ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – For Aaron Rodgers, winning Celebrity Jeopardy! was genuinely a dream come true.
“It was a bucket list deal for me,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said after his victory over Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary and astronaut Mark Kelly on the popular syndicated game show aired nationally.
Which, of course, begs the question: What else is on Rodgers’ Bucket List?
Rodgers listed five more items – in no particular order, and he didn’t say it was a comprehensive list – when asked that question following his Jeopardy! appearance.
GREEN BAY – Clearly, all is 4-given.
While some Green Bay Packers fans may still harbor some ill will toward their prodigal, future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, that group is evidently in the distinct minority, judging by this remarkable ticket-sale fact: The Packers sold a whopping 67,000 tickets for quarterback Brett Favre’s return to Lambeau Field on July 18, when he’ll be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame and have his No. 4 officially retired.
Did we mention that those folks will be sitting in the stadium bowl watching Favre’s induction on the scoreboard TundraVision video screens? And that they sold out in less than eight hours?
Yes, Packers fans clearly still love Brett Favre.
Tickets were $4 each with a limit of eight per order. They went on sale at 10 a.m. Tuesday and were gone before 6 p.m.
“We are looking forward to sharing the excitement for Brett Favre’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame with 67,000 fans viewing the banquet on the video boards in Lambeau Field,” said Packers Hall of Fame Inc. president Perry Kidder. “We are pleased with the enthusiastic response to this viewing opportunity, which will be a special complement to a historic evening.”
Favre will make an appearance in the stadium before dinner at the Hall of Fame induction, which is held inside the Lambeau Field atrium area. Favre is scheduled to return to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, when his name and No. 4 will be unveiled on the north end zone façade.
The induction ceremony will also be carried live by the Packers TV Network and NFL Network. It will also be streamed live on packers.com.
GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers owners can officially make their pilgrimage plans: The team will hold its annual shareholders meeting on July 28.
The meeting is at 11 a.m. and will be held rain or shine. Packers general manager Ted Thompson has historically delivered the football report, although it's usually light on actual information about the team.
In the announcement, the team wrote that shareholders planning on attending the meeting will be issued four tickets for each shareholder account, including accounts that have a joint or custodial registration. Shareholders receiving meeting materials electronically will be able to access print-at-home tickets upon voting their shares. Shareholders who receive their meeting information via standard mail will receive printed tickets in that same mailing.
The annual shareholders meeting is part meeting, part pep rally and is one of several events the Packers have to celebrate the start of training camp. Players will report to camp on July 29, with the first practice set for July 30. The team will also hold its annual 5K run on Aug. 1.
GREEN BAY – Assuming none of the rookies got mixed up with the 1,700 Boy Scouts who were also touring Lambeau Field, and as long as coach Mike McCarthy’s ribeye was cooked to his liking at dinner at the Brett Favre Steakhouse, the Green Bay Packers 10th-year head coach could not have asked for more from his team’s annual rookie orientation camp, which wrapped up Saturday.
The 59 players who participated – eight draft picks, 17 undrafted free-agent signees, 25 tryout players and nine holdovers who were eligible because they’ve yet to earn a year of credit toward their NFL pension – practiced on Friday and Saturday. While there were certainly moments of confusion amid new surroundings while running new plays with teammates they’d never met, McCarthy liked what he saw.
“I’ve been very pleased with the quality of it, just the way the drills improve from day to day. So I’m looking forward to watching the tape [of practice],” McCarthy said following Saturday’s session. “It’s been an excellent two days.”
Although he didn’t have a rookies-only camp during his first year as coach in 2006, the rookie orientation camp has been in place since 2007. While McCarthy altered the format slightly from year to year – this is the second year under the current format – the basics remain intact: General information, position meetings, roughly 100 plays of the playbook and on-field work. It beings with a gathering on Thursday night, during which McCarthy addresses the draft picks, undrafted signees and tryout players with a message about the opportunity they have earned.
“This is a great time of year. [Thursday] night is definitely one of the top days, I know, for me professionally,” McCarthy said. “When you get all the prospects – you’ve got your draft picks, you’ve got free agents, you’ve got the gentlemen fighting for a tryout – in the team meeting room.
“The energy, you can just feel it. Everything picks up another notch. … [On the field] We do a very, very limited scheme installation. It’s really about getting them to move as much as you possibly can and just continue the evaluation to make sure you have the best 90-man roster you possibly can.”
