Monday, July 27, 2009
When the Green Bay Packers last made major changes in the offensive line, they nosedived to 4-12 and the head coach was fired.
That was in 2005, after Ted Thompson allowed guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera to depart. Then he had the chutzpah to tell Mike Sherman and line coach Larry Beightol to go ahead and try replacing them with Adrian Klemm, Will Whitticker, Matt O'Dwyer, Junius Coston and Atlas Herrion.
That situation is analogous to 2009, when the fifth-year general manager made up his mind to go forward without right tackle Mark Tauscher and set up a competition among three players with a combined one snap of NFL experience at the position.
Not only that but center Scott Wells, the well-compensated replacement for Mike Flanagan since 2006, is in danger of losing his job. If, in fact, Wells is displaced by Jason Spitz, the berth at right guard previously held by Spitz most likely would go to Josh Sitton, another untested young player.
Left tackle Chad Clifton, the fifth member of the Packers' elite line from 2001-'04, is entering the final year of his contract and could well find himself on the chopping block next spring.
"There's some growing left to be done and some positions to be earned yet," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I'm sure we will prepare these guys well and, when the dust settles in camp, I'll feel fine about them."
The situation doesn't seem to be as dire as it was four year ago, when the coaches had almost no chance. Thompson signed the competent Duke Preston, a guard-center from Buffalo; drafted a pair of tackle-guards in the mid-rounds; and brought back Tony Moll, a snap-eater everywhere except center.
Besides, the Packers aren't exactly breaking up a powerhouse; the unit yielded 22 sacks last season, its most since 1996. Neither Tauscher nor Clifton played to previously high standards, Spitz was no more than a workmanlike starter at guard and Wells came in either third or fourth from 2006-'08 on the Journal Sentinel's all-NFC North team .
Thus, when targeted tackle Andre Smith of Alabama went three slots before Green Bay's selection in the first round, Thompson essentially put right tackle in the lap of line coaches James Campen and Jerry Fontenot.
Pending further developments, the plan is to let converted guard Allen Barbre, rookie T.J. Lang and unknown Breno Giacomini try to become the next Tauscher.
"The fact we're unproven, I guess it would be a concern," Campen said. "But it's not. Allen has done a very good job, T.J. Lang has shown he can play and Giacomini hasn't practiced yet."
The transition from an injured Earl Dotson to Tauscher in 2000 was remarkably seamless. The switch from an injured Tootie Robbins to Joe Sims early in the Ron Wolf era led to 1½ years of sloppy play before Dotson came of age in 1995.
Prospects such as Barbre, a fourth-round choice from a small college, often never get even one opportunity to start. This will be No. 2 for Barbre, who 12 months ago was aligned ahead of Daryn Colledge at left guard before playing himself back to the bench.
Barbre's challenge is to gain the trust of the staff. Last year, he was a bit like a bull in a china shop, going for the throat on run blocks (good) but missing in protection (bad) and constantly getting in altercations (unprofessional).
There's much to like about his speed, hip thrust and enthusiasm. One reason that Barbre didn't succeed at guard, however, was his inability to make rapid adjustments. The Packers hope the more one-on-one nature of tackle better suits him mentally.
"Sometimes at tackle he's on his own and he can focus on one thing and not worry about the linebacker cheating up or working with this guy or that guy," Philbin said. "He's acting more mature. It is his third year, and I think he feels better about his performance, which he should."
Lang is on the short side as well for tackle and was drafted more as a guard. But with Giacomini out the entire off-season after ankle surgery Feb. 11, Lang spent most of his time at tackle and convinced Campen that he's athletic enough to play there.
"He's really done a nice job where he's come from," Philbin said. "I'm impressed."
Giacomini supposedly practiced a lot better in November and December than he did in July and August, then went down Dec. 26 and hasn't been on the field since. He is tall and does play with attitude, but his one snap in the regular season (kneel-down) doesn't offer much to go by.
Another player behind the eight-ball is Wells, who underwent shoulder surgery in mid-January and sat out all offseason. It's unclear whether the Packers would have put Spitz ahead of Wells, anyway, but if their intention all along has been to make a change, his operation came at a convenient time.
