NFC North: Mke McCarthy
On April 23, 2005, Rodgers spent an uncomfortable afternoon in the green room at the NFL draft, famously waiting out 23 selections before the Green Bay Packers took him at No. 24 overall.
Almost exactly eight years later -- on April 26, 2013 -- Rodgers signed a deal that in financial terms confirmed he is the best player in the NFL. You would be na´ve to think Rodgers isn't keenly aware of that serendipity. I have no idea if it was his idea to announce the deal on the second day of the 2013 NFL draft, but if it was, I for one wouldn't be surprised.
Like most stars, Rodgers got to this point because he is athletic, a hard worker, a willing learner and an able leader. And make no mistake, plenty of prominent athletes are motivated by outside slights, real or imagined. But I have never run across a player who works so hard to locate, generate and churn through snubs than Rodgers.
There is no doubt he has had his share, from a lack of Division I college scholarship offers to his draft-day tumble to fans' initial lukewarm reaction to his ascension to the starting job in 2008. Yet Rodgers is quite adept, as we've learned over the years, in finding even the most minute slight.
Don't believe me? Consider what happened Friday afternoon, a few minutes before he gave a news conference to local reporters.
It appears that coach Mike McCarthy told him it had been eight years and two days since his brutal stint in the draft green room. Rodgers knew better.
"I said, 'Actually it was [eight years and] three days,'" Rodgers said. "I have a good memory. I'm driven to be the best. Obviously there is a couple less critics out there but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve the goals I set for myself every year and enjoy trying to meet the challenge that those goals bring and opposing teams bring."
Yes, Rodgers hasn't forgotten that day. Thursday night, he found himself tweeting support to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who spent the entire first round in the green room. He said Friday that "there is light at the end of that tunnel."
Rodgers has long since stepped into that light, but my guess is he's keeping one foot in the dark, just for comfort's sake. It's worked so far.
Most of us keep waiting for the Jay Cutler story to blow over. Thursday's news event -- TMZ.com shot video of him walking and shopping with his girlfriend -- suggested we could be in for the long haul.
Two ESPN.com national columnists weighed in during the past 24 hours.
Gene Wojciechowski writes that Cutler has become a sympathetic figure: "But in four bizarre days, Cutler has gone from aloof, underachieving quarterback to accused quitter to owner of a partially torn MCL to -- wait for it -- heroic victim of a post-NFC Championship Game smear campaign."
Michael Wilbon, meanwhile, is trying to figure out exactly how much staying power this story will have: "Maybe, on the other hand, the Bears themselves are just fine with Cutler's personality, and they, like many of us, think he can come back on a sound knee after an offseason of work on footwork/fundamentals and take them one step further, which would likely stop the questions about his toughness and his personality. But if he doesn't, and if members of his own fraternity continue to publicly question his courage and whether he'll do whatever necessary to win, whether or not Bears fans think it's warranted, the referendum on Cutler and his worthiness will be up for discussion long after this Super Bowl is over."
Honestly, I think the next true step is hearing from Cutler. He spoke briefly after Sunday's game but issued a quick no comment when informed that other NFL players were criticizing his early departure. But how Cutler handles the controversy, both publicly and privately, will play the biggest role in determining its long-term direction.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Cutler would have been better off flopping on the field in pain, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was fined $10,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
- The center for the Packers' Super Bowl XLV opponent, Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has a fractured bone in his left foot in addition to a high ankle sprain, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- John Branch of The New York Times visits the Pittsburgh suburb that Packers coach Mike McCarthy grew up in.
- Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf on the job that current general manager Ted Thompson has done, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "When you look at what you have to do to be successful, just look at what Ted did when he came in there. He built that team up."
- McCarthy wanted to give Packers players as much time to rest this week as he could, writes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com reviews the Packers' 2009 matchup with the Steelers.
- Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh played his entire rookie season with the shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, according to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune.
- Tom Pelissero of ESPN1500.com grades the Minnesota Vikings' special teams, coaching and personnel for the 2010 season.
- Vikings coach Leslie Frazier on middle linebacker E.J. Henderson making the Pro Bowl, via the Star Tribune: "After the injury he suffered in 2009 left many wondering if his career was over, to come back and play at such a high level all season and be named to the Pro Bowl caps off a remarkable season for an outstanding player and person."
INDIANAPOLIS -- As you might realize, we initially booked this trip to Gen Con, er Indy, because it figured to be the preseason debut of Hewhoshallnotbenamed. We all know how that worked out, but even now I think Minnesota's quarterback position remains very much the story Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
As Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune points out, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels have had an inconsistent summer. And their most recent practice on Wednesday might have been their worst, a significant warning sign.
