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By CHRIS HAVEL
Substandard field conditions force cancellation of Packers-Colts game
Everything the NFL touches turns to gold, unless of course it’s coagulating into concrete.
In what proved to be a league’s worst nightmare and an alchemist’s worst fear, the playing surface at Tom Benson Stadium was reduced to an unplayable lie. While the grounds crew toiled and troubled the newly painted surface brewed and bubbled until it became a pockmarked mess before kickoff.
Ultimately, the Packers and the Colts had no choice but to pick up their footballs and go home. To their credit they elected to stick around on the field – literally as well as figuratively – to sign autographs and thank fans for showing their support.
It seems a concoction of paint, synthetic turf and intense heat created treacherous tar pits instead of brightly colored logos.Talk about your unintended consequences.
In a league that espouses substance but embraces style this inexcusable comedic tragedy shouldn’t be entirely surprising. This is what happens when it’s dollars before sense.
For the Packers’ part in all of this, I say, “All’s well that ends.”
Once the rush of disappointment subsided Sunday night, the reality of the situation was this:
No Packers were injured in what essentially amounted to a meaningless fifth exhibition game.
Clearly, it raises the question: Should the game be played at all?
Perhaps it’s unwise to tie a preseason game to the Hall of Fame induction. Throughout training camp NFL teams are on such tight schedules maybe it is best not to play a fifth game.
At any rate the NFL has plenty to consider today.
Meantime, the Packers have a Friday night home date with the Cleveland Browns and newly named starting quarterback Robert Griffin, III aka RGIII. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy likely has some juggling to do, but I trust he’ll discern the best use of his team’s time between today and the Browns game.
Come Friday night, here’s what I would expect to see:
Aaron Rodgers suited up but not playing against the Browns. It serves no purpose. Furthermore, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams all need the work. Give it to them.
A lot of playing time for rookies Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez. Clark, at nose tackle, and Martinez, at inside linebacker, represent the heart of the defense.
Clark has flashed pass rush potential in camp. It’s expected that he is going to be an above-average run defender. It’ll be interesting to see him work against NFL-caliber linemen.
Martinez hasn’t come off the field yet. The rookie from Stanford appears at ease calling the defensive signals in the base and sub-packages. My guess is that it will carry over into the games.
Whether it’s Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison or someone else, it’ll be interesting to see which young receiver(s) step up against the Browns. The receiving corps appears to be much deeper than a year ago.
Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis are more experienced, while Randall Cobb and Davante Adams seem intent on putting subpar seasons behind them.
When will Jared Cook make his debut at tight end? It’s likely to be Aug. 26 at San Francisco. Until then, third-year pro Richard Rodgers has an opportunity to showcase his new physique. Rodgers has lost perhaps 10-to-15 pounds and looks to be much stronger and better conditioned than a year ago.
This gives him a chance to audition for an expanded role, both before and after Cook begins to play.
The Packers should be champing at the bit by Friday. To be so close to playing, only to have the game cancelled at the last minute, has to stoke the fire.
It’ll be interesting to see how the younger players balance all that pent-up enthusiasm with their day-to-day discipline. Will they find a way to be aggressive but not reckless?
I’ll be especially curious to see the Packers’ special teams units in terms of organization and assignments. I’m also intrigued by the Packers’ athleticism in the secondary and the front seven’s pass rush potential beyond Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.
Nick Perry, Jay Elliot and others are battling for snaps, which means keen competition come Friday night.
Typically I don’t make predictions, especially in the preseason, but here goes:
- The Packers are going to be amped up and ready to take the fight to the Browns;
- The field will be in nothing less than terrific playing condition.
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 (www.thefan1075.com).
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.