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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde

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Rodgers disappointed by Favre cancelation; hopes for Starr recovery

Oct 21, 2014 -- 10:07pm
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Aaron Rodgers was looking forward to seeing Brett Favre and Bart Starr at the Nov. 9 game against Chicago.

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers was disappointed to hear Tuesday that Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau Field has been postponed, but Rodgers’ greater concern is with the health of his role model and another of his retired Green Bay Packers quarterbacking predecessors: Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr.

That said, Rodgers still believes Packers fans will see Favre back at Lambeau Field later this season.

ESPN’s Ed Werder spoke with Favre Tuesday and Favre said that because of Starr’s recent health problems, he is unlikely to attend the team’s Nov. 9 Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears as the team and Favre had planned.

A source familiar with the plans said Tuesday that the Packers had put together a celebratory evening for Favre, and while all the festivities had not been finalized, plans were in place for Favre and Starr to serve as honorary captains for the game.

Favre had suggested at the Aug. 4 announcement of his return to the organization that he wanted Starr to be part of the festivities. Starr had agreed to do so before suffering two strokes and a mild heart attack in early September.

Asked by Werder why he and the Packers couldn’t have him return to Green Bay alone, Favre replied, “I'm sure they could, but it was my idea to do it, and now that Bart can't, I just don't think I will.''

Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and Tuesday that he was looking forward to Favre’s return but Starr’s health is his primary worry.

“I think the key here is Bart and his health. That’s the most important thing,” said Rodgers, who became very close to Starr in recent years. “It’s been obviously tough to hear the news about how he’s doing, but I think he’s improving and we’re all thinking about him and praying for him.

“We’d love to see him up at a game and obviously would love to see Brett up again. It would be great to get both of those guys together and to see both of them. The three of us to be together would be a pretty special moment for me, I know, and I look forward to that happening.”

Despite the expected cancelation, Rodgers expressed optimism that Favre, whose reconnection with the franchise began with Rodgers sharing the stage with him at the NFL Honors event in February 2012, will be back in Green Bay this season. Favre is set to have his No. 4 retired and be enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame next summer.

“I know Brett’s going to get up here I’m sure by the end of the year. They’ll make something happen,” Rodgers said. “But it might not be until it gets a little colder.”

While Lacy breaks tackles, Sitton looks like an [expletive]

Oct 20, 2014 -- 10:55pm
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Eddie Lacy broke plenty of tackles on Sunday, and guard Josh Sitton said he could have used some help from his linemen on a few of those plays.

GREEN BAY – Watching running back Eddie Lacy break tackle after tackle – sometimes just to get back to the line of scrimmage – on Sunday left Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang feeling guilty.

And more than how it made them feel, the two Green Bay Packers veteran guards were more bothered by how their inactivity made them look: Bad.

Except Sitton described their embarrassment a bit more colorfully Monday.

“We actually talked about that, T.J. and I,” Sitton said of Lacy, who finished with 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3-yard average) and a touchdown. “We were kind of standing around a couple plays, looking like [expletive], not blocking. And Eddie’s just squirting out of there. He probably did it four or five times. It was impressive.”

According to Pro Football Focus, 34 of Lacy’s 63 rushing yards came after contact. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements did not have an official count of how many tackles Lacy actually broke during the Packers’ 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers, as it was running backs coach Sam Gash’s responsibility to count them.

"I think Sam has the number, but I think it was in the teens," Clements said as he finished his time with reporters Monday. “So that's quite a few.”

Shields' strained patellar tendon 'feeling better,' but timeline unclear

Oct 20, 2014 -- 2:40pm
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Sam Shields missed Sunday’s game against Carolina with a knee injury that could keep him out next Sunday night at New Orleans, too.

GREEN BAY – Sam Shields’ injured left knee is improving, but the Green Bay Packers starting cornerback won’t know when he will be able to play again until he tests his knee by running on it.

Shields said Monday that he suffered a strained patellar tendon when he went down while backpedaling to his pre-snap position before a play against Miami on Oct. 12. The bizarre injury caused him to miss Sunday’s 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field.

