NFL Nation: Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Green Bay Packers announced last week that they would open up Lambeau Field to fans for Brett Favre's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, former team president Bob Harlan offered a glimpse into what this summer's ceremony might entail.

"We have featured people coming in to participate in the ceremony," said Harlan, who now serves on the Hall of Fame's board of directors. "To say it's going to be a historic evening when you see the people who are going to be here, you can't say enough about how historic it is."

The guest list is typically left up to the inductee, but it's safe to say plenty of Favre's old coaches and teammates will be present.

In fact, the invitations for the July 18 event already have gone out.

Thanks to Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who began his career as one of Favre’s understudies, we can see exactly what the invites look like:

In a telephone interview, Hasselbeck said he will do everything in his power to make it back for the event and expects many of Favre's former teammates to do the same.

"I think there's just a lot of respect for certain things, and that's a dead time in our offseason," said Hasselbeck, who spent three seasons (1998-00) in Green Bay. "Aside from some family commitment that I don't know about yet, I'm going to do everything in my power to be there. I think it's really cool. Thanks to Brett for [the invitation]."

Hasselbeck was one of several quarterbacks the Packers drafted, developed and then traded away during Favre's 16 years with the team. The list also includes Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell and Aaron Brooks. Hasselbeck, a sixth-round pick in 1998, said he actually became closer with Favre after the Packers traded him to the Seattle Seahawks in 2001.

"My first year, Brett was still a wild man," Hasselbeck recalled. "That second year he was trying to quit drinking and then the third year he did, so that third year it was a totally different experience. All those other guys that Brett had been with -- Chewy [Mark Chmura] and Frankie [Winters] -- were gone."

Like Favre, Hasselbeck got his first chance to start under coach Mike Holmgren, who left the Packers after the 1998 seasons to coach the Seahawks.

"When I left, Brett was really, really helpful," Hasselbeck said. "It was really hard for me that first year in Seattle. I had gotten hurt. I essentially got benched for Trent Dilfer and Holmgren was so, so hard on me. The only thing that gave me hope was that I knew that Holmgren had been harder on Brett. So I can remember phone calls with him [talking] about that."

Hasselbeck said he was on the fringes of Favre's inner circle during his time in Green Bay.

"I did Thanksgiving with the Favres and Christmas with the Favres, but it was probably Chewy, Frankie and Deanna [Favre] that got me the invite," Hasselbeck said. "And I was probably closer in age to Brett's daughter, Brittany. When I'd do Thanksgiving over there, I'd end up playing Battleship with Brittany while everyone else sat around watching football."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Whatever you thought of A.J. Hawk's nine years with the Green Bay Packers, remember this: It was never his fault that general manager Ted Thompson picked him fifth overall in the 2006 draft.

Hawk made only one Pro Bowl, and even then he wasn't voted in. He went as an alternate in 2010 -- the season the Packers won the Super Bowl.

Maybe the Packers would have been better off with Vernon Davis, the tight end whom Thompson bypassed in order to pick Hawk. Davis remains with the San Francisco 49ers, who picked him right after Hawk came off the board, and he has been voted to a pair of Pro Bowls.

But even at No. 5, there are no guarantees. None of the three players picked in that spot in the three drafts that followed -- Levi Brown (2007), Darren McFadden (2008) and Mark Sanchez (2009) -- was ever voted to the Pro Bowl. Same thing with the player taken at No. 5 the year before Hawk -- Cadillac Williams.

[+] EnlargeAJ Hawk
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh"I try to look at it like, 'Hey, man, I was lucky enough to get nine years there and win a ring,'" A.J. Hawk said. "I wish we would've won more rings, but I wish them the best."
Imagine how Hawk's Packers career, which ended Wednesday when he was released, would be viewed if he would have been picked, say, at No. 30, where Thompson will select this year.

Or in the second round. Or the third round.

You'd be putting him in the Packers Hall of Fame.

He might end up there anyway because, if nothing else, he was a durable, long-lasting player who did whatever the coaches asked. He epitomized what the Packers want in one of their guys. In his nine years, he played in 142 of a possible 144 games and ended his career as the team's all-time leading tackler.

Thompson called Hawk "a consummate Packer" in the statement that announced his release.

If the NFL Players Association wanted an example for players to follow upon their release, they should distribute this 30-minute video Hawk released on Wednesday. In it, he described how the Packers notified him that he would be released -- he was on a charity cruise when they told him last week, and they said they would wait until he returned before they announced it.

