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Young players have to keep growing

Posted Dec 20, 2017

Plus thoughts on illegal hits, penalties, and other rules


Rich from Newark, NJ

With the news that Rodgers was placed on IR, is this an indication that the Packers took an unnecessary risk and should not have been playing him in the first place?

We all knew there was risk involved. Who are we kidding? It’s an indication if Rodgers himself hadn’t insisted on taking the risk, in order to get another shot at the playoffs, there would have been no comeback. McCarthy said it best. Rodgers “laid it out there” for the team.

James from Durango, CO

Does Coach Spoff play Callahan to see his backup options at quarterback going into the offseason and draft, or do you believe Hundley is going to be here next year and give him more reps in live games?

I play Hundley, because I believe he’s going to be here next year, though I could see him competing with a draft pick for the No. 2 job.

Bryce from St. Augustine, FL

As a relatively young Packers fan, I can’t remember a year without being able to watch January football. Is there a silver lining to not making the playoffs this year?

Well, the last time the Packers went through a season like this, in 2013, they were fortunate to make the playoffs, but had they fallen short, the 2014 team still would have been awfully good. They drafted Clinton-Dix, Adams, Richard Rodgers, Linsley and Janis, while other first-contract players like Lacy, Bakhtiari, Daniels and Cobb continued to emerge. The Packers should have double-digit picks and their best draft position since 2009 and must take advantage, while young players have to keep growing.

JD from New York, NY

The early exit in 2011. 579. The dropped pick-six in 2013. The onside kick. The Larry Fitz catch and run. The Atlanta buzzsaw. Now the Collarbone II. When is enough considered to be enough?

What is your point, exactly? You’ve had enough of the NFL?

Mitch from Sheboygan Falls, WI

I can't possibly be the only one asking this. How on earth did David Bakhtiari not make the Pro Bowl?

He missed 4½ games early in the season with that nasty hamstring injury and was not really back to himself until after the bye week. That’s a lot of time not in the public eye, and not on all the game film players and coaches around the league are watching on a regular basis. But he’s been playing at a Pro Bowl level the past 6-7 weeks.

Ben from Winchester, VA

I can't help but be a little bitter at the fact that we let two Pro Bowl-caliber players leave our secondary in free agency over the past two years.

The bitterness is understandable. The decisions have not worked out for the better for Green Bay. Though to be entirely fair, if the Packers had known their top two draft picks in 2015, Randall and Rollins, would both need groin surgery in 2016, they would have kept Hayward. And had they known this year Rollins would blow out his Achilles and Brice would need season-ending ankle surgery, they would have kept Hyde. We’re now seeing the development with Randall that was anticipated, but in general the pipeline to help replace the departed has gotten bogged down.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

"I strenuously object?" Is that how it works? Hmm?  The result of the play is a completion and a fumble. "It was incomplete." "Overruled." "Oh, no, no, no. No, I STRENUOUSLY object." "Oh, well, if you strenuously object then I should take some time to review the play." And now you got the officiating crew thinking we're afraid of the replay. You object once so they can hear us say it’s incomplete, you keep after it the way you did and suddenly our great misfortune looks like a bunch of fancy NFL coaching tricks. There's a difference between the officials on the field and the head of officiating in New York City. Geez, you even got Dean Blandino to say it was complete.

Nicely done. Long live Lt. Sam Weinberg.

Matt from Madison, WI

"Do I believe Davis was sincere in his apology to Adams? Absolutely. Was it a completely unnecessary and avoidable hit? Absolutely." A sincere apology means nothing. Every player in the NFL would be hard-pressed to admit they don't want to light up an opponent. Being sorry is natural. Most people are sorry when they hurt others. But you can't then argue you still want to level an opponent when the only reason an opponent would get hurt is by your action. The problem the NFL has is it's trying to agree with your second statement while acknowledging the first may still be commonplace. You can't be sorry AND deliver devastating blows. That's not how this works.

On “Unscripted” I used the analogy of texting while driving and then smashing into someone’s car. You can apologize profusely and genuinely feel sorry about what happened, but the apology rings hollow when you were doing something you know you shouldn’t have that significantly endangered others, not to mention yourself.

