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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde

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You are what you eat: Packers add ex-Oregon nutritionist

Jul 27, 2014 -- 9:06pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
The University of Oregon football headquarters boasts one of the best dining facilities in American sports.
 

GREEN BAY – In the last kitchen Adam Korzun worked in, the logos of the University of Oregon’s Pac-12 Conference rivals were illuminated above the buffet line, with a neon sign that read, Eat Your Enemies – And The Other Food Groups.

In his new job with the Green Bay Packers, Korzun, who was named the team’s director of performance nutrition Sunday, will be charged with helping his players have a balanced diet to help them eat the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears alive this season.

Korzun comes to the Packers after serving as the director of sports nutrition for the Oregon athletic department since August 2012. He started working as a sport dietitian for several sports for the United States Olympic Committee in May 2007 and later served as the full-time high-performance dietitian for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. He has also served as a consultant for Red Bull High Performance, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians.

In an interview with The Oregonian this spring, Korzun explained the importance of pairing nutrition with the proper strength and conditioning program.

“You can lift three times a day, but if you’re not fueling your body properly you’re not getting the gains out of it,” he told Ducks beat writer Andrew Greif. “Conversely, you can eat perfectly and if you’re not lifting you’re just going to get big and not get stronger. It’s what you do together, all the components coming together, that makes for improvement and performance.”

Korzun, who went to culinary arts school after high school, fed Ducks athletes regular, everyday foods – but with a healthy twist, like pancakes with protein powder, baked-not-fried chicken wings and high-protein burgers.

“The guys never know the difference,” he told The Oregonian. “We find out what they like and make it healthy. My personal message is, it’s all on you. … Short of me placing a feeding tube for you, I can’t control what you eat, I can just give you the right education to make sure you choose the right things.”

Training camp report #2: Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jul 27, 2014 -- 3:06pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
T.J. Lang (center) has been limited during the first two practices of camp.
 

GREEN BAY – Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ second practice of training camp from Sunday:

Thumbs up:  Some may wonder why first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is behind Micah Hyde on the safety depth chart, but the second-year cornerback-turned-safety continued to impress Sunday, just as he did throughout the offseason at his new position. Continuing to work with the starters, Hyde started the day by breaking up an Aaron Rodgers deep ball to Jordy Nelson, then broke up another pass from Scott Tolzien to Jared Abbrederis downfield. Asked about Hyde’s transition to safety, coach Mike McCarthy called it “seamless.”

“Micah Hyde is a football player. I think you can line him up anywhere. You really can,” McCarthy said. “He’s had the off-season to learn the position, to get the communication down where it’s so important. He’s a playmaker.”

Thumbs down:   If McCarthy is going to reach his stated goal of running 75 offensive plays per game, the no-huddle offense is going to have to work better than it did Sunday when the No. 1 offense went against the No. 1 defense. .After running back Eddie Lacy broke a 25-yard run on the first play, the Packers’ next three plays went thusly: Lacy for 2; Lacy for 5; Rodgers incomplete across the middle to Jarrett Boykin. The No. 2 group, with Tolzien at the controls, didn’t fare any better.

Play of the day:  Hyde’s breakup of Tolzien’s pass to Abbrederis was the kind of play that showed what he brings to the safety spot, as he went over Abbrederis’ back to break up the pass but he had such body control that he managed to avoid a pass-interference call. But Abbrederis had himself a strong day as well, and his deep-ball catch against veteran cornerback Tramon Williams was a thing of beauty, too.

Camp confidential:  Mike Daniels can say whatever he wants, because he backs it up. Or, at least, he has a history of backing it up, having delivered 6.5 sacks last season in his second year. Now an even more vocal leader, that was Daniels’ booming baritone you heard if you were at practice Sunday when rookie tight end Richard Rodgers caught a pass from Aaron Rodgers in traffic against Clay Matthews. Because the first two practices are in helmets and shorts instead of pads, there was no collision that would have ensued during a live period. And Daniels wanted to make sure that the offensive players knew that Monday would be a different story.

“Going to be a different day tomorrow when the pads come on! Lots of ass kicking from the green shirts!” he yelled. (At practice, offensive players wear white jerseys; defensive players wear green.) Daniels continued to talk from the sideline for a few more minutes, and he'll have the chance to back up his words on Monday.

