Training camp is under way
The first weekend of training camp is in the books and things do not look good for the Packers offense. Tight end Tory Humphrey might be out for the season with a busted ankle. Add that to Donald Driver being out with a lingering shoulder injury and Vernand Morency missing some time with a banged up knee.
I know they had big hopes for Humphrey, but I am not sure his injury will change things a big deal. Driver, of course, is the only established playmaker on the roster and Morency is expected to carry the load out of the backfield. Rookie Brandon Jackson might beat out Morency regardless of any injuries, but a thin position cannot afford to get any thinner. And like most rookie running backs, Jackson is having trouble adjusting to his role as a pass blocker. Brett Favre will end up on his back more times than last year unless Jackson can learn to pick up a blitz. Morency has not proven that he can last a full season, so Jackson may get his chance regardless of whether he deserves it.
Every NFL team is a couple of twisted ankles and banged-up knees from playing with backups. Being that many of the Packers offensive starters were backups last year, it is scary to think what will happen if they have to dip into the backups of the unproven and unseasoned.
On defense, where the roster is a little more settled and proven, Ryan Pickett failed the conditioning test as did Johnny Jolly. This is ridiculous, of course. What have they been doing for six months?
The only positions that are up for grabs as far as I can tell are Marquand Manuel's slot at safety and one of the defensive tackle positions. The team is hoping that number one pick Justin Harrell can claim it. Corey Williams will hope to beat him out. With Pickett's laziness apparent to all, Harrell and Williams may both start. It is clear to me now why the Ram's allowed Pickett to go.
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, the Packers know this. If they incur them at this rate, especially on offense, the challenge will be quite steep.
July 25, 2007
It is common knowledge that Mike Reinfeldt is the favorite to replace John Jones (or is it Bob Harlan?) as president of the Packers. He was considered Harlan's successor until he left for the Seahawks and there is no reason to think he would not do a good job.
There are two hangups. One, he just got a new job with the Titans and may hesitate to move so quickly into a new job. He has small kids who will more than likely start school in Nashville in a month or so and he may not want to have them go to three schools in less than a year. Also, he may feel loyalty to the Titans, who he played for when they were the Oilers. On the plus side, he is a Wisconsin native, as is his wife.
The second hangup is that the people who decide who will get the job may be hesitent to give it to an outsider. There is a sentiment that a member of the board should succeed Harlan. They would then appoint a Chief Operating Officer hired out of the ranks of the league to actually run the football side of things. Giving that power to an outsider has rarely been done in this town. Coincidently, that is when the team has been most successful. I do not know if the folks on the search committee view Reinfeldt as an outsider. He did work here, but left with Coach Holmgren and some folks may still hold a grudge.
Reinfeldt may be the best of both worlds. A league insider, who through experience and family connections is not considered an outsider. Time will tell.
July 19, 2007
There is breaking news in the local paper that the Packers are about to announce a settlement with deposed executive John Jones. The story also says that health issues will be mentioned as the cause of the settlement. If I recall from the initial press conferences, health issues were not cited as the cause of the move by the Packers.
Maybe now the story will be told.
July 11, 2007
Early Bird Prediction
This time of year is the most difficult time to be a football fan. Nothing is going on, the majority of folks who work for any of the NFL teams are on vacation and the only news being created is a signing here or there of a low round draft pick.
That being said, it might be appropriate to give you my initial prediction on how the Packers might do this season. It is next to pointless to do so before training camp begins, but it is why I am here.
Given that the team finished 8-8 last year, largely on the back of a favorable schedule, I find it hard to imagine it surpassing that record. Losing David Martin and Ahman Green will hurt them, but not greatly. They did next to nothing in free agency and it is a lot to ask a rookies to contribute immediately. One or more of them may have to start and it is not unreasonable to think that a rookie may have a large impact, but it is asking a lot.
So they are going into the season with fewer proven weapons on offense and effectively the same defense as last year and the schedule is more difficult. Maybe Marquand Manuel will be replaced and maybe the first round bonus baby, Justin Harrell, will get some time if he can stay away from the injured list. Otherwise, barring injury, the defense may look the same.
Assuming another year is good for those guys, the team should be better. The coaching staff has been together another year, is set in their spots and should do a better job. The schedule is harder and the Packers could have a better year but finish with a worse record.
It would be sad to see Brett Favre end his career on a losing team, but everything I know about the NFL tells me the team will be lucky to get to 8-8. Once training camp opens and we can see the rookies in action, I may be singing a different tune, but until then, mediocre is the best I can see.
July 6, 2007
Maybe you have seen the news reports that the NFL is limiting media outlets from running long video or audio clips on their web sites. Sites, like PackerReport.com can only show up to 45 seconds of video or audio of NFL related content. This is done to both protect and drive viewers to the NFL affiliated web sites, like the Packers official website.
I do not speak for PackerReport.com here, but I can see where many of these media outlets would be disturbed by this policy. This embargo does little to me, because I do not dabble in the video production arts and do not have the patience to watch something so long on a computer, but I can see why it will inconvenience some. The NFL wants to strengthen and protect another of their investments.
Of the two sides in this "conflict," I kind of side with the media outlets. They are in business just like the NFL and their teams. They cover the NFL not because they are big fans, although they might be, but because it is their job.
The NFL sometimes forgets that it is the most popular sports entity, in part, because of the "FREE" publicity that newspapers, television and other media outlets give the league.
This move may come back to bite the NFL in the behind. The league should do less monopolizing of the Internet and spend more time scouting, coaching and keeping its guys off the police blotter.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.