As of Saturday evening, the Packers’ roster stood at 88 players, meaning they have room for two tryout players to be signed. They could also release players if there are other tryout invitees who merit signing.
In 2012, the Packers had their rookie camp two weeks after the draft, and it allowed them to add wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who initially signed with Jacksonville after the draft, then was released after the Jaguars’ rookie camp. He came to Green Bay on a tryout basis and earned a deal.
McCarthy said he preferred having the camp right after the draft, as he has the past two years.
“I think definitely our personnel department likes having it this week,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes you would lose a player to a tryout if you were [having your camp] in the second week. This seems to flow better for us.”
GREEN BAY – Even if Jarrett Bush has played his final snap for the Green Bay Packers, coach Mike McCarthy believes it was “premature” for the team to give away Bush’s No. 24.
The Packers issued No. 24 to rookie second-round pick Quinten Rollins, who wore the number during Friday’s rookie orientation camp practice inside the Don Hutson Center. But while Bush, an unrestricted free agent who has spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the Packers, remains unsigned, his stall and nameplate – BUSH 24 – remain intact inside the Packers’ locker room.
The Packers’ other unrestricted free agent, backup quarterback Matt Flynn, no longer has a locker or nameplate.
“Jarrett Bush, he’s obviously out there with his particular situation. I don’t think the 24 really signifies that [his Packers career is over],” McCarthy said after practice. “Jarrett is a nine-year player here. If he did come back to us and things worked out in the future, he’d be wearing 24. I think it’s premature, frankly, that we did that. But Jarrett Bush is still a free agent.”
Packers general manager Ted Thompson is normally in charge of issuing numbers, although it’s unclear exactly how Rollins ended up with No. 24. In past years, some players have been given specific numbers – in 2005, Nick Collins received No. 36, previously worn by LeRoy Butler; last year, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was given No. 21, previously worn by Charles Woodson – but rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery, a third-round pick from Stanford, said Friday that he was given several numbers to choose from and picked No. 88 because he wore it in high school and college.
“They gave me some options,” Montgomery said. “And of the options they gave me, I was like, ’[I have to take] 88. This can’t be a coincidence.’”
The Packers didn’t issue No. 88 last season after tight end Jermichael Finley, who’d previously worn it, suffered what apparently has ended up being a career-ending neck injury in October 2013.
GREEN BAY – Five down, three to go.
With the help of the NFL’s rookie wage scale – something enacted within the 2011 collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association – the Green Bay Packers had five of their eight draft picks signed, sealed and delivered before Friday’s first rookie orientation practice.
The team announced the five signings – linebacker Jake Ryan, quarterback Brett Hundley, fullback Aaron Ripkowski, defensive end Christian Ringo and tight end Kennard Backman – a few hours after practice ended, but the deals were signed in ahead of time.
That leaves the team with only three draft picks to sign: First-round pick Damarious Randall, second-round pick Quinten Rollins and third-round pick Ty Montgomery.
Rookie contracts used to take much longer, but since the new CBA created NBA-like slotting with each pick, deals get done much faster. In 2012, for example, the only pick who wasn't signed before the rookie camp began was first-rounder Nick Perry.
Those players who aren’t officially signed in advance of practices have historically participated with injury protection agreements. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler to a major knee injury in practice Friday.
The five picks that have signed are all third-day picks. The top three picks’ deals should be done relatively quickly too, however.
GREEN BAY – Damarious Randall’s first day of work as a professional football player turned out to be a bit anticlimactic.
The Green Bay Packers’ first-round draft pick did only a few things during Friday’s rookie orientation practice because of a preexisting ankle injury. The former Arizona State defensive back is expected to challenge for playing time as a rookie, but he’ll likely spend most of Saturday’s practice – the second and final workout of the rookie camp – as a spectator, too.
“[We’re] just being smart with him. It’s something temporary, minor,” coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “He’ll be ready to go probably next week.”
McCarthy wouldn’t divulge what the injury was – “I’m not going to get into medical situations of any of the guys here today,” he insisted – but Randall said himself that it was an ankle injury that limited him.
“I just want to be out there with those guys,” Randall said after practice. “[But I’m just going to do whatever the coaching staff wants me to do. Whenever they feel like I’m ready, that’s what I’m going to do.”
GREEN BAY – Even though other members of his draft class have far better odds of playing as rookies than he does, Brett Hundley vows that he will not alter his approach.
