Report: Peppers “appears to be done” in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After three years in the green and gold, Packers beat writer Rob Demovsky writes that Julius Peppers’ time in Titletown “appears to be done.”

With free agency approaching on Mar. 9 and Peppers at 37 years of age, Green Bay is likely to cut ties with the nine-time Pro Bowler. In his 15th NFL season, Peppers logged 7.5 regular season sacks, along with 15 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Outside linebacker Nick Perry’s emergence this season could play a role in the decision. Perry and Peppers combined for 18.5 sacks, compared to the team total of 40.

Peppers originally signed with the Packers prior to the 2014 season on a three-year, $26 million contract.

Rookie Geronimo Allison pleads not guilty to marijuana charge

MANITOWOC, Wis. — Green Bay Packers rookie receiver Geronimo Allison has pleaded not guilty to a marijuana possession charge stemming from a September 2016 arrest.

Allison was not required to appear in court Monday, having his plea entered by his attorney, Brian Maloney. The next court date is set for Apr. 25.

The University of Illinois product was stopped in Manitowoc County on Sept. 4 for a speeding violation. The responding officer detected the scent of marijuana coming from Allison’ vehicle, and a search uncovered three cigars, two of which contained marijuana.

Allison played a key role in the Packers’ stretch of eight straight wins. He recorded a pair of touchdowns in the regular season, finishing his year (postseason included) with 17 catches for 267 yards.

The Neighborhood: What decisions should the Packers make in free agency?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — I’ll begin by admitting I’m not an expert on the salary cap, and I don’t have a direct line to Ted Thompson’s office. But with about $42 million in cap space heading into the offseason, here are some of the options the Green Bay Packers are faced with, along with my predictions of how they’ll handle them. My predictions are only for those positions in which Green Bay also has options in free agency.

Center

Incumbent: J.C. Tretter has just finished up his four-year, $2.6 million contract and is an unrestricted free agent. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 13th-best center in the league based on this past season’s performance, despite missing the last half of the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL). That’s nothing new for the Cornell product, but it’ll cost him when it comes to contract negotiations.

Options: A.Q. Shipley | Arizona Cardinals, Joe Hawley | Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brian Schwenke | Tennessee Titans, John Sullivan | Washington Redskins

Prediction: With Corey Linsley as the only other experienced center on the roster and Tretter the best available, he’ll likely come back on a one-year contract.

Guard

Incumbents: T.J. Lang ranked as the No. 6 right guard in the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus, and has expressed his willingness to return to Green Bay at age 30. Don Barclay suffered a shoulder injury in November and was replaced by rookie Jason Spriggs, who showed promise for the future protection of the Green Bay backfield.

Options: Kevin Zeitler | Cincinnati Bengals, Ronald Leary | Dallas Cowboys, Larry Warford | Detroit Lions, Luke Joeckel | Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: I see this as a position the Packers only address in the draft, so the only move here is to re-sign Lang to a multi-year deal, while potentially cutting Barclay loose. With the promise of Spriggs and the frugal nature of Thompson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barclay released.

Tight End

Incumbent: Jared Cook came over from the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams on a one-year, $2.75 million contract, and despite missing six games with a high ankle sprain, he performed admirably and became a keystone to their success entering the postseason. He averaged 55 yards and four catches per game over the last 10 games (including playoffs).

Options: Martellus Bennett | New England Patriots, Jack Doyle | Indianapolis Colts, Vernon Davis | Washington Redskins, Jacob Tamme | Atlanta Falcons

Prediction: After earning a Super Bowl ring with New England and making it clear he wants to get paid, Packer fans dreaming of a Bennett-to-Green-Bay scenario can forget about it. At 29 years old, Cook is productive enough to warrant a two-year deal to remain in Titletown.

Running Back

Incumbents: Neither Eddie Lacy, nor Christine Michael were dominant forces in the backfield for the Packers, but because of that, Green Bay can cash in when it comes to negotiations. Lacy logged just 360 yards and no touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. Michael was seldom-used, logging 114 yards on 31 carries in Green Bay.

Options: Le’Veon Bell | Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount | New England Patriots, Latavius Murray | Oakland Raiders, Danny Woodhead | San Diego Chargers

Prediction: Thompson doesn’t like to go with what he doesn’t know, so I don’t see him contacting any of the above options (Bell will re-sign with the Steelers anyway). It’s already being reported that Lacy is likely coming back on a one-year deal worth about $2 million. And with Ty Montgomery looking like a more sure bet, Michael will try to find work elsewhere.