Reminded after practice that those are his teammates he’ll be hitting, Daniels replied: “Rright now, I see the Vikings, the Bears and the Lions across from me. I don’t see my teammates. That’s the mentality you’ve got to have, and I expect them to have the same mentality.

“Growing up, my brother and I, we got into some arguments and sometimes they turned physical. But God forbid anybody try to come up against my brother that isn’t my brother. So, I guess what I’m saying [is], with football, you’re going to fight against your brother. I think that builds a stronger bond. That way, when some outsider comes in, we all gang up on them.”

Please don’t stop the music:  "Summer" by Calvin Harris, "Joker And The Thief" by Wolfmother and "My Kinda Party" by Jason Aldean were the three songs played during the regeneration periods Sunday.   

Injury report:  ILB Jamari Lattimore was a spectator for the day because of what McCarthy said was a stomach illness. DE/OLB Mike Neal (abdominal) and OLB Nick Perry (foot/knee) remain on the PUP list. DE Jerel Worthy (lower back) and DT Letroy Guion (hamstring) remain on the Non-Football Injury list. And rookie WR Jeff Janis remains on the Non-Football Illness list. McCarthy said it “is going to be some time” before Worthy is cleared to play.

Meanwhile, starting right guard T.J. Lang did very little in practice because of what McCarthy said was a lingering shoulder injury. Don Barclay took first-team reps in his place.

They said it:  “We get to really see what everybody’s made of. Like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ So, I’m going to do a lot of mouth-punching tomorrow and see how people respond.” – Daniels, on the anticipation of Monday’s first padded practice.

Practice schedule:  The Packers return to practice at 8:20 a.m. Monday for their first workout in pads, per NFL rules.

Cobb says he needs to do more to get new deal

Jul 27, 2014 -- 2:18pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Randall Cobb missed 10 games last year with a fracture in his right leg.
 

GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb doesn’t know if he’s next on the Green Bay Packers re-signing to-do list – even though others, including his own teammates, are assuming that’s the case.

One day after fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson signed a reported four-year, $39 million contract extension, Cobb stood at his locker Sunday following the team’s second training-camp practice and faced question after question about when he might get a new deal.

But reporters weren't the only ones talking about it. Not long after news of Nelson’s deal broke, other players were talking to Cobb, who’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, about him being next to get an extension. Among the Packers' other unrestricted free agents-to-be are right tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Tramon Williams and defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

While Cobb said he’s gotten the feeling from the Packers that he is indeed next in line, he is consciously doing all he can to avoid thinking about his financial situation, especially coming off an injury-marred 2013 season in which he missed 10 games with a leg injury.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” Cobb said. “My heart’s in Green Bay, I love Green Bay, the three years I’ve been here have been unbelievable. But I understand the business side of it.”

After leading the team in receptions (80) and receiving yards (954) in 2012, Cobb suffered a fracture at the top of the tibia in his right leg on a low hit by Baltimore safety Matt Elam in an Oct. 13 victory over the Ravens and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return. And he did return, catching a game-winning, last-minute 48-yard touchdown from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to beat Chicago in the regular-season finale and send the Packers to the playoffs. He finished the regular season with only 31 receptions for 433 yards and four touchdowns.

Asked if, in his mind, he’s done enough to merit a new deal, the 23-year-old Cobb replied, “I don’t believe I’ve done enough, and I think that’s on me. Last year, I missed 10 weeks, I got injured in a way that there was nothing I could do about it. I think my job is just to come out here every day, do what I’m supposed to, continue to work hard and hopefully my time will come.

“I feel I have a lot to prove. I know the player I’m capable of being. And it’s just going out and showing that on a day-to-day basis.”

While that may be Cobb’s mentality, that’s not how his teammates are viewing it. Rodgers wasted no time on Saturday in making Cobb’s importance clear.

“I’d love for Randall to be next,” Rodgers said at his locker following Saturday’s practice. “He’s a guy, again, who’s done it the right way. He’s been a great leader for us; he’s had some injury issues last year that hurt him that was out of his control. But he’s a consistent performer for us and a great guy in the locker room as well.”

