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Can The Green Bay Packers Avoid Missing Playoffs For First Time Since 2008?

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Aaron Rodgers

 

When Green Bay Packers‘ starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers had grown tired of panicking Packer fans and the media’s relentlessly repetitive questions concerning his team’s 1-2 start in September of 2014, he attempted to semi-sarcastically calm the masses with a five-letter word that’s now attached to his legacy–”relax”.

Following last week’s loss in Indianapolis to the 4-5 Colts, Green Bay’s second straight and third of the past four weeks, Packer fans would’ve welcomed another sarcastic one-liner from Rodgers just to know that he still has complete confidence in this team’s ability to turn things around. But while speaking to the media on Wednesday, Rodgers’ comments instead revealed a quarterback who’s legitimately concerned about his team’s mindset ahead of this Sunday’s game at the Tennessee Titans.

”I expect everybody to come ready to play and prepared and excited about it,” said Rodgers via ESPN. ”You know, we just need to weather some of the ups and downs a little bit better. Obviously not the way you want to start a game [Week 9 at Indy] with the kickoff return for a touchdown, but we need to weather that a little bit better this week–all of us—and it’ll start with me.”

In Week 9, starting quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts dealt the Packers a painful loss that exposed them as a mediocre NFC team that’s only in the hunt for the NFC North title because of equally-mediocre competition. From allowing Indy’s Jordan Todman to return the game’s opening kick-off for a 99-yard touchdown, to giving up a pair of rushing scores to veteran running back Frank Gore, Green Bay looked like a shell of its former successful self last Sunday.

Although the return of lead receiver Jordy Nelson has obviously added to the offense following last season’s injury-fueled absence, Rodgers’s top target just isn’t the same player who finished the 2014 campaign with 13 touchdowns and career-highs in both receptions [98] and yards [1,519]. Statistically, the seven touchdown receptions that Nelson has totaled through the Pack’s first eight games means that he’s on pace to top his 2014 total, but last year’s torn acl has clearly cost the former Pro-Bowler a step or two, and Nelson believes that the recovery process is to blame.

”I think it’s more just your body getting back to normal overall,” said Nelson via ESPN. ”If you take a year off from the game, the grind of the season, the recovery every week, all that I think is more part of it than the actual knee I would assume.”

Regardless of the reason, Nelson has caught just 38 of his team-leading 73 targets this season for a dismal success rate of just 52.1 percent. By comparison, from Nelson’s rookie year in 2008 through the end of 2014, the former Kansas State standout never caught less than 61.1 percent of his targets.

When added to the pre-injury struggles of the now-absent Eddie Lacy, the knee injury that’s already cost second-string running back James Starks four games, and the hamstring injury that’s contributed to Randall Cobb’s inconsistency and limited the Kentucky product to only five games, Nelson’s decline has come at one of the worst possible times.

Minus a reliable run-game, head coach Mike McCarthy has been forced to employ a pass-heavy offense featuring a small crowd of receivers paid to provide Rodgers with options and move former full-time wideout Ty Montgomery into the backfield. But entering Sunday’s game against the Titans, the Packers rank a depressing 23rd with 1,948 net passing yards and 21st with 2,801 total net yards, and Rodgers’ insistence on finding Nelson has been causing the veteran quarterback to make some uncharacteristically bad decisions.

At the moment, Green Bay is trailing both the slumping Minnesota Vikings [5-3] and the Detroit Lions [5-4] in the NFC North, and Sunday’s tilt in Tennessee will mark the beginning of a crucial, three-game stretch that also includes games at the Washington Redskins [4-3-1] and Philadelphia Eagles [4-4].

Following their Week 12 trip to The City Of Brotherly Love, the Packers will host a pair of potentially problematic opponents when the AFC South-leading Houston Texans visit in Week 13 and the Seattle Seahawks roll into town seven days later. And if they’re still standing after that five-game grind, a Week 15 game at the Chicago Bears will mark the first of three consecutive divisional contests to end the regular season.

If Rodgers’ and the Pack can keep pace with the current leaders of the NFC North, and find a way to win the type of close games that they’ve already lost to Minnesota, Indy, and the Atlanta Falcons, they’ll have a chance to reclaim the divisional crown in a Week 16 showdown versus the Vikings and a meeting in Motown with the Lions in Week 17. But if Green Bay’s offense continues to sputter when it needs to score and its defense doesn’t tighten things up soon, the Packers’ will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008—Rodgers’ first year as Green Bay’s starting quarterback.

Green Bay Packers

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers Slams Colts’ Fans for Booing Andrew Luck

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aaron rodgers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is speaking out against the fans who booed former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, following the stunning news of his retirement over the weekend.

