NFL Nation: Brandon Bostick
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."
McCarthy would not offer specifics on Wednesday, when he held his season wrap-up news conference, other than to say everything will be scrutinized before any decisions are made.
All the assistant coaches, including embattled special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, were given this week off.
"It's important to evaluate," said McCarthy, whose offseason work was delayed by the unexpected death of his younger brother last week. "I obviously haven't had that opportunity. So we'll look at everything. We'll look at every job description, every job responsibility, performance – mine included – and we'll look to make changes."
McCarthy said it usually takes him a week to conduct his end-of-season meetings and evaluations with his coaching staff.
McCarthy and Slocum have a long history, having first worked together at the University of Pittsburgh in 1990, and McCarthy has fired only one coordinator in his nine seasons as head coach and none since he parted ways with Bob Sanders, who ran the defense from 2006-08.
Last offseason, the Packers fired special-teams assistant Chad Morton and hired veteran coach Ron Zook to help Slocum. They also assigned another member of the staff, Jason Simmons, to assist with special teams.
A poor season on special teams, which included having seven kicks blocked in the regular season, became worse in the NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Two plays – the Seahawks' fake field goal in the third quarter and their onside kick in the fourth quarter – turned out to be major turning points.
McCarthy discussed the fake field goal at length on Wednesday but was not asked about the onside kick, which went off the hands of tight end Brandon Bostick, who was supposed to block on the play, and was recovered by the Seahawks with 2:07 left in regulation.
At the Super Bowl this week, Seattle punter Jon Ryan, who played for the Packers from 2006-07, said the key to pulling off the fake field goal was to dupe linebackers Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk. Jones sold out hard for the block, and Hawk was left to decide whether to play Ryan as a ball career or drop into coverage against eligible lineman Garry Gilliam, who caught the 19-yard touchdown pass from Ryan with 4:44 left in the third quarter for Seattle's first points of the game.
It appeared to be a case of Seahawks special teams coordinator Brian Schneider outdueling Slocum.
"Fakes are risky," McCarthy said. "And Jon Ryan can run; we know that. I think from the responsibility standpoint, pursuit and so forth, I think it would've been a foot race for the first down. We did not execute our particular responsibilities as best we can, and they had a better play call than what we had called.
"Special teams has been no different than offense and defense," McCarthy added. "It comes down to healthy scheme, knowing your opponent. You're looking for the personnel matchups and ultimately executing the fundamentals. Our special-team errors have been critical more because of the timing of it. It definitely showed up in the Seattle game."
McCarthy said Wednesday that continuity on his coaching staff is important but added that "there's devils involved with that, too. You have to fight to complacency."
"We'll look to adjust or change and whatever we need to if we think it’s going to help us be better," McCarthy said.
That process starts now.
Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, put an end to that.
Question regarding #Seahawks onside kick. Rule states you must have at least 4 players on either side of the ball. Formation was legal.— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) January 22, 2015
It's right there in Rule 8, Article 3, Section C, which states: "At least four players of the kicking team must be on each side of the ball. At least three players must be lined up outside each inbounds line, one of whom must be outside the yard-line number."
So the Green Bay Packers have nothing to gripe about, at least not from an officiating standpoint on that play.
The play will go down as one of the most agonizing in Packers playoff history given that they almost certainly would have advanced to the Super Bowl had they secured the ball. Instead, it went through the hands of tight end Brandon Bostick -- who was supposed to be blocking on the play to allow sure-handed receiver Jordy Nelson to field it -- and the Seahawks recovered and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Was this the start of another run of great chances to get back to the Super Bowl or something that could begin a downward spiral?
How the Green Bay Packers come back from the stunning end to this season, the NFC Championship Game collapse against the Seattle Seahawks, will alter how history views the 2014 season.
"It's going to be a missed opportunity that we'll probably think about for the rest of my career," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the 28-22 overtime loss to the Seahawks. "We were the better team today, and we played well enough to win, and we can't blame anybody but ourselves."
Can the Packers get back to this position next season?
"Yes, we can," veteran safety Morgan Burnett said.
If so, then perhaps Rodgers and his teammates won’t have to think about it for the rest of their careers.
