Chad Clifton and the Draft Class of 2000 for the Green Bay Packers

Bob FoxContributor IApril 25, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18:   Chad Clifton #76 of the Green Bay Packers during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Without much fanfare the other day, the Green Bay Packers released LT Chad Clifton after he failed his physical.

Clifton deserved a better send-off, but the NFL is a cold business. Very rarely does a player end his NFL career the way he wants to.

Clifton might be the best LT the Packers ever had. That says a lot when he is compared to the likes of Bob Skoronski and Ken Ruettgers.

Clifton appeared in 165 games with 160 starts, which put him second in franchise history (behind Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg) for the most games played at tackle.

Clifton played hurt and overcame various injuries. He had numerous knee and elbow surgeries. But the injury that most people remember was the severe hip injury Clifton suffered when he was blindsided by a Warren Sapp block in 2002.

That injury put Clifton into a hospital in Tampa, as he suffered some bruising to his pelvis bone that left him unable to walk for six weeks.

Still, he came back the next year and played in all 16 games. Clifton always seemed to bounce back.

He even bounced back last season when he suffered a severe hamstring injury and then later developed back problems. Clifton suffered the injury in Week 5 but was able to return for the final game of the season and then the playoff game vs. the New York Giants.

Clifton had back surgery this offseason, and head coach Mike McCarthy was hoping that Clifton would be part of the team in 2012.

TAMPA - NOVEMBER 24:  Chad Clifton #76 of the Green Bay Packers is taken off the field after injuring his pelvis on a play during the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 24, 2002 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Buccs beat the
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

But Clifton's body finally failed him, and the former Tennessee Volunteer was released the other day. The next stop for Clifton in Green Bay will be the Packers Hall of Fame.

The draft class that Clifton was drafted in was one of the very best in Green Bay history.

Ron Wolf had a number of very solid draft classes in his tenure in Green Bay, but his class of 2000 stands out. For instance, Wolf drafted LT Clifton in the second round and RT Mark Tauscher in the seventh round.

Both of them became bookend offensive tackles for the Packers for over a decade. Tauscher had to retire after the 2010 season, while Clifton was recently released

Tauscher was never All-Pro or named to any Pro Bowls, but he was as solid a RT as they come in the NFL. Clifton was never All-Pro either, but he was named to two Pro Bowl teams. Like Tauscher, he was as solid as they come at LT.

Clifton and Tauscher first protected Brett Favre and then Aaron Rodgers. I'm glad both of them were able to get a Super Bowl ring after the service they provided for the Packers.

Wolf's first pick of the 2000 draft was TE Bubba Franks. Franks was a favorite weapon of Favre, especially in the red zone. Overall, Franks had 256 receptions and had 32 TDs. Franks was also named to four Pro Bowls.

In the fifth round, Wolf selected DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. KGB had a great career for the Packers. He was never All-Pro and only was selected to one Pro Bowl, but he is the all-time sacks leader for the Packers, as he had 74.5 sacks in his career.

The Packers also selected LB Na'il Diggs in the fourth round in that draft, and Diggs was a six-year starter at LB for the Packers.  

All in all, a great class. Clifton was the class valedictorian.