Postcard from camp: Packers
The road signs say Green Bay, and a
But those fans are confused. I was in Milwaukee a few weeks ago when Favre decided to unretire, and I was in Green Bay when the Packers told him "no thanks." When asked about the atmosphere, I can only report: People just don't know what to think; it's like they're about to collectively implode. How do you take a side? What do you do when Primary Directive A (worship the Packers) conflicts with Primary Directive B (worship Brett Favre)?
Even after The Trade, I don' think that has changed. At best, people have compartmentalized their frustration. Most fans will rip General Manager
1. As recently as this Tuesday, this offense looked inept, lost. Tons of dropped passes and interceptions; plenty of false starts and penalties. The intrasquad game was atrocious. (Rodgers was 7-of-20 with a pick.) And fights were rampant -- I saw more during two days in Green Bay than I had seen in five at Bears and Lions camp. Altogether typical stuff for early August, but a new quarterback lent even more urgency. Things seemed to be spiraling out of control fast. From an outsider's perspective, when Brett briefly reported to camp it would have been easy to think: Well, they gave Aaron a shot and just look what happened; now they're going back to Favre.
But that wasn't the case, and on Wednesday Favre packed his bags for Hattiesburg. He hadn't been traded yet but it was clear by that morning: Aaron Rodgers is undoubtedly the Packers' starting quarterback. With that taken care of, things have turned around.
For one, the heckling we all heard about last week has faded. Save for a lone screamer on Friday morning ("J-E-T-S, Brett, Brett, Brett!") the crowd is complacent. They even muster a golf clap for Rodgers every now and then. And on the field, play has improved, coach
2. Rip G.M. Ted Thompson all you want for the way he handled the Favre situation, but from Rodgers on down the line this team is built to last, and Thompson is largely responsible. When he arrived in 2005, Thompson was condemned for letting guards
3. A few weeks ago I was worried about the Packers' defensive line, what with tackle
The Packers didn't have a first round draft pick. Their highest selection, receiver
The Packers face just six '08 playoff participants; and did I mention they play in the weak NFC North? But that's just one way to see it. The Vikings are clearly on the rise, plus New Orleans and Carolina look fit to compete in '08. That's ten tough games, plus the rival Bears (who Green Bay lost to on both occasions last year) twice. The Packers should have a pretty good sense of how they'll fare after Week One, a Monday nighter at home against Minnesota. The Vikings' defensive line, which ranked No. 1 against the run last year, will plug up the lanes, forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw; and then they'll bring the heat with newly acquired defensive end
Post-practice Wednesday. Brett Favre's Steakhouse, I'm sitting at the bar. On the TV, coverage of Brett's plane waiting on the tarmac in Green Bay and a reporter muses, "It may be a long, long time before Brett ever comes back to Green Bay." With that obvious statement, the life was sucked out of the place. A grandma in a pink No. 4 jersey just threw her arms up and sighed. The looks on the Steakhouse employees' faces were priceless, as if they were somehow representing Favre but just didn't know what to say. I swear, one bartender said, aloud, "I'm sorry."
• With Rodgers replacing a quarterback who spent 16 years in the offense, you could imagine all sorts of changes: the playbook gets scaled back; receivers have to get used to a lighter touch, perhaps; linemen acquaint themselves to a different style of scrambler (read: less chaos)... "Nope. Not really," says tight end
• Remember the name
• If the meeting of 1st Street and First Ave in Manhattan is the nexus of the universe, then what does that make the intersection of Holmgren Way and Brett Favre Pass in Green Bay now?
• Used to be that Aaron Rodgers looked just like Ryan the intern (now