Jim from Maple Grove, MN

I imagine part of Davante Adams' anger over the hit has to do with what happened to Sam Shields and what can come of one too many concussions. Is Adams in any danger of going the way of Shields at this point?

No way to know. He walked through the locker room on Tuesday and looked pretty normal, so he appears well on the road to recovery. All the medical research shows greater future susceptibility as a result of past incidents, so I agree, I think that’s at the root of his emotions. Assuming he’s cleared from the protocol soon and can speak to the media, we’ll find out his further thoughts.

Bob from Rossford, OH

OK gents, another follow-up on "neutral-zone infractions." Is it "causing the offensive player to move/flinch" if the offensive player’s first move is to point to the defensive player? Captain Kirk always seems to make it into the neutral zone and back, regardless if some Klingon points at him.

You lost me on the Star Trek reference, but Wes is probably too young to remember when offensive players were never allowed to flinch. When I was growing up, if the defensive player jumped but didn’t make contact across the line, and the offensive player moved before the snap, it was a false start. Offside was called for contact or for unabated to the QB (both of which produced a whistle), or if the snap occurred while the player was in the neutral zone (free play). The current rule isn’t perfect because offensive players at times act outside the spirit of it, but I think it’s still fairer than the old way, when a defensive lineman could bait an offensive lineman into a false start, intentionally or otherwise.

Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada

I noticed Coach McCarthy give Geronimo a friendly pat as he came back to the sideline after the game-ender. That's the kind of coach I'd want to play for: a guy with enough perspective to see past the immediate consequences to the importance of supporting a young player during a moment of incredible hardship.

I think his perspective also included the high volume of errors throughout the game that had put his team in such a desperate situation, and the fact that the opponent made a heck of a play.

Eric from St. Louis, MO

Assuming Atlanta doesn't win the division, all division winners in the NFC missed the playoffs last year, not to mention the Jags in the AFC. The Pack isn't playing, but at least we get to see some new blood in January.

It’s likely the NFC will have only one team from the 2016 playoffs make it back this year. Who would have said that on Labor Day? That tells you all you need to know.

Andy from Brookfield, WI

Hello Insiders, now that the Packers are officially eliminated from the playoffs, what draft position are they looking at? With that in mind, what's the plan moving forward, "tank" or play it out?

If my quick reading of the standings is correct, Green Bay will pick somewhere between ninth and 20th in the first round of the draft, depending on the results of the next two weeks.

Eric from Tucson, AZ

It seems to me that it would be easy to fix the catch rule. Just this: Once a player has possession of the ball and both feet touch the ground in bounds (or knee, elbow, etc.), it's a catch. No "football moves," no "continuation." It seems so simple to me. How can this be so hard?

That’s where we were until Sept. 12, 2010, when Calvin Johnson at Soldier Field happened. He’s going into the Hall of Fame in a few years regardless, but a snapshot of that play in Chicago should accompany his induction display because it’s changed this entire decade of NFL football.

Kris from Marquette, MI

Why has all the criticism on player safety focused on the league while the players’ union is relieved of all responsibility? Its members are the ones inflicting and sustaining the injuries. The players’ union has an interest in the safety of its members. It should step up and try to be part of the solution instead of standing back allowing full responsibility and criticism to be placed on the league for not doing enough.

Jordy Nelson is the Packers’ NFLPA rep, and maybe his comments on Sunday will spark more union discussion and involvement in the offseason. I don’t know how much the union could do right now, but it would be a good issue on which to collaborate with the league moving forward. I wonder how the bulk of the union feels about Davis’ suspension getting reduced to one game.

Ryan from Somerset, WI

Absolutely the NFL should incorporate the targeting rule. Thomas Davis knocks out our best receiver and then on the next four drives he makes four substantial plays. Tackles the ball carrier for gains of zero, 2, and 4 yards, and caps it off with a 9-yard sack of Rodgers. A rule for the most blatantly obvious hits needs to be implemented because the results of his play heavily leaned in the Panthers’ favor after his actions.

