Packer News Briefs: Pack begin work for playoff game vs. San FranciscoWisconsin Sports
-- The Green Bay Packers return to the practice field this afternoon, to start getting ready for their Saturday night playoff contest at San Francisco.
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers return to the practice field this afternoon, to start getting ready for their Saturday night playoff contest at San Francisco.
Receiver Donald Driver says he’s staying upbeat, even though he’s been inactive for the four-of-the-last-six games including the Wild Card win over Minnesota. Driver said on a Milwaukee radio show that it’s tough not to play – but when you win quote, “It don’t even matter.” The 37-year-old Driver knew he’d be relegated to a reserve role when he signed a one-year contract last spring. But he has only caught eight passes all year with a touchdown. Driver says keeping a positive attitude is the most important thing. Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy said on Sunday that it’s possible that Driver could be activated before the season ends. And Driver said it was humbling that a Facebook fan page has been created, calling on the coaches to activate him for Saturday’s contest against the 49’ers. In Driver’s words, “That’s amazing – It shows how much you mean to the community, and to fans around the world.”
Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy says it’s still possible that Donald Driver could play before the season ends. The 37-year-old receiver has been inactive in four-of-the-last-six games. And lots of fans wondered why he didn’t dress for Saturday night’s home playoff game against Minnesota – possibly his last appearance at Lambeau Field in his 14-year NFL career. Driver has always been a fan favorite in Green Bay, and he became even more popular after winning TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” competition almost a year ago. The Packers later brought him back for a year as insurance, in case other receivers got injured – and he was inactive against the Vikings, even though receiver Jarrett Boykin was out with an ankle injury. Driver has played a little this year, catching eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Yesterday, coach McCarthy said he and Driver have talked about his inactivity, and Driver has handled it well. In McCarthy’s words, “Everybody clearly understands what he means to this organization, and what he has done. He’s out there preparing every day, getting ready to play. He may have an opportunity this week, we’ll see how it shakes down.” The Packers play at San Francisco on Saturday night in the NFC’s divisional round.
If you want to know who’s the 800-pound gorilla in Wisconsin sports, just ask UW-Green Bay and the Milwaukee Wave. Those teams are moving their games on Saturday, so their players and fans can watch the Green Bay Packers play at San Francisco on Saturday night. The Green Bay women were supposed to host Wright State at two on Saturday afternoon. That game’s being moved up to noon. And the Green Bay men were supposed to host Illinois-Chicago at seven on Saturday night, right when the Packers are about to kick off. That contest was moved up to 3 p.m. The move will let fans see both the UWGB women’s and men’s contests before settling down to their TV’s to watch the Pack. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Wave is moving its Major Indoor Soccer League game with Baltimore from Saturday night to four p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Arena.
The Green Bay Packers will face one of the NFL’s top defensive ends on Saturday night, when San Francisco’s Justin Smith returns after suffering a partially torn left triceps muscle. Justin Smith has often served as a decoy while the outside linebacker that’s right behind him, Aldon Smith, gets past a guard to reach the quarterback. It has allowed Aldon Smith to get 19-and-a-half sacks in the regular season – second only to Houston’s J.J. Watt. Justin Smith was named an All-Pro a year ago. He was hurt December 16th against New England, and the 49’er defense has not been the same since. They gave up 42 points to Seattle the following week, before closing out the regular season with a 27-13 win over Arizona. And Aldon Smith has not had a sack in his last two-plus games. Niners’ coach Jim Harbaugh says it will be great to have Justin Smith back against the Packers, even though he won’t be at 100-percent. The 33-year-old Justin has told reporters he’ll need surgery after the season. The Packers will start practicing this afternoon for Saturday night’s second-round playoff contest.
Devoted Cheeseheads are wondering how much it will take to get to San Francisco for Saturday night’s Packer playoff game against the 49’ers. Orbitz.com had one-and-two-night flight-and-hotel packages available at mid-morning, ranging from $471 to $1,200 per person, double occupancy. The flights leave Friday afternoon from Milwaukee, and one of them leaves around one o’clock Sunday morning – necessitating only a one-night hotel stay. And most will get you back to Wisconsin in plenty of time for work on Monday. As for the game tickets, Ticket-Master will put a limited supply of face-value seats on sale at noon today for $134 and up. The NFL’s Ticket Exchange has seats going for $191 and up. About the same is true at Stub-Hub.
The mayor of Minneapolis has paid off his bet to the mayor of Green Bay over last Saturday’s playoff game between the Packers and Vikings. Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10, so Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak sent sausages to Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt. Rybak said he lost fair-and-square, so he’s sending the meat from the award-winning restaurant Butcher-and-the-Boar. Had the Vikings won, Schmitt would have to pay Rybak an assortment of Green Bay cheese, root beer, and candy.
The Green Bay Packers are playing on a Saturday for the second week in a row – and that means that the team’s preparation schedule has again been moved up by a day. The players are off today, and they’ll start practicing tomorrow afternoon for their second-round playoff contest on Saturday night at San Francisco. Had the Packers beaten Minnesota in the regular season finale, they would have played the 49’ers at home with a week of rest. But instead, the Packers have fresh momentum after their two-touchdown victory over Minnesota two nights ago in the Wild Card round. Also, the Packers don’t exactly fear the road – which they proved two years ago when they won all four of their playoff contests away from Lambeau Field to claim the Super Bowl title. Aaron Rodgers is 4-1 in post-season contests away from home. And the Packers have won at San Francisco twice in the playoffs – in the NFC Championship Game in January of 1998, and a divisional game in January of ’96. Since the 2005 season, teams that got a first-round bye have only gone 14-and-14 in the divisional round. That includes last year’s Packers, which fell to New York 37-20 at Lambeau right after their bye.
All four NFL Wild Card games attracted big ratings in Wisconsin’s only metered TV market. Of course, the Green Bay Packers’ win over Minnesota attracted the largest ratings in Metro Milwaukee, as almost 472,000 households watched at least some part of the game on Saturday night. The overnight rating was 52.3, and the share was 74 – which means that almost three-fourths of Milwaukee area TV sets that were on at the time were tuned to the Packer game. About 305,000 Milwaukee area homes watched Seattle and ex-Badger Russell Wilson beat Washington yesterday. Around 232,000 homes had the Colts-Ravens contest on. And 208,000 homes saw ex-Badger and Pewaukee native J.J Watt and Houston advance with a win over Cincinnati. Also, Milwaukee had the nation’s biggest overall rating for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” in the regular season – 22.1, with a share of 33. The Packers made the Sunday Night stage three times.