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Packers: ESPY, Dynasty, Grant & Kuhn News

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 04:00 PM PDT

Legendary senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers news.

ESPY AWARDS: Tonight, the annual 19th ESPY Awards are at 9:00 pm EST on ESPN.  The Packers are nominated in these categories: (1) Best Team–Packers, NFL (2) Best Male Athlete–QB Rodgers, NFL and (3)  Best NFL Player–both OLB Clay Matthews and QB Rodgers are nominated. Also, TE Crabtree hosts live-stream broadcast of himself watching the ESPYS on Livestream ( .

Dominant Team: It’s the NFL’s honor roll of champions, the teams that not only won championships but also dominated a decade. There are the Bears of the ’40s, the Browns and Lions in the ’50s, the Packers in the ’60s, the Steelers in the ’70s, the 49ers in the ’80s, the Cowboys in the ’90s and the Patriots in the 2000s. Who is next to reach the summit? Which team will become the NFL’s power of the 2010s in the post-lockout world? Will it be the current Super Bowl champion Packers, who won their 13th NFL title last season despite losing six Opening Day starters to injury? Green Bay certainly seems capable of winning multiple championships. Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers notes “it’s a little early” to forecast a decade of dominance, he likes his team’s chances. ”Teams seem to have a four- to five-year window [for winning championships],” he said. “We have enough guys coming back from injured reserved and have a good enough young team that I think we can make a run for the next four or five seasons.” CBS analyst and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms agrees. ”The Green Bay Packers have a lot of dynamic players,” he said. “The atmosphere that the team plays in in Green Bay always keeps the energy high for the Packers. They are at the cutting edge of so many things, like drafting players, and [I like] their offense because of their quarterback. The defense is unique as long as [defensive coordinator] Dom Capers is up there. They are always going to take the next step and won’t get caught in a rut.” Simms adds that any talk about a possible Packers dynasty begins with the man behind center. ”Aaron Rodgers is, arguably, the best player physically in the NFL,” Simms said. “He is not a guy who is just going to stand there and get rocked. He has quick feet and a quick release. [He has] not just a good arm, it’s a great arm. When Green Bay won the Super Bowl he made three or four unbelievable throws.” Hub Arkush, editor and publisher of Pro Football Weekly, is another Rodgers fan, but he says don’t discount the gentleman on the Green Bay sideline, head coach Mike McCarthy. Arkush says the Packers’ performance at New England in December, with second string quarterback Matt Flynn at the helm, proved McCarthy’s coaching acumen. Even though Green Bay lost 31-27, it outgained the Patriots by more than 100 yards and Flynn threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns.  ”To be the dominant team of the decade you need to be able to turn your team over,” Arkush said. ”Looking at the way the Packers were built, [Green Bay GM] Ted Thompson may be one of the dominant general managers over the next decade. The Packers won that [Super Bowl] with six Opening Day starters on injured reserve and three of the players who replaced them were on the IR, so that’s nine on the IR.”

Packers defenders hungry: Three Packers defenders made appearances on the NFL Network and its accompanying website Tuesday. Linebacker DesmondBishop, safety Charlie Peprah and cornerback Jarrett Bush shot the segment with former defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Bishop discussed transition that comes with Super Bowl defense. "You get one, it's good, but we know coming back this next year, everybody's going to be hunting us down," Bishop said. "I think if everybody stays hungry, we can do it." "It was all about opportunities," Peprah told the website. "Unfortunately, my chance came through an injury to … you hate to get it like that, but that's the way the league goes. As a backup player, you don't get the same reps, you have to get it right on the first opportunity. You have to watch film a little differently because you have such a slim margin for error. So when I got my chance, it was like I had been starting my whole career because I prepared like I was a starter."