“I thought it was pretty disgusting,” Rodgers said, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

“He’s making a really tough decision and then before that, he makes the decision, I don’t know why that doesn’t stay in house to kind of protect him a little bit. Although when I think about it, I thought it would’ve been more of a standing-ovation type thing and a thank you than boos.”

While Rodgers says he is a long way away from his own retirement, he respects Luck’s decision to call it a career, calling it “very selfless, not selfish.”

“I, 100 percent, respect him immensely for his decision” Rodgers said.

“I salute him for choosing quality of life. He’s a fantastic player, he had a great career and he’s got a lot to be proud of. Like many of us in this locker room, if not all of us, we all have interests outside of football. Andrew is an extremely bright guy, and I’m sure he’ll have a lot of things to transition into. I know what it’s like to deal with rehab and going through injuries. I’ve been on IR twice. It’s tough. He was on it pretty much for an entire season and next offseason trying to get his arm back. Again, in my opinion, not playing with him but just reading what his teammates said, tough guy. What he went through to get himself back on the field is what it means to be a leader and I’m excited for him.”

“I’m sure when you’re going through stuff where you’re not sure if you’re ever going to play again — like Andrew did, like (Washington Redskins quarterback) Alex Smith might be dealing with right now — I’m sure there’s some tough days because, at some point, you start thinking about your post-career life and ability to move and functions,” Rodgers said. “A lot of guys over the years have had to end their years because of injuries. Two of my favorite quarterbacks growing up, Steve Young and Troy Aikman, those are tough decision but I think they’re decisions in the interest of your life at 40 and 50 and 60 hopefully. Again, I give him a lot of credit for making that tough decision, and I think he did it with enough time and lets them move forward with Jacoby [Brissett] and figure out what they want to do with their roster.”

Rodgers has also spoken about his thoughts about his post-career health, after suffering three known concussions already during his NFL career.

“Of course, of course,” Rodgers said. “Anytime you’ve had a concussion or a couple of concussions, the following days you’re always thinking about what it’s going to be like, but I think with medicine the way it is and research the way it is, there’s going to be more and more things that can help guys down the line to feel better, hopefully. And hopefully, we can do our job in the [NFL Players Association] and continue to take care of former players.”

While Colts’ fans may be angry at Luck, Rodgers is showing him nothing but support and respect for making the tough decision.

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Chicago Bears

Ex-NFL Running Back Cedric Benson Dies After Motorcycle Crash

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Cedric Benson

Former NFL running back Cedric Benson died at the age of 36 following a motorcycle crash in Austin, Texas on Saturday, according to CBS Austin.

Benson was one of two people who died in a collision between a minivan and a motorcycle on Saturday night at 10:22 pm, with the report stating that a “vehicle and person on fire” on the scene.

Benson was driving the motorcycle with a woman passenger, who also died as a result of the crash.

Furthermore, two other people involved in the crash refused to be treated by medical professionals, per the report.

“Police said Benson and a woman were on a motorcycle heading down RM 2222 when a minivan pulled out on Mount Bonnell Road and hit them”, according to KVUE.

The report stated that police said that “speed and poor visibility were the biggest factors in the crash.”

“If you’re not really careful, or you’re going slightly over the speed limit, it is very difficult to stop,” Sergeant Eric Wilson said.

Benson as drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears and spent 8 years in the NFL.

While he didn’t live up to his lofty draft status with the Bears, Benson was much better during his four-year tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in three seasons with Cincy.

Benson played in five games with the Green Bay Packers in 2012 before suffering a foot injury that would ultimately put an end to his career.

Benson ended his career rushing for 6,017 yards and 32 total touchdowns.

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Green Bay Packers

Bart Starr Dies at 85

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Bart Starr

Legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr died Sunday in Birmington, Albama at the age of 85.

Starr led the Packers to five NFL championships in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967, and was named the Most Valuable Player in the first two Super Bowls.

Starr retired in July 1972. He would later go on to serve as the Packers’ general manager and head coach in 1974, and held the positions for 9 years, going 52-76-3 with one playoff appearance in that span.

Starr has been battling health issues in recent years. He suffered two strokes, a heart attack, and several seizures in 2014 and overcame a life-threatening bronchial infection in August 2015. Starr broke his hip back in December.

“We are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr,” read a statement from Starr’s family (h/t ESPN). “He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014, but his most recent illness was too much to overcome.

“While he may always be best known for his success as the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit.”

“The Packers Family was saddened today to learn of the passing of Bart Starr,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy in a statement. “A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans. A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Cherry and the entire Starr family.”

 

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