Packers had few options with Reynolds

You've got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Sure, it's a corny cliché, but when it comes to the Packers' decision to trade defensive end Jamal Reynolds, this gamble is a good bet.<p>

Parting with a first-round draft pick just three years into his career isn't an easy call. Whatever is gained immediately by the decision – in this case about $200,000 from a roster bonus plus the relief of not having to cut Reynolds later this summer – is dampened by the admission that their highest draft pick since 1992 was a bust.

In what turned out to be Ron Wolf's last first-rounder as GM, Reynolds appeared to be a blue-chipper but turned out to be stinker. He had golden credentials out of Florida State, including a Lombardi Award, and didn't have the baggage of a bad rep like Tony Mandarich before him. Reynolds didn't pull any stunts about not wanting to play in Green Bay, nor was he ever accused of laziness. Once injured, coaches insisted he was working hard to come back. He just never got there.

In an odd twist, when Reynolds did take the field, he had a way of making things happen. He sacked Mark Brunell, forcing a fumble with his first NFL tackle. Unfortunately, his highlights were completely random, scattered over a lackluster three seasons. Most of the time Reynolds' woes could be blamed on the knee injury he suffered just weeks into his rookie training camp. But when the excuses ran out, that's when the problems began.

Coach and GM Mike Sherman must have been feeling pretty good about Reynolds – finally – coming into last season. The third-year DE had been pronounced healthy and had a good training camp. Everyone wanted him to succeed – not only to provide badly-needed help for the anemic pass rush, but also to spare the team the embarrassment of a huge draft bust.

So what happened?

Perhaps Reynolds is one of those players whose huge college success just doesn't translate onto the NFL turf. Think Gino Toretta. Or maybe he's a great player who was rendered mediocre by one injury. Think Willis McGahee. No matter what Reynolds does the rest of his career people will always wonder what would have been if he didn't blow out the knee before hitting the pro game.

Was it a problem with development? That's doubtful, because this is the same staff that has taken an undersized player in KGB and parlayed his excellent work effort into success.

Whatever the explanation, the writing was on the wall, in big green and gold capital letters. Reynolds' time to prove himself is over.

The Packers have to improve their defense. They have to keep an eye on the financial bottom line. And they have to know when to, as we said earlier, fold ‘em.

The gamble here is that Reynolds, 25, could catch fire with the Colts or any other team which takes him in. Then every time he records a sack, the announcer's script will read: "Reynolds, who was given up on by the Green Bay Packers despite the fact that they drafted him in the first round just a few years ago….." You get the picture.

That's an unsettling scenario. But so is seeing the 10th pick in the draft on the inactive list for most of the season.

The Packers could not afford, literally or figuratively, to have that happen for another year. Dealt a bad hand, they did what they had to do on this one.


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