Whether Shields could return for next Sunday night’s game at New Orleans depends on if he’s able to test the knee this week and can run pain-free on it – something he didn’t sound overly optimistic about.

“I’m feeling better. As far as time, I don’t know right now because I haven’t ran,” Shields said Monday. “But the pain is slowly going away, so that’s good.”

Shields, who missed six games in 2012 with an ankle injury and two games last season with a hamstring injury, said he would make himself available for interviews again on Thursday with the hope of progressing by then.

With Shields out, Davon House started in his place and allowed only one 5-yard reception. House also had a pass breakup on which he suffered a dislocated right ring finger

“I think I did my job,” House said. “It was a solid game. No impact plays, though. Guarding a really good receiver in (Kelvin) Benjamin, I did my job, so that was a good job, but in my mind, if I was to get a pick, to me that’s an impact play. But to the coaches, they might’ve thought I did awesome because their best receiver didn’t have any catches on me.”

Wilde’s 3-and-out: Packers 38, Panthers 17

Oct 19, 2014 -- 3:08pm
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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with a passer rating of 154.5 in a 38-17 victory over Carolina that wasn't that close Sunday.

GREEN BAY – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field Sunday:

1. Mr. Perfect:  Until he missed an open Richard Rodgers in the end zone near the end of the third quarter, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was carrying a perfect 158.3 passer rating. His numbers ended up being OK nevertheless: 19 of 22 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 154.5 before being lifted for backup Matt Flynn.

The performance marked the sixth straight game that Rodgers did not throw an interception, and extended his career-long streak of pass attempts without an interception to 192. For the season, Rodgers has now thrown 18 touchdown passes against one interception, which went off Jordy Nelson’s hands in the regular-season opener at Seattle.

2. Big-play Clay:  Although the official stat book after the game would show only two tackles and one half-sack for Clay Matthews, the four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker had an impact greater than the numbers indicated.

On Carolina’s opening drive, Matthews stuffed Jonathan Stewart for a 3-yard loss. Later, on a Julius Peppers sack, it was Matthews’ bull rush on right tackle Nate Chandler that set up the 6-yard loss. Matthews, who came in with one sack in the first six games, shared a sack with Peppers later in the game, although a questionable taunting penalty overshadowed it. Matthews also had an interception return for a touchdown that was wiped out by a close call on a pass interference penalty on cornerback Tramon Williams, who deflected the pass to Matthews.

In addition, the Packers unveiled a new dime alignment that didn’t have a single true defensive lineman on the field. Instead, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used five linebackers – Matthews, Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and A.J. Hawk – in various configurations, including with Matthews lining up inside as a stand-up inside rusher.

3. Team effort:  Just about everyone on the Packers’ offense got involved Sunday. Wide receiver Randall Cobb not only caught his team-leading eighth touchdown pass of the season, he finished with six receptions for 121 yards. Nelson, who got the Packers going with his 59-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the opening possession, finished with four catches for 80 yards. And No. 3 wide receiver Davante Adams only had one catch, but it was a big one: A 21-yarder that made it 35-3 in the third quarter.

The running backs also got going a bit, although the attempt numbers probably weren’t as high as coach Mike McCarthy would have liked. Eddie Lacy ran 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown, and James Starks had seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a left ankle injury.

Packers-Panthers Friday injury report: Shields, Datone Jones out

Oct 17, 2014 -- 1:01pm
Sam Shields had an interception at Miami last week before suffering a knee injury that will keep him out Sunday against Carolina.

GREEN BAY – Sam Shields won’t play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, and the Green Bay Packers will be without defensive end Datone Jones for the second straight game as well.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy ruled both Shields and Jones out for Sunday’s game, but he listed cornerback Tramon Williams as questionable, giving the veteran cornerback a shot at playing, even if he doesn’t do much in practice on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Friday, in advance of the team’s game against Carolina at Lambeau Field on Sunday:

