Packers’ quiet offseason stands in stark contrast to 49ers’ troubling times

Green Bay’s concern focuses on upgrading its roster, rather than reacting to off-the-field problems

Imagine the disappointment and worry among Packers fans if recent headlines involved Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams instead of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Quinton Patton, Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver.
Kaepernick, who is 21-8 as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, is set to receive a contract extension in excess of $18 million annually this summer. Patton, a promising young receiver, is expected to force his way into the starting lineup. Smith, one of the game’s top pass rushers, is looking at a $9 million salary in 2015 if the 49ers pick up his option. And Culliver, a starting cornerback on the 49ers’ vaunted defense, is pegged as a key player in an evolving secondary.
In the past two weeks, each player has been involved in off-the-field incidents that are troubling at best.
Kaepernick and Patton are being investigated as part of an incident involving a 25-year-old woman who may have been sexually assaulted. Culliver was arrested after a hit-and-run accident involving a bicyclist. He has been charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.
On Sunday, Smith was arrested at LAX for allegedly indicating he possessed a bomb. He has two other criminal cases pending.
Meantime, Packers fans should cross their fingers and count their blessings. In a quietly productive offseason, Green Bay’s biggest questions involving its key players are non-stories by comparison.
Rodgers and Matthews are coming off injury-plagued seasons, but both are in their prime, under contract and healthy going into 2014. Williams’ only contact with a bicyclist may be catching a ride to a training camp practice. Cobb’s lone concern is a well-deserved contract extension.
Even Julius Peppers, the team’s key free agent acquisition, comes with little or no baggage. The big question with Peppers appears to be: What jersey number is the linebacker/defensive end going to choose? In the NFC West – widely regarded as the best division in football – the bickering between 49ers and Seahawks fans focuses on which team’s off-the-field problems are worse?
In the NFC North, the key question is this: Have the Packers or the Bears improved their defense the most?While Seattle fans ought to be careful about reveling in the 49ers’ misery, nobody in Green Bay is gloating over other NFC teams’ misfortune. That won’t get the Packers closer to a Super Bowl berth. However, there is nothing wrong with Green Bay fans applauding their players for making solid off-the-field decisions.
Reaching the NFC Championship is difficult enough without disciplinary issues and controversial off-the-field entanglements. So much is talent and hard work, but part of it is timing and good fortune.
When the Packers signed Peppers, several Las Vegas sports books lowered their odds at reaching the Super Bowl from 15-1 to 10-1. Since 2009, Matthews (158) and Peppers (155.5) rank 6th and 7th with the most quarterback knockdowns/hurries.
Rodgers, whose career passer rating of 104.9 is No. 1 in NFL history, likely has heard the criticism regarding his waning offseason work ethic. All that will do is motivate the game’s top quarterback even more.Cobb and Williams merely were playing at a Pro Bowl level by season’s end last year. Both expect big things in 2014.
Compared with the 49ers, the Packers seem like choir boys. That used to be a reason to mock Green Bay. Somehow, there are fans who equate relentless on-the-field tenacity with dubious off-the-field behavior. That perception isn’t rooted in reality.
Top to bottom, the Packers have been quietly taking care of business this offseason. When they have made headlines it’s been for the right reasons. The same cannot be said of San Francisco.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and 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 ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.