ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – The odds are against Johnny Jolly, but the fact that the Green Bay Packers are even giving him another chance means the world to him.
The veteran defensive end, who was reinstated in March by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after a three-year suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse, told WBAY-TV in Green Bay that he is headed back to Green Bay and will be rejoining the team after he graduated Wednesday from his court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program in Houston.
Coach Mike McCarthy has avoided questions about Jolly up to this point, including after Tuesday’s open organized team activity practice, which Jolly missed. But, McCarthy had hinted that Jolly was completing some sort of requirement to his probation, which he received a year ago after only serving six months of a six-year sentence.
Jolly could be back in Green Bay as soon as Thursday, although the players were all given the long Memorial Day weekend off and scattered about the countryside on Wednesday. The Packers’ next OTA practice is Tuesday and will be open to reporters and fans, weather permitting.
Jolly told WBAY-TV that the Packers’ decision to bring him back – even at a reduced, $715,000 salary – meant a lot to him. In the audience for Jolly's graduation Wednesday were Packers director of player programs Rob Davis and personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith.
“I don’t know anyone who sat out three years and was able to go back to the same team,” Jolly told the station in an on-camera interview in Houston. “They understand my situation and they’re willing to be there for me. I’m just doing everything I need to do to be in shape and do everything I have to do for my team. They’ve been there. I’m going to do my best to get them what they want to see this year. I’ll be doing everything in my power to get ready.”
The odds are against the 30-year-old Jolly, with who was the Packers’ best defensive lineman in 2009 but now is one of 11 defensive linemen on the Packers’ roster.
Jolly’s graduation from the program was complete with a diploma, bestowed upon him by Judge Denise Bradley, the same judge who sentenced him.
“She seen something in me even though she gave me the sentence, she seen something in me. Today I stand here I’m a free man,” Jolly told WBAY. “My life is going great. I’m back with my team the Packers. I just want to say thank you. She’s done a really good thing for me.”
According to WBAY, the judge told Jolly, "I know I've seen a change, and I know your family has seen a change, and we are just so darn proud of you today just for the progress that you've made. I didn't know if we would see this day happen."
GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson hasn’t lost any faith in his ability.
Speaking in a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday afternoon, the ex-Green Bay Packers star spoke at length about his decision to return to the Oakland Raiders, the team that drafted him with the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
And Woodson made it clear that he doesn’t see this as simply a sentimental end to a potential Pro Football Hall of Fame career. He believes he can still play.
“I would’ve just retired if I thought I couldn’t be the best player on the field,” Woodson said. “I’m coming in believing I can be the best player on the field. That’s how I feel.”
The Packers released Woodson on Feb. 15 after seven seasons. Woodson’s one-year deal with the Raiders reportedly maxes out at $4.3 million and includes a $700,000 signing bonus.
Woodson said his decision to sign with the Raiders after visiting the Denver Broncos last week had nothing to do with his winery in Napa Valley, Calif. – “This was all about football and having an opportunity to help a team win,” he said – and that he believes the Raiders are on the rise. Oakland hasn’t had a winning season since Woodson departed as a free agent and signed with the Packers in 2006 and were 4-12 last year.
“I wanted to go and finish up somewhere that was on the verge. Certainly, a couple of teams that brought me in – San Francisco and Denver – (are) two teams that have that chance,” Woodson said. “Those two places didn’t work out. As the process kind of rolled on, I knew I wanted to play football, regardless of really where I played.
“At that point I had to figure out what I wanted to do, and playing football was what I wanted to do so it was going to be somewhere, if it was a team that wasn’t quite there but still is a team that is looking on the up, then I was going to do it. And I feel that the Raiders are a team that are looking on the up.”
Woodson said his collarbone, which he broke on Oct. 21 and forced him to miss nine games, is “great.”
Asked why his career went from good to great when he went to Green Bay, Woodson cited the fact that opposing quarterbacks were no longer afraid to throw at him. Whether that was because of his reputation coming out of Oakland or the fact that the Packers had Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris on the opposite side, it changed his role.
“I think toward the end of Oakland, there was some injuries that kind of kept me off the field. Then I think that team-wise, we weren’t a very good team. I think that people just look at you as an individual and say, ‘If the team’s bad, you’re bad,’” Woodson said. “I definitely didn’t play bad football my last years. I actually played pretty good football.