Cobb is entering the final year of the four-year, $3.209 million deal he signed as a second-round pick in 2011, and his base salary for 2014 is just $812,648. Nelson, who signed a three-year extension in October 2011 while in the last year of his rookie deal, said he believes Cobb is and should be the top priority now, too.

“Obviously that’s the biggest thing,” Nelson said Sunday. “Randall means a lot to this team, the things he can do. You want to see him get that extension.

“I think he’s going to be in a situation somewhat similar to what I was [in 2011], especially with the unfortunate part of him getting hurt last year. … Like I’ve told a lot of guys in here – whatever your decision is, you’ve got to be happy with it, no matter what the outcome. If you become underpaid [after signing an extension] or if you get hurt, either way, you have to be happy with your decision and know that you’ll have to live with it one way or another.

“I think he’s in a good situation. He’s a smart kid. But you don’t ever know when it’s going to happen. We’ll see.”

Cobb said that to his knowledge, no contract talks with the Packers have taken place, although he also said he’s told his agent, Jimmy Sexton, not to discuss it with him unless discussions get serious.

Cobb said he is taking that approach after seeing two of his fellow wide receivers go through the same situation – Greg Jennings in 2012 and James Jones last year. Both ended up leaving as free agents, with Jennings signing with the Minnesota Vikings and Jones joining the Oakland Raiders.

“I’ve been able to witness those things, so I’m able to learn from their experiences in different ways. I know my situation will be totally different than theirs was. But I’ve been able to learn from those situations.

“I’m going to be the best Randall Cobb I can be and do the best I can do. And I’ll let everything else take care of itself.”

Rodgers still holding out hope of Finley return

Jul 27, 2014 -- 11:51am
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t given up hope that he and tight end Jermichael Finley will be teaming up again.
 

GREEN BAY – While there may be more skeptics than believers in Jermichael Finley’s attempted comeback from last year’s career-threatening neck injury, there’s at least one guy who hasn’t given up hope: The guy who’d been throwing him the football since 2008 – Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback said he has been in contact with Finley, who remains an unrestricted free agent,

“I have had a couple of conversations with him. He looks incredible,” Rodgers said. “If you follow him on Twitter, he looks pretty amazing and he’s worked his tail off. For him, it’s a matter of getting cleared and I don’t know his medical diagnosis, where he’s at.”

Although Finley says he has been cleared by his surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, to return to football, he remains unsigned. He was in Green Bay last week to go over his MRI scans with Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie, but as of now, nothing has come out of that meeting other than more conversation. Packers coach Mike McCarthy also said Friday that he is keeping the door open to Finley coming back, if he does indeed resume his career.

Rodgers also pointed out that while other Packers who’ve suffered neck injuries have seen their careers immediately end (Nick Collins, Johnathan Franklin most recently), there have been players who’ve come back to play again like safety Sean Richardson, who started last year on the physically unable to perform list after having single spinal fusion surgery on his C5/C6 vertebrae but returned to action late in the season and is back in camp this year with the team. Unlike Richardson, Finley’s fusion surgery was of the C3/C4 vertebrae.

“We’ve had a number of those injuries and it’s been tough for a couple guys,” Rodgers said. “But a guy like Sean Richardson would be a good guy to talk to with the struggles he went through waiting to get cleared and it took longer than they thought. But now he’s back out there and he looks like himself, playing well.”

Richardson had pushed to be cleared to resume playing at the start of training camp last year, but the medical staff made him wait and gain clearance from five different specialists before letting him back on the field. The idea was that an extended period of recovery would lessen the danger of reinjury.

Whatever the case, Rodgers still has hope for the “Big Fella,” the nickname he’s long used for Finley.

“ I’ve said it in the past, this league is better with Jermichael in it,” Rodgers said. “And this team is better with him [on] it.”

Training camp report #1: Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jul 26, 2014 -- 11:06pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Jerel Worthy, Mike Neal and Nick Perry opened camp on the sideline Saturday.
 