“Spitz is playing center right now,” Campen said. “I like him at center. Scott will be in competition. His weight’s up, too.”
Spitz is neither as quick nor as smart as Wells, but he's adequate in both areas and is the bigger man. A year or two ago Campen said he wouldn't trade Wells for any center in the league to fit the Packers' system, but now that could happen.
Campen broached the possibility of Wells playing guard, which he did the last half of '05 for an injured Klemm. But at his height that would be a move of desperation.
After Tauscher blew out his knee in Week 13, and the Packers made the decision that he wouldn't be re-signed, their safest bet at right tackle probably would have been Colledge. But coach Mike McCarthy turned thumbs down, hoping that by staying put Colledge can become a top guard.
"Just a very fundamentally sound football player," Campen said. "He made another jump in the weight room like he did last year. He was (a solid NFL starter) last year."
In fact, Philbin said the Packers received slightly better performance in 2008 from their inside players than they did the tackles.
Clifton gave up career-highs in sacks (6½) and "pressures" (25). He admitted that injuries dogged him more than in any of his nine seasons. With Moll not starting-caliber and rookie Jamon Meredith more of a project, the Packers are praying for one more acceptable year from Clifton.
"Chad will be the first to say he had a disappointing season for him," Campen said. "But he will come back stronger and his weight's down."
Just as Thompson might be asking too much of Barbre, he almost might be asking too much of Sitton. Despite Sitton's inexperience, McCarthy probably would like him to start because he has always wanted a truly physical right side of the line.
Sitton seems mature beyond his years, has added some definition to his big body and is a tough guy. But if his feet just aren't good enough for pass-blocking, the Packers might end up returning Spitz to right guard and going back to Wells.
With 1,463 snaps spaced over four seasons in Buffalo, Preston knows how to play. He's heavy-legged and lacks quickness, but has held up well against bulk.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
St. Louis — Asked earlier in the day what his strategy would be in the All-Star Home Run Derby, Prince Fielder smiled.
"Just hit the ball hard," the Milwaukee Brewers slugger said. "And if I get under it a little bit, I might have a chance."
A very good chance, as a matter of fact.
Doing what he does best - hit the long ball - Fielder became the first Brewer to win the Home Run Derby when he bested former minor-league teammate Nelson Cruz in the championship round Monday night at Busch Stadium.
Fielder still had three "outs" to go when he socked his sixth home run of the final round, topping the total of five by Cruz, who went first. Almost before the ball cleared the fence in right-center, teammate and fellow all-star Ryan Braun greeted Fielder at home plate, engaging him in the "boxing" routine they often simulate after home runs.
Fielder's two young sons, Jadyn and Haven, also rushed out to give their dad a celebratory hug. Fielder then followed tradition of a Brewers victory by untucking his red all-star jersey, a habit that has drawn criticism from the hometown team here at times.
"It's something you see growing up as a kid and I'm just happy my kids were here and I got to win," said Fielder, who hit a total of 23 home runs during the three rounds for an average of 439 feet.
"I'm just happy. You never think you're going to win one."
Fielder started the competition using a bat of injured teammate Rickie Weeks but said he switched to one of Braun's models because it was longer.
"Once I grabbed his bat, it felt good," Fielder said. "He looks good with it."
Fielder and Cruz played together in the Brewers' system at Class AAA Nashville in 2005 but Cruz was sent to Texas in July 2006 with Carlos Lee in the six-player trade that brought closer Francisco Cordero and outfielder Laynce Nix to Milwaukee. The Brewers have nothing left from that trade but Cruz enjoyed a breakthrough first half to earn his first all-star nod with the Rangers.
"We know each other really good," Fielder said. "So, it was a lot of fun. It's kind of weird. You never figure you're going to have a Home Run Derby against a former teammate. It was pretty cool."
Fielder didn't come up with a Derby pitcher until Sunday, when he invited Nashville hitting coach Sandy Guerrero. When he competed in the 2007 Derby in San Francisco, Fielder used Mike Guerrero, Sandy's brother, now the manager at Class A Brevard County.
