TELLING IT LIKE IT IS
Pettine not afraid to be critical of defense
As Green Bay Packers players saw Monday, more than scheme separates defensive coordinator Mike Pettine from predecessor Dom Capers.
Capers, a quiet, analytical mind, was always calm through nine seasons orchestrating the Packers’ defense. If something was amiss, defensive tackle
Kenny Clark said, Capers often relied on his veteran leadership to address teammates.
Pettine, with his bald head, dark shades and “Blunt Force Trauma” nickname, has an intensity that matches his demeanor. He also has a reputation for not shying from confrontation when warranted. So it was Monday. Almost a third of the way through a 30-minute walkthrough to close the final open organized team activities session, Pettine, unhappy with his players’ attention to detail, stopped the drill. He called them into a huddle on the field, resetting their focus for the final 20 minutes.
“Two different personalities,” veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said, laughing.
Clark, the third-year defensive tackle who is gaining familiarity with Pettine’s coaching style, also laughed when asked if he could imagine Capers stopping a drill to deliver a fiery message.
“No,” he said finally. “Dom was more quiet. We had a lot of older guys. I would say our defense is more younger. So Julius ( Peppers) and Mike ( Daniels) and Clay ( Matthews) and all those guys, if we did get one of those situations, I think Dom would let the leaders do that.”
Rookie linebacker Oren Burks said Pettine addressed “sloppy mistakes” he was noticing during the walkthrough, particularly with on-field communication. Clark and Williams said Pettine demanded more focus.
“Just not wasting the day,” Williams said. “We didn’t have the energy that we normally have.”
Clark said it was the first time Pettine
has paused practice for admonishment. It may not be the last.
Williams played under Pettine for one season with the Cleveland Browns. He said Pettine carries his intensity onto the practice field.
“From Dom to coach Pettine is totally different,” Williams said. “Two different personalities. Dom was just a laid-back guy. He commanded it with his experience and presence, but coach Pettine, he’s going to let you know.
“Coach Pettine believes in football stuff, not schematics stuff. As a player, that’s what you love in a coach. If he tells you to go out there and do what you do, that’s what you love to hear from a coach. That’s what coach Pettine is really about.” Rodgers on ‘conjecture’: Aaron
Rodgers addressed an NFL Network report from over the weekend that he was seeking opt-out options in his contractextension talks.
“I don’t talk about it to the media and I don’t think my agent ( David Dunn) is, either,” Rodgers said his contract negotiations. “A lot of it is just conjecture and stories that aren’t really based in factual interactions or misrepresented actions. I think that’s just part of it.
“It’s kind of a slow period for football right now and we’re heading into the summer, when there’s not much to talk about unless somebody gets arrested or injured in the off-season or something happens on the Fourth of July. That’s usually stories you get from now until training camp.”
Asked whether he had a deadline in mind for getting the deal done, Rodgers said, “No. That’s why I’ve got my agent. He’s handling the conversations. I’ve got two years left on my deal so I don’t have a drop-dead date.”
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network had reported that Rodgers would like some sort of out clause in an extension that would allow him to renegotiate a new deal should he again be surpassed as the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.
Ian Rapoport, Garafolo’s colleague at NFL Network, stoked the fires of the report Saturday, tweeting “Yup. A pro-
posed contract would include a series of player options. Should be fascinating.”
However, as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports pointed out, the Packers have little incentive to agree to such terms, given that he’s under contract for two more seasons and subject to the franchise tag for two seasons after that.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk chimed in, noting that whatever Rodgers gets in his new deal is certain to be leap-frogged by another quarterback eventually. Matt Ryan became the NFL’s first $30 million a year player when the Atlanta Falcons extended his contract in early May. Following on the heels of the Minnesota Vikings giving Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract in March, it cleared the decks for Rodgers to assume his place at the top of the QB salary list. Signing Bryant unlikely?: Rodgers believes free-agent receiver Dez Bryant has plenty to offer an offense but doesn’t expect the Packers to sign him.
After releasing Jordy Nelson at the start of spring, the Packers could use more receiver depth. Rodgers, careful to say it wasn’t his decision, suggested history would indicate the Packers probably will go with what they have.
“We like young receivers,” Rodgers said recently. “So I’m assuming that’s the way they’re going to keep going.”
Bryant, a first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2010, was released earlier this spring after eight seasons with his original team. He was selected to three Pro Bowls with the Cowboys, his last coming in 2016.
Rodgers said he wouldn’t oppose the Packers signing Bryant, but he believes it’s unlikely.
“I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez,” Rodgers said, “but he’s a talented player. He’s going to end up somewhere. If he ends up here, we’d obviously welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.”
When it comes to young receivers, the Packers have no shortage of options. They drafted three this spring: J’Mon Moore in the fourth round, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth and Equa
nimeous St. Brown in the sixth. Others, such as 2017 fifth-round pick DeAngelo Yancey and 2017 undrafted rookie Mi
chael Clark, could factor in the mix.
