Packers C Jeff Saturday, who announced late last week he was retiring after the Pro Bowl, switched sides momentarily in Sunday’s all-star game in Hawaii to take one last snap with his longtime teammate, QB Peyton Manning.
Saturday and Manning played a dozen years together as Indianapolis Colts and went to two Super Bowls together. According to Saturday, Manning orchestrated the switcheroo and tribute snap. Saturday played his final NFL season for the Packers in 2012 while Manning is now with the Denver Broncos.
The NFC, coached by the Packers coaching staff, defeated the AFC, 62-35. The only other Packers player to participate in the game was G Josh Sitton, who was appearing in his first Pro Bowl.
Tags: jeff saturday, josh sitton, pro bowl
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QUARTERBACK AARON RODGERS
(what the recognition means to him)
“It’s an honor to be voted in, knowing that it’s a combination of the fans, my fellow players and the coaches. To be recognized by all of those people, it’s pretty special.”
(on dealing with some changes this season as far as injuries, roster moves, etc.)
“I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to play well every week. I have high expectations, I know this organization and my teammates do as well, they expect me to play well. We’ve had some personnel changes and injuries this year, but guys have stepped up and we’ve been fortunate to keep it rolling. I know I personally prepare to be successful, Monday through Saturday, and I think that’s why you see some of the success on the field on Sundays. I put a lot of time into it, I care about it, it means a lot to me, and I know my teammates are counting on me to play well every week.”
LINEBACKER CLAY MATTHEWS
(his reaction to being selected)
“It means a great deal to me to continue to maintain the success on a personal level year-in and year-out, but ultimately this is a testament to the team that we have. The players around me, the coaching staff, the personnel department, and everybody who is involved with allowing me to do the things I can do on the field and helping to put me in a position to excel.”
(on being the first Packer to be selected to the Pro Bowl each of his first four seasons in the NFL)
“It’s pretty special to hear something like that. Obviously, there have been so many great players to have come through here, so it is very meaningful. But to me, making the Pro Bowl again really speaks a great deal to the team we have and what we’ve been able to accomplish over these past four years in my short tenure here. Hopefully it’s an early foreshadowing of things to come as far as the success not only for myself, but for this team.”
CENTER JEFF SATURDAY
(what the recognition means to him)
“Obviously, it’s always an honor. Anytime you get to go to the Pro Bowl, it is an honor and you appreciate everyone, the players, coaches and fans that voted for you. As an offensive lineman, it is nice to get the award.”
(what it has been like for him to be with a new organization and new teammates)
“It has been fun. I have enjoyed the young guys and playing next to new guys for me. I am disappointed for Josh Sitton; I think he should be there. It is disappointing for me, for him. I would love to be able to pass it to him. He is a tough player and has played very well all season. I respect the heck out of the way he has played and it has been fun to play next to him. I’ve had fun playing with T.J. (Lang) and Evan (Dietrich-Smith). These guys have been a lot of fun to play with and obviously you depend on those guys. They make you look a lot better on game film, so I am very appreciative to those guys as well.”
Tags: aaron rodgers, clay matthews, jeff saturday, pro bowl
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The Packers’ offensive line got some reinforcements at practice on Friday, as G/T T.J. Lang (concussion) and C Jeff Saturday (neck/shoulder) returned to practice, though it appeared during the portion of the workout open to the media that Saturday was very limited.
DE Jerel Worthy (hamstring) also returned to practice after missing the workouts on both Wednesday and Thursday this week.
RB Alex Green (concussion) remained out, as did TE Tom Crabtree (hamstring), WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and DE C.J. Wilson (knee). FB John Kuhn, who missed practice on Thursday but was listed as “not injury related” was also absent again.
Mike McCarthy will address the media after practice and provide the final status designations on the injury report for Sunday.
Tags: jeff saturday, jerel worthy, t.j. lang
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With DE C.J. Wilson still out with a knee injury and DE Mike Neal added to the injury report on Wednesday with a shoulder injury, the Packers’ defensive line could be a bit thin come Sunday against the Lions.
Mike McCarthy said he didn’t have a lot of information on Neal’s shoulder, but he didn’t “feel real good about what the medical staff told” him about Neal. That would indicate Neal’s chances of playing this week are slim, and if Wilson remains out, that would leave the Packers with only four healthy defensive linemen — B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels.
In other injury news, it sounds like rookie Don Barclay could get his first NFL start at right tackle in place of T.J. Lang, whose injured ankle is “not progressing the way he’d like,” according to McCarthy. Lang sat out practice on Wednesday.
WR Jordy Nelson also sat out practice, as did LB Clay Matthews. Both have hamstring injuries, and McCarthy said he didn’t know if either would be ready to play this week and didn’t get into specifics. “I’m about timelined out,” McCarthy said.
Veteran C Jeff Saturday was also added to the injury report with a foot injury. He was limited in practice, but McCarthy said he expects Saturday to be able to play against the Lions.
In summary, the injury list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter for the Packers, but they’re so used to dealing with it by now that the typical response is a shrug of the shoulders.
“Self-pity is a waste of time, a waste of emotion,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s part of the National Football League. I don’t think we’ve created any secret formula how we go about it, we just stay focused on what’s in front of us, and you have to, especially these division games. They’re so important.”
