Ryan, who was slated to start at inside linebacker, was carted off from practice with the injury. It is likely he will miss the 2018 season.
The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in Sunday’s practice. Ryan pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.
The injury will accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Ty Montgomery showed up to training camp in style last week, when he rolled into St. Norbert College in a bright yellow Polaris Slingshot and looked ready to put the disappointment of last season behind him. Perhaps that’s why it took him so long to come up with the right word or two to describe what his 2017 felt like.
Five seconds passed. Then 10.
Finally, Montgomery offered this: “A frustrating misunderstanding. That’s the way I would put it.”
It was supposed to the Green Bay Packers running back’s first full season at his new position. Instead, it turned into an injury-shortened year that fueled more questions about whether the converted receiver could handle the switch.
The frustration came from this: Early in the season, his transition looked complete when after three games he led all NFL running backs in playing time with 23 more snaps than the second-most-used back, Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, even while he nursed a wrist injury. Then came a rib injury — multiple broken ribs he says now — that took him out of action for a week. He returned to play four more games before he took another shot to the ribs.
His season was over after eight games, but this is where he believes the misunderstanding comes in. It wasn’t the ribs that ended his season but rather the wrist that eventually required surgery, and he believes people simply chalked it up to a lack of toughness and durability needed to play running back.
“I think there’s a lot of people who assumed or never expected me to be able to do it anyway, but I don’t think a lot of people understand what I was playing through or what I was doing,” Montgomery said. “And they questioned my durability or my abilities. There’s nothing I can do about breaking my ribs. I don’t know how many guys could play running back with broken ribs. It was just unfortunate. I was ready to have a big year.”
Instead, then-rookies Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones emerged as starting-caliber running backs, leaving Montgomery as a near afterthought. That is, until this offseason, when based on how snaps were divided during OTA and minicamp practices it once again became apparent that Montgomery remains a significant part of coach Mike McCarthy’s running-back-by-committee plan.
“I feel really good about the running back group,” McCarthy said. “I think Ty’s transition has been pretty special. Not only what he’s done from a position change but you look what he’s done to prepare himself — you look at his body and the added muscle that he’s put on. Ty and just the other young guys, I think it’s going to be a very, very competitive position.”
It’s also a critical year for Montgomery, who’s in the final season of his rookie contract. His first task is to show he can stay healthy — something he has done in only one of his three NFL seasons.
After that, it’s all about what he can do for the offense.
Perhaps the committee approach will help in both regards. Although no one will say what that actually means in terms of reps, early in camp Williams has gotten the bulk of the work with the starters during normal down-and-distance situations while Montgomery has handled the two-minute and no-huddle drives where his receiving skills could come back into play. Jones, who must serve a two-game suspension to the start the season, dropped out after two practices with a hamstring injury.
“I mean, I feel as though I’ve put some good things on film, but every year is a big year,” Montgomery said. “I think what’s important for me now is being healthy and being on the field while healthy. I think it would obviously benefit me if I don’t have to play through an injury and I can just be myself. Having a son in the picture now, my wife and I, I have a new perspective on a lot of things. Call it motivation. Call it whatever you want, but I have a difference in my purpose that feels natural.”
Ever the positive thinker, Montgomery admitted even he needed a boost last season when the injuries set in. That’s when practice squad linebacker Ahmad Thomas, one of his good friends on the team, stepped in.
“He sent me something, the Chinese Farmer Parable — where [when something happens] you don’t know what’s good or bad,” Montgomery said. “Outside looking in, obviously it sucks to get injured. The positive is before I got injured, the younger guys weren’t getting very many reps. I remember seeing a stat where I had more snaps than any back in the league. The positive that comes from it is now we know what we have in these two guys.
“It opened up the conversation of what more can we do with Ty? I think that’s a positive that comes from this. He doesn’t just have to play running back; he can do both.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kelly Heim barely looked up as Brian Gutekunst showed a visitor out of his office. And why would she? It was one of a dozen times on that day alone when the executive assistant to the Green Bay Packers general manager watched him pass her desk, which sits just outside Gutekunst’s office.
Say this much about the first-year general manager: Nearly seventh months into the job it has become evident to those who work on the third floor at Lambeau Field that he’s not one to sit still or stay holed up in his office. His spacious but simply decorated office — with a few Packers-related photos on the wall and a lone freshly-watered plant on the table between the black leather couch and chairs — has Gutekunst’s name on the door, but it’s not where he prefers to work.
Rather, Heim often can find him down the hall, a few doors down in the draft room, where Gutekunst still manages to watch his share of film.
“Kelly will tell you, I spend most of my time in there,” Gutekunst said in an interview Thursday. “That’s our work room, so to speak. It’s where our pro board is up, our college board is up and we have a really nice set up in there.”
‘Don’t forget lunch’
He spent the early hours of that morning before the Packers hit the field for their first practice of training camp in there watching college film and studying some 2019 draft prospects. He followed that with a review of some potential players in the league now who might become available. He then conducted his first staff meeting of camp to review assignments and expectations for all of his scouts during training camp.