Outside Linebacker

Incumbents: Nick Perry finally had a breakout year, posting 11 sacks, 35 solo tackles, and 17 assisted tackles. Julius Peppers‘ numbers weren’t as great, but he was still effective at 7.5 sacks, 15 solo tackles, and eight assisted tackles.

Options: Chandler Jones | Arizona Cardinals, Melvin Ingram | San Diego Chargers, Malcolm Smith | Oakland Raiders, Barkevious Mingo | New England Patriots

Prediction: While it’s been a nice ride for 37-year-old Peppers, he’ll likely hit the free market and end his career with his first team | the Carolina Panthers. After finally seeing one of “his guys” break out, Thompson will re-sign Perry to a three-year contract and probably overpay. Don’t be surprised if the Packers tease us with a nibble in free agency on an OLB.

Safety

Incumbent: It was a career year for Micah Hyde, matching his personal-best three interception mark on the season. That’s despite making a switch to slot cornerback due to injuries in the Green Bay secondary.

Options: Eric Berry | Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Jefferson | Arizona Cardinals, Barry Church | Dallas Cowboys, Johnathan Cyprien | Jacksonville Jaguars, Quintin Demps | Houston Texans

Prediction: Hyde had a relatively team-friendly contract of four years, $2.3 million, and after earning the performance-based escalator last season, I don’t see why that changes. He’ll earn a three-year deal with the Pack. Plot twist: Thompson nabs one of the above options at safety, but it’ll be a player we know little about.

While cornerback was largely ignored in this post due to the fact that Green Bay doesn’t have any on expiring contract, I’d expect that to be the area where the Packers find a piece in free agency. The best players available are A.J. Bouye (Houston Texans), Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams), Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo Bills), Morris Claiborne (Dallas Cowboys), and Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings).

Jordy Nelson earns NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award

HOUSTON — After returning from a torn ACL suffered in the 2015 season, Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson was recognized Saturday night as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Nelson’s production in 2016 was eerily similar to the numbers he produced in the 2014 season prior to the injury:
2014: 98 receptions, 1,519 yards, 13 touchdowns
2016: 97 receptions, 1,257 yards, 14 touchdowns

The 31-year-old Kansas State product wasn’t expected to be the same player he once was, considering the severity of an ACL tear and the length of time in recovery. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is another exception to the rule, returning from the same injury to put up monster numbers in the 2015 season (1,485 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, long of 80 yards).

But unlike Peterson’s return from the injury, Nelson was not voted to the Pro Bowl roster. That’s despite leading the NFL this season in touchdown receptions.

Nelson has two more seasons remaining on his four-year, $39 million deal signed in July of 2014.

Brett Hundley headlines players attending Packers annual Tailgate Tour

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The 12th annual Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour will make stops in northern Wisconsin Apr. 4-8 featuring several current and former members of the team.

Below is all the information interested fans need to know before attending any of the five stops in northern Wisconsin and parts of Michigan:

The tour will make stops in Medford (April 4), Ashland (April 5), Houghton, Mich. (April 6), Rhinelander (April 7) and Iron Mountain, Mich. (April 8), with tailgate parties held in each city to support a local non-profit organization.

Tour celebrities will include Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, players Brett Hundley, Aaron Ripkowski and Jake Ryan, and Packers alumni Robert Ferguson, Ahman Green and Ryan Longwell.
The tour will take place aboard a customized motor coach emblazoned with the “Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour” logo and the phrase “Touching Down in Your Community.” In addition to the designated locations, tour celebrities will make surprise stops as the schedule allows.

The Medford, Ashland, Houghton, and Rhinelander tailgate parties will welcome the players and alumni arriving at 6 p.m., and festivities will run until 8:30 p.m. The Iron Mountain tailgate party will welcome the players and alumni arriving at 3 p.m., and festivities will run until 5:30 p.m. A local non-profit organization will host each party, which will feature food, giveaways, question-and-answer sessions and autographs. Tailgate party tickets cost $30.

General admission tickets also will be available for $10 for each location, which include access to the Q-and-A sessions as well as tailgate party activities. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

One hundred percent of the Tailgate Tour proceeds will benefit the hosting organizations.