Out: DE Datone Jones (ankle), CB Sam Shields (knee).
Questionable:  CB Tramon Williams (ankle), WR Jarrett Boykin (groin), ILB Jamari Lattimore (neck). 
Probable:  DT Josh Boyd (knee), LB Sam Barrington (hamstring).
Doubtful:  CB Bené Benwikere (ankle), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), G Amini Silatolu (calf), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).
Questionable:  WR Kelvin Benjamin (concussion), RB Darrin Reaves (calf).
Probable:  TE Greg Olsen (ankle), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee), CB Josh Norman (concussion), LB Thomas Davis (not injury related), DT Dwan Edwards (not injury related), S Roman Harper (not injury related), DE Charles Johnson (not injury related), DT Colin Cole (not injury related).
The Packers no longer practice on Fridays, but if they had, McCarthy estimated that Williams would have taken part on a limited basis and expects him to do so on Saturday. Williams has missed only one game due to injury since becoming a starter, and that was a 2011 game at Carolina after suffering a shoulder injury in the regular-season opener the week before. Although he essentially was the one-armed man the rest of the season because of the shoulder injury, he did not miss another game.

“He’s better today than he was yesterday. I think [Saturday] will be the biggest indicator, obviously with us going to the practice field,” McCarthy said. “As I stated earlier in the week, we’ll give Tramon Williams every opportunity all the way up to game time to play.

“Tramon Williams definitely [is] very durable. Very impressive athlete in the strength and conditioning – he’s always been impressive in there, takes great care of his body. He’s an old-school pro. I don’t think there was any question when we got back here Monday that he was going to do everything that he could to play in this game. I have great confidence in him.”

McCarthy said Jones, who practiced last Saturday but did not play at Miami, had a setback when he tested the ankle on Wednesday.

“Yeah, I’m a little surprised at the path, but he’s struggling laterally right now and until he gets that back, it doesn’t make sense to push it forward,” McCarthy said. “I thought he fought through last Saturday’s practice but he’s had a setback.”

If Lattimore can’t go, Brad Jones would play in his place, although McCarthy spoke as if the two might share time Sunday.

“As we state all the time, Brad has technically started a lot of games for but we’re going to play with more than 11, and the linebacker position, particularly inside, is something that has rotation to it,” McCarthy said. “He’ll definitely play in the game.”

Van Pelt: TD-INT ratio makes Rodgers great, not cautious

Oct 16, 2014 -- 10:28pm
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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led his team to a comeback victory last week, but it wasn't from 9 or more points down.

GREEN BAY – Alex Van Pelt is a pretty smart guy, although he’s no mathematician. And while the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach understands how statistics can be used to support a theory, he also knows what his eyes see when he watches film and what his brain tells him about the idea of quarterback Aaron Rodgers allegedly being too “cautious.”

When told about an article at that postulated that Rodgers is too risk-averse, Van Pelt listened intently. He even acknowledged that one of the ideas presented in the story – that a quarterback can be too cautious – was valid.

“Oh, it definitely is [possible]. I don’t see it with Aaron,” Van Pelt said Thursday. (At the time of the interview, Van Pelt wasn’t aware of the story and thus had not read it.) “If you’re going to say his touchdown-to-interception ratio makes him too cautious, I say it makes him great. I mean, that’s good quarterback play.”

Rodgers enters Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers having thrown 15 touchdown passes and one interception. In 100 career NFL regular-season games, he has the highest passer rating (105.3, ahead of Peyton Manning’s 97.5) and the lowest interception percentage (1.7 percent, just ahead of New England quarterback Tom Brady’s 2.0 percent) in NFL history. He has thrown 203 career regular-season touchdown passes against 53 career interceptions.

“I see a good decision-maker. That’s first and foremost. He makes great decisions – when to throw it, when not to throw it,” Van Pelt said. (Rodgers spoke to reporters on Wednesday, before the story came out.) “A lot of guys would try to fit it in there and end up with picks. And he doesn’t. It’s smart quarterback play. The first lesson you learn as a quarterback is, ‘I’m going to protect this football. Period.’

“We’ll win games if we don’t turn the ball over. If you want to criticize that, then go right ahead, but he’s getting great grades in my room for not turning the ball over.”