"I asked for (Sandy) in '07 and he wasn't able to, so I asked Mike," said Fielder, who bowed out in the first round with three homers that year. "He helped me through the minors. And he throws good batting practice, too."
It was no easy task for Guerrero to get to the ballpark on time. He and wife, Jessica, drove from Nashville to their home in Huntsville on Sunday evening, then took a 6 a.m. flight Monday.
Guerrero arrived here at 2:30 p.m., just 4½ hours before the Derby began, and rushed to the ballpark while Jessica checked them into a hotel. He did take time to sit down with Fielder and devise a game plan.
"I told him to take some pitches, make sure his timing is right," Guerrero said. "He was pretty locked in. He kept his cool. 'Nellie' was going ahead of him so Prince knew what he had to do. He was very competitive."
Fielder hit the four longest home runs of the competition and eight of the top 10, including a 497-foot blast in the first round and a 503-foot moon shot in the second round that electrified the crowd of 45,981.
"I've never hit a ball 500 feet before so that was pretty cool," said Fielder, who had a wait of nearly 1½ hours before hitting in the second round.
Cruz and Fielder were the first players to hit in the opening round and set the bar with 11 homers each. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard advanced with seven homers and St. Louis' Albert Pujols joined the final four with five after a "swing off" with Minnesota's Joe Mauer and Tampa Bay's Carlos Peña.
The two players with the highest cumulative totals through two rounds advanced to the final. Fielder hit six in the second round to total 17 and Cruz added five more to reach 16. Howard hit eight that round but bowed out with 15 and hometown hero Pujols was eliminated with a total of 11.
In the championship round, previous totals were erased and Fielder and Cruz started from scratch. Fielder matched Cruz's total of five with only four "outs" on the board but made three more "outs" before crushing his no-doubter for No. 6.
"I guess I was trying to hit the ball too far," Fielder said of that added suspense. "I got a little tight. Sandy told me to relax and I was able to hit one more."
The competition raised $665,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of America. Fielder was "partnered" with 14-year-old Kylie Kochel of the Boys & Girls Club in Bethalto, Ill., resulting in that chapter getting another $50,000.
The closest any Brewer had come to winning the Derby in the past was Jeromy Burnitz, the runner-up to Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999 in Boston.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The National League all-star team traded the closer in Miller Park's third-base dugout for the closer in the first-base dugout.
Milwaukee's Trevor Hoffman, the game's all-time saves leader, was named to the team Sunday morning after it was announced that Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, who pitched in the first game of this series, won't play because of an irritated nerve in his right toe.
That makes way for Hoffman's seventh all-star appearance and his first in a uniform other than the San Diego Padres', the team with which Hoffman built his Hall-of-Fame career.
"Big surprise," Hoffman said. "It's nice to come in and get that kind of news dropped on you.
"It's a really big honor to be able to represent not only the Brewers, but the Brewer bullpen and the work they've accomplished in the first half. I think that's indicative of being able to put a guy like myself in position to go."
The Brewers' bullpen came into the final day of the first half ranked sixth in the National League in earned run average (3.78) and sixth in innings (276 1/3 ).
The All-Star Game is a celebration of stars, obviously, and since the bullpen largely operates in anonymity, all-star pitchers are typically starters and closers.
"The guys that do a lot of the grunt work don't get recognized," Hoffman said. "It's the guy at the end, the closer, that reaps a lot of the reward for the work that they've done. We're a tight-knit group and we try to truly pass the baton from one guy to the next and achieve a win."
Hoffman is tied for fourth in the NL with 20 saves and his 2.05 ERA is near the top among regular relievers.
Every All-Star Game has been memorable for Hoffman, but he said this one would hold a different significance because he is doing it with a new team and after plenty of clubs passed on him after last season, probably thinking he was washed up.
"Age being associated with it, you relish the opportunity because you don't know how often it's going to come along," said Hoffman, 41. "I don't know if it's really sunk in yet, but there's some satisfaction in knowing there hasn't been a drop-off, not only in production but in having an impact within an organization, within a group of men."