Team MVP: Forget team MVP. Rodgers should be (and probably will be) the NFL's MVP. Rodgers threw just five interceptions in the regular season to go with 38 touchdowns. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7.6 was more than double what second-best Tony Romo's was, at 3.78. At home, Rodgers was unbeatable, going 9-0. In those games (playoffs included), he threw 25 touchdowns without an interception. His last interception at Lambeau was 418 passes and 36 touchdowns ago. His performance against the Cowboys in the divisional playoff game, playing on a badly strained left calf, was one for the ages. His season-long production was even more remarkable considering he had only two consistent weapons in the passing game, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
Best moment: R-E-L-A-X. On Sept. 23, Rodgers went on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee and said: "Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X." Rodgers added, "Relax. We're going to be OK." At the time, the Packers were two days removed from a 19-7 loss at the Detroit Lions that dropped them to 1-2. That one word served as an unofficial theme for the season. In the next game, Rodgers threw four touchdowns in a 38-17 road win over the Chicago Bears that began a stretch in which the Packers won nine out of 10 games and 11 out of their last 13 to close the regular season. They won the NFC North for the fourth straight season.
Worst moment: Take your pick, but most of them happened in the final minutes of Sunday's NFC Championship Game. You can start with Seattle burning the Packers for a fake field goal. Then there were the back-to-back, three-and-out possessions (and some ultra-conservative play calls) that began with 6:53 and 5:04 remaining. The Packers led 19-7 to start both of them. Then there was the botched onside kick recovery in which backup tight end Brandon Bostick, who was supposed to be blocking on the play, went for the ball and couldn't corral it. And finally the defense allowing touchdowns on Seattle's last two possessions of regulation and in overtime. If you want to look at another game, try Week 15 in Buffalo, where Nelson dropped a potential touchdown pass in a 21-13 loss that cost Green Bay home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
2015 outlook: At age 31, Rodgers still has plenty of good years left, so the Packers' championship window would seemingly remain open for a while. However, there are some key issues general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy need to address. First, Thompson must find a way to re-sign Cobb, who would be a free agent in March. Then, he needs to find another weapon or two for Rodgers. McCarthy must fix the special teams and defensive issues that have plagued the Packers since their Super Bowl win four years ago. This is a team that has shown it's the class of the NFC North, but is not in the class of recent NFC Super Bowl participants.
"I'm just trying to deal with this," Bostick said Monday as the Packers cleaned out their lockers for the offseason. "I'll just move on from it, come back here and just work hard and just try to put that behind me."
Bostick was gracious enough to relive the botched onside kick recovery for the second time since he failed corral the loose ball with 2:07 remaining in regulation. Again, he discussed how his responsibility was to block so that receiver Jordy Nelson could field the ball. When he went after it and it bounced off his hands, the Seahawks recovered and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
"I guess I just reacted to it," Bostick said. "I just saw the ball and went to get the ball, which wasn't my job. That's all I can say about that.
"I'm human. I made a mistake. But if I would've made the play, we wouldn't have been in this [situation] or if I would've made the block, we wouldn't be talking about this. But it's over now, so I'll just try my best to get over it."
Bostick said the last day has been difficult. He hasn't watched the play and probably won't for a while.
He doesn't need to. All he has to do is close his eyes and he sees it.
"I just keep replaying that play in my mind over and over, just trying not to think about it, just trying to get over it," Bostick said. "I did my best, but I'll be all right."
He just doesn't know when.
"I don't think there's a timeline on it," he said. "I definitely don't want to watch it on TV for a while or even watch the Super Bowl. I wouldn't put a timeline on it."
His teammates have been supportive. Randall Cobb was one of the first to console him on the sideline, a gesture Bostick said he appreciated.
Even former teammates have reached out either privately or on social media.
Keep your head up, young brother. The best is still yet to come! @Bostick11— Greg Jennings (@GregJennings) January 19, 2015
Proud of the entire Packers team & especially my man @Bostick11. Everyone makes mistakes, but it's how you react to them that defines you!— Jermichael Finley (@JermichaelF88) January 19, 2015
State of shock: Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the game "a hard one to swallow." When asked what McCarthy said to the team, veteran linebacker A.J. Hawks said: "I think he's obviously in a state of shock a little bit, as well as we are, and he told us he cared about us as players and men. We've got to figure out where to go from here, but this season's over."