"That just goes to show you the type of guys they are, the kind of organization they run," Hawk said in the video. "They were looking out for me even throughout this, and how I would feel. They don't need to do that."

He added: "They stayed awesome throughout this whole process. They've been super classy like they have my whole nine years there."

Yes, at the end, Hawk's deficiencies were obvious. Maybe it was because of his bum ankle, which required surgery after the season to remove bone spurs, even though he refused to concede that it impacted his play.

Whatever lateral movement he had as a young player, and even that was limited, was gone. All you had to do was watch him try to cover Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph on the opening play of the Nov. 23 game at Minnesota. Rudolph caught a pass 2 yards from the line of scrimmage and ran away from Hawk for a 23-yard gain.

It was no coincidence that Hawk's playing time began to diminish the following week against the New England Patriots. By season's end, the only time defensive coordinator Dom Capers used Hawk was in the base 3-4 defense. In some games, such as the Dec. 8 Monday nighter against the Atlanta Falcons, that meant Hawk played just eight of 67 defensive snaps. Over the final six games of the season, including the playoffs, Hawk's highest snap total was 32 of 68 plays in the Dec. 14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

Yet he never complained -- not during the season and not now.

"I try to look at it like, 'Hey, man, I was lucky enough to get nine years there and win a ring,'" Hawk said. "I wish we would've won more rings, but I wish them the best. No ill will towards anybody there, honestly, players, coaches, front office. I'm not leaving there bitter at all."

Inside linebacker key area for Packers to address

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky discusses an area of need for Green Bay.
INDIANAPOLIS – Some people see the number 32 when they look at Tramon Williams.

His agent sees a different number: 140.

Yes, the Green Bay Packers cornerback will turn 32 on March 16, and that's antediluvian to general manager Ted Thompson, who had only two players older than 31 on the roster last season.

But this is what Williams' agent, Rodney Williams (no relation), hopes the Packers see: Since he first made the Packers' roster in 2007, Tramon Williams has played in 140 out of a possible 141 games (including playoffs).

"Everybody looks at that number 32, and it's based strictly on whether you're going to start breaking down and missing games," Rodney Williams said at the NFL scouting combine. "You're talking about a guy who's played in 140 out of 141 games, so if there's any player on that team that's going to show up every day, it's Tramon Williams, so I think that's going to be the exception to that age number that some people are putting out."

At this point, Williams doesn't know what the Packers are thinking. The agent said he did not know whether the Packers want his client back and if they do, at what price?

While Thompson said earlier this week that "it's no secret that we try to keep and maintain our own guys as much as possible," they haven't begun any talks with Williams.

According to several people at the combine with knowledge of how the Packers are operating, Thompson and vice president of player finance Russ Ball have been focused on re-signing their top two free agents, receiver Randall Cobb and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

With the NFL's legal free-agent tampering period to begin in two weeks, everything that isn't related to Cobb and Bulaga appears to be on hold.

"We'll talk at some point and we'll get a better feel then," Rodney Williams said. "He's OK either way. It's a good time to be in either situation."

Rodney Williams keeps going back to that durability, which is an attribute NFL coaches, especially Mike McCarthy, love.

The only game Tramon Williams missed in his career came in 2011, and he probably should have missed the whole season. He wrecked his shoulder so badly in the season opener that he had nerve damage that lasted all season. Instead, he came back two weeks later and finished the season.

The lasting image of Williams is the 35-yard touchdown pass that Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse caught on him in overtime to win the NFC Championship Game, but he had an otherwise productive season. He tied for the team lead with three regular-season interceptions. He was a part of a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and, of course, he played more snaps (1,134 or 93.1 percent of the plays) than anyone on the Packers' defense.

Williams made $7.5 million last season, which was the final year of four-year, $33 million contract extension he signed late in the 2010 season.

"It's a tough proposition for those guys because if you looked at age alone and saw 32, he'd probably be gone," Rodney Williams said. "But if you look at his productivity and see where's he's at, that's something they have to take a look at."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed and heard at the NFL combine on Friday:

Don’t blame Slocum: If you want to blame former Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum for the botched onside kick recovery in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks, you should know this: According to a person familiar with Slocum’s instructions on the sideline, one of the last things he told his hands team before the play was this: "If your name isn't Jordy Nelson or Micah Hyde, don't try to field the ball." Of course, we all know that Brandon Bostick, who was released earlier this week, tried to catch it and failed, allowing the Seahawks to recover. Two weeks later Slocum, whose special teams units were problematic all season and allowed the Seahawks to run a fake field goal for a touchdown, was fired.

