PACKER PLAYOFF ROUND-UP: Pack expecting better from special teams
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers expect a better performance from their special teams in Sunday's NFC Wild Card home game against San Francisco.
The Packers were the worst in the NFL in giving their opponents poor field position after kickoffs. In seven of their 16 games, the opponents started their average drives at the 25-yard line or beyond. The Packers gave up kickoff returns of 30-yards-or-more in nine outings, including a 104-yard return for a touchdown at Minnesota in late October. Green Bay's punt coverage team has given up returns of 30-or-more yards in five games. Like the Packers' other units, the kick coverage teams have been hit hard by injuries. But special teams' coach Shawn Slocum says they've been up-and-down -- and they still have the ability to correct mistakes and improve their production against the 49'ers. On the receiving side, Slocum said the Packers have not talked about using the newly-returned Randall Cobb as a returner yet. Cobb scored a return touchdown against the 49'ers in the 2012 regular season opener. Last Sunday was his first game back after missing two-and-a-half months with a broken leg.
Yesterday, the Packers signed rookie guard Lanier Coleman from Louisiana-Lafayette to their practice squad. He replaces corner Jumal Rolle, who was promoted to the 53-man roster last week.
Aaron Rodgers' sexual preference came up during his weekly ESPN-Milwaukee radio show yesterday. The Packers' quarterback brought up the subject himself, after host Jason Wilde asked him about the negative aspects of being a celebrity. Recent Internet rumors indicated that Rodgers was gay, a couple months after other rumors had him becoming engaged to a long-time girlfriend. Rodgers said he's not gay and quote, "I really, really like women." The 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player said there's always going to be quote, "silly stuff in the media," and he'll never worry all that much about it.
While Packer fans focused on injuries, receiver Jordy Nelson was quietly having his best season as a pro. The sixth-year pro started all 16 regular season games for Green Bay, with career highs of 86 catches and 1, 314 receiving yards. In last Sunday's win at Chicago, the 28-year-old Nelson caught 10 passes in a game for the first time in his career. He fell one yard shot of his career single-game high of 162 receiving yards. The Packers needed that kind of production, amid the late-season injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley. Nelson has one year left on a three-year, 13-and-a-third-million dollar contract extension he signed soon after the 2011 NFL owners' lockout. Nelson created a buzz with 15 touchdowns that year. Last season, he was slowed down by ankle and hamstring injuries. It limited his production to 49 catches for 745 yards and seven scores. Nelson said he never experienced such a frustrating season, and it's great to be healthy again. Nelson figures to be a key cog for the Packers as they host San Francisco on Sunday in the NFC Wild Card round.
With ticket sales slow, the Green Bay Packers said today that fans could buy unlimited numbers of seats for Sunday's home playoff game against San Francisco. The team said it was lifting its previous limit of four tickets per customer. As of early this afternoon, 13,000 tickets remained available, at prices of $102-and-$125-dollars plus fees. Forty-thousand seats for the Wild Card Game remained available in late November, after season-ticket holders refused to buy them when the team was playing poorly without Aaron Rodgers. Yesterday, the Packers gave those season-ticket holders a second chance to purchase the seats -- and after five hours, the general public got their turn. The economy, the weather, and the Packers' recent 0-3 record against San Francisco are all factors in why the tickets are selling so slowly. Also, a number of season-ticket holders were upset when the Packers changed a long-standing policy, and credited playoff payments for games not played to next year's season tickets, instead of refunding those payments. The Packers' addition of almost seven-thousand seats this year could be another factor. Lambeau is now the NFL's third-largest stadium with 78,000 seats.