Perhaps the most likely candidate to replace Nelson isn’t Bryant or the crop of rookies, but third-year receiver Geroni
mo Allison. In two seasons, the undrafted receiver out of Illinois has 35 catches and 455 yards. He caught two touchdown passes from Rodgers as a rookie in 2016, then followed early last season with a game-winning catch in overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Honorary degree: Rodgers was honored last week Thursday for his commitment to end childhood cancer and blood disorders.
The Medical College of Wisconsin bestowed an honorary doctorate of humanities degree to Rodgers, who works with the school’s faculty and is involved in the MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) Fund.
“It is with great pride that we welcome Aaron to the MCW community. Honorary degree recipients exemplify the MCW commitment to the highest
standards of education, scholarship, innovation or community engagement,” said John R. Raymond Sr., president and chief operating officer of MCW, in a news release.
No long-term impact: Maintaining his support for the Packers charity softball game that’s been held for 25 years, coach Mike McCarthy said he won’t overreact to Matthews’ broken nose.
Matthews suffered the injury Saturday when offensive lineman Lucas Pat
rick smacked a liner up the middle, hitting his teammate in the face. McCarthy said the plan is for Matthews to have surgery by the middle of this week. It isn’t expected to affect Matthews’ long term.
What could have been a serious injury developed into a more lighthearted situation 48 hours later.
“I think he needs to work on his offhand, mitt side, on the release of the ball,” McCarthy quipped Monday. “That’s what the tape showed me.”
After being knocked to the ground, Matthews covered his face with his glove and immediately walked off the field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute. He was later taken to a local hospital. Receiver Davante Adams, Matthews’ co-captain, began pitching from behind a batting practice screen after the unfortunate play.
McCarthy said he won’t pull out of the game because of the fluke accident.
“I think it’s great on a number of fronts,” McCarthy said. “Anytime your players give back (to) charity, involved in the community, it’s a great day for the fans. I mean, they sell out every year. It’s on its fourth player identity with the softball game. So, yeah, I’m not going to overreact to this.”
McCarthy added: “It’s unfortunate but it’s for a great cause. I’m just glad he’s OK.”
Patrick said he has talked frequently with Matthews since the incident, including Monday. The backup guard was clearly shaken by the unfortunate incident, saying he felt terrible. He wishes the batting practice net had been inserted sooner.
“It’s one of those fluke things,” Patrick said. “Looking back, after they put the net out, it just took one guy like me to hit the face of the franchise to realize we need a net.”
There was no ill will between Matthews and Patrick after the incident, Patrick said. Instead, he credited Matthews for helping him feel better.
“I went up, and he was as calm and cool as could be,” Patrick said. “He’s a tough guy to hop up like he did. He helped settle my nerves. Staying away: Randall Cobb and Mason Crosby practiced Monday after missing last week’s voluntary open OTA session, but one uninjured player remained absent.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix continued to stay away from the Packers’ from the Packers’ voluntary workouts. It’s unclear whether the fifth-year safety will attend next week’s mandatory minicamp. McCarthy said he’s considering excusing veterans from minicamp – as he has done in the past – so perhaps Clinton-Dix won’t be required to attend.
Regardless, Clinton-Dix isn’t required to attend OTAs, even though most Packers players usually participate. McCarthy said he isn’t worried
about Clinton-Dix’s ongoing absence.
“There’s really no need to get into attendance,” McCarthy said. “We’re having a really good off-season. Ha Ha, just like a number of veterans, when we start the off-season program, we go through everybody’s individual schedule. Things do come up. So he’s had a personal situation that he’s attended to, so I have no concerns.” On course for camp: If all goes well, second-year cornerback Kevin King should be completely ready for the start of Packers training camp.
Joe Whitt, the Packers’ defensive pass-game coach, said he hopes King will be “full go” in camp. King has been present at organized team activities and participated in individual drills, but remains out of team drills as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
“He’s been really attentive,” Whitt said. “He’s worked his butt off in the work room. The guys in the work room are just raving about the way his work ethic hasn’t necessarily changed, but from Year 1 to 2 you grow up, and he’s matured that way.”
Tricks of the trade: When the Packers hit the practice field in May for the start of OTAs, a chiseled figure jogged with the linebackers from drill to drill. It appeared as if Nick Barnett, a former Packers linebacker now working with the team as a coaching intern, could still play.
“You almost want to throw them in the drill,” McCarthy said. “I know Nick wants to jump in there sometimes. You’ve got to hold him back. It’s really neat to see where they are in their lives and the interests that they have and hey, if we can help them in any way possible, it’s fun to be part of it.”
Barnett is one of three former players working with the Packers as coaching interns during OTAs and minicamp. Joining Barnett are former safety Jarrett Bush and running back Brandon Jackson, who was with the staff last spring as well. All three are part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program, the team said.
