Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Add the eccentric Gilbert Brown with the free agent insane Washington Redskins and you end up with the Packers signing Brown to a six year deal. The length is surprising since it had been assumed by every publication I read this year that Brown would just sign for one year at the veteran's minimum. But after the stupid Redskins cut their starting nose tackle Dan Wilkenson without anyone on the roster able to replace him (huh?) they got desperate and contacted Brown, who almost signed with them. I think Brown is useful and the Packers are a better team against the run with him, but with Brown's injury history and the knowledge that you can't rely on the big man for a full season, he is just worth the minimum and not a true starter's salary. I don't know why the Packers waited so long to sign Brown, but I think it was more likely that it was Brown's odd character than the Packers procrastination that caused the delay. Unfortunately the $400,000 signing bonus spread out over six years is a lot more than the Packers probably expected to pay so the delay cost them time and money. Not a big deal, but every bit of money counts when the salary cap tightens up.

Monday, July 21, 2003

ESPN has spoken and the voice of the fan in the NFL is Rush Limbaugh? ESPN announced last week that their already unwatchable NFL Sunday Countdown show was made intolerable by the addition of Rush to its roster. What made this program so unwatchable last year was all the non-comments made by all the ex-players (e.g "This team is all about character!") like they were having a family argument over the Thansgiving dinner table. So they decided to "improve" it by hiring Rush? Did they need to find someone with the same physical dimensions to replace Bill Parcells? Politics aside, Rush is a multi-multi-millionaire with a daily radio show listened to by millions of people and has as much in common with the average NFL fan as Al Davis does. Maybe Rush is the average luxury box fan, but he is unlike the rest of us watching football in a sports bar or on the sofa in the living room. Does ESPN realize that Rush has made many racist comments about African-Americans on his radio program over the years? How do Tom Jackson and Michael Irvin feel about that? Its not like I plan to boycott ESPN, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson's Sunday highlights on NFL Primetime are still excellent and ESPN shows too many games I want to watch, but it does show how ESPN has lost all concept of who is watching their programing. They are believing in their "This is Sportscenter" advertising and thinking its all multi-millionaire athletes and celebrities watching instead of millions of working and middle class fans. On a totally unrelated note, doesn't Kobe Bryant's arrest and criminal charges make ESPN's "This is Sportscenter" magazine ad with Kobe watching Sportscenter on a bank of TVs while buying diapers at a Wal-Mart one of the most ironic ads of all time?
Training camp started on July 19. I have never gotten the opportunity to attend a training camp but I would love to some day. JS Online's Packers Plus had a great article listing all the activities available to fans, and unfortunately how the Packers have restricted the fans access to the players over the last 10 years. One early bit of good news is that Nick Barnett was signed on the first day of camp and only missed a half-day of practice. That is great news since Barnett has to be a starter at middle or weak-side linebacker and the Packers need to find out which position it will be. All the probably starting linebackers (Hannibal Navies, Na'il Diggs and Barnett) have the speed to play outside but it appears that only Diggs has the size to play inside. The Packers seem to think Barnett can play inside too, but I expect Diggs in the middle, Navies at strong side and Barnett at weak side. In this case, all three players flexibility is a good thing and lets the coaches put each player in a position where they can best succeed as a unit. Kenny Peterson's signing was helpful because he will probably be part of the defensive line mix and he needs the entire camp too. It is amazing how many NFL teams blunder with signing their draft picks each year, and then the rookies miss substantial practice time. Its not that hard to anticipate, the draft picks are slotted meaning the player gets paid just less then the guy drafted before him and just a little more than the guy drafted after him. And the salaries just increase a few percent each year so it is easy to predict what the contract should be worth. The team might save money by holding the line but with the lost practice time factored in the team usually ends up getting what they paid for. Its all about ego, but ego doesn't win as many games as talent and execution in the NFL.

Monday, July 14, 2003

I am impressed with the Packers new policy to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to have a competant kick return game this year. They recently signed an Arena league player, Antonio Chapman, to throw another fast body into the competition. All four of this year's seventh round picks are fast and Johnson, Rubin and Ford will probably all get a chance to be the return man. Last year's special teams kick returners were awful. They never made any big returns last year, and I thought the Eric Metcalf fumble in the first half of the playoff game against Atlanta effectively ended that game, although it was not just Metcalf's fault. A better return game would probably have made a one or two game difference in the standings, although based on last year, home field advantage did not make a difference to the Packers. But next year might be different, and a quality return game might make the difference in a big game, like Desmond Howard's Super Bowl MVP performance in 1996. Remember, Howard was free talent just walking the street when the Packers brought him in and added a few years to his career and a few more millions into his pocket via the Raiders foolish free agent contract they signed him to the next year.
Torrence Marshall will be suspended for the first 4 games of the upcoming NFL season for violating the league's drug policy. Way to go Torrence! This guy was on the bubble to make the roster this year, I don't know how he managed to hang on last year with the attempt to change his position to fullback. I think this is the end of Marshall as a Packer, unless he manages to have a fantastic camp, which he hasn't been able to do the last two years. I'd expect the Packers to cut him early and give playing time to someone who can help all year long at linebacker. Its disappointing to me, because I thought Marshall looked like a steal as a 3rd rounder a couple of years ago and would give the Packers a good few years as a starting linebacker. The Packers kept Cletidus Hunt around when he was suspended for the first 4 games of the season for violating the drug policy, but Marshall has never shown the Packers the ability the Hunt has shown.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Almost as soon as Randall Godfrey hit the free agent market, the linebacker challenged Seahawks signed him for a $1 million signing bonus. That was probably too rich for the Packers to match with their snug salary cap. On the plus side, it looks like Kenny Peterson might just be a perfect replacement for Vonnie Holliday. Line coach Jethro Franklin and Joe Johnson both spoke well of him on Packer Plus and Sherman thinks Peterson might be able to start alongside Cledius Hunt at defensive tackle according to Pro Football Weekly. I still expect Gilbert Brown to be starting next to Hunt on opening day but with three starters on the defensive line who are known for missing time (Johnson, Hunt and Brown) the Packers need all the depth they can get.