In the story is something author Benjamin Morris calls “The Gunslinger Hypothesis,”  that you can throw too few interceptions as well as too many. As evidence that Rodgers is too risk-averse, Morris points out that Rodgers has never engineered a comeback victory when his team has been down by nine or more points in the second half.

(Morris had an interesting back-and-forth with Paul Noonan on Twitter earlier Thursday about the topic, with Noonan making some valid counterpoints.)

By Morris’ count, Rodgers has faced a deficit of nine or more points 21 times in his career, including four games he entered after Brett Favre started. Noonan counted 17 regular-season starts by Rodgers that resulted in such large second-half deficits, plus three playoff games.

Earlier in the article, Morris writes that he was surprised to find that Rodgers has been “great” in comeback situations like the one he faced against Miami in last week’s 27-24 come-from-behind win. In the fourth quarter, with his team needing a touchdown to tie or take the lead – so trailing by 4 to 8 points – only Peyton Manning has led his team to a higher percentage of touchdown drives.

Van Pelt acknowledged that there are times when making riskier throws is OK, if your team is trailing.

“I’ve said it in meetings before, ‘Hey, we’re down 14 here, it’s a tight throw, but we’re down 14,’” Van Pelt said. “That might the right time to let go and take a chance.”

Asked if it might be a valid criticism then of Rodgers, Van Pelt shook his head.

“Not with him. Just with other guys I’ve been with,” Van Pelt replied. “He knows when to make a play.”

Packers-Panthers Thursday injury report: Jones back out

Oct 16, 2014 -- 7:01pm
Datone Jones took part in Wednesday’s practice on a limited basis, but by Thursday, he was back on the sideilne.

GREEN BAY – Datone Jones isn’t ready for action.

A day after he participated on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle against Minnesota on Oct. 2, the Green Bay Packers second-year defensive end was back on the sideline on Thursday – which is where the Packers’ two starting cornerbacks remained, too.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday in advance of the team’s game against Carolina at Lambeau Field on Sunday:

Did not participate: DE Datone Jones (ankle), CB Tramon Williams (ankle), CB Sam Shields (knee).
Limited participation:  WR Jarrett Boykin (groin), ILB Jamari Lattimore (neck). 
Full participation:  DT Josh Boyd (knee), LB Sam Barrington (hamstring).
Did not participate:  WR Kelvin Benjamin (concussion), CB Bené Benwikere (ankle), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), G Amini Silatolu (calf), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle), RB Darrin Reaves (calf), DE Charles Johnson (not injury related).
Limited participation:  CB Josh Norman (concussion).
Full participation:  LB Thomas Davis (not injury related), DT Dwan Edwards (not injury related), S Roman Harper (not injury related), TE Greg Olsen (ankle), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee).

Jones, who didn’t not play last week at Miami, showed progress before the team left for South Florida that encouraged the medical staff that he might be able to return, but after testing the ankle Wednesday, it did not respond.

“He’s not recovering as fast as we thought,” McCarthy said. “He made some progress at practice Saturday but it’s not coming along.”

McCarthy said he had no updates on Shields or Williams, who both sat out their second straight practice. The team no longer practices on Fridays, so the two will have a last chance to practice on Saturday.

“”Getting better,” McCarthy said. “Tramon is still further ahead of Sam.”

Packers-Panthers Wednesday injury report: Shields, Williams out

Oct 15, 2014 -- 4:39pm
While starting cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields didn’t practice, several players, including wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, returned to action.

GREEN BAY – Although there were two notable names missing from Wednesday’s participation list – starting cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams – the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ injury news was positive.

Inside linebacker Sam Barrington, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Datone Jones, all of whom were inactive for last Sunday’s game at Miami, took part in practice on at least a limited basis and have a realistic chance of playing Sunday against Carolina at Lambeau Field.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report:

Did not participate: CB Tramon Williams (ankle), CB Sam Shields (knee).
Limited participation:  WR Jarrett Boykin (groin), DE Datone Jones (knee), ILB Jamari Lattimore (neck). 
Full participation:  DT Josh Boyd (knee), LB Sam Barrington (hamstring).
Did not participate:  WR Kelvin Benjamin (concussion), CB Bené Benwikere (ankle), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), LB Thomas Davis (not injury related), DT Dwan Edwards (not injury related), S Roman Harper (not injury related), TE Greg Olsen (ankle), G Amini Silatolu (calf), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).
Limited participation:  CB Josh Norman (concussion), RB Darrin Reaves (calf).
Full participation:  RB Jonathan Stewart (knee).

