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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde

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Lang 'optimistic' about ankle injury, playing vs. Bears

Oct 27, 2014 -- 9:02pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Packers right guard T.J. Lang celebrates a touchdown one play before he suffered an ankle injury Sunday night against the Saints.
 

GREEN BAY – If the Green Bay Packers had a game this Sunday, it’s unlikely they would have T.J. Lang in their lineup.

But luckily for Lang, the Packers’ bye week has arrived, and the veteran right guard should have a good chance of playing on Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (hamstring), cornerback Sam Shields (knee), safety Morgan Burnett (calf) and Lang (ankle) all figure to benefit from the week off, coach Mike McCarthy said.

“This is a great time for a bye for Aaron and T.J. and Morgan and Sam,” McCarthy said Monday, one day after the team’s 44-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “It will be good for us to get healthy.”

Lang sprained his left ankle during the extra point following Randall Cobb’s 70-yard touchdown catch on the game’s opening drive. Lang did not return to the game and was replaced by Lane Taylor, who struggled at times.

Asked for a prognosis on Lang Monday, McCarthy replied, “He’s not doing very good day, but I think he’ll feel better as the week goes on. We’re optimistic about [him for] Chicago – [but] it’s a little too far out there for me to really give you an accurate reading.”

Lang, though, Tweeted encouraging news from his account (@TJLang70) on Monday evening:

Tags: T.J. Lang

In offensive debut, Peppers 'got his chest' on Rodgers' fastball

Oct 27, 2014 -- 3:50pm
 
Screen capture/NBC Sports 
Julius Peppers had a chance at a touchdown catch while playing on offense Sunday night.
 

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers tried to joke about it.

“Got his chest on it,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said of the would-be touchdown that outside linebacker-turned-tight end Julius Peppers dropped during Sunday night’s 44-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

After seeing Peppers’ freakish athleticism on his 49-yard interception return for a touchdown against Minnesota on Oct. 2, Rodgers was asked if Peppers might merit some playing time on offense, a la Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. As it turns out, the Packers had been working on incorporating the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Peppers into the offense for a while.

If only the results had been as good as the practice plays were.

“We’ve been practicing that since training camp,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s something he’s done a very good job (with). … He ran a great route, he’s just got to catch the ball.”

After Eddie Lacy’s 67-yard gain on a screen pass got them to the New Orleans 3-yard line, McCarthy sent three true tight ends (Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and Brandon Bostick), fullback John Kuhn and quasi-tight end Julius Peppers, who reported as eligible. Peppers lined up to the left of the formation, near the numbers, and ran a slant against safety Rafael Bush. Rodgers threw a dart that went through Peppers’ hands and hit him in the pads, caroming incomplete.

Asked if he should be charged with a drop, Peppers replied, “Of course. Of course. Definitely. It was a little hot – he hit me with a fastball – but the play is in and I have to do a better job of catching that ball.”

Said Rodgers: “It was a little harder than maybe he was expecting. {But] he ran a good route … Pep’s a talented guy. We’ve ran that play at practice a number of times and he’s come down with it. That one was probably a little faster than he was used to.”

McCarthy has used defensive players on offense before, including nose tackle B.J. Raji as a fullback during the 2010 season and defensive lineman Mike Daniels at fullback this season. At one point last season, McCarthy lined Raji and Daniels up together in the backfield as blockers for Eddie Lacy.

“It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary,” Peppers said. “We’ve had it up for a couple weeks. It was a matter of time before he called it, and I was ready for it.”

Have a safe trip: Rodgers OK'd to travel despite hamstring injury

Oct 27, 2014 -- 1:40pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Aaron Rodgers’ hamstring injury is not severe enough that he’ll have to stay in Green Bay for the bye week.
 

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers’ hamstring injury isn’t severe enough that he’ll have to spend his week off in the Green Bay Packers’ training room.

The Packers quarterback was asked after Sunday night’s 44-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints whether the left hamstring injury he suffered during the second half would force him to cancel his bye-week travel plans. “We’ll see,” he replied with a hesitant smirk.

On Monday, Rodgers met with the team’s medical staff and was told that he won’t be required to stick around. In an iMessage exchange, Rodgers did not say where he plans on spending the bye week.