And that was before he went down to the practice field at 11:30 a.m. and before another round of meetings and film sessions in the afternoon.
In between, Gutekunst carved out part of his afternoon following practice to open his door for one of his first sit-down interviews since he was introduced as GM on Jan. 8.
“Well, I’m a scout, so don’t forget lunch,” Gutekunst said with a laugh. “That’s very important to us.”
Like his mentor and predecessor Ted Thompson and like Ron Wolf who first hired him in Green Bay in 1998, the 45-year-old Gutekunst sees himself first and foremost as a scout. His first full-time assignment was to scour the East coast for college players. Two years later, he moved to the all-important southeast region before Thompson made him the director of college scouting in 2012 and then director of player personnel in 2016.
He has so many more responsibilities now, but Gutekunst said the best piece of advice he’s received from other general managers was simple: Don’t forget your roots.
“My favorite thing about the job has always been sitting down and watching tape,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of guys in the league that have been in this chair and that’s the one thing they said — that you’ve really got to protect your time because otherwise it can get away from you.”
‘Like a seasoned veteran’
That may have manifested itself during Gutekunst’s first draft, and team president Mark Murphy watched it all unfold — from the trade back from No. 14 to No. 27 with the Saints, who gave up a first-round pick, and then the trade back up to No. 18 with the Seahawks.
“He handled it like a seasoned veteran,” Murphy said.
That wasn’t the way it was viewed after the trade down.
“I received a number of emails from people saying ‘What’s going on? Same old stuff! What are they doing?'” Murphy recalled. “At the end of the day though you sit back and you look at it, we traded however many down, we ended up getting a player we really like. We ended up getting a first-round pick next year.
“I thought that took courage. And the other thing it’s been great to see the relationship between Brian and Ted, kind of the protégé working now closely with the mentor, where Ted has been a mentor to him in a different way for years, and now as an adviser it’s been good to see. But I thought Brian really had command of the room and respect of everyone in the room.”
Gutekunst readily admits that the transition for him has been easier than perhaps it is for other first-time GMs because he’s worked alongside most of the people on the third floor for years. That includes coach Mike McCarthy, who’s entering his 13th year as head coach. Although McCarthy now reports to Murphy — a change in power structure that was made this offseason — the coach-GM relationship between McCarthy and Gutekunst appears simpatico.
‘Confidence in his opinion’
Gutekunst hasn’t even been through a full NFL calendar cycle yet, so any judgement on his performance should be reserved.
But at this point, it’s clear he’s a significant part of what some inside Lambeau Field call a recharged environment. Gutekunst’s approachability, far different than Thompson’s reclusiveness, certainly contributes. So does his willingness to be more aggressive than Thompson was when it comes to player acquisition.
It’s perhaps why a move as unpopular as the release of Jordy Nelson this offseason — “That was exceptionally hard, one of the toughest things,” Gutekunst says now — has not been a black cloud over the team.
“I think the biggest thing with Brian Gutekunst is the confidence he has in his opinion,” McCarthy said. “Whether you agree or disagree, there’s confidence. There’s obviously substance behind it. And that’s something I’ve always appreciated [from] Brian, even at a young age. So you look at his history through scouting and particularly the jobs that he’s had, certainly the southeast and all the way up through the director, there was always a work ethic and confidence. So those are two traits I’ve always admired.”
‘Hang a banner’
When Gutekunst first joined the Packers, they were coming off the Super Bowl XXXI title. He and then-scout Alonzo Highsmith were hired within days of each other.
“The guys who were already here had won that Super Bowl back in 1996, and we hadn’t,” Gutekunst said. “We kept telling ourselves that we’ve got to hang a banner, and we only hang them for one thing.”
Gutekunst finally experienced that during the 2010 season, when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. But for him, things start over now that he’s in charge.
“You can’t leave here and not have a banner hung because that’s what this place expects,” he said. “I think everybody who works here feels that responsibility, which is cool.”
And with that, he headed back out of his office and down the hall. There was a 4 p.m. meeting with his scouts to go over the practice film, a 6:05 p.m. team meeting with the players and then back to his office to clear some paperwork off his desk and then “and then try to see the kids before they go to sleep.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers open training camp July 27 at their regular practice facility across from Lambeau Field. Here’s a closer look at the Packers’ camp:
Top storyline: The Packers’ revamped defense under new coordinator Mike Pettine will be under examination during each and every practice. The early returns in OTAs were strong; during one of the public practices, it picked off Aaron Rodgers twice. Granted, those were not padded practices. Certainly there will be days when Rodgers and the offense pick apart the defense, but once the pads go on, the real evaluation of the unit begins in earnest. It will be worth watching where the pass rush comes from considering that beyond Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, there are no proven outside rushers. Perhaps the addition of defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson will improve the interior rush. The cornerback position also has been revamped with the signing of veteran Tramon Williams and the addition of the top two draft picks, Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.