Zimmer on Bostick: After the Minnesota Vikings claimed Bostick off waivers, coach Mike Zimmer told reporters who cover his team that Bostick will add depth and competition at the tight end position. And then Zimmer joked, "We'll try not to put him on the onside kick team."

Meet the linebackers: A day after coach Mike McCarthy more or less said inside linebacker is the Packers' greatest need this offseason, two of the top inside linebackers in the draft -- Missississppi State's Benardrick McKinney and Miami's Denzel Perryman -- both confirmed they have formal interviews scheduled with the Packers during the combine. The Packers began their overhaul at the position by releasing veteran Brad Jones on Friday.

Big things for Janis: For those fans who wondered why receiver Jeff Janis couldn't get on the field much last year as a rookie, know this: McCarthy still has high hopes for the former seventh-round pick who spent most of last season on the inactive list. Janis was active for only three games and played just 15 snaps on offense. He caught two passes for 16 yards. "I thought probably after Thanksgiving, I thought Jeff really picked it up," McCarthy said. "He was more comfortable, and so I look for him to take a step. He's got to play with extension. That's the one thing he has to do a better job of, but you can see it on the scout team, and at the end of the year he was running some really good routes. Really good routes."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The overhaul at inside linebacker has begun.

The Green Bay Packers released veteran Brad Jones on Friday, ending a failed experiment that saw the former seventh-round pick move from outside linebacker less than three years ago.

The move saves the Packers $3.75 million on this year's salary cap. The only remaining charge on the salary cap for Jones is a $1 million proration from the $3 million signing bonus he received as part of a three-year, $11.25 million deal he signed in 2013, which at the time seemed like a questionable move by the Packers.

Back then, the Packers viewed Jones as a viable option as a starting inside linebacker based on his performance in the second half of 2012, when he took over as a starter midway through the season following injuries to Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith.

Jones, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, held that job going into last season and started the first game before he suffered a hamstring injury. After that, he bounced in and out of the lineup, playing just 217 defensive snaps all season (including playoffs). He did not play a single snap in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"We thank Brad for his contributions and dedication to the Packers over the past six years," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in statement announcing the move. "We wish him all the best."

The move comes as no surprise given that coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine that inside linebacker is the team's biggest offseason priority.

It could be only the beginning of an overhaul at the position. The Packers could save another $3.5 million in cap space if they released A.J. Hawk, although the news that Hawk had ankle surgery last month could change things.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ted Thompson helped Mike McCarthy think through his decision to give up play-calling duties, but the Green Bay Packers general manager said he did not influence his coach one way or the other.

"Most of that was his own thinking," Thompson said at the NFL scouting combine. "We had conversations. I was aware of what he was thinking and that sort of thing."

That was Thompson's answer during his combine press conference, and later in the hallway at Lucas Oil Stadium he expanded on what he meant when he said most of that was McCarthy's idea.

"We don't discuss things like that," Thompson said. "I say that, we discuss all sorts of things, but the minute details of the coaching and that sort of thing, I leave that up to Mike. I think that's a good decision on my part."

However, Thompson said McCarthy did bounce the idea off Thompson.

When McCarthy announced the change earlier this month, he said both Thompson and Packers president Mark Murphy expressed surprise when he broached the subject with them.

"He didn't come to me to be challenged, and I didn't try and challenge him," Thompson said. "We just talked it out, just like any two friends would. It's an important setup: how the team is treated, how the access to the head coach, what the different jobs of each one of the coaches is. That's a big thing to kind of work out. He worked it out, and we'll see."

Thompson seemed to think that McCarthy could one day return to play calling, saying "a lot of this stuff is not necessarily set in stone."

But listening to McCarthy talk this week, he doesn't seem to be looking back.

"I'm going to spend more time in areas I haven't spent time in," McCarthy said referring to special teams and defense. "That's the biggest change I'm going to make. And I'm not saying that just because I'm there it’s going to be 100 times better. I felt like I was really stretched this year. I felt really, really stretched."
INDIANAPOLIS – If you believe Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, he isn't spending his days or nights reliving his team's collapse against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

After first stating the obvious, that blowing a 12-point lead in the final minutes and losing in overtime, was hard for everyone in the organization, Thompson tried to send a message.