Packers players had to report to Lambeau Field Monday for treatments and a workout but are off for the rest of the week and can travel wherever they please. Players with injuries frequently stay in town for rehabilitation, although some injured players have been permitted to leave in the past if they were able to get treatment at their off-week destination.

Rodgers was injured with roughly 9 minutes left in the third quarter as he scrambled for 7 yards and a first down. He remained in the game and insisted that the injury wouldn’t keep him from playing in the Packers’ next game, Nov. 9 against Chicago.

Before the injury, Rodgers had completed 14 of 19 passes for 298 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 133.1. After the injury, he was 14 for 20 for 120 yards with no TDs, two INTs and a rating of 45.8. He saw his interception-less streak end at 212 consecutive pass attempts, the longest of his career and the second-longest in Packers history.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy did not talk to Rodgers Monday but he did talk to the medical staff.

“They’re very confident where Aaron is today,” McCarthy said. "So far, so good I would say is how we’re looking at it."

Wilde's 3-and-out: Saints 44, Packers 23

Oct 26, 2014 -- 10:33pm
 
Photo/Getty Images  
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 278 yards in the first half of Sunday night’s loss to New Orleans but didn’t finish the game.
 

NEW ORLEANS– Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 44-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night:

1. Hamstrung:  The Packers and Saints were tied, 16-16, after the Green Bay defense got a huge fourth-down stop at their own 43-yard line. The offense responded by driving to the New Orleans 5, where the Packers faced third-and-goal. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw high and slightly behind tight end Andrew Quarless at the goal line, and the ball caromed to linebacker David Hawthorne for an interception. Although the play ended a 212-pass stretch for Rodgers without an interception, it did more than end the streak. Rodgers, who had scrambled for a 7-yard gain three plays earlier, apparently injured his left hamstring.

Rodgers was never the same, and neither were the Packers. Taking away his ability to extend plays, Rodgers threw another interception – this one off Davante Adams’ hands, meaning all three of his INTs this season have gone off receivers’ hands – and the Saints reeled off 21 consecutive points to take a 37-16 lead. Rodgers later ran in for a 14-yard touchdown, but it was clear he wasn’t able to step into throws or scramble as he would if he were 100 percent.

The Packers have a bye week this week and don’t play again until Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

.2. ‘We don’t play scared’:  Packers coach Mike McCarthy has said that a few times over the years, and on Sunday night, he would argue that he was being aggressive in a hostile environment where the Saints have now won 20 consecutive games and 14 straight prime-time games. Nevertheless, the coach definitely took a different approach than he normally would. Call it aggressive, call it risky, but McCarthy certainly took a different tack.

From putting defensive end/outside linebacker Julius Peppers in at tight end for a goal line play (which ended with Peppers dropping a Rodgers throw inside the goal line), McCarthy called a surprise onside kick after the Packers settled for a field goal after Peppers’ drop (the Saints ended up getting a field goal themselves), and McCarthy went for it on fourth-and-inches at the Packers’ 40-yard line with New Orleans leading, 23-16 late in the third quarter. New Orleans scored four plays after Eddie Lacy was stopped on the fourth-down play, and suddenly it was 30-16.

3. Line problems:   During the week, the Packers talked about how well their offensive line was playing, and even McCarthy got into the act, going so far as to say that this group has a chance to be “really, really good.” That will be tougher if veteran right guard T.J. Lang, who suffered an ankle injury on the opening series of the game, is out for an extended period. There was no immediate update on the severity of Lang’s injury, but he did leave on a cart and never returned to the game.

Second-year man Lane Taylor replaced Lang and whiffed on a block on his first snap. Later, when the Packers went for it on fourth down, McCarthy inexplicably called a play that send Lacy behind Taylor, who was blown up at the snap, leading to Lacy being stuffed for no gain.

The Packers do get center JC Tretter back from the injured reserve/designated for return list for their next game, and he would be an option if Lang doesn’t recover during the bye week.

Packers-Saints Friday injury report: Jones out, Burnett questionable

Oct 24, 2014 -- 3:14pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Defensive end Datone Jones practiced on Thursday but will miss his third straight game with an ankle injury he suffered on Oct. 2 against Minnesota.
 

