Moving on isn’t easy for Packers
If Rodgers hadn’t thrown an early interception, or found a way to connect on a deep pass to Greg Jennings on the first play of overtime, the Green Bay Packers might still be in the playoffs.
“This is just going to make myself and these guys want it that much more,” Rodgers said Monday. “It might not look like we came that close, but we still feel like we were close to achieving all the goals we set forth at the beginning of the season.”
One thing Rodgers insists he won’t lose any sleep over is a potential facemask penalty that wasn’t called on the decisive play of Sunday’s 51-45 overtime loss.
On a third-and-6 play in the first series of overtime, Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams blitzed Rodgers and knocked the ball out. It bounced off Rodgers’ foot and into the hands of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who ran in for the game winning touchdown.
Adams appeared to grab Rodgers’ facemask on the play, but officials didn’t throw a flag. The NFL issued an explanation of the rule, noting that “twisting, turning or pulling” the facemask is a 15-yard penalty but the penalty for an “incidental” grab of the facemask was eliminated before the 2008 season.
“There’s always going to be one or two plays in the game where you wonder if there should have been a call or should not have been a call, but those are out of my control,” Rodgers said. “The things I worry about are things I can control. I made some mistakes in the game. Those are the ones I’m thinking about.”
After an improbable turnaround from their miserable
4-4 start to become a surprise contender, Rodgers and other Packers players still were stunned by the loss.
While players cleaned out their lockers Monday, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge sat by himself at a table and played cards.
“I was literally sick after the game—never had that before,” running back Ryan Grant said. “Didn’t sleep a lick after the game. It’s hard, really, for it to end that way.”
Especially for a defense that emerged from a miserable 2008 season with a newfound swagger under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
Capers revived and rebuilt the defense, turning it into a run-stopping force that consistently forced turnovers. But the Packers struggled against high-powered passing offenses, and couldn’t find an answer for Kurt Warner and the Cardinals’ multiple-receiver formations.
“It was a shock,” defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. “The fact that we couldn’t get it stopped or turned around just kind of blew us away. But you can’t do anything about it now.”
Now the Packers’ front office faces questions on both sides of the ball.
Cornerback Charles Woodson had perhaps the best season of his career at age 33—but fellow corner Al Harris is 35 and is coming off a season-ending knee injury in the Packers’ Nov. 22 game against San Francisco, and there isn’t much depth behind No. 3 cornerback Tramon Williams.
Fellow defensive star Aaron Kampman also sustained a season-ending knee injury in the San Francisco game. He’s scheduled to become a free agent and his future in Green Bay is unclear after he struggled at times to make the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
Other significant Packers players scheduled to become free agents are left tackle Chad Clifton, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and right tackle Mark Tauscher.
Pickett doesn’t want to go anywhere.
“We have a chance to be a good team for years to come,” Pickett said. “So I want to be a part of that, most definitely.”
Several other key players are scheduled to become restricted free agents.
“It’s going to take everybody in this locker room to come back,” wide receiver Donald Driver said. “Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. We’re going to lose a lot of great players, but we’re hoping that the players that we do get in are able to step up and get us where we need to go.”
Rodgers hopes the Packers’ core stays put, especially Clifton and Tauscher.
“The tough part is, we’ve got a lot of guys with uncertain futures,” Rodgers said. “Guys you care about, guys you’ve worked with for a number of years. And you never know what the next season’s going to look like. Each season’s an individual season in itself, there’s always change.”