[+] EnlargeJermaine Kearse
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuThe Packers are trying to put the bitter disappointment of the NFC title game behind them.
"We're done with that," Thompson said this week at the NFL scouting combine. "I appreciate the question, but we're not going to lie in that too much longer. We're moving on."

It was similar to the dispatch coach Mike McCarthy sent out in his season wrap-up news conference last month, when he said "the 2015 football team will not bear the burden of what happened in 2014."

On the other side of that game was Thompson's counterpart, Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who said he was preparing his concession speech during the final minutes of the NFC title game.

"It was really intense because I was preparing for what I was going to say to all the players and coaches because it looked like our season was over," Schneider said at the combine. "So I was getting myself mentally prepared for that, and things just kind of started steamrolling and there were like four minutes left in the game … just preparing for how you're going to address everybody in the organization moving forward because it would have been a devastating loss at home like that."

It turned out Schneider would have to give a similar speech two weeks later after the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots.

"When you wake up in the morning you think about it, absolutely," Schneider said. "I think it's something that will stick with us forever and keep driving us toward excellence."

And that's how McCarthy is looking at things, too.

"It never totally goes away," McCarthy said. "I still think of the '07 championship game. There's thing that remind you of plays and there's things that remind you of games. There's places, there's a picture you have of somebody that reminds you of a game.

"And I'll tell Schneider when we go to dinner Saturday that he needs to know that he's not going to wake up one day and it's gone. It doesn't happen. I think we all wake up at night. I know I wake up at night still thinking about plays all the time."
INDIANAPOLIS – It looks like Brett Favre's induction into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame this summer will end up being open to more people.

"They'll get it all worked out," Bus Cook, Favre's longtime agent, said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "Everybody is trying to work together to get it all figured out. He wants to get it worked out."

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsBrett Favre's name and number probably will go up in Lambeau Field at a November game.
Favre's induction, scheduled for July 18, was sold out before tickets were even available to the general public. The event was scheduled for the Lambeau Field Atrium, and all 1,600 tickets went to supporters of the Hall of Fame and corporate sponsors.

When Favre learned that no tickets would be available to the general public, he lobbied for the ceremony to be moved into the stadium bowl. The Packers Hall of Fame, which is independent of the team, said recently that it is exploring ways to allow more access to its event.

It will be the first official event with Favre and the Packers since their ugly divorce in 2008, when general manager Ted Thompson traded the three-time MVP quarterback to the New York Jets after Favre unretired. Favre has not been to Lambeau Field since his last game as a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 2010.

Cook said the once-strained relationship is now in a good place.

"It's where it should've been anyway," Cook said. "We just need to get this worked out about the Hall of Fame. I understand what the Packers want, and I understand what Brett wants. Somehow they've got to figure it out so they can get the fans involved because that's who's important. Brett's the kind of guy, he'd rather sit down and talk to the equipment manager than go upstairs and talk to the big cheese. When those folks want to come, he wants to try to find a way so that everyone can be there."

Favre's jersey No. 4 also will be retired on July 18, but his name and number won't go up in the Lambeau Field ring of honor until Favre returns for a game.

Cook said Favre's name and number will officially go up on the Lambeau Field fašade during a game next season. He said it's tentatively scheduled for a home game in November but is subject to the release of the NFL schedule later this year.

"The best game would be the Bears," Cook said, noting that Favre had some of his best games against the NFC North rival.

Cook also said there's no concern that Favre will be booed, but he knows one way to ensure it.

"At one time I think there was some concern that people would boo, and I said 'You know what, all they have to do is make sure that the last thing they show on the Jumbotron is that game against Oakland [the day after Favre's dad died], and nobody's going to boo.'"
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Mike McCarthy announced earlier this month that he was giving up play-calling duties, he said the relationship between the play-caller and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is "of critical importance."

So how will this change the relationship between the Green Bay Packers coach and his quarterback?

"To be honest, I might be around him more," McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine. "There are some things I need to change. There are some things I need to change in my job responsibility."