When Hoffman wasn't selected by the players or NL manager Charlie Manuel for the team, he planned to "lay low" and do some fishing around Milwaukee with his three sons, ages 12, 11 and 10.
But when he was informed of his selection, it wasn't difficult to get them to switch from fishing to all-star mode, although some fishing is still tentatively planned for Wednesday.
"My kids are really excited," Hoffman said. "They're older and have been to quite a few, but they're starting to understand the dynamics that are part of it. They're really excited for Prince (Fielder) and the home run derby. I'm excited for them to have an opportunity to go. They're at that good age.
"It was a pretty easy sell."
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Ready or not, here comes Manny Parra.
The 26-year-old left-hander, sent to the minors by the Milwaukee Brewers last month, will start this afternoon’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park, the team announced Wednesday.
But both manager Ken Macha and general manager Doug Melvin danced around questions of whether the move was out of necessity or the result of Parra’s performance since being optioned to Class AAA Nashville June 13. The Brewers then designated left-handed reliever Chris Narveson for assignment.
“He’s pitched a couple good games and he’ll be given the opportunity to take charge of what we’d like to see him take charge of, and that’s being a guy that’s going to start for us every fifth day,” Macha said. “But we’ll see.”
Parra was 3-8 with a 7.52 ERA in 13 starts this season before being sent down. He allowed 32 earned runs in his final 211/3 innings with Milwaukee, a horrid stretch capped by a disastrous start against the White Sox when he gave up six runs and didn’t make it out of the second inning.
Since being demoted, though, Parra is 1-2 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts with the Sounds. He’s averaged more than six innings per start, and has only had one poor outing — when he allowed six earned runs in 42⁄3 innings June 28.
“He’s pitched well enough, had a couple bad innings, I guess, out of all his outings, two or three bad innings,” said Melvin, who was in attendance that night. “I think in the end we need Manny. We’d like to see Manny get straightened out.”
Parra went 10-8 with a 4.39 ERA last season, but he was just 1-6 with a 5.50 ERA in his final 10 starts. The Brewers could certainly do with Parra performing at the level he did during last year’s first half.
Milwaukee’s starters are 27-31 with a 5.01 ERA this season, and the rotation has become a major concern as the year has gone on. With Parra in Nashville and Dave Bush (triceps) on the disabled list, the Brewers had been plugging the holes with reliever Seth McClung and journeyman Mike Burns.
Parra takes McClung’s place after the big right-hander didn’t make it past the fourth inning in either of his two starts. Starters failing to work deep into games has been a recurring theme.
“We’re certainly hoping to get more innings out of him than McClung gave us,” Macha said. “I mean, last night we’ve got (Yovani Gallardo) out there and we still had to get four innings out of our bullpen.”
Missing in action
Right fielder Corey Hart was held out of the lineup after fouling a pitch off his ankle Tuesday night, with Frank Catalanotto taking his place. Mat Gamel got the nod over Casey McGehee at third base for several reasons: Macha wanted to get another left-handed hitter in the lineup against Cardinals right-hander Todd Wellemeyer; Gamel needed to get some at-bats; and McGehee had some swelling in his right knee.
Bench coach Willie Randolph, meanwhile, was suspended for “inappropriate actions” after being ejected in the third inning of Tuesday’s game.
Around the horn
Melvin was evasive when asked whether he had inquired with the Toronto Blue Jays about ace Roy Halladay. When asked if Toronto was a good match for Milwaukee in terms of swinging a trade, Melvin said that determination was up to the team with the coveted player. “I don’t know if we’re on the list or not. ... You’ll have to call (Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi) on that one,” he said. ... Macha doesn’t have his post-All-Star break rotation set, but Braden Looper will start the first game after the break in Cincinnati. ... Bush will begin his rehab assignment by throwing three to four innings at Class A Wisconsin Friday. His next start after that will be at Class AA Huntsville.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Here's a recap on the Green Bay Packers 2009 Draft Picks. After the Packers took the safe and needed pick of DT BJ Raji at #9, TT shocked the world by trading back into the 1st Round and grabbing LB Clay Matthews from USC. The Packers immediate needs going into the draft after switching over to a 3-4 were considered to be on the DL & hybrid LE/OLB and TT got two gems in Raji & Matthews. Also considered a need was OL. With Tauscher likely not being resigned and Clifton coming off another knee surgery and a not so good year, the Packers needed more youth at OL & surely needed to solidify its OL to protect Rodgers.