Botched recovery: Backup tight end Brandon Bostick sat in his locker with his head in his hands as his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, tried to console him. That was an impossible task after Bostick botched an onside kick recovery with 2:07 remaining in regulation. "I was just thinking about everything -- just the game and just my teammates, just everyone in Green Bay, my family," Bostick said. "I feel like I let everyone down. But I'll just try to do my best to move on from it." Bostick's job on that play wasn't even to go after the ball. He was supposed to block so that hands-team specialist Jordy Nelson could catch it. Instead, Bostick went for the ball and Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews recovered it.
As expected, coach Mike McCarthy listed the Green Bay Packers quarterback as probable for Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.
On Thursday, McCarthy said Rodgers took about 50 to 60 percent of the snaps during 11-on-11 periods. The Packers will hold one more practice on Saturday morning, but McCarthy did not say how much Rodgers would participate. Even though they don't practice on Fridays, they are required to estimate what Rodgers' participation level would have been, and they listed him as limited.
Expect to see Rodgers in the shotgun or pistol for most of, if not all, the game in order to limit the amount of stress he has to put on his lower leg. Rodgers became almost exclusively a pocket passer following the injury in Tampa Bay in Week 16 and when he reinjured it during the regular-season finale against Detroit.
"He has that experience," McCarthy said. "It's been talked about. We have a game plan. He looks like he's moving fine to me right now. We're not going to change anything or our approach of how we want to attack Dallas' defense."
That the injury is to Rodgers' left leg also makes it a bit less concerning. As ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell wrote, Rodgers' plant leg -- the one he uses to drive the ball when he throws -- is unaffected.
"It's better than a right calf [injury]," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "As your plant foot, your right foot, it takes a lot of the pressure … anytime you have an injury to your plant leg, it's difficult to drop."
Tight end Brandon Bostick (illness) was removed from the injury report.
Here's the full report:
S Sean Richardson (knee)
DE Josh Boyd (knee)
CB Davon House (shoulder)
QB Aaron Rodgers (calf)
G Josh Sitton (toe)
Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien took all the reps during the early portion of practice that was open to reporters. But coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday during his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Rodgers would continue to receive treatment on his injured left calf during the early part of practice, but would take part in the team (11-on-11) periods later in practice. Those periods are closed to reporters.
If Rodgers doesn't practice at all on Thursday, his last chance for on-field work before Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys would come on Saturday. The Packers don’t practice on Friday.
Defensive end Josh Boyd (knee) and tight end Brandon Bostick (illness) both returned to practice.
The Packers practiced indoors again, but with the doors open to try to replicate the cold-weather conditions they will see Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Just Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien in the early portion of practice but Aaron Rodgers is expected to come out for team pic.twitter.com/K998JZfTC9— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) January 8, 2015
The Packers quarterback was nowhere to be seen inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday during the portion of the workout that was open to the media.
Rodgers was scheduled to have his strained left calf muscle examined Wednesday morning by team physician Pat McKenzie before coach Mike McCarthy determined when Rodgers would practice. McCarthy said last week that he did not expect his quarterback to take the field before Thursday.
With the temperature hovering around zero, McCarthy held practice inside but with the doors to the Hutson Center wide open.
Tight end Brandon Bostick and defensive end Josh Boyd also did not participate during the open portion of practice. The full injury report, plus comments from McCarthy and Rodgers, will be available after practice.
Whether that actually holds true when the Packers hit the field won't be known until the next practice on Saturday.
But since league rules require teams to categorize participation levels on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Packers listed him as limited. Previously, he had been listed as a nonparticipant since the injury.
Officially, the Packers declared the former first-round pick as questionable for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
"Nick Perry's making progress," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. "Really from yesterday to today, he's improving. So we'll see what he's able to do in the rehab with the trainers and the medical staff, and we'll have more information tomorrow. But he's getting better."
Perry's injury kept him out of last Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, ending a streak of 15 straight regular-season games (dating to last season) in which Perry had played. That was by far the longest stretch of his career. Before this season, he had never played in more than six straight games. In his first two NFL seasons, Perry missed 15 of a possible 32 games because of a variety of injuries (knee, wrist, foot, ankle).
"He's had some tough luck the last two years," McCarthy said. "This has been his best year so far, and if we can get through this one here, we'll see where it goes.”