For one, McCarthy indicated he needs to spend more time in the football facility and less time in the offices. To do so, he said he plans to move the coaches' offices, which are currently located on the third floor at Lambeau Field. He did not offer specifics, but it's clear he feels he needs to be closer to the meeting rooms, which are on the ground floor near the locker room.

"It might sound silly, but the stress of having your office at that furthest point of the building and everything you need is down here, I have to change," McCarthy said. "There's going to be an office change."

What should not change, McCarthy said, is how Rodgers operates in the offense now that associate head coach Tom Clements will call plays. Clements and Rodgers have worked together since 2006. Clements served as Rodgers' position coach from 2006 to 2011 before he took over as offensive coordinator.

Rodgers has always spoken highly of Clements, who nurtured him through McCarthy's quarterback schools in his early years, however, Rodgers has not made any public comments since McCarthy announced the changes earlier this month.

"His world is not going to change a whole lot, and that's really the most important," McCarthy said of Rodgers. "I say it all the time, but our offense is built around making the quarterback successful. That's the way I learned it back in '89, and he's a prime example of it.

"This is something that I didn't think would really change for him at all. I was more focused on other areas like special teams and defense and really three [coaches] that got promotions, the opportunities for them. Because I think like a lot of things, you've got to really look at relationships. The relationships that Aaron has with the whole staff is strong. I figured that maybe I didn't pay as much attention to that kind of stuff when I was a younger coach, but that's a very strong, evolving operation. Because he's on a level, clearly, as a coach. There's a lot of give and take there. So I don't think a whole lot is going to change in his world."

If anything, McCarthy seemed to indicate that he felt comfortable making the change because of Rodgers, who has won his two NFL MVPs in a four-year span.

"This has a lot of spokes to it," McCarthy said. "There's a lot of spokes in this wheel to make this decision, and they're all positive. That's why I feel great about it. I think we’re going to be better as a football team, and I look for us to play to the standard that we establish on offense."
INDIANAPOLIS -- General manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy both held press conferences and side sessions with reporters Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. Here's what we learned about the Green Bay Packers:

McCarthy supports Guion: Letroy Guion has returned to Green Bay following his arrest earlier this month in Starke, Florida, on felony marijuana and firearm possession charges. Although Thompson said the Packers were "monitoring" the situation, McCarthy came out strong in support of the defensive tackle, who is scheduled to become a free agent next month. "Obviously, players, all of us, the decisions you make off the field you're totally responsible for," McCarthy said. "He's accepted full responsibility. I've talked to him a number of times. He's back in Green Bay. I stand by what I said during the season [and] after the season: He was an impactful personality and played good football for us. I'm hopeful, if we get past this and the monitoring gives us the green light to go forward, I'd love to have Letroy back."

Inside linebacker help: Last year at the combine, McCarthy said he answered seven different questions about their need for a safety, and of course they took one -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- with their first-round pick. The volume of questions about their inside linebacker position wasn't as high, but it looks like just as glaring of a need, especially if they want to move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker full time. "I think the inside linebacker position could probably be compared to where we were last year at the safety position," McCarthy said. "Obviously we had a number of moving parts there. So we'll see what this process that we go through as far as player acquisition, how that affects it. I like the step Sam Barrington made. I thought he made a huge step and that's what you look for." The Packers appear to be looking for an upgrade over Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk, although Hawk's agent said he hasn't heard from the Packers that they're looking to move on from his client.

Quarterback help: Aaron Rodgers is the only quarterback currently under contract for the 2015 season, and the Packers have drafted just one quarterback (B.J. Coleman in 2012) in the last six drafts. Could that change this season? The Packers appear interested in re-signing backups Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, but that doesn't mean they won't draft one. "We like dabbling in quarterback business," Thompson said. "It just hasn't worked out that way [to draft one recently]."

Rodgers update: McCarthy said he has not yet spoken to Rodgers about his decision to give up play-calling duties nor has he asked about his quarterback's calf injury that limited him the last month of the season. McCarthy typically likes to leave Rodgers alone and give him space after the season. "I'll build a list of things [and] when he gets back here, we'll sit down and talk about things," McCarthy said.

Injury updates: McCarthy reported that tackle Don Barclay and receiver Jared Abbrederis, who are coming off ACL reconstructions, are doing well in their rehab. Both sustained their injuries in training camp last summer, which means they should be ready for the start of camp this year. He said Barclay is rehabbing in Michigan, while Abbrederis has been in Green Bay.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike McCarthy doesn't seem to think the best team in the NFL won the Super Bowl.