In 2008 Rodgers was sacked 34 times and fans watched him running for his life for most of the season. He still managed to throw for over 4,000 yards and 28 TD's, but the need to protect him has got to be a top priority with Packers brass.
B.J. Raji R1 (9) NT
6-1½ 330 Boston College
Age: 22, from Washington Township, N.J.... Fifth-year senior who was academically ineligible in 2007 in part because of an error by the school.... Ran the 40-yard dash in 5.15 seconds. "A rare guy physically," said Packers GM Ted Thompson. "He's genuinely a powerful, powerful man, especially in his lower body. He has the ability to take people backwards where they don't want to go. He also has the quickness to go around them. He is a very powerful player against the run. It's unbelievably hard to find the combination of skill set that he brings. The good Lord just didn't make many people like this." Scored 21 and 20 on the Wonderlic test. 32-inch vertical leap. Bench pressed 225 pounds an impressive 33 times. Arm length not great at 32 inches, but hand size exceptional at 10 1/2 inches.... 105 tackles in 49 games, with 12.5 sacks.... Was a late-bloomer, started playing the game his first year at Westwood Regional High School, when a friend suggested he should try out for the team.... "He's a classic nose-tackle build," said Thompson. "He fits pretty well in the 3-4, but he can play well in a 4-3, which he played his entire career in college.".... Had shoulder surgery before his senior year but didn't miss any games.... Agent is Brian Murphy and David Dunn from Athletes First. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Clay Matthews R1 (26) OLB
6-3 245 USC
Age: 22, from Agoura Hills, Calif.... Fifth-year senior who redshirted in 2004 and opened 2008 as a reserve before becoming the Trojans' starting right defensive end for the final 10 games.... Tabbed second team all-Pac 10 and USC's co-special teams player of the year for the third consecutive time as a senior, ranking fourth on the Trojans with 56 tackles (28 solo, nine for loss), 4 ½ sacks, nine tackles for loss and a blocked kick.... Finished with 96 tackles (13 ½ for loss), 5 ½ sacks and forced six turnovers in four years.... Weighed 160 pounds as a senior at Agoura High School.... Walked on at USC as a safety in 2004.... Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds.... Vertical jump of 35 ½ inches, broad jump of 10 feet 1 inch and bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times.... Arms are 32 ¼ inches long, and hands are 9 ½ inches wide.... "He's got the ability to extend his hands and leverage against offensive linemen and stay on his feet in positions where most people wouldn't be able to stay on their feet," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson. "I just think he brings a lot to the table.".... Son of 19-year NFL veteran Clay Matthews, and nephew of 18-year veteran and NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, both of whom also played at USC. "He was a legacy walk-on," said Thompson. "His uncle went to school there and his daddy went to school there, so it probably wasn't a huge shock that he went to school there.".... Underwent surgery on his right hand heading into his senior season. Also: What the scouts were saying...
