When was the last time a great player on the Green Bay Packers got to end their career only wearing a Packers jersey? You’d have to look back over 10 years ago to Donald Driver who retired after 14 years as a Packer. In between there have been several players who certainly deserved the honor. However, instead they were either traded to another team or released to sign elsewhere. Even before Driver it was rare for a Packers player only to wear Green and Gold. Most Lambeau-grown Legends seem to always leave the Packers being traded or released.
With the NFL trade deadline this passed Tuesday, many joked that the Packers didn’t even know it was going on. Rarely is a move actually announced. Usually, the following press conference consists of comments that they were “in conversations” or “we were close but didn’t agree.” Well, Packer fans were surprised to see a move was indeed made Tuesday as Rasul Douglas and a 5th round pick were moved to the Buffalo Bills for a 3rd round pick. The move made sense for the Packers given their current situation. But it’s never easy to say goodbye to a player that fans have come to love.
Many never understand why these players are let go before their time is up. Reality is though, this is a very common thing in Green Bay.
Legends Traded or Released
You can go all the way back to the legends of the Lombardi era and find a small handful that suited up in another uniform. Herb Adderley was traded to the Dallas Cowboys where he played for three seasons. Both Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung suited up for the New Orleans Saints, although Hornung was hurt and retired before he could play a down. Taylor only played one season with the Saints before calling it a career.
James Lofton to the Raiders and Bills, Reggie White to the Panthers, Favre to the Jets and Vikings, that was just the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Then we had Woodson back to the Raiders, Jennings to the Vikings and Dolphins, Matthews to the Rams, Nelson and Adams to the Raiders, and of course Rodgers to the Jets. Even AJ Hawk the Packers most career tackles record holder couldn’t escape the fate and later played for the Bengals and Falcons. It’s just come to be a rite of passage of sorts.
At least in the last almost 20 years this can be attributed to the team’s desire not to “hang on too long.” Packers’ management has acknowledged that in order to stay competitive in this league, you can’t hang on to feelings and nostalgia. When a player’s time is coming, you want to respect them, but you can’t hang your franchise’s success on their decision to finally call it quits. You have to stay competitive after they’re gone, or you could fade to nothingness chasing their replacement immediately after. In the Packers’ case, when they see that you may not fall into their future plans, they look to either trade or release you other than let you ride out your time.
Get Something or Nothing
Outside of football, my next sports love is hockey. In the NHL, if your time is coming with your team, or the season isn’t going very well, they’ll trade you no questions asked. It’s almost become expected by fans. You could be a 20-year veteran of the same team your whole career, but fans will start thinking about getting something for you over just letting you retire a year or two down the road. Why let a good player walk in free agency or retire when we could get some draft picks or prospects for him? It’s cold, but it makes sense.
It’s a bit heartbreaking when you read how much a player would’ve liked to stay but instead was shown the door:
But when you realize what your team could receive in return, it helps just a little bit. In 2008 the Packers traded legendary QB Brett Favre to the New York Jets for a 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft. The Packers used that 2nd round pick to trade up in to the first round to select Clay Matthews. Matthews went on to become a Lambeau Legend in his own right becoming the Packers career sack leader. It’s almost like the Packers traded Brett Favre who had 2-3 years left in his career for another Lambeau Legend who would play for 10 years.
The trade of Rasul Douglas stings some fans for now. We may not fully understand it. But, Douglas only has a few years remaining on his contract and then he’ll be a free agent. So far, this season seems like a loss. So, why not make a trade to get a player that could be a Packer for 4+ years instead of two. Perhaps whichever pick they get with this, they too could become the Packers next legend.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.