"I thought we were the best team in football when our season ended," the Green Bay Packers coach said on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. "You have to prove it on the field, obviously."

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesMike McCarthy said this season's offense was the best he has ever had.
McCarthy wasn't trying to discredit the champion New England Patriots or even the runner-up Seattle Seahawks, who knocked out the Packers in that crushing overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game.

Rather, in a lengthy, off-site session with reporters at the combine who regularly cover the Packers, McCarthy wanted to make it a point that the 2014 season, which featured a 12-4 regular-season record and a trip to the NFC title game, wasn't a total loss.

"I know you guys have to cover us like we're 8-8 every year," McCarthy said. "I get that. That's how you guys make your business. But this was a helluva football team we had this year. And it grew. We had some bumps there early. I thought every time we were hit with a challenge, they accepted it and they worked at it and we got better."

McCarthy said the Packers, who averaged 30.4 points per game, had an offense like none he had ever seen.

"We scored the most points in the league, but our starting quarterback didn't play five quarters," he said. "I've never had an offense this good."

McCarthy was referring to the four games in which Rodgers didn't even have to play in the fourth quarter because the blowout victories were in hand.

The Packers have a statistical breakdown that McCarthy called "the 16 principles of championship offense and defense."

"We hit 13 of the 16 on offense," McCarthy said. "And the three that we didn't get, I think we were like one play or two plays off. So you know, if we could play at this level of offense from here on in, it will be the best offense pro football has seen."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ted Thompson had the chance to re-sign Greg Jennings in 2012 and James Jones last offseason, and the Green Bay Packers general manager passed on both.

But during that process, it's a good bet Thompson said the same thing he did Thursday about another one of his receivers on the verge of free agency.

"I can't speak to those other fellas, but Randall Cobb is one of the guys we'd like to have on our team, yeah," Thompson said at the NFL scouting combine. "Just like several others."

But Jennings and Jones weren't coming off 91-catch, 1,287-yard, 12-touchdown seasons. And they weren't as young as Cobb, who won’t turn 25 until Aug. 22.

Cobb is one of the Packers' 14 pending free agents, but he's clearly the most important. He also might be the most difficult to re-sign. He's seeking a deal that averages at least $9 million per season. Last July, the Packers gave receiver Jordy Nelson a four-year extension that contained $39 million in new money.

Together, Cobb and Nelson became the first pair of teammates in NFL history to record 90-plus catches, 1,200-plus yards and at least 12 touchdowns in the same regular season and were just the third set of teammates in the same season with at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Thompson wouldn't say whether he would use the franchise tag on Cobb, although he has only used the tag twice (on defensive linemen Corey Williams and Ryan Pickett) since he became the GM in 2005 and it would cost the Packers around $13 million to do so with Cobb. Thompson has until March 2, eight days before free agency opens, to use the tag.

"Wouldn't speculate on anything like that," Thompson said.

Several times at the podium and later during a side session with reporters in the hallway at Lucas Oil Stadium, Thompson offered his typical, canned response to questions about re-signing players.

"We say the same thing every year [and] we mean it: It's no secret that we try to keep and maintain our own guys as much as possible," Thompson said. "We feel like that's a good investment for the organization. We feel like, especially, if we have good people like we do, we'd like to do that. We're trying to do that with Randall."

He said much the same thing when asked about perhaps the other free-agent priority, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who came back after missing all of 2013 (knee) and the second half of 2012 (hip) to have one of his best seasons in 2014.

"Bryan has always been a good player for us, and, yeah, he had a good year," Thompson said. "He's another player that we’d like to have back."
INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Green Bay Packers are planning to cut ties with veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk -- or even ask him to take a pay cut -- that would be news to him and his people.

Hawk's agent, Mike McCartney, said Thursday he has no meetings scheduled with the Packers this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis to talk about Hawk or any of his other clients.

That doesn't mean the Packers won't make some kind of move with Hawk, the 31-year-old former first-round pick who saw his playing time dwindle last season. However, the Packers typically meet with agents for players facing issues related to their contracts during the combine. For instance, they have a meeting scheduled for later Thursday with the agent for fullback John Kuhn, who will be a free agent next month.