As preseason games go, there's some pressure on both quarterbacks to play well -- especially considering Indianapolis will be without its entire first-team secondary for the game. Check out Mike Chappell's blog at the Indianapolis Star for those details.
We don't yet know whether Jackson or Rosenfels will start (competitive reasons, no doubt.) But the Colts' injury list means that the Vikings' starter will be working against the Colts' No. 2 secondary. And whoever comes in after that will probably face members of the Colts' third-team secondary. For a player looking to win a starting job, those are matchups that should be won.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Friday will also mark the debut of new Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt and possibly center John Sullivan, who has had an ankle injury, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Detroit coach Jim Schwartz is likely to announce Friday whether Matthew Stafford or Daunte Culpepper will start Saturday against Atlanta, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions tailback Kevin Smith dropped his weight from 218 pounds to 210 pounds in preparation for this season, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Watch out, Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks: Green Bay worked out four free-agent punters Wednesday, according to Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that Packers coach Mike McCarthy has typically changed the alignment of his offensive line after the first preseason game. McCarthy has pledged this year to keep players in the same position as much as he can.
- Chicago safety Danieal Manning's sore hamstring has opened the door for rookie Al Afalava, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Corey Graham is likely to work as the Bears' nickelback in the preseason opener at Buffalo, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
Arguably the most important event of the draft season -- at least between the scouting combine and the draft itself -- will take place Thursday on the University of Georgia campus.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford will headline a Georgia Pro Day that is expected to be attended by every NFL team. Stafford, the top-rated quarterback in the draft and a leading candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick, will throw publicly for the first time since the end of the college season.
Stafford skipped the throwing portion of last month's combine, increasing the importance of Thursday's event. As you might expect, a number of Detroit officials are expected to be in attendance. But the Lions also plan a private workout with Stafford at a later date. He visited their practice facility last week.
We'll keep you updated on the Pro Day as best we can. But in the meantime, here is a link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Georgia blog, which reporter Chip Towers will be updating live from the event. Stafford is expected to throw at about 12:15 p.m. ET.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Quarterback Drew Stanton, the Lions' second-round pick in 2007, is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle in Detroit. Daunte Culpepper is the top candidate to open training camp as the starter, and the Lions have said they plan to sign a veteran backup. But Stanton has been told he has a clean slate with the new coaching staff, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- The Lions hosted a visit Wednesday for Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew. David Birkett of the Oakland Press has the details.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune shifts focus from the Bears' right tackle spot to the left side, where former first-round pick Chris Williams has been inserted as the starter.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes an early look at the work of new Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
- Dave Redding is a "Hall of Fame strength coach," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiles the man running the Packers' offseason workouts.
- Former Minnesota safety Darren Sharper, who signed Wednesday with New Orleans, had a parting shot for the Vikings' coaching staff. Here's what Sharper told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "You love to play for coaches who don't just get caught up in saying, 'This is my system and this is how it's done.' That's how it was in Minnesota."
- The Vikings have agreed to terms with former Cincinnati receiver Glenn Holt, according to ESPN's John Clayton. Holt would have been a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Bengals did not make him a contract tender. He had three receptions in 15 games last season.
Amid discussion about his players' potential fit for the 3-4 defense, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Tuesday that Aaron Kampman will shift from defensive end to outside linebacker in 2009.
Check out coverage from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Green Bay Press-Gazette. McCarthy said Kampman will be at outside linebacker when "we line up in the first base defense" but emphasized that new coordinator Dom Capers will devise a role around Kampman's skills. "There's not just one mold for each position," McCarthy said of the 3-4.
I guess I'll believe it when I see it. I agree that Kampman isn't a good fit as a defensive end in any version of the 3-4. At 265 pounds, it would be hard for him to play a position that has some of the responsibilities of a defensive tackle in the 4-3. But at a gangly 6-4, Kampman doesn't have the body type of a modern 3-4 outside linebacker, either.
(For comparison's sake, Kampman is four inches taller than Pittsburgh's James Harrison and two inches taller than the Steelers' LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers' 3-4 scheme finished 2008 as the NFL's top-ranked defense.)
It's true that Kampman played linebacker for two years at Iowa, but it's hard to escape the feeling that he his ideal position is a 4-3 defensive end. How many eight-year veterans make the transition to a position that requires more quickness, a greater comfort zone in space and a new pre-snap stance? I'm sure it can be done, but it's only fair to say that Kampman has a lot of work ahead of him.
The most encouraging news is that McCarthy alluded several times to the possibility of adjustments and tweaks to the traditional roles of the 3-4. If Capers can create a role that puts Kampman on the line of scrimmage and allows him almost solely to focus on rushing the passer, then this move could succeed. Otherwise, the Packers will have taken a player who has 37 sacks in the past three years and put him out of position.