Will Grant Start?: Running back Ryan Grant contributed only eight carries and 45 yards to the Packers' 2010 title run.  But despite 703 regular-season yards from Brandon Jackson and a league-best 315 in the postseason from James Starks, Grant expects to still be at the top of the depth chart. And the team does, too.  Grant thinks. "From what I've heard, that's the conversation that was told to me," Grant told WSSP radio, via Sports Radio  "I was told that by [former running backs coach Edgar Bennett], initially. Jerry [Fontenot, the new position coach] didn't tell me that anything changed.  Jerry told me that as of right now I'm still the leader of the backfield and the expectations won't change. . . .  I do believe there will be competition, which is fine.  I'm all for that." And if in those early days of camp the Packers decide that Grant isn't ready to reclaim his job, there's a chance that the Packers will decide to save their money and go with the guys who helped take the team to the top of the league in 2010.

Kuhn and free agency: John Kuhn, one of the Packers’ many unsung heroes last season, is ready for the lockout to end so he can figure out where he’ll be playing this coming season. ”Free agency is what it is,” Kuhn, who likely will be an unrestricted free agent, told Packer Report on Friday. “You’ve got to entertain all offers and let teams wine and dine and court you a little bit, but at the same time, I really like it in Wisconsin. I love the fans. I love living here in Wisconsin. It’s a great place for me and my family and I like playing for the Packers. We’ve got a really good team so I’d love to come back, but at the same time, you can’t handcuff yourself. You’ve got to let free agency play itself out and see where the chips fall and get yourself a fair chance.” Kuhn, who bought a house in Green Bay last year, has been working out at a local YMCA to keep in shape since the lockout has made Lambeau Field’s workout facilities off-limits. ”I’m really anxious for this to get settled and taken care of,” he said. “It’s gone on long enough now and I think everyone’s a little bit tired of it. At the same time, it is out of my control. I can’t handle it, so I roll with the punches and take things day by day and hope for the best.

My Thoughts On James Harrison’s Verbal Assaults on Roethlisberger and Mendenhall

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 03:30 PM PDT

As a Ravens fan, I’m not supposed to like James Harrison. However, he is a great linebacker and defensive leader and I do like him. I’m pretty sure that this controversy about his comments about teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall is mostly hyperbole. There will be no friction, there will be no distraction when training camp starts. Here are some observations:

1. If Ben Roethlisberger can’t handle being called out for his subpar playoff play, then he’s not mentally tough enough to be the quarterback for the team with the most rings and arguably the most passionate fanbase. Ben’s matured greatly since his first Super Bowl win, when he was reportedly criticized by Joey Porter in the locker room right afterward for how Roethlisberger treated the team the whole year. The ultimate harmlessness of the comments doesn’t exonerate what Harrison said but it should calm fans down.

2. While I don’t believe his words were twisted, attitude and humor don’t always translate to the page. When he said that about Roethlisberger, perhaps it was with a “c’mon, man” I-still-love-you-but-you-can’t-make-that-play attitude.

3. It mostly doesn’t matter how long ago the interview was. Some fans might excuse his criticism if it was the day after the Super Bowl but not if it was last week. I think if it was last week, it’s actually a good sign because he still has that grudge against the Packers on his mind.

4. Rashard Mendenhall was a better running back in the playoffs than James Harrison was a linebacker. The “fumble machine” – the name Harrison called Mendenhall – did fumble twice in the playoffs but the Super Bowl fumble was justifiable. Could he have gone down? Maybe. However, the passing game was not clicking and – whether it be players, coaches or both – I’m sure he was getting positive responses for his tenacious effort from the start of the playoffs on. To then tell him he needs to go down faster sends mixed messages. Harrison had an alright playoffs but a quiet Super Bowl.

5. I hope Harrison keeps this up. It certainly seemed a little hypocritical for Harrison – who should have been ejected late in Super Bowl XLIII for pinning down Aaron Francisco and punching him – to be giving anyone directions on how to help your team win a Super Bowl. I love that James Harrison is a throwback player. He being cut a few times by the Ravens seemed to add a little to the rivalry. I want him to keep talking and I’ll be ticked if Goodell fines or even warns him. I hope there is some chatter from him and Terrell Suggs leading up to the week 1 match-up. Why try to hinder one of the only truly great rivalries in the NFL?