The positive injury news came in the form of Charles Woodson’s return to practice from a broken collarbone. He was listed as limited on the injury report, the first time he has participated in practice since the injury, which occurred on Oct. 21 at St. Louis.
The Packers will practice in pads on Thursday, and McCarthy didn’t say whether Woodson would go in pads, which would be the next step to returning to game action.
“He’s getting close,” McCarthy said. “It’s a good start.”
Tags: c.j. wilson, charles woodson, clay matthews, injury report, jeff saturday, jordy nelson, mike neal
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Only one was with the team the first and only time the Packers played at Reliant Stadium in 2004, and that was WR Donald Driver. Coincidentally, that was also a prime-time Sunday night game.
The other three are veterans who played in Houston while employed by other teams.
C Jeff Saturday has the most experience in the stadium, having played several years for the Indianapolis Colts, an AFC South rival of Houston’s who would travel to Reliant Stadium every season.
Also, CB Charles Woodson played against the Texans in Houston in 2004 as a member of the Raiders, and DL Ryan Pickett did the same in ’05 while with the Rams.
RB Cedric Benson played in Houston as a member of the Bengals in 2008 and in the AFC playoffs last season, but Benson is now on injured reserve.
Tags: cedric benson, charles woodson, donald driver, jeff saturday, reliant stadium, ryan pickett
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When the Packers surprisingly cut Jon Ryan following training camp in 2008, the search for a punter was on. For the next two seasons, Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos held the job, but barely. In 2010, Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan competed for the position in training camp, with Masthay emerging as the winner.
There likely won’t be another punting competition in training camp anytime soon, now that Masthay has signed a multi-year contract extension. He has been the Packers’ punter for the past two seasons and has done nothing but improve, which has obviously been noticed by GM Ted Thompson.
“What was impressive to me was his continued growth,” Thompson said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, discussing the decision to give Masthay a long-term deal. “He didn’t stop with just winning the job. He wants to be really good, and he works at his craft. He’s extraordinary in the strength and conditioning portion of our organization, and we’re glad to have him.
“It’s like a lot of things, if you have one, then you don’t necessarily think it’s so important, until you don’t have one, and we’re glad that we’ve got him.”
Thompson also likes what he has seen so far in the transition to veteran center Jeff Saturday, who was the most notable free-agent signing in the offseason. The Packers needed a center after Scott Wells signed with St. Louis, and Saturday was brought in after more than a decade as Peyton Manning’s QB in Indianapolis.
“He kind of fits in like a gently worn baseball glove,” Thompson said of Saturday. “He has a lot of respect from the locker room because of his tenure and because of the way he plays the game. He applies himself, the smarts and the toughs and the nuances of playing the position, he does all that.”
Tags: free agent, jeff saturday, ted thompson, tim masthay
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“Absolutely,” Saturday said after Monday’s practice. “That’s why I came here. When we sat down and I talked to Mike (McCarthy) … ‘What’s the goal?’ ‘To win a championship.’ It’s not to win a division, … it’s to win a championship. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve only got so many left.”
Entering his 14th season, Saturday went to two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one. He’s now working with his second MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after snapping to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis for roughly a decade.
“I tell them, those guys are awfully lucky to have me as a center,” Saturday said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “No, I’m just kdding. It’s incredible. How blessed can you be, right? You go from MVP to MVP, and both guys are well-deserving.
“Aaron is an absolute stud. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of the offense, and I’m excited to have a chance to win with him. Let’s go try to put another trophy on the shelf, man.”
The Packers brought Saturday to Green Bay to help them win, of course, but also to possibly help tutor a center of the future. The best candidate at the moment is Evan Dietrich-Smith, whom Saturday already has taken under his wing. Saturday said he’s been feeding Dietrich-Smith various “little tricks of the trade.”
“I keep telling him, you have to try all these things, and once you get them, they help you go a long way,” Saturday said. “They look really good in a game. When you practice them against the same guy every day, it may not look as good. But you get accustomed to doing them in the game and they’re going to make you a better player.
“He’s a great kid. The kid’s got a great future ahead of him and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Elsewhere on offense, WR Tori Gurley continues to get opportunities to use his 6-4, 232-pound frame on jump balls. The QBs gave him repeated tries at an end-zone/corner-fade, and he came down with the first two. The first one was in a one-on-one drill against CB Casey Hayward, and after the catch, Rodgers encouraged Gurley to celebrate with the crowd. Call it a “Nitschke Leap” for Ray Nitschke Field, but the crowd was eating it up.
“I’m just having fun,” Gurley said. “I see how (Donald) Driver gets the crowd going, so I was like, you know what, I can do the same myself. Every time I catch a ball, I just wink at somebody and enjoy myself.
“I look forward to “Lambeau leaping” pretty soon.”
Gurley’s other jump-ball TD came over CB Otis Merrill in an 11-on-11 red-zone period. In a later red-zone team period, QB Graham Harrell tried to go up top to Gurley, but CB Davon House played the ball well and kept it from Gurley’s grasp.
“He plays his technique well and he uses his size,” Gurley said of House, who’s 6-1, 195. “He was able to make some plays. I got him and he got me. We’re just going to keep competing, and hopefully Family Night, I have the better showing.”
Tags: aaron rodgers, graham harrell, jeff saturday, jump ball, mvp, tori gurley
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