Offseason Begins Unexpectedly Early

By winning seven of their final eight games of the regular season, the Packers expected to keep rolling. Instead, their offseasons are beginning early. Plus, more from the locker room, including Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins talking about his future.

Functioning on little sleep, or none at all for a few players, the last thing the Packers expected to be doing Monday morning was cleaning out their lockers at Lambeau Field.

"I don't know many guys had (end-of-season) plans, because I know I didn't," safety Nick Collins said. "I thought we were still going to be playing."

A stunning 51-45 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the NFC playoffs Sunday forced head coach Mike McCarthy to stand in front of his players a final time in a team meeting Monday before he met with them individually during exit interviews.

"Just to lose (Sunday) night, I'm on the plane thinking about what I'm going to do next, what's my next move," Collins said. "Once it ends, it ends. You've just got to find ways to stay humble, stay involved with your teammates, keep in touch with the coaches and move forward."

After overcoming a few double-digit deficits, including 31-10 in the third quarter, the Packers' season ended abruptly on a defensive play when neither team's offense could be stopped for much of the game.

A sack of and fumble by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first possession of overtime resulted in a 17-yard touchdown return by linebacker Karlos Dansby.

"It's reality — the season's done now," Green Bay defensive end Cullen Jenkins said.

The Packers entered the postseason as the NFC's hottest team, winning seven of their final eight regular-season games.

Yet, they didn't take any solace from mounting one of the biggest playoff comebacks in the NFL and being part of the highest-scoring postseason game in league history.

"When you've played this game a long time, it hurts when you don't go all of the way," 11th-year receiver Donald Driver said. "That's everyone's dream. It's been my dream since I came here in 1999 to win a Super Bowl. I've been short — first round, second round, NFC championship game — those are the ones that hurt the worst. This one's going to hurt because we know we should have won that game, and we have to deal with it now.

"Unfortunately, we have to deal with this for the next nine months and hope that we can get back to this thing as soon as possible."

Collins' future

Collins anticipates being with the Packers next season. Collins, selected to a second straight Pro Bowl this season after intercepting six passes, has been pushing for a contract extension from the team since last spring, to no avail. The fifth-year player was due to become an unrestricted free agent, but the Packers likely will wind up retaining him as a restricted free agent with no extension of the CBA looming on the horizon.

"Not really. I laid it all out on the line. I'm going to reflect on this season and try to find ways that I can get better. This season, going through what I did through the offseason, to come here, I just laid it out on the line. I have great teammates, coaches helping me through the situation. I couldn't play any better. I felt great about what I accomplished this year."

Extra points

— At the time, playing in a record-setting shootout was exciting for running back Ryan Grant: "Yeah, of course. Big-time atmosphere, it was loud, the fans were rocking and their offense was playing well. We felt like they couldn't stop us. Guys were playing ball. I think it showed a lot of talent. A lot of guys made plays. Hats off to Arizona." — Jenkins on the Packers defense's inability to get off the field Sunday against the Cardinals' offense, which amassed 531 yards — the most allowed by Green Bay in the playoffs: "It was a shock. The fact that we couldn't get it stopped or get it turned around, it just kind of blew us away."

— K Mason Crosby walked away from his toughest of three NFL seasons with a conviction that he was kicking the football well late in the season. Crosby struggled down the stretch and finished the regular season a shaky 27-of-36 (75 percent) on field-goal tries. He made one of two attempts Sunday, missing wide right from 54 yards in the indoor setting.

— TE Jermichael Finley set a team playoff record with 159 receiving yards in six catches Sunday, and the second-year player almost earned a league record. He came within seven yards of equaling Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow's 166 yards for most receiving yards by a tight end in a postseason game.

— According to reports, the Bears were denied permission to talk to Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements for being their offensive coordinator. Chicago fired Ron Turner last week.

Packer Report Top Stories