Green Bay Packers: 10 Things Packers Fans Will Miss If NFL Lockout Persists
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Immediately before the 2011 draft, on April 28, Packers coach Mike McCarthy declared his intention to hold rookie orientation in two weeks.
It’s now the second week of May—when the latest influx of football talent was supposed to be hitting 1265 Lombardi Avenue. But the on-again, off-again lockout has clicked back on—and all is quiet once more on the practice field and transactions wire.
The rookies, like the rest of us, remain in pigskin purgatory.
Here are the top 10 things that Packer fans have already missed—or will soon miss—if the NFL’s labor situation remains unresolved through the summer.
10. Basking in the Post-Championship Media Glow
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Fans love reading positive press about their teams, and there should have been a torrent of laudatory ink in the aftermath of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The impending labor strife, however, cast a pall over the Packers’ victory and scribes and talk radio hosts soon turned their attention to studying the legal labyrinth ahead. Instead of analyzing the maturation of Aaron Rodgers, journalists were scrutinizing the rhetoric of NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.
9. Seeing the 2011 Rookies
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With rookie orientation camp on indefinite hold, Packer fans will just have to wait to see if WR Randall Cobb shows that hiccup-quick ability in the open field, if OT Derek Sherrod’s incredible wingspan is myth or reality, or if LB Ricky Elmore really does have more burst than his measurables would suggest.
Rookie camp, incidentally, was where an undrafted free agent linebacker out of Central Michigan first flashed in front of the coaching staff. That guy turned out to be Super Bowl starter Frank Zombo.
8. Studying Undrafted Free Agents
Sam Shields was a raw CB talent who mostly played WR at college for the Miami Hurricanes.
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As has been well-documented, GM Ted Thompson could fill a Tiffany’s vault with his diamonds in the rough. Last year, Thompson struck gold in the undrafted free agency pool with Zombo and CB Sam Shields, a speedy but raw prospect whose lockdown ability eventually enabled defensive guru Dom Capers to unleash the full fury of his 3-4 scheme.
With free agency frozen, fans are unable to delight in poring over and debating the merits of Thompson’s would-be haul of unheralded young talent.
7. Taking in Organized Team Activities
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For hardcore football fans, OTAs have always been a much-needed oasis in the fallow months between the draft and training camp. This year, in the Saharan climate of the 2011 NFL offseason, OTAs would be relished more than ever.
And reports from OTAs also offer more substantive morsels. It was during the May 2010 OTAs that the Packers revealed a switch on the defensive line, with Ryan Pickett moving to end and BJ Raji sliding inside. That fateful decision paved the way for Raji’s breakthrough year— and his epochal interception return in the NFC championship game.
6. Reliving the Glory at the Ring Ceremony
The Super Bowl ring of the Saints
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In June 2010, the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints wrapped up their final OTAs with a formal ring ceremony, during which they received the diamond-encrusted emblem of their triumph.
At a swanky downtown hotel, the Saints walked the red carpet and stopped along the barricades to pose for photos with their long-suffering supporters. If the NFL follows through on its threat to shut down the league, Packer fans might be waiting a very long time to enjoy a similar special moment with their team.
5. Tracking Progress After the QB School
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One of the most secretive—and most important—aspects of the Packers’ ascension has been Mike McCarthy’s “quarterback school.” Although the content of the intensive QB training is as jealously guarded as Coke’s ingredient list, there is little doubt that those experiences helped shape Aaron Rodgers into a Super Bowl MVP.
Usually held in early spring, the school was shuttered in 2011. Progress—or lack thereof—by third-stringer Graham Harrell would have clarified the backup QB position before the draft.
4. Fashioning Far-Fetched Trades
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Graham Harrell’s development through the offseason schedule would have fanned or stanched rumors that backup QB Matt Flynn was on the trading block. Flynn—as well as LB Nick Barnett—have been the subject of fan-fueled trade whispers.
In this golden age of fantasy football, every fan fancies himself or herself as the next Ron Wolf. Without a buzzing transaction wire, fans were deprived of some of that speculative joy leading up to and through the draft.
3. Dreaming of Unattainable Free Agents
Nnamdi Asomugha (middle)
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Because the rules of free agency remain inchoate, all NFL fans are suffering from withdrawal of the most potent drug—hope. Although the likely crop of 2011 free agents looks thin, even just one or two signings of semi-familiar names would be enough to buoy the championship dreams for some fans.
While Packer fans are not as desperate as others to land a big name, they clearly know the value of a key FA acquisition (see Woodson, Charles). And, in any other year, their daydreams would be flush with images of CB Nnamdi Asomugha blanketing Lions WR Calvin Johnson. (Keep dreaming.)
2. Relishing the White House Visit
President Obama greets the New Orleans Saints
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While the Saints did not meet the Fan-in-Chief until August 9 last year, the uncertainty of the NFL labor situation adds another complication to scheduling a visit with the world’s busiest man. Carrying out this tradition is especially important for the Packers and their fans, as Charles Woodson famously made the White House visit a rallying cry for Packer Nation.
“The president don’t wanna come watch us in the Super Bowl. Guess what? We’ll go see him!” Woodson said after the NFC Championship Game. They might have to wait even longer to make the No. 1 Chicago Bears fan squirm.
1. Reading Any Shred of Substantive Packers News
Photo courtesy of "Big Guy, Small Dog"
In this most bizarre of NFL offseasons, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently featured Packer blog posts about Aaron Rodgers’ new sponsorship deal with a law firm, and LB AJ Hawk’s promotion of something called the “Big Guy, Small Dog” contest.
But, short of any real news from Packers HQ, you read about them.
And then you read this article, which is the ultimate proof that there’s very little to read indeed.