GREEN BAY – Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ first practice of training camp from Saturday:

Thumbs up:  Casey Hayward played in just three games last season, the victim of a hamstring injury that began before he reported to camp last year, was aggravated during the third preseason game and finally shelved him for the remainder of the season in November. But he sure looked to be back to his old, 2012 self Saturday, breaking up multiple passes while working as an outside corner with the No. 2 defense (behind Tramon Williams and Sam Shields). Hayward had participated in organized team activities and the minicamp last month, and he certainly looked like the guy who finished third in the NFL defensive rookie of the year balloting after picking off a team-high six passes two years ago.

“Yeah, I thought Casey had a good day,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s back.

“[He’s] so instinctive, his ball skills. You [saw] him jump off the spot a few times and make a play.”

Thumbs down:  For the second straight year, defensive end/outside linebacker Mike Neal opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. He battled some sort of core muscle injury in his abdominal area last season, and apparently it’s still an issue for him, causing him to flunk his physical on Friday.

“I don’t feel bad. A little sore than normal, but, that’s expected sometimes when you come off an offseason. But I feel pretty good,” Neal said. “I felt a little bit of [pain] in my lower ab, and like last year, [we said], ‘You know what, just chill it out for a minute and we’ll see how it is.’”

At least Neal, who practiced throughout OTAs, can point to last season, when he played all 17 games (including playoffs) for the first time in his career, as proof that he can get healthy. Like Neal in his first two seasons, third-year outside linebacker Nick Perry hasn’t been healthy yet. His rookie season ended after six games because of wrist surgery, and he played 11 games – some of them in pain – because of a foot injury. He also opened camp on the PUP list with what McCarthy termed a “foot and knee” injury.

McCarthy did indicate that Perry and Neal are “close” to being cleared, however.

Play of the day:  It was only the first day, but newly minted $39 million receiver Jordy Nelson and his pal Aaron Rodgers hooked up on a beautiful deep ball against Sam Shields and Micah Hyde, with Rodgers dropping a 40-yard rainbow to Nelson on a corner route on the left sideline that left Shields laughing after Nelson’s catch – because what else was he going to do?

Camp confidential:  While the TV timeout/regeneration periods were instituted in training camp last year so players could lower their heart rates and make sure they stayed hydrated, the team has added another item to the break menu: Snacks. Athletic trainers made their way onto the field during the three regeneration periods Saturday not only with Gatorade and water but with Tupperware containers filled with Jell-O squares and other snacks. (The gelatin squares aren’t the jigglers Bill Cosby once hawked; rather, they are fortified with nutrients for energy.)

“I had one thing, it kind of tasted like a dessert,” fullback John Kuhn said. “It was some chocolate-peanut butter thing. And then I had a fig bar.”

Please don’t stop the music: "Spaceman" by The Killers, “Days Of Gold" by Jake Owen and "Shark Attack" by Grouplove were the three songs played during the regeneration periods Saturday.   

Injury report:  In addition to Neal and Perry, who opened camp on the PUP, defensive end Jerel Worthy (lower back) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) started camp on the Non-Football Injury list and rookie wide receiver Jeff Janis began on the Non-Football Illness list. McCarthy said it “is going to be some time” before Worthy is cleared to play.

Meanwhile, starting right guard T.J. Lang did very little in practice because of what McCarthy said was a lingering shoulder injury. Don Barclay took first-team reps in his place.

They said it:  “If I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago.” – McCarthy, on if Nelson's new contract makes him want to get a deal done with Randall Cobb.

Practice schedule:  The Packers return to practice at 8:20 a.m. Sunday with a workout in shorts, shells and helmets.

What's next? Rodgers would like to see Cobb deal, too

Jul 26, 2014 -- 2:47pm
 
Photo/USATSI
With Jordy Nelson’s deal done, the Packers can turn their attention to inking their other starting wide receiver, Randall Cobb.
 

GREEN BAY – What’s next?

That’s what the fictional President Jed Bartlet always used to say on The West Wing, and that’s exactly what Aaron Rodgers was thinking Saturday.

While the Green Bay Packers quarterback was thrilled for his friend and airport car-pool buddy Jordy Nelson and the four-year, $39 million contract extension Nelson inked Saturday morning before the opening practice of training camp, once that was taken care of and Rodgers had said lots of nice things about his pal, he was on to the next guy he’d like to keep around here for awhile: Wide receiver Randall Cobb.

