Former Packers DB Charles Woodson voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Charles Woodson has been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The announcement came Saturday and the former Green Bay Packers defensive back will be among the players as part of the 2021 class to be enshrined this summer.

While Woodson played 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, including the first eight of his career, he may have made his biggest impact during his seven years with the Packers. The former Michigan standout was the heart and soul of Green Bay’s defense, especially during a four-year stretch from 2008 to 2011. In that time he picked off 25 passes, forced 11 fumbles, had nine sacks and scored seven touchdowns. Woodson’s efforts earned him the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009, and he also made him an All-Pro that season and 2011.

“The Green Bay Packers and all our fans congratulate Charles on this tremendous, well-deserved honor,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a press release. “Charles played the game the right way, and we would not have won Super Bowl XLV without his outstanding play and leadership. He had a remarkable career, including seven great seasons in Green Bay. We look forward to his induction in Canton and welcoming him back to Lambeau Field to unveil his name in the stadium next season.”

Woodson’s role as a leader played a significant part in Green Bay’s success. He was a loud voice in the locker room as the Packers made their run to a Super Bowl XLV win over Pittsburgh. Even though he got injured in the first half, he delivered a rousing halftime speech and stood on the sideline cheering on his teammates despite being in extreme pain.

A four-time All-Pro and a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Woodson was the 1998 Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. He finished with 65 interceptions in his career, the fifth-most of all-time, while returning 11 of those for touchdowns, the second-most in league history.

Woodson is the 27th member of the Packers to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Here is the rest of the 2021 class:

WR Calvin Johnson
WR Drew Pearson
OL Alan Faneca
Coach Tom Flores
QB Peyton Manning
S John Lynch
Scout Bill Nunn

Packers announce hiring of Joe Barry as new defensive coordinator

The Green Bay Packers officially have their new defensive coordinator.

The coach Matt LaFleur announced Monday that he had hired Los Angels Chargers passing game coordinator Joe Barry. The 50-year-old just joined the Chargers after spending the last four years with the Los Angeles Rams as their assistant head coach/linebackers coach. LaFleur and Barry were on the same coaching staff with the Rams in 2017 when LaFleur was the offensive coordinator.

Barry does have coordinator experience, having run Washington’s 3-4 defense for two years prior to joining the Rams. The units were not particularly good as they finished 28th in yards allowed each season, while coming in 17th in points allowed in 2015 and 19th in 2016. Washington did have some success in creating turnovers, leading the league in forced fumbles in 2015. Barry was also the defensive coordinator for two years in Detroit, including in 2008 when the Lions went 0-16.

A native of Colorado, Barry will replace Mike Pettine, whose contract expired at the end of the 2020 season after three year. Green Bay’s defense wasn’t bad — it finished in the top 10 in total yards allowed and 13th in points allowed per game. But there were also some untimely breakdowns, most notably in the NFC title game when a miscommunication between LaFleur and Pettine led to a Tampa Bay touchdown.

The hiring of Barry came after Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard turned down LaFleur’s offer to come to Green Bay to run his defense. Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero was also reportedly among the final candidates for the job.

Wisconsin DC Jim Leonhard reportedly turns Packers down, will stay with Badgers

Jim Leonhard is staying in Madison.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Saturday morning that the Wisconsin defensive coordinator had turned down the Green Bay Packers offer to run their defense. Leonhard reportedly met with coach Matt LaFleur twice this week before telling him he would not be taking the job.

Leonhard, a three-time All-American with the Badgers in the early 2000s, returned to his alma mater in 2016 as Wisconsin’s defensive backs coach. He took over as defensive coordinator the following year and has put together one of the best units in the country over the last four seasons.

This is not the first time a team has come calling for Leonhard. The Los Angeles Rams were intrigued with him before hiring Brandon Staley as their coordinator prior to last season. Multiple college powerhouses, including Alabama, tried to lure Leonhard away in recent years but failed. It’s believed the 38-year-old Leonhard would be a favorite to replace current Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst whenever his time running things comes to an end.

A 10-year NFL veteran, Leonhard played under former Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine with multiple teams. His familiarity with that system, along with him putting his own stamp on the scheme while with the Badgers, was likely a big draw for LaFleur if he didn’t want to completely overhaul his defense.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Leonhard was one of two candidates the Packers were zeroing in on. The other is Rams safeties coach Ejiro Evero, who has been in LA the last four seasons but did spend 2016 with the Packers as a defensive quality control coach.

Gutekunst: What the Packers are trying to accomplish can’t be done without Aaron Rodgers

If Aaron Rodgers had any doubt about how the decision makers at 1265 Lombardi Ave. felt about him, two of them went out of their way Monday to show how important the future Hall of Fame quarterback is to their plans in 2021 and beyond.

“What we’re trying to do as an organization, and what we’re trying to accomplish here, we can’t do without Aaron Rodgers right now,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “He’s such a part of what we’ve done. He’s such a part of what we’re doing right now and certainly in the future.”

