PACKER PLAYOFF ROUND-UP: Pack given more time to sell playoff tickets
GREEN BAY - The National Football League has granted an extention to the Green Bay Packers to seel its remaining allotment of playoff tickets for this Sunday's game against the 49ers at Lambeau Field.
As of 4 p.m. today a total of 3,000 tickets were left of the 5,500 the Packers had in stock at the start of the day. The NFL gave Green Bay a 3:40 p.m. deadline to sell the tickets to avoid the league's blackout rule, which would keep the game off free TV in the Green Bay, Wausau, the Fox Valley and Milwaukee TV markets. The NFL usually grants such extensions of the ticket-selling deadline if the game is close to being a sell-out. Green Bay isn't the only playoff game this weekend which has sold out yet. Both the Chargers-Bengals and Chiefs-Colts remain short of being sellouts as well. Only the Saints-Eagles contest in Philadelphia is a sell-out.
The Green Bay Packers would not be playing at home this weekend if some NFL owners had their way. The Packers won their division, while their opponents on Sunday did not -- so Green Bay was awarded the contest. Still, the San Francisco 49'ers have a much better record than the Packers -- and because of that, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirms that the league is looking at giving home Wild Card games to the teams with the better records, regardless of whether they won a division title or not. Both NFC playoff matchups this weekend are being hosted by the teams with the worse records. The Packers are 8-7-1, and they're hosting a Niners' team that was second in the West at 12-4. Meanwhile, NFC East champion Philadelphia is 10-6, hosting a Saturday night game against the Wild Card Saints which are a game better at 11-5. This is the seventh straight year that a team is playing an inferior opponent on the road.
Packer fans are being asked to shovel snow again. Up to 200 people are needed starting at nine tomorrow at the Mills Fleet Farm gate. Workers need to be at least 15, and they'll get $10-dollars-an-hour.
Packers' receiver Randall Cobb says the Green Bay offense enters the playoffs with a lot more balance -- and a lot more unpredictability -- than a year ago. Teammates say Cobb's versatility will keep opposing defenses guessing throughout their playoff run, which starts on Sunday at home against San Francisco. Just like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Cobb returned from a major injury in last Sunday's victory at Chicago which catapulted Green Bay into the post-season. Media reports said the Packers were planning to limit to Cobb to 15-or-20 snaps against the Bears. Instead, he had around twice that number with 37 snaps -- including both Green Bay receiving touchdowns. Packers' receiver James Jones says Cobb is quote, "probably one of the most explosive players that we have in our game today." Jones said Cobb can be moved around in order to create a number of mis-matches -- and it's great to have him back and healthy. Cobb broke a leg on October 13th at Baltimore. Today, the Packers will have their most extensive practice of the week, a fully-padded workout with team drills outside to help them get ready for the cold weather during Sunday's game.
Five Green Bay Packers were limited at today's practice. That included running back Eddie Lacy, who's been playing through a sprained ankle suffered December 8th against Atlanta. Coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy looked good, and it was important for him to be on the practice field. The Packers held part of their session outdoors, to get more acclimated to the cold weather that's expected for Sunday's NFC Wild Card home game against San Francisco. McCarthy said the elements are reflected in the game plan. He said ball security would be a bigger concern than normal this week, due to expected single-digit temperatures predicted for Sunday. Also limited at today's practice were linebacker Nick Perry, Brad Jones, and Mike Neal -- and defensive end Ryan Pickett.
The Packers can expect to see Jay Cutler when they play the Chicago Bears at least twice a year. Cutler took himself off the free-agent market today by signing a new seven-year contract. ESPN says the deal is expected to include over $50-million dollars in guaranteed money -- and it will likely exceed the $17.6 million dollar annual average given a year ago to Detroit Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford. Had Cutler not signed, there was talk that the Bears would have slapped their franchise tag on him. General manager Phil Emery said Cutler had his best season this past year not only because of his stats -- but because of his quote, "leadership, his improvement, his display of toughness." Cutler has spent the last five years with Chicago, after starting his career in Denver. He missed about a month of the season with a groin injury. Also today, the Bears re-upped with corner Tim Jennings and guard Matt Slauson. Both were expected to be free agents this spring.