GREEN BAY – It has been a long, trying offseason for the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints’ “Bounty Program” and subsequent stories, including the eight-game suspension of Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, coupled with lawsuits filed by former players against the league, have been front and center.
Meantime, the Packers go about the business of getting back to the Super Bowl. There isn’t a lot of fanfare, and scant little hype. There haven’t been many big stories surrounding the Packers. Recent headlines in the state media have been pretty ho-hum.
For example, safety Charlie Peprah intends to retain his starting job at safety. Really? And here I thought he would just hand it over. Another headline, “Brett Favre to be inducted into Packer Hall of Fame.” That was revealed during the Packers’ Tailgate Tour. No surprise. The real question – when? – was not addressed.
In light of the slow news, I am presenting readers with a list of “Ten Things (I think I know) about the Packers.”
Number 10: At least one and perhaps more players will emerge from the Packers’ ranks of the undrafted. It is a routine offseason occurrence. In 2010, it was cornerback Sam Shields who caught fans’ eyes and earned a spot on the final roster of a Super Bowl champion. So did punter Tim Masthay and the aforementioned Peprah.
In 2011, corner M.D. Jennings, running back Brandon Saine and several other undrafted free agents contributed.
Who will it be this year? Nic Cooper, a fullback from Winston-Salem State, and corner Otis Merrill from Illinois State might be the next undrafted free agents to make their mark. Rest assured, some will.
Number 9: The Packer Hall of Fame Golf Outing, which takes place Monday, July 9, is my favorite golf outing of all-time. Every ex-Packers player that can make it does so. It makes for a star-studded list of men that qualify as friends to Packers’ fans. Packers’ greats such as Willie Davis, Dave Robinson and Lynn Dickey are always great to see. It makes for a memorable day, and a terrific show on 107.5 FM The FAN from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with all the wonderful player interviews.
Number 8: I think Jerel Worthy wearing No. 99 is a good thing. A tough, rugged NFL defense should have a kick-butt player who wears No. 99. One of the Packers’ more recent No. 99, Jamal “Too Small” Reynolds, didn’t quite cut it. Worthy certainly has the size and pedigree to make No. 99 stand tall and proud.
Number 7: The defense is better. It has to be. Worthy, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward in addition to the later defensive draft picks and undrafted free agents infuse the defense with talent and physical prowess it sorely lacked. The attention GM Ted Thompson paid to that side of the ball is going to bear fruit.
Number 6: Aaron Rodgers is the rare great player who not only can get better, but actually will get better. Count on it.
Number 5: The Packers are putting a lot of faith in running back Alex Green. It is one position that failed to be addressed in the recent draft. It shows that Thompson isn’t giving up on Green, and that last year’s third-round draft pick from Hawaii still figures in the team’s plans. Green has to because it’s up to him, James Starks and Brandon Saine to carry the load out of the backfield.
Number 4: When Anthony Hargrove’s suspension ends, the veteran defensive end is going to contribute in a big way. Hargrove and others involved in the Saints’ “Bounty Program” – in my opinion – were given much too harsh punishment. The commissioner should have placed great blame and responsibility on the men (Gregg Williams, Sean Payton, etc.) who ran or allowed the programs, not the players.
Number 3: When the Packers hired Mike McCarthy over Brad Childress, Sean Payton and others in 2006, they got the pick of the litter.
Number 2: The Packers will win fewer games in 2012 but be a better team than in 2011. Count on it. Thompson and McCarthy have invested major time in making this a more-rounded team. They generally accomplish what they set out to do.
Number 1: I can’t wait for the start of training camp, and the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t helping the situation.
Stay tuned, and have a safe, reflective and fun Memorial Day Weekend.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.