“It’s an interesting process, and it’s really where they are in their lives,” McCarthy said. “You would think that more players would take advantage of that opportunity, but some players are just not (interested in coaching). They’re smart enough not to think of getting into coaching. Not to say that these three aren’t, but you always want to have your own back. I don’t think I’ve ever said no to one of our former players. I think it’s important. It’s great to have those guys back involved. … All three look like they could still play.” Good deed doesn’t go unnoticed: Packers running back Aaron Jones seemed a bit taken aback last week Thursday by all the attention he’s getting that has nothing to do with his performance on the football field.
“I was just doing what anybody else would do,” said Jones, a fifth-round draft pick from UTEP in 2017.
Jones was referring to the Twitter photo posted of him helping a woman in a wheelchair at Appleton International Airport. Jones, who did not know the woman, saw there was no one available to push her wheelchair after they get off their flight from Chicago and helped deliver her to family members waiting beyond the gate.
The Twitter photo was taken by user @MonicaAllen11, who wrote, “Just watched Packers Aaron Jones push a random lady through the Appleton airport because there was no [one] there to push her.”
Surrounded by media members in the locker room after the Packers’ OTA session, Jones described the sequence of events leading up to the photo.
“A lady was sitting next to me, across the row when we were getting off the plane (and) I saw she needed help with her bags,” Jones said. “She had a cane, she was dragging her bags, and I was like, ‘Do you need help?’ And she said yes, so I started carrying her bags and when we were walking off the plane, the flight attendant told her that there would be somebody there to push her with a wheelchair. There were wheelchairs when we walked, but nobody was there, and the wheelchairs were folded up. So I asked if she wanted me to push her and she said yes. I pushed her down to where her daughter was.”
Jones said the woman — whose name he didn’t get — at first didn’t realize he was a Packers player but soon figured it out.
“As we got halfway down there, I had a bag tag on and she asked ‘Are you a Packers player?’ and I said ‘Yes ma’am, I am.’ And she was like, my husband would’ve loved this,” said Jones, who rushed for 448 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. “You could tell she got excited, and it made me happy. But I didn’t know anybody had taken a picture until I got home and got on Twitter.”
The tweet quickly went viral and praise for Jones poured in.
“Well, I’ll tell you, it brings a big smile to my face when it comes across my phone,” McCarthy said. “I’ll just say about Aaron Jones and our players: I’m thankful that everybody else is getting to see what I get to see pretty much every day. I mean, this is a tremendous locker room. We’ve been very fortunate and blessed with the caliber of character
that we have in our locker room.”
Corvette back to Green Bay?: Bart Starr’s car has a new owner, and he’d like to see the 1967 Corvette returned to Green Bay.
“I thought that car should be at the Packers Hall of Fame or displayed somewhere in Lambeau,” said
Steve Altieri, who bought the car Sunday from longtime owner Michael Anderson of Thunder Valley Classic Cars. “The deciding factor why I decided to bid on it, I want it to be in Green Bay.”
The car, which was awarded to Starr as MVP of Super Bowl I, was included in an auction on May 19 in Indianapolis, but the bid price was less than the established minimum. However, Anderson and Altieri kept talking and reached a deal the next day. The $150,000 sale price was less than Anderson wanted, but Altieri’s plans swayed him.
“When I found out he wanted to get it back to Green Bay ... it felt like the right thing to do. Everything just turned out right,” Anderson said.
The Packers and Packers Hall of Fame Inc. didn’t commit to anything, but appreciated Altieri’s idea.
“We’ll take a look at it. It was nice to get the call,” said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs. “We’re not sure how or if it could fit into things.”
The logistics of displaying it — security, space, etc. — could be a challenge, but the car does have historic value, said Tom Konop, president of Packers Hall of Fame Inc.
“Anything that’s related to Bart Starr has value, as far as the history of the Green Bay Packers,” he said.
Aside from his family, Altieri said his passions are the Packers and Corvettes. He initially thought the car would look great in his Packers-themed garage, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed right that it should be at Lambeau Field or back in the hands of the Starr family.
“To me, it is such an important part of history, and Bart Starr being the kind of person he is,” Altieri said.
Deschaine dies: Dick Deschaine, 87, a punter for the Packers from 1955-’57, died May 20 in Green Bay.
Deschaine had a four-year NFL career, three with the Packers and one with the Cleveland Browns.
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine watches rookie linebacker Oren Burks in OTA drills last month. Pettine often lets his players know how he feels about their performance.
David Bakhtiari watches linebacker Clay Matthews fall after being hit in the face by a batted ball during the Green & Gold Charity Softball Game at Fox Cities Stadium on Saturday.
Running back Aaron Jones helped a woman in a wheelchair at the Appleton airport.
The 1967 Corvette awarded to Bart Starr as Super Bowl I MVP was on display at Lambeau Field on Aug. 31, 2017.