McCarthy indicated that even if Williams and Shields, who were injured against the Dolphins, don’t practice on Thursday, they still could play against the Panthers.

 “Them being veteran players, we’ll give them every opportunity to get ready,” McCarthy said, adding that Williams is closer to being able to play than Shields at this point.

Meanwhile, McCarthy said Lattimore, who left the game with what was termed a neck injury, suffered a stinger.

Tretter works his way back, although maybe not at center

Oct 15, 2014 -- 4:13pm
JC Tretter snaps the ball to backup quarterback Matt Flynn in practice Wednesday.

GREEN BAY – This was not the way JC Tretter wanted to start his NFL career – one that, technically, hasn’t really started yet since he’s yet to play in an NFL regular-season game.

“It’s not exactly ideal,” the Green Bay Packers second-year center said Wednesday. “You have to take you lumps, readjust your mind and move forward and focus on getting back as soon as you can. Obviously, not great.”

Tretter, a 2013 fourth-round pick who didn’t play a single snap as a rookie last year because of a broken ankle suffered in the first organized team activity practice that offseason, suffered an impaction fracture in his left knee in the Packers’ Aug. 22 preseason game against Oakland and is on injured reserve with the designation to return. He became eligible to practice on Wednesday and did so, although he cannot be activated from IR for game action until the Nov. 9 game against Chicago.

“It felt great to be back around the guys and just be out there participating and being around the whole system again,” Tretter said. “It felt good to be back out there.”

But things are vastly different than when he left. Tretter took every rep with the No. 1 offense throughout the offseason and training camp, but because rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley has played so well in his place at center, it is highly unlikely that the Packers would bench Linsley and give Tretter his old job back.

That leaves Tretter in limbo, uncertain of what his role will be once he’s able to return to action.

The most logical move would be to make him the offensive line’s sixth man, like third-year tackle Don Barclay was supposed to be this season before suffering a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during training camp. Tretter would have to be able to play both guard and tackle in that scenario, in addition to backing up Linsley at center, and it’s unclear if Tretter has that versatility.

“If this was Madden, yes. Unfortunately, you can’t just click a button and be able to play a different position,” said Tretter, who did play both tackle and guard in college at Cornell.

“Obviously, I need to rep it and practice it. I don’t know. It’s been awhile since I played tackle, it’s been awhile since I played guard. So obviously we’d have to work a bunch of new things. I couldn’t really give you an answer.

“[But] anything’s possible, as Kevin Garnett once told me.”

If Linsley remains entrenched at center, the Packers’ top three right tackles – Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod and Barclay – are all free agents next year, which could mean a move for Tretter. (Bulaga and Sherrod are unrestricted, Barclay restricted.) But for now, Tretter is merely focused on the next few weeks.

“I can’t get my starting job back for at least the next three weeks, so I’m not really worrying about it or thinking about it, I’m just going out there and playing football again,” said Tretter, who said he has been running “for the last couple weeks” with Wednesday having been the target for his return. “I’m just enjoying practicing again.

“I’ve always been a team player and whatever the coaches want from you, that’s what this job is, I’ve just been focused on getting back and being healthy. Right now, there’s really no need to worry about it. There’s three weeks until any decision needs to be made about anything.”

As for where his career is headed, Tretter acknowledged that he’d like to merely play in a game that counts. The rest he can worry about later.

“Careers go different ways, and there’s been a few bumps in mine,” he said. “You just have to stay focused in what you can do and move forward and move past it and just keep grinding away. That’s really all you can do. You can’t get down on yourself. You stay positive as much as you can and just keep working.”

VIDEO: Aaron Rodgers meets Tom Wrigglesworth

Oct 15, 2014 -- 10:45am

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