T.J. Lang R4 (109) T-G
6-4 315 Eastern Michigan
Age 21, from Ferndale, Mich. (Birmingham Brother Rice High School).... Started at RT in 2006 and at LT the past two seasons.... "Certainly a big-framed, big-boned kid that can get in there and push people around," offensive line coach James Campen said.... Started one of seven games at DT as a freshman in '05, finishing with no sacks and 11 tackles.... First exposure at guard was in an all-star game in January.... "I played guard in the Texas vs. the Nation game," Lang said. "It took me a day to get used to it but I felt natural and comfortable."... Was informed by combine officials that he was the last player excluded from attending.... "Very tough player," Campen said. "High-effort player. He played with a defensive lineman's mentality. Very physical. Very disciplined player."... Runs the 40-yard dash in 5.21 seconds.... Vertical jump of 26½ inches, broad jump of 8-5 and bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times.... Arms measured 32 1/8 inches long, hands measured 9 3/8 .... Played in a spread offense, meaning he almost never put a hand down. However, Campen said the transition to a conventional stance shouldn't be a problem.... "He's got good feet, good balance and is a very good technician," GM Ted Thompson said. "We always talked about getting him."... Only offers out of high school were from EMU and Toledo.... "I show up every day and I'm consistent," Lang said. "I won't take any plays off. I'm not a cocky guy."... Scored 24 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test.... Agent is Mike McCartney. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Quinn Johnson R5 (145) FB
6-1 249 LSU
Age 22, from Edgard, La. (West St. John).... Moved from LB to FB in 2006.... Redshirted in 2004, backup LB in '05, backed up Jacob Hester in '06 and '07 and started in '08.... "I love the contact," Johnson said. "I'm just that kind of person. Just getting your nose dirty. I love that."... Finished with 16 rushes for 34 yards (2.1) and three TDs, five receptions for 54 (10.8).... As a two-year player on defense, he had five tackles.... "His power on initial contact is a very important part of playing fullback," RB coach Edgar Bennett said. "Great attitude. Great kid. Physical. Very aggressive. He can catch. He also has shown the ability to run in goal-line and short-yardage."... Runs the 40 in 4.79... "We felt it was a great value pick," Thompson said. "He's a very, very effective lead blocker. He's a physical presence. He's got a skill set and he's a big, physical guy."... Vertical jump of 32, broad jump of 9-7 and 16 reps on the bench... Arms were 32½; has big hands (10 3/8 ).... Wonderlic score of 16.... Agent is Jimmy Sexton. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Jamon Meredith R5 (162) T-G
6-5 302 South Carolina
Age 22, from Simpsonville, N.C. (Hillcrest).... Granted redshirt year in '04 but had to sit out two games in '08 as a result.... Four-year starter (38 games), including 19 at LT, 11 at RT and eight at RG. Played most of his final season at guard.... "He's got excellent length," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Good athlete. He's got a lot of physical tools. We liked his initial quickness off the ball. He played aggressively."... Runs the 40 in 5.01, fastest of the top 10 tackles.... "I'm a natural left tackle," Meredith said. "It was a very long (day). I'm just happy somebody took a chance on me. But it's cool, man. It's all in the past now."... Vertical jump of 28, broad jump of 8-9 and 31 reps on the bench.... Arms measured 34½, hands measured 10.... Wonderlic score of 23.... Graduated in May 2008 with 3.7 grade point average in sport and entertainment management.... Agent is Pat Dye Jr. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Jarius Wynn R6 (182) DE
6-2½ 273 Georgia
Age 22, from Lincolnton, Ga. (Lincoln County).... Spent two seasons at Georgia Military College, the school where former Packers DL coach Robert Nunn served as head coach from 1992-'99.... Played sparingly in '07 at Georgia, finishing with nine tackles in 13 games; came back to start seven of 13 games in '08, finishing with 24 tackles.... Had four sacks in two seasons, including two against Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. That was his final collegiate game.... "The Packers want me to gain some weight," Wynn said. "The biggest I've been is 283. I'll do whatever it takes."... Runs the 40 in 5.01.... Vertical jump of 29, broad jump of 9-5 and 21 reps on the bench.... Arms measured 33¾, hands measured 10 7/8 ; both are extremely long.... "I'm embracing the moment," Wynn said. "I'm glad you (the Packers) gave me a chance. I heard from third round all the way down. It's a dream to get to this point."... Agent is Chris Martin. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Brandon Underwood R6 (187) CB
6-1 194 Cincinnati
Age 22, from Hamilton, Ohio (Hamilton).... Redshirted at Ohio State in 2004, saw action in one game in '05 and eight games in '06.... The Buckeyes decided not to renew his scholarship in '07.... "That was an academic issue," said Shaun Herock, the Packers' assistant director of college scouting. "Since then, he has shown himself to be a mature individual. He paid some of his way to Cincinnati."... Said Thompson: "We were pretty keen to him. Very versatile. Got good size. Runs well. Very athletic."... Sat out '07 after transferring to Cincinnati, then started eight games at FS and six at CB in '08.... Had 66 tackles and four interceptions last season.... "Ohio State loved the kid," Herock said. "They thought he was one of the most talented athletes to go through there. But this is where he is and where we took him."... Runs the 40 in 4.54.... Vertical jump of 36½, broad jump of 10-5 and 16 reps on the bench.... Arms measured 32, hands measured 9¼.... "With the right coaching I can be any kind of player," Underwood said. "I like to put my hands on receivers. I have a great chance. I want it. I'm hungry."... Wonderlic score of 16.... "I've played corner all my life," Underwood said. "I just played safety this year. I adjusted to it very well."... Agent is Deryk Gilmore. Also: What the scouts were saying...