GREEN BAY – Not only could the Green Bay Packers be without half their starting secondary when they face the high-flying New Orleans Saints’ passing offense on Sunday night, but they will definitely be without defensive end Datone Jones for the third straight week.

Jones suffered another setback with his injured ankle after practicing on Thursday and now has been declared out for Sunday’s game.

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

Packers
Out: DE Datone Jones (ankle).
Doubtful:  CB Sam Shields (knee).
Questionable:  S Morgan Burnett (calf).
Probable:  RB James Starks (ankle).
 
Saints
Out:  C Jonathan Goodwin (knee/ankle), LB Kyle Knox (ankle), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm), LB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder).
Questionable:  LB Ramon Humber (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (knee/shoulder), NT Brodrick Bunkley (concussion), TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).
Probable:  CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring).

McCarthy is still hopeful that Burnett, who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, could work during Saturday’s practice before the team departs for New Orleans.

“Morgan was in here bright and early through the treatments. He’s obviously going through the Friday routine defensively with the walkthroughs and the classroom, so we’ll give him every [opportunity],” McCarthy said. “Plus it’s a night game, too. We have more time.”

Asked if he was more optimistic about Burnett than he was Thursday, McCarthy replied: “He’s making progress. It’s kind of a time-clock type thing just what he’s dealing with.”

Shields, who injured his knee against Miami on Oct. 12 and missed last Sunday’s game against Carolina, is unlikely to play. Jones, meanwhile, practiced hard on Thursday and the ankle did not respond well.

“Datone, actually, he went for it [Thursday]. I appreciate him out there pushing through it,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, watching the individual work with (defensive line coach) Mike Trgovac, you could clearly see he’s not ready. So he’s not going to make it.”

For the Saints, Graham is listed as questionable but is expected to play.

Like Fight Club, no talking about INT-free streak

Oct 24, 2014 -- 2:49pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception since the Sept. 4 opener at Seattle.
 

GREEN BAY – The first rule of an interception-free streak: Don’t talk about an interception-free streak.

At least that’s the approach Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt is taking with Aaron Rodgers, who enters Sunday night’s game at New Orleans having gone 192 passes and six consecutive games without throwing a pick. The attempt streak is the longest of Rodgers’ career and second-longest in team history to Bart Starr’s 294-pass streak, and the six straight games ties Starr’s team record as well.

It's not that Van Pelt is afraid of jinxing Rodgers' streak; rather, he just doesn't want his quarterback thinking in any way about the streak and keeping it alive.

“Try not to even worry about it. Just keep coaching the same way, stay consistent, don’t put too much emphasis on it,” Van Pelt replied when asked what his approach is with Rodgers. “Sure, we’ll throw an interception at some point. It’s part of the game. There’s a lot of things that come into play.

“But let’s not talk about it, keep plugging along.”

Van Pelt joked that even though he was a backup, he didn’t have many long interception-less streaks because “I was pretty free with the football” – something Rodgers is not.

“When you have a little bit of luck and great decision-making, you get these streaks,” Van Pelt said

Rodgers has spoken many times about the importance of not turning the ball over, and he did so again with reporters who cover the Saints. The last time Rodgers played in the Superdome, as a first-year starter in 2008, he threw a career high-tying three INTs.

“It’s been a staple of how we play around the here the past couple of years, taking care of the football and being in the positive [on turnover differential],” Rodgers said. “Mike (McCarthy) always talks about getting to double-digit turnover margin and we just got there this week with plus-10.

“When you are taking care of the football like that, then you give your football team a chance to win. Offensively, we know that if we take care of it and we turn our defense’s turnovers into points, we are going to have a chance to win.”

Even with Burnett questionable, Packers like safety depth

Oct 24, 2014 -- 12:33pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Safety Morgan Burnett is listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game at New Orleans.
 

GREEN BAY – If they are indeed without Morgan Burnett – and with the veteran starting safety listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game at New Orleans with a calf injury, that’s a very real possibility – the Green Bay Packers are better prepared to absorb such an absence than they were a year ago when Burnett was sidelined by a hamstring injury early in the season.

Although coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that Burnett is having his best season, the Packers may be able to get by without him with Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and emerging backup Sean Richardson.