“I’d love for Randall to be next,” Rodgers said at his locker following practice. “He’s a guy, again, who’s done it the right way. He’s been a great leader for us, he’s had some injury issues last year that hurt him that was out of his control. But he’s a consistent performer for us and a great guy in the locker room, as well.”

Cobb is entering the final year of the four-year, $3.209 million rookie deal he signed as a second-round pick in 2011. His base salary for 2014 is just $812,648.

Among the Packers' other unrestricted free agents-to-be are right tackle Bryan Bulaga, cornerback Tramon Williams and defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Although Cobb  led the team in receptions (80) and receiving yards (954) in 2012, he missed 10 games last year with a fracture at the top of his tibia in his right leg and finished with only 31 receptions for 433 yards and four touchdowns after a strong start. He did catch the game-winning, last-minute 48-yard touchdown from Rodgers to beat Chicago in the regular-season finale and send the Packers to the playoffs.

Cobb was smart enough not to come into the locker room during the media availability period Saturday, making sure he didn’t detract from Nelson’s moment.

“You’ll have to ask him [how he feels],” Nelson said. “I think they’re all very excited for me, and he’ll have to deal with his situation.”

But it’s clear that Cobb, like Nelson, has been identified by the team as a core player, as the Packers have allowed veteran wide receivers Greg Jennings and James Jones each to depart as free agents the past two seasons.

“I think they do a great job of keeping their core guys here, guys that want to be here,” Nelson said. “I know Randall – I don’t know his situation at all, not going to get involved in that – but everyone wants to be here obviously. The core guys that we have across the board offensively, defensively, we know we’ll always be in the running to get in the playoffs and make runs at the Super Bowl.

“That’s what you want as a player. So you want to stay here as much as possible, but you also want to be respected in the game.”

Nelson's 'worth:' Four years, $39 million

Jul 26, 2014 -- 1:32pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Jordy Nelson goes through drills at practice Sunday, minutes after coming to terms on a four-year, $39 million extension that will keep him in Green Bay through 2018.
 

GREEN BAY – Normally a polite fellow, Jordy Nelson interrupted.

The Green Bay Packers wide receiver was being asked Saturday afternoon about his new contract – a four-year, $39 million extension that will run through 2018 and includes an $11.5 million signing bonus and more than $14 million in guaranteed money – and how it felt to be paid what he’s worth.

“I don’t like the word ‘worth,’” Nelson said. “Because to be honest with you, I don’t think any of us are worth this money. But it’s your value and the business we’re a part of.”

And there’s no question Nelson is extremely valuable to the Packers, especially quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who now knows his favorite target will be with him for the long haul instead of hitting the free-agent market next spring.

“Now he can buy all the land in Kansas,” Rodgers joked. “I’m very happy. It’s fun to see guys like that who are incredible teammates, phenomenal players and good guys get rewarded. That’s what we’ve done around here. Guys who’ve gotten second and third contracts are the guys who for the most part have been raised up in the system, done things the right way – ‘The Packer Way – and gotten rewarded for it. So it’s fun to see Jordy re-sign for four more [years].

“I told him that that’s five for him and I’ve got six left, so we’re going to have to do one more after that and stick around a little bit longer.”

Entering the final year of his deal, Nelson was due to be paid a base salary of $3.05 million in 2014. Although exact details of the contract weren’t immediately available, the reported numbers put Nelson, who caught a career-high 85 passes for a career-best 1,314 yards with eight touchdowns last season, in the neighborhood of the league’s highest-paid receivers after entering camp ranked 34th in average salary.

While the highest-paid wide receivers remain Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, whose deals average more than $16 million per year, Nelson is in the ballpark of the the four-year, $39.3 million extension ($22.3 million guaranteed) Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall signed with the Bears on May 19, and the reported four-year, $30 million extension ($10 million guaranteed, $18 million in the first two years) that Atlanta’s Roddy White signed Thursday.

Over the past three seasons, Nelson has caught 202 passes for 3,322 yards and 30 touchdowns. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only four players have had 3,000-plus receiving yards and 30 or more TD catches over the past three seasons: Johnson, Dallas’ Dez Bryant, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Nelson.