“The Packers are very excited to embark on the 12th annual Tailgate Tour,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. “Thanks to the loyalty of our fans, we are proud to celebrate 12 successful years of this event. We are looking forward to visiting several areas throughout the state of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and we are proud to be supporting great organizations during the tour.”

Tickets for the tailgate parties at all locations will go on sale Monday, Feb. 6, at 8 a.m.

The tailgate party locations, hosting organizations and ticket information are as follows:
· Medford: April 4 at Black River Industries, Inc., at 650 Jensen Drive, Medford. To benefit Black River Industries. Tickets on sale at Black River Industries, Inc.; Medford Cooperative, 160 Medford Plaza; Cenex Convenience Store, 340 S. 8th S., Medford.
· Ashland: April 5 at the Bay Area Civic Center, 320 4th Ave W., Ashland. To benefit Baynet. Tickets on sale at the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, 1716 Lake Shore Dr., W.; Carlson Building Serv & Sup, 414 3rd Avenue E.; River Rock Inn & Bait Shop, 1200 Lake Shore Dr. W.; Neighborly Bar, 1301 Main St. W.
· Houghton: April 6 at the Michigan Tech Student Development Complex, 600 Macinnes Dr., Houghton, Mich. To benefit Dial Help. Tickets on sale at the Michigan Tech University Student Development Complex or online at tickets.mtu.edu.
· Rhinelander: April 7 at Rhinelander High School, 665 Coolidge Ave., Rhinelander. To benefit NATH Frederick Place. Tickets on sale at Trigs Service Desk, 232 Courtney St., Rhinelander, and at Best Embroideries, 22 W. Davenport St., Rhinelander.
· Iron Mountain: April 8 at Ford Airport, 2300 Woodward Ave., Kingsford, Mich. To benefit the Northwood’s Airlifeline. Tickets on sale at Econo Foods, 1600 S. Stephenson Ave., Iron Mountain, and at WJNR Radio Station, 212 West J St., Iron Mountain.

Fans interested in ‘Tailgate Tour’ details are encouraged to visit www.packers.com often, as tour information will be updated as the dates near.

McCarthy comments may indicate more active offseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 34 years old by playoff time in the 2017-18 season, and coach Mike McCarthy’s comments during his end-of-season press conference on Thursday may indicate a more aggressive approach to a Super Bowl run.

“We all want to win the world championship, and I can just promise you and our fans that we’re doing everything we can to get that done. And I think — going back to Aaron [Rodgers’] statement, ‘all in’ — we can control what we can control. With everybody in football ops, we need to max out this opportunity and we’re already working on the next opportunity.”

The narrative for several years now has been on Rodgers’ perceived “window” for how long he can play at an elite level. Rodgers has already made several changes to his lifestyle to maximize his health, including the removal of dairy from his diet, a decision not taken lightly in Wisconsin, the nation’s dairy production leader.

But a healthy Rodgers hasn’t been enough to return to the Super Bowl after the team’s title run in the 2010 season. Much of the criticism has fallen on general manager Ted Thompson, whose “draft and develop” philosophy has largely meant straying away from signing players in free agency. Occasionally he’ll take a flier on a position of need, most recently signing tight end Jared Cook to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.

With the obvious success of Cook’s season, Rodgers and McCarthy have stated that re-signing the former Rams utility man is a high priority. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says Cook’s emergence, as well as continued areas of need, could force Thompson to go away from his rule of thumb and get more weapons in free agency.

“From what I’m told,” Rapoport said, “I would think the Packers are going to go and get some free agents this year along with trying to re-sign Jared Cook — which is a priority for them.”

In his Thursday press conference, McCarthy added that Thompson would indeed return for another season, seeming to end speculation that either director of football operations Eliot Wolf or Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey could be his successor next year. What McCarthy didn’t say, however,  is whether Thompson’s role would remain the same.  Rapoport reported earlier this month that Thompson may step down to become a senior scouting advisor — a position change McCarthy didn’t address.

Tom Clements is leaving Packers, no other coaching changes right now

GREEN BAY | Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced that associate head coach/offense Tom Clements will not be back with the Packers next year.

Clements’ contract expired, and McCarthy said he “is going to move on to some other interests.”  Clements has 20 years of NFL experience and has been with the Packers the last 11 years, moving from quarterbacks coach to coordinator for a team whose head coach calls the plays.

McCarthy did not announce any other changes to the Packers coaching staff.  “I feel really good about our coaching staff. I feel they did an excellent job. We’ll go through our regular process and have evaluations.”

