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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: Aaron Rodgers Makes Everything OK

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2013 was a dark year for Packers fans. We have certainly seen darker, even those of us who didn’t live through the 70s and 80s. The Packers were without Aaron Rodgers, and mostly because of Brett Favre’s “Ironman” streak Cheeseheads had forgotten what it was like to be leaderless. We had forgotten what it was like to try and win a football game without a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback.  Green Bay was losing games on a regular basis against teams that weren’t as good as they were because of quarterback play.

Then the Dallas game happened. The Packers came back from a 26-3 deficit led by backup QB Matt Flynn who had just come off of the couch to potentially save the Packers season. After a 1 yard Eddie Lacy plunge, Tramon Williams intercepted a Tony Romo pass intended for Cole Beasley and effectively ended the game.

Matt Flynn

In one of the most powerful images of his career, Matt Flynn celebrates Eddie Lacy’s 1 yard touchdown to take the lead in Dallas in 2013.

Former PackersTalk.com writer (and From the Benches host) Jacob Westendorf and I started talking about the scene from the Dark Knight rises where a masked Bruce Wayne sneaks into Commissioner Gordon’s hospital room you see here. Commissioner Gordon pleads, barely breathing: “the Batman must come back”.

Rodgers had to come back, and come back he did. No Packers fan forgets where they were when Rodgers took the snap, Kuhn laid out to block Peppers, and Cobb ran right past Chris Conte and into the Bear end zone on “4th and great”. Though Green Bay would fall in the Wild Card round to eventual NFC Championship participant San Francisco, they wouldn’t be 4x defending NFC North champs without “4th and great”.

We tend to romanticize sports and our athletic heroes. It’s natural. It’s all the same stuff: escapist entertainment. Football is unscripted, untainted good vs. evil. Your favorite team are the protagonists and the opponents the villains, trying to ruin your Sunday (and if you’re like me your week).

Things didn’t start out so rosy for number 12. When I think of Aaron Rodgers a different line from that movie comes to mind:

“He’s not the hero we deserved, but the one that we needed.”

Packers fans didn’t really deserve what Rodgers provided them from 2008-2010.   Most pined for Brett Favre to come back for a 17th season in Green Bay, even at the expense of losing Rodgers when his contract expired. A revolting few took it to another level. In the 2010 “America’s Game” documentary Rodgers tells stories about threats (from Packers fans!) about breaking his arm, even threats against his life.

Brett Favre Aaron Rodgers

When Aaron Rodgers arrived in Green Bay, Brett Favre made it clear that it was not his job to get Rodgers ready to start. As time went on, though, the two quarterbacks formed a friendship

The truth is, Aaron Rodgers made everything OK. When the most popular player in the modern Packers era created a divide in the fan base with his on-again-off-again antics, Rodgers debuted by throwing for over 4,000 yards, providing hope for the fan base.

Neither Favre (he physically fell apart) nor Rodgers (lost a ton of close games) qualified for the playoffs that season. In the end, the Packers looked like a promising young team and Favre looked to be done.

Then everything changed. Favre’s master plan fell into place.   The Packers accused the Vikings of tampering with Favre during his waffling summer of 2008. It was clear that Vikings coach Brad Childress coveted #4’s services and that Favre himself saw Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense as pieces to a possible Super Bowl puzzle (he was wrong).  Brett Favre managed to work his way out of his Jets contract by “retiring” again and made his way to Minnesota.

“Our” quarterback, almost everyone’s favorite Packer, a folk hero had forced Ted Thompson to trade him, faked another retirement after one season and finagled his way to the Minnesota Vikings.  Packers fans all over were crushed.  I was crushed.

Favre wanted to win the Super Bowl. Possibly more than that, if the Packers wanted to move from Favre to Rodgers, Favre wanted to beat the Packers and the best way to do that was to go to the most talented inter-division rival, the Vikings.

Brett Favre went on to have one of his finest statistical seasons in Minnesota in 2009. He set a career high in passer rating at 107.2. He and his Vikings swept the Packers and he was booed heavily in his return to Lambeau wearing enemy purple. Favre even won a playoff game in Minnesota before throwing a season-ending interception in the NFC Championship game against New Orleans.

How did Aaron Rodgers make it all better? By sweeping Favre and his Vikings in 2010, including a 31-3 embarrassment that effectively ended Minnesota’s season, Favre’s last. More importantly, Rodgers brought Coach Lombardi’s trophy home to Green Bay. He strung together the finest 4 game playoff run I’ve ever seen.

Rodgers threw 9 touchdowns and ran for 2 others against just 2 interceptions and capped it off with a Super Bowl MVP performance in a victory over the Steelers. Rodgers and the Packers were standing tall. Favre’s consecutive game streak was over and the Vikings were left in shambles.  Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the hero we deserved, but the hero that we needed.

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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Davante Adams Primed For Breakout Season

Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA;  Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) can't make the catch in the end zone while covered by New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Davante Adams had a very up and down rookie season for the Green Bay Packers in 2014.

There were many games when he was invisible, there were games when he was visible for making mistakes and there were games when he stepped up as a focal part of the game plan when Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were facing double teams. This was evident when he caught 11 passes for 121 yards on Nov. 30 against New England and seven passes for 117 yards and one touchdown in the NFC Divisional round playoff game. Adams caught 38 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns total for the season.

This offseason Adams has been talked about more for his crazy basketball dunks than his football play, but those dunks did show off the amazing athletic ability Adams does possess. He kind of seems like a forgotten man headed into OTA’s and training camp. Nelson and Cobb are the two star receivers and Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis will be having an intriguing battle for the spots behind Adams. Meanwhile, Adams just falls into the middle of those groups and should be able to go about his business without a ton of preseason attention.