Nelson’s last deal, signed in October 2011, was a three-year extension that added $12.6 million in new money and contained $5 million guaranteed ($3.5 million signing bonus), making it a four-year, $13.989 million deal. Now, at 29 with a durable track record (he’s played in 89 of a possible 96 games in his career) and a pair of 1,200-yard seasons since the last deal, Nelson earned his way into a different echelon of receivers.

“I think what’s changed is my numbers and what I’ve done,” Nelson said. “I mean, if you look at what I did before I did my first extension, I had a good playoff run (in 2010) and that was pretty much it, so that was the decision we made.

“Now, it’s a different situation because the numbers I had the last three years. Compared to the numbers I had three years prior? Completely different. I think that’s what changed. My mindset of how the business works or the approach of it, hasn’t. It’s the numbers and where you stand.”

2014 Most Important Packers No. 1: Aaron Rodgers, QB

Jul 26, 2014 -- 7:00am
 
 
Photo/Getty Images
The Packers found out what life without their star quarterback was like last season, and it wasn’t pleasant.
 

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers was adamant. So adamant, in fact, that he interrupted the question – not once, not twice, but three times.

No, the Green Bay Packers quarterback will not take a different approach in 2014 in the wake of the first major injury – a fractured left collarbone that cost him essentially eight games – in his time as the team’s starter.

“I’m not changing the way I play. I’m going to keep playing the same way,” Rodgers said during a Q&A with ESPNWisconsin.com on June 12. I’ve got to be instinctual, I’ve got to rely on my quick reactions, and I’ve got to play the way I’ve always played. At some point, if we’re talking in 10 years and I’m still trying to give this a go, I probably won’t be exactly the same player. But I’d like to think that as long as I have my legs, I’m going to play the exact same way because that’s what gives me those little advantages I can take and make plays with.”

And so, despite the most challenging year of his six-year tenure as the Packers’ starting quarterback, Rodgers insists he won’t be gun-shy this season, won’t suppress what makes him, well, him.

Rodgers, of course, did return late last season, coming back in time to deliver one of the more magical moments in the Packers’ recent history with his fourth-down, final-minute, 48-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to beat the Chicago Bears and send the Packers into the playoffs.

Still, he did have to slightly alter his offseason program, holding off on some of the shoulder work he’d normally do until getting back to 100 percent. Once he was, he was challenged by the Packers coaching staff by some alterations to the offense designed to make it easier on some of the young receivers he’ll be working with this year.

“We’ve done some things in the system this year that are new for him, whether it be terminology or actual scheme,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. “So it’s been a challenging spring for him; we’ve grabbed his attention. He’s very focused and very locked in.”

Three quarterbacks started in Rodgers’ place last year – Seneca Wallace, then Scott Tolzien, then his old pal Matt Flynn – and while Flynn and Tolzien are back to give the Packers considerably more comfort should disaster strike again, obviously neither the Packers nor Rodgers want to endure it.

“It was a tough year. Tough year on a lot of levels,” Rodgers said. “Dealt with the frustration of being out for so long, and I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to play in Chicago. But thankfully, I was OK’d to play, and we went out there and – it wasn’t the cleanest game, but it was really fulfilling in the end to win with my guys and a couple of guys making some incredible reactionary plays down the stretch to pull that thing out.

“It was one of the most special moments – at our rivals, with that fan base and that environment, at Soldier Field, with so many big games we’ve played down there, to beat them to win the division and get into the playoffs … that was incredible.”

In the end, though, it wasn’t enough, as the Packers lost the following week to the San Francisco 49ers and their season was over. That’s why Rodgers is preparing to create more memories this season, one he hopes will end with him helping his team to its second Lombardi Trophy during his time at quarterback.

“It feels like it’s been awhile since we’ve been there, because it has been – it’s been three years, and we’ve had three tough defeats in the playoffs,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had some consistent regular seasons, had some trying moments. But, we tasted that [success]. A lot of guys are still here from that team who know how special that was. But the fun part is, a lot of the guys that are here weren’t there. So they don’t know what that feels like. And they desperately want it. And you can feel that tangible hunger that we have in the locker room that we haven’t had in a while.

“I think your biggest challenge, as Mike has said, is handling success. When you have success, whether it’s a Super Bowl win or a 15-1 regular season, it can’t help but there be some complacency that seeps into the locker room. For whatever reason, this is a different team with a better focus.”