HOF WR Michael Irvin Appears on Cover of Out Magazine

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 10:13 AM PDT

Cowboys Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin appears shirtless on the cover of the gay magazine OUT and discusses his passion for equality issues.

Irvin admits that his motive for appear for this cause is his relationship with his gay brother Vaughn, who died of stomach cancer in 2006. In the article, Irvin talks about how his brother’s sexual orientation contributed to some of his own off-the-field problems.

He discovered his brother’ was gay sometime in the 1970′s when he saw him wearing women’s clothing and Irvin admits he did not handle the situation well.

“And through it all we realized maybe some of the issues I’ve had with so many women, just bringing women around so everybody can see, maybe that’s the residual of the fear I had that if my brother is wearing ladies’ clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic?” Irvin said to Out. “I’m certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why am I making these decisions, and that came up.”

Irvin says his father Walter taught him a more tolerant form of Christianity by accepting his his gay son and Irvin feels it is important for the Afican-American community to embrace marriage equality.

“I don’t see how any African-American, with any inkling of history, can say that you don’t have the right to live your life how you want to live your life,” he said, according to the magazine. “No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality, and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality.”

Irvin says that he believes this work matters more than his football career and would embrace any athlete who chose to come out. He thinks the team that won three Super Bowls could have integrated an openly gay teammate as well as any team. “We had a bunch of different characters on that team,” Irvin said. “Deoin [Sanders] and Emmitt [Smith]. I believe that team would have handled it well.”

Plaxico Burress Puts the Bears as One of His Three Teams to Play For

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 09:54 AM PDT

Plaxico Burress, the veteran wide receiver recently released from prison, said on “The Carmen, Jurko and Harry Show” on ESPN 1000 via the Chicago Tribune the Bears are on his list of the top three teams he’d like to play for next season.

“Oh without question, without a doubt,” Burress said. “My decision making is going to come down to what I said, playing with an elite quarterback, playing with a running game, playing with a great tight end, and Greg Olsen is already that guy. In my estimation, he’ll be a Pro Bowler this season.”

Burress added that Bears fans have reached out to him on Twitter, asking him to make Solider Field his new home.

“It’s just been love,” Burress said. “And that’s what I love about the whole situation. Any city that you go to, you want to be embraced by the fans and by the city. And that really plays a lot into the decision making, going into a great organization.

“As a player you just want to be embraced. That’s what I love about Chicago fans, they’re passionate about football, they’re passionate about their sports, their passionate about their basketball. It’s one of the best cities in the world.”

The Metrodome’s New Roof Inflated Early Wednesday

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 08:19 AM PDT

At 7:00 a.m. (Standard Time) Birdair, Inc. inflated the Metrodome's roof for the first time since the infamous collapse last December.

The process took about three hours. Work on the structure is not complete, with seals and lightning rods needing to be installed before the building can be operational. The facility is expected to be ready for the Minnesota Vikings’ preseason home opener against the Dallas Cowboys on August 26th.

A group of Vikings executives, including Lester Bagley and Mark Wilf, toured the Metrodome on Tuesday.

“We’re just happy the roof is going up and we’ll have home-field advantage again,” said Lester Bagley.

The costs for the repairs are expected to surpass $18 million, but insurance is supposedly going to cover everything except for the $25,000 deductible. Whether or not the playing surface needs to be replaced is a question that has yet to be clearly answered.

Brady, Manning and Brees Release Statement – “Time to Get a Deal Done”

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 08:12 AM PDT

In a statement released to The Associated Press via the NFL Players Association on Wednesday, New England's Tom Brady, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and New Orleans' Drew Brees said: "We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get this deal done."

The statement continued: "This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way."

Steelers Linebacker James Harrison Slams Roger Goodell, Former Patriots

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 07:39 AM PDT

Pittsburgh LB James Harrison was fined over $100,000 for illegal hits in 2010. As a result, the four-time Pro Bowlers and 2008 AP Defensive Player of the Year is not a fan of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, The Associated Press reports.

