The Green Bay Packers haven't won in more than a month, and they are expected to sit quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the fourth straight game on Thanksgiving when they play the Detroit Lions. Guard Josh Sitton thinks he knows the reason why.
The Lions are dirty.
Speaking on Sports Radio 1250 in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Sitton called out the Detroit coaching staff and insinuated that Lions players would take cheap shots in order to purposely knock Rodgers out of the game. Oh, and he called them all "scumbags," per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk:
They go after quarterbacks, their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time. That’s what they do, that’s who they are. They’re a bunch of dirtbags or scumbags. I mean, that’s just how they play. That’s how they’re coached. That starts with their frickin’ coach. That starts with their head coach, Schwartz. He’s a dick, too. I wouldn’t want to play for him. It starts with him and their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They’re all just scumbags and so are the D-line.
On Wednesday, Nov. 27, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy discussed Sitton's comments on 620WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News," courtesy of Jay Sorgi of JRN.com:
"I heard about them. Really, when matters like that happen with the media, the only thing I ask our players is to not create questions for everybody else in the locker room. Those comments did not create that."
Since Jim Schwartz took over as Lions head coach, they have been among the most penalized teams in the league. Heading into Week 13, Detroit ranks 22nd in the NFL with 6.8 penalties per game, the second time in the past three seasons Schwartz and Co. have ranked in the league's bottom 10.
Detroit players have also been regular violators of the league's new player-protection policies. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh alone has been fined by the commissioner's office seven times for illegal hits or other on-field infractions, including a $100,000 fine in Week 1 for a low block. Suh was also suspended in 2011 for repeated violations of the player-safety initiative.
Ironically, one of the times Suh was not fined came earlier this season against the Packers, when he purposely tripped Rodgers when he was trying to roll out of the pocket. The infraction drew a penalty on the field but was not considered a "leg whip," which is a finable offense.
Schwartz responded to the comments on Wednesday (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN):
"I've been around too long to take that bait," Schwartz said on 97.1 The Ticket and CBS Radio. "The game's going to be played by players on the field, and it's going to be played with actions, not with words. I think we just, those comments just stand on their own. We just let them be, and we're not going to take the bait on stuff like that."
Schwartz also said Sitton's comments seem to be the norm when it comes to off-the-field talk.
"I think it's unfortunate for our game," Schwartz said. "I think there's less emphasis on the game that's on the field, and things like this get more attention. I don't think that's necessarily good for our game.
"I think that it's the play on the field that's going to determine who wins and loses, not what's said in the run-up before the game. But that gets a lot of interest now. I think we just need to stay focused on our jobs."
The Packers are understandably treating Rodgers with kid gloves, as he's already missed the last three games with a broken collarbone. While Rodgers returned to practice on Tuesday and will likely return within a couple of weeks, Green Bay being on short rest likely played as big a factor as the Lions' aggressiveness in the team's decision.
Matt Flynn is expected to make the start, despite the Packers being his third team of 2013. Green Bay has understandably floundered without Rodgers, compiling an 0-3-1 record ever since he went down on the first series against the Chicago Bears in Week 9. Luckily, Detroit and Chicago have both struggled of late as well, and the Packers are still tied in the loss column with their two chief rivals.
The Lions haven't commented on Sitton's thoughts. But, if history is any indication, they'll likely let him know what they think on the field.