When asked about the status of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, McCarthy replied “This is no time for drama. Dom Capers is an outstanding football coach. He had a tough challenge and dealt with a lot. The team was motivated and a lot of good things came out of that.”

 

 

Lang hoping injuries don’t spell end of time in Titletown

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers right guard T.J. Lang has endured his share of injuries this season, and he’s hoping Sunday’s departure doesn’t mean he’ll be working for a different organization next year.

“That’s the first thing going through my mind after I hurt my foot again,” Lang said after Sunday’s loss. “I’m just hoping it wasn’t the last time I get to put on that helmet.

Lang was carted off the field after suffering an injury to his left foot; an injury he said felt like the break he had in that same foot earlier this season. Lang told reporters he’d be undergoing hip surgery on Friday to take care of a nagging injury he played through for most of the year. That means he’ll be missing out on his first career Pro Bowl selection to address the issue.

29-year-old Lang made his wishes clear as the Packers enter offseason re-signing mode.

“It’s been eight years now. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ve been saying that since the beginning. I love this team, I love Green Bay, I love everything about being a Packer. I love representing the city and the team. I want to be back. It’s not up to me. This is where I want to be.”

Lang is finishing up a four-year, $20.8 million contract as he gets set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Falcons beat Packers, advance to Super Bowl LI

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are moving on to Super Bowl LI in Houston after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the final game held at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons marched 75 yards down the field on their opening possession to score on a short shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu. The Packers were unable to answer on the ensuing possession, with Mason Crosby missing a 41-yard field goal. That ended his NFL-best 23-game streak of consecutive converted postseason field goals.

Atlanta faced little resistance on their second drive of the game, getting inside Green Bay’s 10-yard line before a holding penalty on third down forced them into a field goal attempt, where Ryan was good from 28 yards.

The second quarter started to look like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense were on the path to points, but fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s longest rush of the season ended in the red zone, fumbling the ball and getting recovered by the Falcons in their own end zone.

Things went from bad to worse when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan decided to do the damage with his legs. In the middle of the second quarter, he rushed for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Falcons on top 17-0. They didn’t have their first punt until 3:17 remaining in the first half.

Rodgers tried to rally the troops after that punt and get points before halftime, but a sack on second down set Green Bay up with a long third down deep in their own territory. Trying to make something happen, Rodgers fired deep down the middle of the field where the ball was intercepted.

Green Bay would pay for that mistake, as Ryan and the Atlanta offense marched down the field to score a five-yard touchdown to Julio Jones just before the intermission. The soon-to-be MVP had 271 yards and two touchdown passes in the first half.

The Packers got the ball to start the second half, hoping to mount the largest comeback in NFC Championship game history. Instead, a pair of drops by tight end Jared Cook led to an early punt and the Falcons capitalized once again. Ryan hit Julio Jones for his second touchdown of the game, this time from 73 yards out.

It took until the 9:19 mark in the third quarter for the Packers to get on the board, with Rodgers connecting with Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown. But once again, Atlanta marched down the field for another score, this time a four-yard grab by running back Devonta Freeman.

Rodgers got another shot at points, however, hooking up with Jordy Nelson for a short touchdown late in the third quarter. Atlanta would recover the ensuing onside kick, eventually scoring another rushing touchdown to extend the lead.

With less than seven minutes left in the game, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a score, but the two-point conversion failed and Green Bay trailed 21-44.

Majkowski: Rodgers once asked me if he should demand a trade

ATLANTA — As the Green Bay Packers get set to meet with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC Championship game, former quarterback Don Majkowski told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network that Aaron Rodgers once asked for his advice on a potential trade.

Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three long years before his rise to one of the greatest to ever put on the green and gold. During a pep rally in Atlanta Saturday night, Majkowski told the story of how frustrated Rodgers was with his lack of playing time while a backup to Favre. The story was first reported by the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network’s Jake Zimmermann (LINK).

While not surprising Rodgers voiced frustration about a lack of playing time, it’s the first time reports have linked Rodgers to a potential career outside of Green Bay. Just how close Rodgers was to talking with management about a trade remains unknown, but perhaps Majkowski’s advice kept Rodgers in Titletown.

Majkowski says he told Rodgers at the time to be patient, as he would be rewarded with the metaphorical keys to the Packers Ferrari franchise.