“Going into Green Bay was just a fresh start and I was able to stay on the field and go out there and do my thing and I had opportunity. When I got over there, quarterbacks were testing me a lot more than they had at any time in my career, and it gave me ample amount of opportunity to get the ball, and I was able to get my hands on a lot of balls, make a lot of interceptions and people started to notice again what kind of player I was.”
Woodson said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who was with the Packers when Woodson signed with them in 2006, played a role in his decision, but so did the “love” the Raiders organization as a whole showed him – even though the only player still with the team from Woodson’s final season in Oakland is kicker Sebastian Janikowski. When Woodson arrived at the team facility Tuesday, fans were waiting for him, imploring him to return.
“I’ll tell you, man, it was overwhelming. I think that if at any time I’d ever forgotten what the love was like in Oakland, I was definitely reminded yesterday,” Woodson said. “I think I was actually scared of leaving the facility and not having a deal done. I don’t know if I would have made it out of there. But that was a big deal, and receiving that kind of welcome, it definitely put me in a mindset that it would be a good decision to make it happen.
“(McKenzie) definitely played a role because we’re familiar with each other. But after talking to Reggie, I got a good feel about how he felt about the team and that just really gave me confidence that they’re going in the right direction. Going into the facility yesterday, I felt good about where things stood, and if I signed I was going to be going to a team that has good players on the team. The game is about fundamentals and playing good football, and they have some good players, and if we can put it together then we’ll win games.”
Woodson said he expects to play the same role he did in Green Bay last season, meaning safety in the base defense and roaming around in sub packages.
“It probably will be the same it was last year, come in and play the safety role,” Woodson said. “I know they have guys they brought in at the corner position … their corner position looks to be pretty solidified. I’ll play my role at the back end and roam around the field and make plays.”
Woodson will have another role, though: That of mentor.
“I’ll do my part,” Woodson said. “I try to not to step on any coaches toes as far as what I’m telling the young guys or what I’m trying to give them. I told guys to ask questions and I’ll always be there to answer those questions. Whatever I can do, whatever input I can give those guys that’s definitely what I will do. If I could be a help to them and it will help us win ultimately I have to do it.”
GREEN BAY – With both of their rookie seventh-round wide receivers sidelined by undisclosed injuries, the Green Bay Packers bolstered their receiving corps by signing undrafted free agent wide receiver Alex Gillett Wednesday.
Gillett, a 6-foot-1, 214-pound rookie out of Eastern Michigan, played in 45 games with 33 starts during his career, with 30 of the starts coming at quarterback and three at wide receiver.
He completed 349 of 660 passes (52.9 percent) for 4,448 yards and 35 touchdowns with 34 interceptions during his career at quarterback. Playing wide receiver in 2012, he caught 14 passes for 132 yards (9.4 avg.) and a TD, with all of his catches coming in the final four games.
Gillett will wear No. 7 for the Packers.
GREEN BAY – If Aaron Rodgers is indeed going to be a catalyst for a reconciliation between the Green Bay Packers and his quarterbacking predecessor Brett Favre, Rodgers took another step toward helping that process along with his comments Wednesday on The Jim Rome Show.
Rodgers told Rome that he believes Favre’s No. 4 should be retired before Favre is eligible to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Favre, who retired following the 2010 season, is two years into the five-year waiting period for election. He would be on the ballot after the 2015 NFL season, when the Hall of Fame committee members are set to gather at Super Bowl L, which was awarded to Santa Clara, Calif., this week. Favre figures to be a first-ballot selection and enter the Hall as part of the 2016 class.
Rome asked Rodgers about the idea of Favre’s jersey being retired and burying the hatchet, a process which began with Favre and Rodgers sharing the stage at the NFL Honors event last February on the eve of the Super Bowl.
“I’m excited about it. I really am,” Rodgers replied. “I had a chance to spend time with Brett this offseason at the (NFL) Honors and it was good to catch up with him. It’s been too long.
“I think our country and the state of Wisconsin, these people are people of second, third and fourth chances, and I think it’s time to let the healing process begin for those who are still upset about what went down.
“I was totally OK with being out front of that and I’m very secure of the things I’ve been able to accomplish with the team and individually here in Green Bay. (I’m) excited about the chance to see him again and get his number retired here before he goes into Canton.”