About The 20 Most Important Packers of 2014 series presented by West Bend
The 20 Most Important Packers of 2014 list is not a list of the 20 best players on the team’s roster. Rather, the primary factors are the individual player’s talent, the inherent importance of the position he plays and the team’s depth at the position. Think of it as a list of the 20 players the Packers can least afford to lose if they want to return to the Super Bowl, or the players who must have the biggest impact for the team to be successful. The list was formulated through offseason conversations with players and coaches, as well as statistical reviews and player evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com and others. Agree? Disagree? Chime in via email (jwilde@espnwisconsin.com) or on Twitter to @jasonjwilde,  @ESPNMilwaukee or @ESPNMadison.

Matthews cleared for takeoff; five others will sit

Jul 25, 2014 -- 4:17pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Clay Matthews passed his physical Friday, meaning he’ll be eligible to practice on Saturday morning.
 

GREEN BAY – Clay Matthews is apparently good to go.

Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Letroy Guion, Jerel Worthy and Jeff Janis are not.

According to the official NFL transaction wire, Neal and Perry flunked their physicals and were placed on the physically unable to perform list, meaning they will spend the Green Bay Packers’ first practice of training camp on the sideline watching. So too will Guion and Worthy, who were placed on the non-football injury list, and Janis, who was placed on the non-football illness list.

But Matthews, who broke his thumb twice last season and spent all of organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp watching practice, was not among the players listed on the report, meaning he passed his physical. While the team may still have him on a modified practice schedule, he has been medically cleared for action.

Tight end Andrew Quarless, who also didn’t practice at all during the offseason, was not on the report, either. His injury was undisclosed.

Neal, an outside linebacker/defensive end, and Perry, an outside linebacker, still count against the 90-man roster and will be able to practice as soon as they pass physicals, unlike the in-season PUP list, which requires a player to miss at least the first six weeks of games and practices.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy, speaking earlier in the day at his annual pre-camp press briefing, was unwilling to discuss any injured players, and it’s unclear what injuries Neal, Perry, Guion and Worthy have. Perry, presumably, is still recovering from the foot injury he suffered last season, which required surgery to repair. Neal took part in practice throughout the offseason, as did Guion and Janis. Worthy missed time following the death of his grandmother and then did very little upon his return.

That Guion and Worthy were placed on the non-football injury list means that their injuries occurred when they were on their own and not under the Packers’ supervision.

McCarthy: Wait-and-see on Matthews, others

Jul 25, 2014 -- 12:29pm
 
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Clay Matthews spent the entire offseason as a spectator at practice but may be back in action Saturday morning.
 

GREEN BAY – If his biggest defensive superstar is going to be ready and raring to go when training camp kicks off bright and early Saturday morning, Mike McCarthy wasn’t saying Friday.

The Green Bay Pacekrs coach refused to reveal whether four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who broke his right thumb twice last season and sat out all of the team’s organized team activity practices and mandatory minicamp while healing from the second of two surgeries on the thumb, would be on the field for the first practice of camp.

In fact, because physicals were still going on and the annual pre-training camp conditioning tests were still being run, McCarthy wouldn’t say if any of the team’s players coming off injuries would be cleared or ruled out in advance of the first practice.

Matthews, who initially broke his thumb on Oct. 6, had surgery to insert pins into it, then re-broke it on Dec. 22 and underwent a more extensive procedure to repair it, had said during the offseason that his goal was to be cleared in time for the first camp practice.

“I haven’t seen Clay personally yet,” McCarthy said at his season-opening press conference Friday morning. “Our schedule today was, players went through physicals this morning. Some guys were around last night just to say, ‘Hello.’ We have conditioning tests going on right now and actually our staff meeting is at 4:30. That’s where all the information will be compiled and presented.”

McCarthy won’t be available to reporters until after Saturday morning’s practice.

Asked if there were any players he knew would not be cleared to participate – outside linebacker Nick Perry and tight end Andrew Quarless missed every one of the team’s offseason practices, too – McCarthy wouldn’t say.

“You know, I like to find out exactly where they are,” McCarthy said. “I haven’t really checked in with those guys.”

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