rodgers would develop into the league's best QB. Remember early in his career the talk was can he stay healthy enough to replace a legend.

Kevin Seifert (2:30 PM)

True from the outside, but while the Packers didn't know Rodgers would become an MVP, they did feel very confident that he was ready to play at a high level. If their backup at the time was, say, Graham Harrell, I think they would have been more receptive to Favre's return.

One addendum to that discussion: Longwell departed after the 2005 season, and in 2006 the Packers used Dave Rayner as their place-kicker. They made Crosby a sixth-round draft pick in 2007.

BBAO: Packers' postseason hopes

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
7:45
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

How tough have the Green Bay Packers made it on themselves to reach the playoffs? As Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out, the Packers could win the remainder of their games, finish 11-5 and still not clinch a wild-card berth. (It's a topic we considered earlier this month.)

How could that happen? It's a long story, but here's the bottom line: The Chicago Bears would win at least two of their final three games to clinch the NFC North. The New Orleans Saints (10-3) would clinch the No. 5 playoff spot and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) would clinch the No. 6 spot, winning a tiebreaker with the Packers because of a better conference record. And that's assuming the Packers start their final three-game run with a victory over the red-hot New England Patriots Sunday night, a game that quarterback Aaron Rodgers (concussion) is uncertain to play in.

With three weeks remaining in the 2010 season, there are still many possibilities. You can fiddle with them yourself in ESPN.com's Playoff Machine. But I think you'll be hard-pressed to find many easy paths to the postseason for the Packers.

Continuing around the NFC North:
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."

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