Brad Jones R7 (218) OLB
6-3 238 Colorado
Age 22, from East Lansing, Mich. (East Lansing).... Redshirted in 2004, backed up in '05 and started from 2006-'08.... Played 48 games, finishing with 242 tackles (20 for loss), 9½ sacks and two turnover-producing plays.... Runs the 40 in 4.59.... Played in a 3-4 defense.... "He can really, really run," Thompson said. "He has coverage ability and is a pretty productive pass rusher. He's a very interesting player."... Jones has played as a DE, has blitzed from inside and has walked out against WRs.... "He played similar to the way that Clay Matthews did," Thompson said.... Vertical jump of 33, broad jump of 9-11 and had 19 reps on the bench... "I do a lot well," Jones said. "I definitely have a knack for rushing the passer, but I cover tight ends as well as I rush the passer. They (the Packers) thought I really fit their defensive scheme and I'd be asked to play the role I had in college. Gaining weight wouldn't be a problem at all."... Arms measured 31½, hands measured 8 7/8 .... Graduated in December with a degree in economics.... In high school track, ran the 200 meters in 21.7 and the 110 hurdles in 14.32.... Agent is Josh Wright.
GREEN BAY -- Greg Jennings played it coy when asked after Tuesday morning's minicamp practice whether he was on the verge of a new contract with the Green Bay Packers.
"What did you hear? Who's your source?" the Packers star receiver joked with a gaggle of reporters at his locker. "It could be. And it could not be."
Turns out, it was.
An NFL source confirmed Tuesday evening that Jennings and the Packers had indeed reached an accord on a multi-year contract extension, although the source said there were still some final details being ironed out. WITI-TV, the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, first reported that the deal was "done" via a Twitter post late Tuesday afternoon, but the source said the contract had not yet been signed and sent to the NFL offices as of Tuesday evening.
According to ESPN.com, it's a three-year extension that will run through 2012 and includes $27 million in new money -- and could be worth as much as $30 million if he performs at a Pro Bowl level. Jennings will receive more than $16 million in guaranteed money, according to the report.
The deal puts Jennings among the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. Atop that list is Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, who signed a four-year, $40 million deal in March 2008 that reportedly included a whopping $30 million in guaranteed money and a $15 million up-front signing bonus.
A second-round pick from Western Michigan in 2006, Jennings was set to make $535,000 this season in the final year of his rookie deal, despite catching a career-high 80 passes last season for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowl first alternate behind Fitzgerald, fellow Arizona wideout Anquan Boldin, Carolina's Steve Smith and Atlanta's Roddy White last year.
The extension had been close to being a done deal for about two weeks, but Jennings didn't agree to terms until Tuesday, the source said.
Before the news broke, Jennings vowed that he would not hold out if the negotiations dragged on into training camp, which begins July 31.
"I've got one year on my contract left. Until next year, until that year's up, then I'm in a contract situation," Jennings said. "Regardless of if we get a deal done or not -- this is me being honest -- I'm going to play ball. I'm not the holdout type of a guy."
It won't be an issue now. And by getting the deal done, Jennings avoids the uncertainty associated with the soon-to-expire collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Players Association and the league.