Here's the Packers' full injury report:
CB Jarrett Bush (groin)
OLB Perry (shoulder)
WR Davante Adams (heel)
TE Brandon Bostick (hip)
G T.J. Lang (ankle)
G Josh Sitton (toe)
Coach Mike McCarthy said someone stepped on Adams' foot in practice on Wednesday.
"Davante actually moved around, did some things, so they're just kind of working through exactly how they're going to handle it," McCarthy said after practice. "So I don't have high concern."
Neither did receiver Jordy Nelson.
"I think he'll be fine," Nelson said. "I'm not worried."
One player not listed on the injury report -- and who insisted that he shouldn't be -- is linebacker A.J. Hawk, who looked like he was having a hard time in coverage against Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph last Sunday. On the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, Rudolph easily ran away from Hawk for a 23-yard gain on a crossing route.
"It wasn't from being unhealthy or whatever," Hawk said. "He just caught me by surprise. I should've anticipated him coming across earlier, but it wasn't anything health-wise.
"I'm good. I'm healthy. There's no way I would ever say anything if I wasn't, but I'm actually not lying to you."
Here's the full injury report from Thursday’s practice:
Nick Perry, who started the last two weeks at right outside linebacker, was declared inactive for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Perry was listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury.
Mike Neal would be the logical choice to assume those outside linebacker snaps, but rookie Jayrone Elliott also sees some action there.
Matthews has played the majority of his snaps the last two weeks at inside linebacker, especially on early downs, but it's possible he could go back to playing more at outside linebacker.
On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said they would have to adjust their plan if Perry could not play.
The Packers also will be without one of their key special-teams players, cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin). In his place, rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson was activated for just the second time this season.
Here's the full inactive list:
That was in Week 4, one game after he dropped out of the loss at the Detroit Lions late in the fourth quarter.
How much better?
"I might go 50 yards and not 40," Matthews said.
Matthews was listed as a limited participant in practice on Thursday.
"I think we’re just being more cautious than anything," Matthews said. "I was able to go out there against Chicago, cautiously, of course. I feel like the progression I'm making this week as opposed to maybe Week 3 and 4 is ahead of where I was."
Perhaps more of an issue is the status of outside linebacker Nick Perry, who has a shoulder injury and did not practice for the second straight day, leaving his status in question for Sunday's road game against the Minnesota Vikings. Perry has started the past two games at Matthews' old outside linebacker position while Matthews has moved inside on early downs.
"Nick Perry is definitely important," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Just that whole group, you talk about Nick and Mike Neal and Julius [Peppers], their ability to move around and play the elephant position has been very important. That was a big part of our change, and definitely fits with the movement of Clay."
However, Matthews said he doesn't think his role would change if Perry can't play Sunday.
"I think it's more of a 'next man up' type of mentality around here," Matthews said. "I'm sure [Jayrone] Elliott will have more opportunities as well as Mike and J.P. As we have seen in weeks prior, I rush off the edge and play in the middle, so wherever they need me, I will be there."
Here's the full injury report:
Matthews was listed on the injury report Wednesday as a limited participant in practice.
"Just speaking with him, he doesn't have high concern," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow."
Matthews first injured his groin in the fourth quarter of the Week 4 game at the Detroit Lions and did not play late in the game. However, he played the next week against the Chicago Bears and did not appear to have any issues with it going forward.
Outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday. Perry has been key to Matthews' move to inside linebacker the last two weeks because he inherited some of Matthews' snaps at outside linebacker. Both of their injuries stemmed from Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, although never came out of the game because of the injuries.
McCarthy said Perry might not practice until Saturday.
In the two games since Matthews moved primarily to inside linebacker, he has combined for 15 tackles, two sacks and one pass breakup.
After listing just four players on their injury report last week, that number nearly doubled on Wednesday.
Here's the full injury report:
- TE Brandon Bostick (hip, did not practice)
- CB Jarrett Bush (groin, did not practice)
- LB Jayrone Elliott (hamstring, limited participant)
- RG T.J. Lang (ankle, did not practice)
- LB Clay Matthews (groin, limited participant)
- LB Nick Perry (shoulder, did not practice)
- LG Josh Sitton (toe, did not practice)
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."