Rodgers, Green Bay’s starting quarterback since 2005, has said countless times since the Packers drafted Jordan Love last April that his future was not in his hands. He called it a “beautiful mystery” prior to the NFC Championship Game and then reiterated after the loss to Tampa Bay that he was among several players with uncertain futures this offseason. Rodgers went on The Pat McAfee Show days later and said he didn’t think there was any reason why he wouldn’t be back, he’s under contract through 2023, but that there are no absolutes in the NFL. While that may be true, the Packers are saying if it’s up to them Rodgers returning is absolutely happening.

“There’s no doubt about it,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “You’re talking about the guy that is going to win the MVP of the league. We’re not in this position without him. I couldn’t be happier, not only with his performance but how he led our football team. All the little things he does within that locker room to ensure that everybody is locked in, focused, ready to go. So, absolutely he’ll be here, for a long time.”

A long time is not specific and the Packers could, if they wanted to, part ways with Rodgers after the 2021 season as his contract because more favorable in terms of money saved. Gutekunst was asked if he needs to assure Rodgers that they wouldn’t be moving on after next season.

“I don’t think I have to do a lot of assuring him because obviously his play speaks for itself,” Gutekunst said. “I will say this: We’re really excited not only for next year but the years to come. He’s playing at such a high level that he always has. I think this year was a special year. It didn’t finish like we wanted to finish, but I think everybody is purely motivated to get back. I don’t think there is anything we have to do. He’s our quarterback and he’s our leader.”

That doesn’t mean a contract restructure would be out of the question. Due to the pandemic and the loss of revenue for the league this year, the salary cap is projected to go down. Even if it stayed the same as the 2020 cap ($198 million), the Packers are roughly $10 million over that right now heading into 2021. Though he wouldn’t address Rodgers specifically, Gutekunst admitted financial moves will be made to deal with the cap.

“He’s an exceptionally big part of what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do in the future,” Gutekunst said. “As we attack the salary cap that we’re going to have to attack this season, there’s a lot of players’ contractual situations we’re going to have to address. With Aaron, I think he’s arguably the best player I’ve ever seen or been around. The chances he gives us week-in and week-out are significant. He’s going to be a part of our future.”

A report from the Los Angeles Times on Sunday said the Rams considered making a hard run for Rodgers before they ended up trading for Detroit’s Matthew Stafford. The report said the Packers were adamant about not trading Rodgers, though when asked about the report, Gutekunst said there was no truth to any of it. Still, pressed one more time about the potential of moving Rodgers this offseason, Gutekunst made clear it’s not going to happen.

“Absolutely not. No,” Gutekunst said. “Like I said, he’s such an important part of what we’re doing. He’s the leader of our football team and (getting rid of him is) not part of our plans.”

Rams reportedly made a run at Aaron Rodgers before acquiring Matthew Stafford

The Los Angeles Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford on Saturday night in a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions. His addition, which won’t be official until the new league year starts in early March, has already made the Rams among the betting favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI. But before they settled on Stafford, they reportedly made a run at Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

According to Sam Farmer of the LA Times, the Rams gauged the Packers interest in trading the soon-to-be 3-time NFL MVP.

Despite coach Matt LaFleur and President Mark Murphy forcefully saying they expect and want Rodgers back in Green Bay, at least one team, and likely others, are at least making phone calls to the team on his status.

It comes after Rodgers told reporters that his future was a “beautiful mystery” in the lead up to the NFC title game. He reiterated after the loss to Tampa Bay that he was among several Packers with uncertain futures, largely because of Green Bay’s decision to draft quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of last April’s draft.

Those comments went viral and had some national talking heads declaring Rodgers had played his last game with the Packers and that a messy divorce between the two sides was coming. Rodgers calmed the waters a bit Tuesday in his weekly appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, saying he doesn’t think there is any reason he wouldn’t be back but that they are no absolutes in the NFL.

LaFleur, along with GM Brian Gutekunst, are scheduled to hold their final press conferences of the season on Monday.

Packers announce DC Mike Pettine won’t return for 2021

Mike Pettine’s time as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator has come to an end.

The NFL Network was the first to report Friday afternoon that Pettine’s contract expired at the end of the season and he would not be back in 2021.

The team confirmed the move later in the afternoon.

“We want to thank Mike for his commitment to the Packers for the last three seasons,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He was an important part of our success. As a first-time head coach, he was also an invaluable resource for us during our time together.

“We wish Mike, Megan, and the rest of their family the best moving forward.”

Pettine replaced long-time coordinator Dom Capers in 2018 under former coach Mike McCarthy. Matt LaFleur kept him on when he took over as head coach in 2019.

This past season was a bit of a mixed bag for Pettine. For the first time since 2010, the defense finished in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed, while coming in 13th in points allowed. In the Packers six-game winning streak to end the season, the defense allowed 16 points or less in four of the games.