When Burnett missed the first three games last season with a hamstring injury, the Packers were forced to play Jerron McMillian alongside second starter M.D. Jennings – neither of whom is in the NFL at present.

Clinton-Dix and Hyde have been job-sharing at the spot alongside Burnett, although last week, with cornerback Sam Shields out with a knee injury, Hyde played primarily in the slot while Clinton-Dix got the start and played every defensive snap.

“I think we’ve got much better depth at the safety position,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “Last year when we opened the season, neither one of those guys had played much football. And that’s never easy when you’re going against the caliber of team we’re playing against, to have two ‘young’ guys who don’t have much experience.

“What we’ve tried to do with Ha is bring him along [slowly]. He played the most plays he’s played last week. I think you’ve seen him show up and make plays each week, where you say, ‘Hey!’ You really like potentially what this guy’s going to be.”

The Packers have long had their safeties be interchangeable parts under Capers, although Burnett has spent more time closer to the line of scrimmage than Hyde and Clinton-Dix. Asked what would change if they played together, Hyde replied, “Nothing at all. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the combination is, it doesn’t change our responsibilities. … Everyone is supposed to know what’s going on. We all watch film together. We all call the same plays. Whoever is in there is going to be fine.”

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean safeties coach Darren Perry is indifferent to whether Burnett, the team’s leading tackler, can go Sunday night against quarterback Drew Brees & Co..

“They’re still young guys and as young guys, you always worry a little bit because they’re just short on experience,” Perry said. “We’re going into our eighth game and so they still are relatively raw from that standpoint. Again, they’re still learning, still growing.

“Hopefully we can keep it going and keep improving and not make too many mistakes against a really good quarterback. That will be very key, that we execute, we don’t give them anything.”

'Microwave' Flynn remains Packers' No. 2 QB

Oct 24, 2014 -- 10:15am
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Matt Flynn is the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers, even with some uneven play in mop-up time.
 

GREEN BAY – Although Alex Van Pelt would like to see better play from backup quarterback Matt Flynn, he also realizes that because of the number of first-team snaps his ace needs to feel fully prepared, the deck is stacked against the No. 2 QB.

That’s why Van Pelt, the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach, isn’t bothered by Flynn’s two up-and-down performances in mop-up time in place of starter Aaron Rodgers in the team’s blowout victories over Minnesota and Carolina.

“It’s tough for a quarterback. Especially here, where he doesn’t get any reps with the first group,” Van Pelt said. “That’s Aaron’s baby as we go through practice. So there is a little rust when you come in and operate a system you haven’t run for a few weeks.”

Flynn enters Sunday night’s game at New Orleans having completed 3 of 7 passes for 22 yards with an interception (11.3 rating). Nevertheless, Van Pelt said there is no week-to-week competition between Flynn and third-stringer Scott Tolzien for the backup job. Tolzien has been inactive for each of the Packers’ first seven games after making the roster coming out of training camp – the first time the Packers have kept three QBs on the 53-man roster to start the season since Rodgers’ first year as a starter in 2008.

“Matt didn’t have a great day at the end of the game last week, but a couple weeks before [against Minnesota], he had two third-down completions, threw the interception but came back, responded well,” Van Pelt said.

Van Pelt said Rodgers directed a 2-minute drive during Thursday’s practice that scored so quickly that the Packers had enough time to give Flynn a 2-minute drill of his own. He, too, led the offense to a touchdown.

“We had enough time to have another drill. That’s the stuff you need as a backup, and it’s probably unfair to be too critical with the amount of reps he gets,” Van Pelt said. “That’s tough to do.”

Van Pelt, a backup himself as a player, having sat behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills, dismissed the notion that the Packers should be giving Flynn more work in practice in case of emergency.

Last Nov. 4, when Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone against Chicago, backup Seneca Wallace was horrendous when he came off the bench. Flynn, too, struggled when forced into action cold, as he was in a 2010 loss at Detroit when Rodgers suffered a concussion. Flynn did play well with limited practice work last year when he replaced Tolzien and rallied the Packers to a tie with Minnesota.

“In training camp, obviously he’s going to get his reps there, but once the season starts, it’s time to get your guys ready to play,” Van Pelt said. “It’s always a dilemma, and I went through it as a player as well.