Doug from Eugene, OR, asked a valid question – did the concussion protocol incentivize the behavior for certain types of players? Another reason immediate ejections must be an option officials can’t be afraid to exercise.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Hi, Insiders. "Be a mad dog out there. Protect this house. Make the man across from you fear you. Separate the man from the football. Play like a wild man. Defend every inch like your life depended on it. Hit him harder than he hits you. Oh, and within a one-tenth of a second remember to become a gentleman." We want 1,500 players to be the most violent men on earth and somehow become passive within a fraction of a second – and to be well-adjusted men off the field. Maybe we expect too much.

Another valid point, and further justification for the players’ union to get involved. But the fans just want wins for their team, plus excitement and drama more than anything, don’t they? The game can survive a curb in the violence. As I’ve stated before, fantasy football has helped already with that.

Ryan from Minneapolis, MN

How about this as it regards a targeting rule being implemented in the NFL: Similar to college, if a player is called for targeting he is ejected. However, on Tuesday the league reviews each hit that caused a player to be ejected. If the call on the field is ruled by the league office to be erroneous, the player still receives his game check for that game and is allowed to play in the next. If upon review the hit stands as legitimate targeting, the player loses his game check for the game in which the hit took place, and is suspended without pay for the next game as well.

Just review the plays on the field at the time, and the only discipline that matters in the moment is ejection or not. Further sanctions can be discussed later, taking into account the player’s history, though I think in Davis’ case, the lack of an ejection was a strong argument for not cutting his suspension in half.

Larry from Grand Marsh, WI

I think that players should step up and take care of the dirty players to protect themselves.

On the field? That would be like filling fire extinguishers with gasoline.

Alex from Winston Salem, WI

In a questionable catch situation, how do you feel about no immediate call or judgment on the field being made and sending it straight to the replay booth? It happens too quickly in real time for the refs to get a sound look at it, and the issue of not being able to overturn due to the call on the field would be relieved.

A call has to be made on the field. I’d never want to eliminate that. What the league has to decide is if it really wants that call to carry weight, or if it prefers to make the decisions based on what they see on video when plays are challenged or subject to review. That’s where the inconsistencies in replay lie, the way it’s currently being applied. Replay was initially instituted to fix obvious errors, with clear and conclusive evidence a call was wrong. But now these reviews are deciphering whether the ball moved while in the player’s grasp even without being able to see it touch the ground, or, for heaven’s sake, whether a portion of a butt cheek landed in bounds before the whole cheek naturally squished and made contact with the boundary. The call on the field either matters or it doesn’t once a play goes to review. The league must choose. And that shall be the last reference to squished cheeks in the Inbox. Carry on.

Allen from Zephyrhills, FL

I think the problem with these reviews is that we're getting too cute interpreting the finest detail of the rules. Allison fumbled, Pittsburgh caught it and scored, and the butt touchdown probably should have stayed as called. The game has no common sense.

Or what he said.

Thomas from Milwaukee, WI

It may be recency bias, but I think my money is on Carolina with Greg Olsen back. Who do you like in the NFC?

I think Olsen changes the landscape in the NFC a little bit. I’ve been thinking the Saints are the team to beat, but their two victories over the Panthers came without Olsen in the lineup. Carolina, thus far, is 10-2 against everyone except New Orleans, with a close loss to Philly and a fluke loss in Chicago. I won’t make any final picks until the playoff field is set, but like you, I’m intrigued.

John from Little Rock, AR

How can the Packers still affect the playoff picture? Can they keep the Lions out?

The Vikings are fighting for a first-round bye, and for all the wild-card teams that have made runs over the years, no NFC team has made the Super Bowl without a first-round bye since 2011 (though I think there’s a good chance that streak ends this year). If the Lions win this week, they might still be in the hunt next week, but they need help to stay alive.

Andrew from Oakdale, MN

It’s been quite the streak over the last eight years. But it reminds me of a Dr. Seuss quote: "Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened."

Aaron Sorkin and Dr. Seuss in the same Inbox. Quite the day.


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