In an interview for the August issue of Men’s Journal magazine, Harrison has harsh words for Goodell, who he referred to with an anti-gay slur, “stupid”, “puppet”, and “dictator”.

“If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it,” Harrison said of Goodell. “I hate him and will never respect him.”

Harrison called Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi “clowns”, says that Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is “juiced out of his mind”, and also criticized the performances of teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall in the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Steelers are scheduled to visit the Texans on October 2nd.

Harrison also said that if the league is serious about increasing player safety, they would reduce the regular season to 14 games and shorten the offseason programs and training camp so “we’re not bangin’ heads so much in August; that’s where the brain trauma comes from.”

Talks Continue Today Between NFL Owners and Players

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 06:49 AM PDT

After two days of legal teams working on the language towards a collective bargaining agreement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will lead negotiating teams today at the offices of Proskauer Rose LLP in New York City.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network confirms an ESPN report that the league’s objective is to have a collective bargaining agreement in place that can be voted on by owners (24 of 32 needed to ratify) at the July 21 league meeting in Atlanta, two days after a meeting with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in Minneapolis.

On the league side, six owners on the NFL Management Council Executive Committee are scheduled to attend today’s talks, including co-chair Jerry Richardson of the Panthers. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Giants co-owner John Mara, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and Steelers owner Art Rooney are expected to participate, as well.

Colts center Jeff Saturday, Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, and retired NFL wide receiver Sean Morey are confirmed attendees on the players’ side.

Today’s negotiating session kicks off an important week if the two sides hope to preserve a full training camp and preseason. The Hall of Fame Game is 25 days away, with the two participants, the St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears, scheduled to open up training camp late next week. As each day passes without a CBA, it’s becoming harder to not notice that the first regular season game, between the New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers, is only 57 days away, or that the first Sunday of the 2011 regular season, which coincides with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is scheduled for 60 days from today.

NFL front offices must be getting antsy, as rosters under the league’s “The Transition Rules” are expected to increase to 90 players for training camp. Between signed players, exclusive rights free agents, restricted free agents, franchise players, and 2011 draft picks, around 2,100 players are under club control. That means nearly 700 free agents, veteran and undrafted, could be signed during a seven-day period before training camps open up.

A deal today is unlikely, even though it would certainly dominate several days’ worth of news cycles. Particularly today’s, as the day after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is a dead zone on the major sports league calendar. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported on Tuesday that July 17 has emerged as a potential target date for the announcement of a deal. That date makes a lot of sense, as it leaves just one day before the scheduled meeting Judge Boylan, attendees of which will have “full settlement authority”, for the deal to fall apart.

As nice as it would be to have a deal announced today, a United States win over France in the semi-finals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup may be our only opportunity for celebration on Wednesday.

Redskins to Be Active Once Free Agency Begins

Posted: 13 Jul 2011 06:38 AM PDT

When the NFL free agent signing period opens up, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will have his checkbook at the ready, Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network reports.

According to La Canfora, who worked the Redskins beat before moving on the national scene, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has wide receiver Santonio Holmes (New York Jets) at the top of his wishlist. Free agent offensive lineman Marshall Yanda (Baltimore Ravens) is also on the list, as are defensive linemen, and brothers, Kris Jenkins (Jets) and Cullen Jenkins (Green Bay Packers).

During Snyder’s tenure as owner, the Redskins are always active in free agency, which aside from inside linebacker London Fletcher, hasn’t always worked out. Albert Haynesworth, Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, and Deion Sanders have all signed mega deals with the Redskins, only to fail to live up to the big contracts.

The Redskins have approximately $100 million in cash and $113 million in salary cap commitments for 2011, but those figures will reduce with the expected release or trade of Haynesworth and quarterback Donovan McNabb, who are due to receive $19.9 million in combined compensation next season.

With teams expected to spend between 90 and 95 percent of the salary cap in cash, the release of McNabb and Haynesworth would require the Redskins to spend tens of millions of dollars by the end of the league year to be in compliance with the salary floor.

Between Synder’s spend-thrift ways and the availability of hundreds of free agents, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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