Obviously, it’s going to be hard for Adams to put up big time stats with Nelson and Cobb getting the vast majority of the targets. However, we should still expect a nice leap from Adams from year one to year two. Those flashes of big-time ability he showed last year should become more consistent as he develops as a player, has better chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and is more familiar with the offense.

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Brett Hundley Can Become Valuable Trade Chip for Green Bay Packers

Packers Backup Quarterback Brett Hundley

When the Green Bay Packers traded up to select quarterback Brett Hundley in the fifth round of the NFL draft, their intention was not for him to be the heir to Aaron Rodgers. Hundley will start the season as a backup, but could be developed into a major trade asset for Green Bay.

Hundley was projected to go earlier in the draft than where he was ultimately selected. Prior to the draft, many analysts had him going in the third or fourth round. For a time, he was regarded as the third best quarterback in the draft behind Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

So when Hundley slipped into the fifth round, the Packers traded up to get him. While he will likely start the season as the third string quarterback behind Rodgers and Scott Tolzien, his value to the team could be more than just as a backup.

The Packers should take Hundley and develop him into a solid enough quarterback where he can be traded in the future for a higher draft pick. If Green Bay can trade Hundley in a few years for a pick higher than in the fifth round, then the Packers will have benefited greatly from drafting him.

Hundley is too talented of a quarterback to spend his entire career as a backup. He recently signed a four-year deal, but Green Bay would be smart to develop and trade Hundley before he becomes a free agent.

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Rookies Must Make Their Presence Known for Green Bay Packers

Packers Defensive Backs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins

The Green Bay Packers selected eight players in the 2015 NFL draft, and the Packers expect that each of them will contribute on the field during their rookie season. While Green Bay already has a roster that is loaded with proven talent at many positions, many, if not all, of the Packers’ rookies must establish themselves as dependable players for the team to be successful.

Expectations are particularly high for the Packers’ first four selections, defensive backs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, wide receiver and return specialist Ty Montgomery, and linebacker Jake Ryan.

The hype that comes with being an early-round pick could weigh heavily on these players, but it is essential for them to live up to the standards that the Packers have put on them. Green Bay is already regarded as one of the top teams in the league, and if these rookies can turn into solid contributors it will only help the Packers’ chances.

Green Bay selected Randall to fill a need at cornerback. After losing Davon House and Tramon Williams to free agency, the Packers found themselves thin at the position. Casey Hayward has proven himself as an excellent slot corner, but his ability on the outside remains unknown. While Randall might not start initially, he will see plenty of snaps and have the chance to make an immediate impact. The Packers would love to see him prove himself worthy of a starting cornerback spot.

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How Will Second Year Players Impact Green Bay Packers?

Packers Center Corey Linsley

The Green Bay Packers had four rookies who made significant contributions to the team in the 2014 season. A handful of others were drafted but, for various reasons, did not have as big of an impact. These nine players who were drafted by Green Bay last year will look to prove themselves in their second season.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Corey Linsley, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams all played a large portion of the Packers’ snaps last year. The other draftees, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Khyri Thornton, Carl Bradford, and Demetri Goodson, were less essential to Green Bay winning the NFC North title.

So what can the Green Bay Packers realistically get from each of last year’s draft picks? When looking at each player, it is clear that there will be both major and minor contributions from these second year players.

Corey Linsley

Linsley exceeded all expectations during his rookie year in Green Bay. He was drafted in the fifth round to be a backup, but after J.C. Tretter went down with an injury in the preseason, Linsley was forced to become the starting center.

He responded better than the Packers could have hoped. Linsley was rated the fourth best center in the league by Pro Football Focus. He stayed healthy throughout the year, and was the only player to be on the field for every single offensive snap.

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Inside the Bear Den: Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers vs Bears

Not only am I a Green Bay Packers fan living in Chicagoland, but I also married into a family filled with Bears fans. I actually proposed to my wife mere minutes before the 2010 Packers/Bears NFC Championship game. It was a fantastic day!

Over the three and a half years that we’ve been married, many interesting conversations have come up at the dinner table concerning the Green & Gold, so I thought I’d sit down with my brother in-law and get his thoughts on a few topics having to do with the Packers. For our first conversation, we talked about quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Jordan: What is the first thought that comes to your mind when I say the words “Aaron Rodgers?”

Eric: Hopeless…for the Bears. Honestly, it’s like comparing him to LeBron James and all the grief that he’s given to the Bulls over the years. It’s so frustrating. And it’s even more frustrating to look back at all the quarterbacks the Bears have had over the years while the Packers transition right from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. I mean, are you kidding me?

J: How would you describe Rodgers’ play on the field?

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Green Bay Packers Positional Spending

Packers Ted Thompson gives a Thumbs Up

During a time when there is not much Green Bay Packers news to write about I thought it would be interesting to break down the team’s salary cap. Here’s what the Packers will be spending by position this season in comparison to the rest of the NFL.

Quarterback: $20.38 million (5th)

Running Back: $3.2 million (31st)

Wide Receiver: $12.79 million (21st)

Tight End: $3.37 million (27th)

Offensive Line: $21.82 million (20th)

Defensive Line: $15.24 million (26th)

Linebackers: $31.86 million (2nd)

Cornerbacks: $11.72 million (20th)

Safeties: $11.46 million (10th)

My thoughts are that this mostly lines up with what NFL positions are valued around the league and that’s  no coincidence. Obviously, quarterback is the most valued offensive position and running back the least valued, which is reflected very well on the Packers. It will be very interesting to see what Ted Thompson is willing to pay Eddie Lacy in two years. He’s one of the elite running backs in the NFL and Thompson has never had to pay one of them before. Ryan Grant got paid by Thompson, but he was not on Lacy’s level, and it took a training camp holdout to get it done.

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