“That’s the beauty of that position: You’ve got to be like ‘The Microwave.’ You’ve got to come in and heat up quick, and not miss a beat. That’s part of the challenge of being a backup.”

Packers-Saints Thursday injury report: Burnett still out

Oct 23, 2014 -- 3:46pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Sam Shields (left) and Morgan Burnett (right) remained sidelined Thursday.
 

GREEN BAY – Morgan Burnett missed his second straight day of practice Thursday with a calf injury that now has Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy concerned that his veteran starting safety may not be able to go against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

It’s unclear when Burnett sustained his calf injury, as he said nothing about it after Packers’ victory over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday and he was not on the list of injured players provided by the team following the game.

If Burnett can’t go, the Packers would start Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who had been job-sharing at the safety spot alongside Burnett.

“My concern for Morgan is higher than it was yesterday,” McCarthy said after Thursday’s practice. “Hopefully with today and what goes on [Friday], we’ll see if he can do anything Saturday.”

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

Packers
Did not participate: CB Sam Shields (knee), S Morgan Burnett (calf)
Limited participation:  DE Datone Jones (ankle), RB James Starks (ankle).
 
Saints
Did not participate:  C Jonathan Goodwin (knee/ankle), LB Kyle Knox (ankle), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm), LB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder).
Limited participation:  NT Brodrick Bunkley (concussion), TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).
Full participation:  LB Ramon Humber (ankle), CB Keenan Lewis (knee/shoulder), CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring).

Jones has not played since spraining his ankle against Minnesota on Oct. 2. He practiced on Oct. 11 but wasn’t cleared to play against Miami, then had a setback when he practiced on Oct. 15 and didn’t play against the Panthers.

Starks sprained his ankle against Carolina but McCarthy said he looked “pretty good” at practice. Starks certainly looked fine as he ran out of the locker room during the media availability session. Asked when he came back how he felt, he replied, "I feel good." Asked if that means he’d be ready to play Sunday, he said, “Oh, yeah!”

After four straight wins, Rodgers keeps R-E-L-A-X-ing

Oct 22, 2014 -- 9:57pm
 
Screen capture/NFL on FOX 
Packers fans spelled out R-E-L-A-X on the façade at Lambeau Field Sunday.
 

GREEN BAY – A month later, Aaron Rodgers is still talking about how important it has been for the Green Bay Packers to R-E-L-A-X.

The Packers quarterback spelled it out on Sept. 23 on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, and thanks to the Packers’ four-game winning streak, it remains on the tip of some folks’ tongues entering Sunday night’s game at New Orleans.

In fact, Rodgers was asked about the comment during his conference call with reporters who cover the Saints, a team off to a 2-4 start that could use a victory and some relaxation, too.

“First, people were impressed I remembered how to spell it,” Rodgers joked. “I think when you say something like that you take on greater responsibility as a leader and you take some of the focus off the team and I think there is a time and a place for that.  Maybe we needed a little something like that before our Week 4 game in Chicago.  We responded with a good performance, four in a row, our defense is playing really well, offensively we are starting to get things going a little bit, so every now and then you say stuff like that that sticks.  If we had lost Week 4 it probably wouldn’t have gone over as well as it has because we’ve won four in a row.”

Rodgers has also backed up the talk with improved play.

At the time of the comment, he had completed 64 of 102 passes (62.7 percent) for 697 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 95.1. He was averaging 6.83 yards per pass attempt.

In the four games since then, Rodgers has completed 77 of 109 passes (70.6 percent) for 977 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 137.9. He has averaged 8.96 yards per attempt in those four games.

As a result, Rodgers now enters Sunday night’s game having completed 141 of 211 passes (66.8 percent) for 1,674 yards with 18 TDs and one INT for a passer rating of 117.3. He’s at 7.93 yards per attempt.

Of course, for all the attention R-E-L-A-X has gotten, Rodgers’ got a kick out of the creativity he saw from one fan’s hand-drawn sign he spotted in the Soldier Field stands during that Week 4 game against the Bears.

“Still, one of my favorites, on the flip side of that, is at Chicago,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday. “I saw P-A-N-I-C, for ‘panic.’”
That’s one thing Rodgers hasn’t done.

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