Packers president Mark Murphy has been saying since the NFL Meetings in Arizona in March that the Packers have made a reconciliation with Favre a priority.
At the NFL Meetings, Murphy said there hadn’t been any other steps taken by the organization since Rodgers and Favre shared the stage on the eve of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
“I don’t know the timing of it. But certainly I don’t want to put a deadline on it, but it’s going to happen,” Murphy said of retiring Favre’s number. “It’s got to be sitting down – the organization, whether it’s myself or others, sitting down with him and working on the timing on it.”
As for Rodgers and Favre getting together at the awards ceremony, Murphy said it was a positive development.
“I thought that was great. It was kind of a good first step,” he said. “And our intent all along is we want to bring him back into the family and retire his number. He deserves it.”
Asked by Rome about the NFL Honors ceremony and his handshake with Favre, Rodgers replied, “It felt great, it really did. We got to meet up … But it was more just catching up on what he was doing, telling old stories from the three years we were together. Talking about some funny things and we had a good a good time. It was fun to catch up with him. It was good to see him. I look forward to him being back in the fold as Mark Murphy has said. I think it’s time for our fans and this organization and Brett to heal through this and move forward together before he gets the greatest honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
GREEN BAY – Desmond Bishop isn’t back … yet.
The Green Bay Packers veteran inside linebacker said at the end of reporters’ locker-room access time after Tuesday’s first open-to-the-public organized team activity practice that he expects to be practicing with the team next week. The Packers’ next open OTA practice is Tuesday, May 28, and Bishop said he’s aiming for that workout.
Bishop, who ruptured the hamstring tendon in his right leg during the Packers’ Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego and missed the entire 2012 season, had the hamstring surgically reattached on Aug. 17.
Bishop, whom the Packers signed to a four-year, $19 million contract extension on Jan. 4, 2011, has two years remaining on that deal and was reportedly on the trading block during the NFL Draft last month. Bishop, who attended Tuesday’s practice but did not participate, came into the locker room just as media availability was ending and could not be asked about the trade rumors.
Meanwhile, coach Mike McCarthy said Bishop was the closest to returning among a group of three players – Bishop, cornerback Davon House (shoulder) and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod (leg) – who are coming off surgeries.
House had surgery to repair a shoulder injury that dates back to that same preseason game against the Chargers, while Sherrod hasn’t played since breaking his leg on Dec. 18, 2011. He underwent a second surgery after the 2012 season ended.
“I’d like to see those guys out there running,” McCarthy said of the threesome. “Time will really answer that. If I was to rank those three as far as who is coming back I would say Bishop, (then) House, and Sherrod is the farthest away.”
Asked about Sherrod's progress, offensive line coach James Campen said he's been participating in individual position work and is making progress.
"Anxious to get him back," Campen said. "He’s champing at the bit. All the signs have shown to be positive. I’m excited to get him back out there."
McCarthy was unwilling to list players’ specific injuries, but other players who did not participate in Tuesday’s open practice were rookie wide receivers Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson, running back DuJuan Harris, safety Sean Richardson, outside linebacker Dezman Moses, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and defensive end Jerel Worthy.
Worthy suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on Dec. 30 at Minnesota and underwent reconstructive surgery Jan. 15. Richardson is recovering from neck surgery. Dorsey and Johnson were seventh-round picks in last month’s draft.
GREEN BAY – Even though his only options for 2013 are to play for the Green Bay Packers or not play at all, restricted free-agent cornerback Sam Shields remains unsigned and was not in attendance at Tuesday’s first open-to-the-public organized team activity practice of the offseason.
And coach Mike McCarthy didn’t sound real happy about it.
“Sam Shields is a young player and our program speaks for itself and how young players develop year to year,” McCarthy said after practice. “I wish Sam was here. He’s not here for his specific reasons that I’m sure if he wants to answer them, he can answer them. It’s about the opportunity to compete and our secondary is very competitive. I wish he was here.”
Shields was given the second-round tender, worth $2.02 million, in March. With the restricted free-agent signing window closed, Shields cannot sign an offer sheet with another team. According to NFL rules, if Shields doesn’t sign his tender by June 17, the Packers are permitted to reduce the amount of his tender to 110 percent of his 2012 salary.
ProFootballTalk.com reported last month that Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and the Packers were engaged in talks on a long-term contract, but nothing appears imminent.