So while the Green Bay Packers’ fifth-round pick is well aware of the depth chart at quarterback – the one that has reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers at the top – and understands his situation, he said Friday that he won’t lower his expectations for himself as a result.
”You've got to keep working. Nothing's perfect,” Hundley said after the Packers’ first rookie orientation camp practice. “God put me in Green Bay for a reason, and I'm ready to learn and work."
That’s not to say he’s being unrealistic, however.
“Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers. He's the MVP, an all-time great quarterback and one that I really looked up to coming out of college,” Hundley said. “He's playing, and obviously it's impossible to beat him out.”
Hundley said he had not yet met Rodgers but was eager to do so.
“I can't wait,” Hundley said. “I think when you're around greatness, you keep growing and eventually hopefully I can get to his level.”
With first-round pick Damarious Randall seeing very limited action during Friday’s practice because of a minor, preexisting ankle injury that Packers coach Mike McCarthy said wouldn’t keep the defensive back from Arizona State out long, all eyes were on Hundley, a three-year starter at UCLA who tumbled all the way to the fifth round of the draft.
Without Rodgers, backup Scott Tolzien or young veteran Matt Blanchard, Hundley took plenty of snaps during the 1-hour, 45-minute practice. The only other quarterback taking part was Alabama’s Blake Sims, who was invited to camp as one of the most of the reps
McCarthy said the 6-foot-3, 226-pound Hundley “threw the ball well,” especially considering he was working from under center for much of practice, something he didn’t do very often in UCLA’s spread offense. McCarthy also thought Hundley handled all the variables of the sometimes disjointed practice – unfamiliar playbook, receivers he’d just met the night before – well, too.
“I thought he had some throws that he threw on anticipation. That’s always encouraging,” McCarthy said. “But there’s always a lot to learn, particularly at that position. I’m sure there will be some things when he goes through the quarterback profile practice that we have with all the quarterbacks next week there will be something there that we’ll continue to work on. But [he is an] excellent athlete. I’m glad he’s here.”
And while other rookies – Randall and second-round pick Quinten Rollins at cornerback and fourth-round pick Jake Ryan at inside linebacker – are far more likely than Hundley to see meaningful action this season, Hundley said he isn’t wasting energy wishing he’d gone to a team with more opportunity at quarterback. He pointed to the way Rodgers, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2005, sat for three years behind future Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
“I'm not looking at what could've happened,” Hundley said. “If I would've gone to a team in the first two rounds that needed a quarterback, and I would've gotten thrown into the fire, maybe my story wouldn't have been what it's going to be now.
“You see a lot of times a lot of quarterbacks come in and it's almost like a redshirt year in college. And it helps a lot. Aaron Rodgers was a prime example. Tom Brady sat for a little bit. [in New England]. They get some time to learn an offense, understand the game, get adjusted to it and then they step in and show what they can do.”
GREEN BAY – Although it’s not a hard-and-fast policy, historically, the Green Bay Packers have held open the jersey numbers of players they believe might be back.
Last year, for instance, the team did not give out No. 88 – previously held by Jermichael Finley – as the tight end went through a variety of tests to determine whether his October 2013 neck injury was indeed career-ending. The Packers kept No. 25 open a few years ago for two-time 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Grant, until it became clear that he was not returning.
The Packers have also frequently kept a number out of circulation for a year to honor a top player who'd worn it. They didn't issue No. 21 the year after Charles Woodson was released, for example.
So if the team’s decision to give No. 24 to second-round pick Quinten Rollins is any indication – and it probably should be – then veteran defensive back/special teams ace Jarrett Bush will not return for a 10th season with the team.
Bush, 30, joined the Packers in 2006 on waivers from Carolina after the final roster reduction of training camp. He had a critical interception in Super Bowl XLV when injuries decimated the team’s secondary but spent the majority of his career as the leader of the special-teams units. He remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent.
On the team’s official roster on Packers.com, Bush and backup quarterback Matt Flynn are still listed under the Unrestricted free agents heading, even though the Packers are not expected to bring Flynn back, as they have Scott Tolzien, Matt Blanchard and rookie fifth-round pick Brett Hundley behind Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Flynn’s No. 10 has not been assigned to another player, although none of the team’s undrafted free-agent signees or tryout players are currently listed on the roster since none of their signings had been officially announced as of Friday morning.
Here are the Packers’ draft picks’ jersey numbers, in order of their selections: