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Five biggest rookie mistakes by Packers

Posted Jul 31, 2014

Kurt Warner went on to quarterback Super Bowl win

Here are five rookies released by the Packers during past training camps who made the biggest splash with other teams. Players waived after the final roster reduction don’t count. So Tim Brown, a halfback released by Vince Lombardi one week into the regular season in 1959 and No. 7 on Philadelphia’s list of all-time leaders in yards from scrimmage, doesn’t count. Rookies traded or sold don’t count, either. So no Ernie Green, another halfback who was traded by Lombardi to Cleveland in 1962 and became Jim Brown’s running mate; and no John Nisby, a guard who played in three Pro Bowls after being sold to Pittsburgh in 1957. Dates are the day the player was released.

1. Kurt Warner, QB (Aug. 19, 1994) – Awestruck rookie virtually waived himself when he declined quarterback coach Steve Mariucci’s directive to take his turn in a drill. Looked good on the hoof at 6-2, 200, but Mike Holmgren went ballistic over his timidity. It wasn’t until four years later that Warner won a roster spot with the St. Louis Rams. The next year, he was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV.

2. Ken Gray, G (Sept. 23, 1958) – Released on final roster reduction following an impressive camp, but Scooter McLean and staff couldn’t decide if he was a defensive tackle or a guard. Picked up by the Chicago Cardinals, Gray settled at guard his second season and played for 13 years. Played in six Pro Bowls, three more than Jerry Kramer, a fellow guard and rookie in ’58. Kramer and Gray were part of the Packers’ best draft ever, one that also included Dan Currie, Jim Taylor and Ray Nitschke.

3. Mike Bass, CB (Sept. 6, 1967) – Starting corners Herb Adderley and Bob Jeter would start in the Pro Bowl following the 1967 season, but that didn’t stop the Packers from drafting Michigan CBs John Rowser in the third round and Bass in the 12th round before that season. Rowser made the Packers; Bass didn’t. But Vince Lombardi didn’t forget about him. Bass signed with Detroit as a free agent six days after the Packers released him. The Lions, in turn, released Bass the same day Lombardi submitted his resignation to the Packers in February 1969. Bass signed with Washington less than three weeks after Lombardi became coach and played seven seasons there. In 2002, Bass was chosen one of Washington’s 70 greatest players.

4. Don Woods, RB (Sept. 10, 1974) – Led the Packers in rushing in the preseason with 139 yards and averaged 6.9 per carry, but Dan Devine waived him on the final roster reduction. San Diego claimed Woods, and he proceeded to rush for 1,162 yards with a 5.1 average. Those numbers were good enough for Woods to be named Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, the last Packers’ draft pick to earn the honor prior to Eddie Lacy last year. Woods suffered a knee injury in his second season and was never the same, but he played seven years and rushed for more than 3,000 yards.

5. Alex Hawkins, HB (Sept. 15, 1959) – Hawkins played 10 years, mostly with the Baltimore Colts, and was a special teams standout. With the Packers, he was one of four rookie backs released by Lombardi in his first year as coach, who made a mark elsewhere. Hawkins was the Packers’ second-round draft choice. The others were ninth-round pick George Dixon, who rushed for more than 5,000 yards in the Canadian Football League and was named the CFL’s Player of the Year in 1962; 21st-round selection Dave Smith, a product of Ripon College who signed with the Houston Oilers and finished fourth in rushing in the first year of the American Football League; and Tim Brown, who was drafted in the 27th round and ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the Packers’ camp.


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