Late in the season, Hawk's role greatly decreased. Instead of playing in all of defensive coordinator Dom Capers' packages, his only regular spot was in Capers' base 3-4. Although Hawk played 71.6 percent of the defensive snaps for the season, he was on the field for only 28.8 percent of the plays over the final six games, including the playoffs.

Hawk denied several times that injuries were a factor in his declining role or quality of play, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- one of Hawk's closest friends on the team -- made reference to unspecified ailments that were bothering Hawk.

Hawk took a pay cut following the 2012 season and before that was actually released following the 2010 season only to be re-signed a day later under a more salary-cap friendly deal.

Late last season, Hawk addressed his situation and his future.

"I've been preparing since the day I walked in here for the day I get cut," Hawk said in December. "I've been cut before, so whenever they decide to let me roll, that's something I've been preparing for since I was 21 basically, when I got drafted. But I have no idea. I can't predict the future; I definitely don't try to. I don't deal in hypotheticals, that's for sure. They can tap me on the shoulder right now and get me out of here. So our contracts aren't real contracts like that. They're not obliged to keep me here through the end of, what, next year, I guess, my contract is."

The Packers would save $3.5 million in salary-cap space if they released Hawk, who is entering the final year of his contract. Under that deal, he would count $5.1 million on this year's salary cap. His $3.5 million in base salary and bonuses would be wiped off the books and only the remaining $1.6 million of his signing proration would count on the cap.

Jason Garrett: I trust Mike McCarthy

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
INDIANAPOLIS -- If Mike McCarthy's decision to give up play-calling duties has the same impact on him that it did for Jason Garrett, expect the Green Bay Packers coach to have no regrets.

Although the circumstances were different -- Garrett was more or less encouraged to do so by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the 2012 season, while McCarthy did it voluntarily -- both have joined the ranks of head coaches who don't call plays.

"I love the role that I have now," Garrett said Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. "I love the structure of our staff now."

When McCarthy announced the change last week, he cited the current makeup of his coaching staff and the long-standing relationship that new playcaller Tom Clements, who was promoted to associate head coach, has with quarterback Aaron Rodgers as factors in his decision.

The move came less than a month after the Packers' collapse in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which special teams and defensive breakdowns factored heavily in the outcome.

McCarthy, who had called plays since he was hired as the Packers' coach in 2006, now says he wants to be more involved in special teams and defense.

Still, the move was met with surprise in league circles given that the Packers' offense has ranked in the top 10 every year except 2013, when Rodgers missed half of the season because of his collarbone injury.

"Whatever they're doing there, they should keep doing it," Garrett said. "I trust Mike McCarthy. He's obviously one of the great coaches in this league and has been. They've been one of the best teams during his tenure as the head coach. He has a great instinct and feel for the game and his football team, and he's going to do what he thinks is best.

"I do think that it does allow you to really get more involved with the other parts of the football team. I spent a lot more time with the defense over the last 18 months than I had prior to that, and I just think that's good for your team when you're able to do that -- support your coaches, get a better feel for the players on that side of the ball. So that's worked for us. But trust me, I defer to Mike. He's done a fantastic job, and he'll make the right decision for the Packers."

McCarthy's decision left only 10 NFL head coaches who call plays. Eight of those are on the offensive side of the ball.

"Everybody will give you a different answer on that," said Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who calls the offensive plays. "I think Mike feels that way now -- just from things that I've read, I haven't talked to him about it -- whatever he's decided to do will be the right thing. He's a pretty sharp guy. Heck of a head football coach. He's a great playcaller, too. But he obviously has confidence in Clements to do that and [offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett] to do that. He knows better than I do, the situation."

Reid also handed off play-calling duties at one point in his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. He turned things over to Marty Mornhinweg, who was the Eagles' offensive coordinator from 2006-12, but went back to calling plays when he was hired by the Chiefs in 2013.

"I had a guy that I had 100 percent trust in, so I had no problem doing that," Reid said. "And it worked."

The biggest difference for McCarthy might come on game day.

"When you're not having that direct responsibility, you do have a chance to get involved with other parts of your team during the game," Garrett said. "When I was calling plays as the head coach, I spent some time on the bench with Tony [Romo] and with the other guys talking about what we wanted to do. I talked on the headset with the guys upstairs ... while the defense was on the field. Didn't have to do that since I've been the head coach not calling the plays. So I think that's a positive thing. You're probably more tuned in to what's actually going on during the game at the particular time."