With Shields absent, Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward worked as the starting corners with the No. 1 defense. With Davon House sidelined by a shoulder injury that required surgery during the offseason, Jarrett Bush worked as the third cornerback in the nickel package.
Safety Morgan Burnett said he had spoken with Shields during the offseason but that the two didn’t talk about Shields’ contract situation.
“When I talk to Sam, we don’t talk about football. We talk about how each other’s offseasons have been going, talk about our family, laughing and joking and reminiscing about old times,” Burnett said. Asked if Shields is missed, Burnett replied, “It’s different not seeing Sam, because y’all pretty much know that’s who I (am) with all the time. It’s different not having Sam here. Hopefully he’ll be here soon and I can have my buddy back.”
GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson is back where his NFL career began.
The ex-Green Bay Packers defensive back signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders Tuesday night, returning to the team that took him in the first round with the fourth overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. Set to turn 37 in October, this could be Woodson’s farewell season.
Agent Carl Poston told the Associated Press that Woodson's deal includes a $700,000 signing bonus and could be worth as much as $4.3 million in 2013.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, who announced the move, was working in the Packers’ front office when the Packers signed Woodson as an unrestricted free agent before the 2006 season. Unwanted then and viewed as a malcontent after his time in Oakland, Woodson revitalized what could very well turn out to be a Pro Football Hall of Fame career during his seven seasons in Green Bay.
Oddly, the Raiders haven’t had a winning season since Woodson left to join the Packers.
The eight-time Pro Bowl selection enters the 2013 season second among active players with 55 interceptions. He played in 106 games with the Raiders from 1998 through 2005, registering 17 interceptions and helping the Raiders to a berth in Super Bowl XXXVII. In Green Bay, Woodson played in 100 career games and He recorded 38 interceptions – nine of which he returned for touchdowns – and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. In 2010, he helped lead the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title.
The Packers released Woodson on Feb. 15, after he missed nine games with a broken collarbone last season. Despite an early visit to the San Francisco 49ers, Woodson found little interest on the open market. Last week, he visited the Denver Broncos, but he visited Oakland on Tuesday excited about the idea of finishing his career where he started it.
In a 2009 interview, Woodson said of Oakland, “My time there definitely shaped me. I loved my time there. I never thought I’d leave. I thought I’d be an Oakland Raider forever. But it just seems so long ago since I’ve been there, since I’ve put on the silver and black. I rarely, rarely, rarely think about it now. I think about it now and then when I’m talking to Willie Brown, or if I’m texting with Nnamdi Asomugha, I think about it, but it seems like so long ago.”
Woodson also admitted that he had to grow up a lot after his time in Oakland, and that he matured as a person during his time in Green Bay, having gotten married and become a father during his time with the Packers.
“That guy back then (in Oakland) was just young, man,” Woodson said in 2010. “I enjoyed life – all the time. I got myself into some situations where I was out too late, doing whatever, making bad decisions.
“Being here, (and it) not being in a big city, where there’s always something going on that you can be into, that takes part in it. But being married, having a son, going home after work ... If I was in Oakland, (expletive), who knows where I’d go after work? It might not be home.
“When I first got here, I figured I’d be here maybe a couple years, then I’d be somewhere else. But life takes you down some different roads sometimes, roads that you can’t explain. And this has turned out to be a great road.”
GREEN BAY – Johnny Jolly still isn’t back with the Green Bay Packers, and as a result, coach Mike McCarthy isn’t talking about him.
“Johnny Jolly, really, as I spoke the last time with Johnny’s situation, when situation and his process is completed and he gets up here, I’ll have more information for you,” McCarthy said Tuesday, after the team’s first open-to-the-public organized team activity practice of the offseason. “He’s still going through the process.”
What exactly that process entails after Jolly was granted early release from his prison sentence for drug possession and subsequently reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is unclear. But the veteran defensive end, who hasn’t played since the 2009 season, suggested on his Twitter account that his return is approaching.
On May 9, Jolly Tweeted to defensive line teammate Ryan Pickett that he would be back in Green Bay on May 23, which is Thursday. On Tuesday, he changed the date, responding to Packers fan John Rehor by saying he’d be back in Green Bay on May 28, which is next Tuesday. If that’s the case, Jolly could be on the field for that day’s OTA practice, which is open to fans and the media.