But Pettine’s tenure also included several significant breakdowns at the worst possible times, including in the last two NFC title game losses. Pettine’s unit allowed 285 yards rushing in a blowout loss to San Francisco in 2019, and then gave up an inexplicable touchdown to Tampa Bay at the end of the first half last Sunday.

With Pettine’s departure, LaFleur will now have the opportunity to pick his own guy. The choice could go a long way to determining whether the Packers will get over the hump and back to the Super Bowl after coming up just short in LaFleur’s first two seasons.

Packers reportedly have their new special teams coach

A day after parting ways with special teams coach Shawn Mennenga, the Green Bay Packers have found his replacement.

According to the NFL Network, coach Matt LaFleur intends to promote Maurice Drayton to the position.

Drayton has spent the last three years with the Packers, serving as the assistant specials teams coach to former coordinator Ron Zook in 2018 and then Mennenga the last two seasons.

Prior to coming to Green Bay, Drayton was with the Indianapolis Colts for two years. Drayton also spent 14 years coaching college football, including nine years at The Citadel.

Drayton has a large task in front of him. Green Bay’s special teams units really struggled the last two seasons, finishing 29th in NFL writer Rick Gosselin’s 2020 rankings. In 2019, the Packers were 26th.

Packers reportedly set to part ways with special teams coordinator

The Green Bay Packers will have a new special teams coordinator next season.

According to the NFL Network, team is parting ways with current coordinator Shawn Mennenga after two years on the job.

Rick Gosselin, formerly of the Dallas Morning News, puts together well-respected special teams rankings each season and Mennenga’s unit finished 29th in 2020 and 26th in 2019. Among the issues this past season was punt coverage, as the Packers allowed a pair of touchdowns. They also failed to get much going in the kick or punt return game.

As for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, he had his exit interview Wednesday. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Pettine’s contract ran out at the end of the season and it’s unclear if he will return.

Packers: Former safety LeRoy Butler comes up short in bid for Pro Football Hall of Fame

It appears Leroy Butler’s path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been halted just short once again.

Though the class won’t be announced until the night before Super Bowl LV, Butler sent out a tweet indicating he had not made it.

Butler was a finalist for a second straight year and he seems destined to get in at some point. Green Bay’s second-round pick in 1990, Butler was a 4-time All-Pro and one of the leaders of defense that helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI.

The Florida State product racked up 38 interceptions, 20.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and scored three touchdowns during his 12 years in the NFL. Butler is currently the only member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade First Team that has not been enshrined in Canton.

Candidates are voted on be a selection committee mostly made up of reporters that cover the NFL and must receive 80% of the vote to get in.

Another former Packers defensive back, Charles Woodson, is in his first year of eligibility and is expected to be part of the 2021 class.

Rodgers: No reason to think I won’t be back, but there are no absolutes

Two days after setting social media ablaze with comments about his uncertain future following an NFC Championship Game loss to Tampa Bay, quarterback Aaron Rodgers downplayed the far-fetched notion he would not be back with the Green Bay Packers for the 2021 season.

“I don’t feel like I said anything I hadn’t said before. I said it the first time I talked to the media [after Green Bay drafted Jordan Love]. It was more of a realization I think that ultimately my future is not necessarily in my control. I think that kind of hit me in the moment,” Rodgers said during his Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “Obviously after the season that I had, potentially winning MVP, we obviously made another good run, I don’t think there is any reason why I wouldn’t be back. But there’s not many absolutes, as you guys know, in this business. To make an absolute statement about something that is not an absolute I didn’t do it. I guess that’s why it went kind of nuts.”

Rodgers is coming off a season in which he threw a franchise-record 48 touchdowns and posted the second-best quarterback rating in NFL history. It was a bounce-back campaign after two years that weren’t at the level everyone had grown accustomed to seeing from the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Though he’s signed through the 2023 season, his contract is setup so that Green Bay could move on from Rodgers after next year without too much of a hit to the salary cap, leaving him a lame duck in 2021. There was a report from ProFootballTalk.com that Rodgers wanted a new contract, one that could potentially show the Packers commitment to him on more than a year-to-year basis.

“I did see some of these comments being made, and I don’t want to go through them one-by-one and talk about the falsehoods being said out there, but I haven’t even had the conversations yet,” Rodgers said. “But I’m around this week, so I am not jetting out of town saying ‘sayonara Green Bay.’ There are conversations to be had and I am going to have them with the right people. But it’s the same conversations that we have every single year. There’s no big, you know, I am going to come to the table with ‘I need this and this and this.’”

Rodgers, who will turn 38 next December, said those conversations will be with GM Brian Gutekunst, President/CEO Mark Murphy and coach Matt LaFleur.

“Look, we have honest conversations about where we’re at every single year,” Rodgers said. “I’ve had these conversations for years. I think it’s part of being a leader on the squad and having the pulse of the team and the direction we’re going. We’ll have the same conversation we do every year. I always look forward to those conversations.”