If a new deal isn't reached before March 2010 and the 2010 season becomes an uncapped year, players with four years of experience like Jennings won't become free agents as scheduled; instead, without a salary cap, free agency would not be granted until a player had accrued six credited seasons.
Jennings acknowledged that he has talked with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who is also entering the final year of his rookie contract and has made it known that he wants an extension.
"I've talked to a few guys, Nick in particular. But you know, every situation is a little different. Everyone goes about it a little differently," Jennings said. "Some people give different advice than others."
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised Jennings' handling of the contract situation, saying, "He's been professional about it. The team has shown that they're going to take care of the guys for the most part. He's a guy who has been here."
Not that Jennings minded having a little fun by downplaying how close the deal really was to happening earlier in the day.
"Whether a deal is done, in the making, or not in the making, I'm going to be out here practicing, playing hard, trying to give our team the best chance to win. Period," Jennings said. "It's not hard to be patient. I've waited this long. There's no sense in me rushing things now. Good things come to those who wait."
Courtesy of Jason Wilde Wisconsin State Journal
Needing a solid PG to build around, your Milwaukee Bucks chose 19-year-old Brandon Jennings with the 10th overall pick. Jennings, who skipped a freshman year in college to play professionally in Italy, saw his gamble pay off when the Bucks made the move to select him.
Jonny Flynn went sixth overall to Minnesota, and point guards Ricky Rubio and Stephen Curry also were selected ahead of Jennings.
The Bucks liked the athletic ability of the 6-foot-1 Jennings and also were impressed with his decision to play for Lottomatica Roma, even though he didn't receive consistent playing time. Jennings averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in 27 Italian League games, and he averaged 7.6 points over 16 Euroleague appearances.
"You look at guys who become great players in this league," Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney said earlier this week. "What Brandon did was very admirable, going overseas after high school and playing. It's a difficult adjustment from a playing standpoint but also from a social and cultural standpoint."
Jennings said he wasn't happy with his workout session with the Bucks on Monday, and he said he was a bit fatigued. He called the Bucks workout one of the toughest he endured, along with one he had in Washington.
But the Bucks were still impressed as he competed in a stellar point guard group with Flynn, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague. Jennings injured his left thumb when he caught it in Teague's jersey, but Jennings refused to come out of the workout.
Agent Bill Duffy had Jennings stay away from Madison Square Garden because the guard did not get a guarantee to be picked in the lottery. But Duffy shouldn't have worried.
"My game is more mature now," Jennings said on Monday, talking about his experience in Europe. "I'm more calm. Off the court, I’ve matured a lot. I take care of my business. It's more like a job. It was good for me, playing with grown men every day."
Jennings, from Compton, Calif., played in the McDonald's All-American Game at the Bradley Center in the spring of 2008 and finished with 12 points and nine assists for the West team. That was after his senior year at Oak Hill Academy, where he averaged more than 35 points and 6.8 assists.
Jennings showed up in a Bucks' hat and was introduced by Commissioner David Stern moments after the Phoenix Suns selected forward Earl Clark with the 14th pick in the draft. Jennings smiled and waved to the Garden crowd.
"I don't regret it at all," Jennings said of his year in Italy in an ESPN interview. "I still went top 10. I think you'll see more kids doing it. I hope they do it; it's a great experience overall. You just learn a lot.
"I got to go to a lot of different places overseas - Germany, Turkey, Spain, at a young age. You can't ask for nothing better than that."
The Bucks selected a guard with their first-round pick for the first time since they chose T.J. Ford with the eighth overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Jennings said he was looking forward to playing for Bucks coach Scott Skiles.
"He was one of the best point guards to play in the league, and I think I can learn a whole lot from him," Jennings said.
Jennings said he enjoyed Milwaukee when he came to town to work out earlier this week.
"All I heard was Milwaukee was really boring, terrible," he said. "Milwaukee is not a bad town, kind of laid-back. There's a lot of fishing, a lot of boats and a lot of water."
Jennings said he wouldn't expect to be a starter right away. The Bucks also have veteran Luke Ridnour and restricted free agent Ramon Sessions at the position.
"I know you have to come in here and earn your spot," Jennings said.