Although Jolly was reinstated on March 4 and met with Packers officials shortly thereafter, it’s unclear how much contact the team has had with him since he agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal.
Jolly was granted his request for early release – after only six months of incarceration as part of a six-year prison sentence – on May 15, 2012 after a Texas judge accepted his “shock probation” request. “Shock probation” allows a defendant an opportunity to receive probation after a short period of time in a correctional facility. The theory behind shock probation is that immersing a defendant in the penal system for a short period of time could “shock” him or her into a noncriminal lifestyle.
Jolly will remain on probation for 10 years and will have to serve 200 hours of community service. Jolly was arrested four times for illegal possession of codeine, and he has argued that he isn't a criminal but rather an addict who needs rehabilitation, not prison.
GREEN BAY – Rookie offensive lineman JC Tretter’s NFL career is off to a painful, disappointing start.
The Green Bay Packers fourth-round pick from Cornell suffered a broken ankle during Monday’s first organized team activity practice, according to his agent, Alan Herman. Tretter had worked at right tackle during the team’s rookie orientation camp two weeks ago.
“They were doing a fumble recovery drill. Unfortunately his cleat got stuck in the turf and he broke his ankle,” Herman said when reached Tuesday afternoon.
Herman, who also represents former Packers running back Ryan Grant, said the injury is similar to the one Grant suffered during the 2010 regular-season opener at Philadelphia. Herman estimated that Tretter will be sidelined six months.
“It’s a setback,” Herman said. “I’ve had four guys in the last two years who’ve sustained a similar type injury – torn the ligament and broke the bone. It’s a six-month deal until they’re fine. Three months non-weight bearing, and then they’re back on their feet.”
Asked about Tretter after practice Tuesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy refused to disclose the nature of Tretter’s injury, saying only that Tretter would not be available for the rest of OTAs.
"As far as injuries, obviously JC was not there, he was injured yesterday, he will not be available for the rest of the OTAs," McCarthy said. "With regards to the injury report, I’m not going to get into roll calls, injuries, just like we’ve done in the past as far as reporting in the OTAs. I’m here to talk about the players who worked today."
Asked if Tretter will be ready for training camp, McCarthy replied, "Really, Tretter is going through the medical process right now. I don’t have a clear (timetable). He’s going through the process.”
Asked why he wouldn't divulge what happened to Tretter, McCarthy said: "It’s just the way we’ve always done it.”
GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy wasn’t happy with what his team accomplished – or failed to accomplish – during last year’s organized team activity practices, so the Green Bay Packers coach has tweaked the structure and of his offseason slightly in an effort to make the practices more productive.
Phase III of the offseason program kicked off Monday morning at Lambeau Field, with the team set to have its first OTA practice later in the day. Tuesday’s practice is open – weather permitting – to both fans and reporters, set for 11:30 a.m. at Clarke Hinkle Field. The workouts are being held on the Hinkle practice field instead of Ray Nitschke Field behind the Don Hutson Center is being prepared for training camp, the team said.
McCarthy felt less-productive OTAs last year led to a less-productive training camp and, in turn, a slow start to the regular season, as the Packers began the year 2-3 before winning nine of their last 11 to finish 11-5.
“Our OTAs will be different this year,” McCarthy said at the end of the rookie orientation camp. “They won’t look much different to the media, but as far as, we’ll accomplish more football in Phase II than we did last year. We will probably do less team (11-on-11 sessions) in Phase III than we did last year. We’ve got a different emphasis.
“I haven’t really covered this with players yet, so I’ll cover this down the line. But we changed some things up in Phase III.”
One change that all eyes will be upon when Tuesday’s practice kicks off: The reconstituted offensive line. McCarthy juggled the lineup at the start of Phase II, shifting right tackle Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, right guard Josh Sitton to left guard, left guard T.J. Lang to right guard and left tackle Marshall Newhouse to right tackle. Newhouse will compete with Don Barclay, 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod and perhaps rookie fourth-round picks David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter for the job.
McCarthy wouldn’t say if the job is Newhouse’s to lose after he started 28 games (including playoffs) over the past two seasons at left tackle.
“I’m not going to get into the depth chart. Frankly, I’d like to get everybody lined up first,” McCarthy said. “We can talk about that when training camp opens, or see how these OTA reps sort out.”