QB depth chart: For now, it’s still Brett Hundley behind Rodgers. But don’t be surprised if at some point during training camp DeShone Kizer emerges as the No. 2. Hundley will get his chances to prove he’s better than what he showed last season when he made nine starts after Rodgers broke his collarbone, but the trade for Kizer (who started 15 games as a rookie last season for the Browns) showed a clear intent to upgrade the backup spot in case something happens to Rodgers again. Undrafted rookie Tim Boyle is the No. 4 entering camp.
Bubble watch: This isn’t so much a bubble watch but rather an injury watch that could turn into a major roster decision on Bryan Bulaga. The veteran right tackle probably won’t be on the field for the start of training camp; he’ll likely start on the physically unable to perform list while still rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in November. It also might be a long shot for him to be ready to start the season. If the Packers feel good about the addition of veteran Byron Bell and the depth Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy provide, then perhaps they’d move on from Bulaga even when he’s ready to go.
This rookie could start: Either Alexander or Jackson had better start. That’s why new general manager Brian Gutekunst used his first- and second-round picks, respectively, on the pair of cornerbacks. If Kevin King and Williams man the outside positions, then perhaps Alexander could start in the slot in the nickel package.
Running back by committee: The great thing about having three capable running backs is that if one runs into trouble or gets injured then there are options. The flip side is it could take away from the rhythm of the offense if the back changes every couple of series. So Packers coach Mike McCarthy will have to sort out how he plans to use Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, all of whom played the No. 1 role at different times last season.
The Philbin effect: Training camp should shed some light on what the return of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin means for that side of the ball. Philbin, during his previous stint in that job, was the perfect muse for McCarthy when it came to deciding what’s good — and more important, what’s bad — about the offense and play selection. He has the respect of Rodgers, who has already raved about Philbin’s impact.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — They have a 34-year-old quarterback in Aaron Rodgers whose most proven offensive weapon (Jimmy Graham) is 31, their best pass rusher (Clay Matthews) is 32, and even their kicker (Mason Crosby) is well into his 30s.
No wonder the Green Bay Packers didn’t land a single player on ESPN’s best NFL starting lineup of players under the age of 25.
That’s essentially limited to the past three draft classes, and it could be a byproduct of former general manager Ted Thompson’s decline.
It’s probably too early to include any of the Packers’ 2018 draft picks in the conversation, although Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, made the list over Ezekiel Elliott.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the Packers’ starters (and potential starters) under 25 at each position on offense and defense:
One coach familiar with Kizer called the former Browns starter a “total rebuild” after he went winless in 15 starts for Cleveland. He’ll have to show marked improvement to challenge Brett Hundley for the backup job. The Packers unloaded a headache — cornerback Damarious Randall — to get Kizer in a trade.
Jamaal Williams/Aaron Jones
At this point, it’s a tough call between the two. Williams looked more capable of handling workhorse duties, but Jones showed more explosiveness. Jones can’t play the first two games because of an NFL suspension, but by midseason, perhaps he could overtake Williams.
The former undrafted free agent will have to fend off competition from Michael Clark, a former college basketball player whose 6-foot-6 frame makes him an intriguing prospect, and the three receivers picked on Day 3 of the draft this spring. But Allison looks like the best bet to open the season as the No. 3 receiver behind Davante Adams (who doesn’t qualify for this list because he’s already 25) and Randall Cobb.
This is a veteran position group with Graham, Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis. But Byrd looks like a developmental project. He was promoted from the practice squad for the regular-season finale and caught two passes for 31 yards.
Kyle Murphy/Jason Spriggs
One them could start at right tackle to open the season if Bryan Bulaga’s rehabbed knee isn’t ready. Both finished last season on injured reserve. Murphy, a sixth-round pick in 2016, might have the edge over Spriggs, a second-round pick in the same draft.
The former undrafted rookie started two games last season — one at left guard and one at right guard. He has also worked at center, although he has not had any games reps there.
He’s the closest thing the Packers have to an under-25 star. He was only 20 when the Packers picked him in the first round in 2017 and won’t turn 23 until a month into his third NFL season this year. Clark had all 4.5 of his sacks last season in December and was perhaps the team’s most impactful player on defense late in the season.
Even potential up-and-comers Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert already have exceeded the age requirement — they’re both 25 — and they’ve hardly played. They’ve combined for one career sack; Gilbert got it in last year’s regular-season finale. Same with Kyler Fackrell, who is already 26 even though he was in the same draft class as Clark.
All the 2016 fourth-round pick did was tie for the NFL lead in tackles last season while ranking second on the Packers’ defense in snaps played. He figures to be a cornerstone in the new defensive scheme.
Big things are expected from last year’s top pick now that his ailing shoulder has been surgically repaired. The Packers expect to see the real King this year. Throw in this year’s top-two picks — Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson — and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is flush with young cornerback talent.
Morgan Burnett, 29, left in free agency, which opens the door for Jones, who made seven starts last season as a rookie second-round pick.
The NFL distributed more than $8 billion in national revenue, mostly from its television deals, in 2017.
Each team pulled in $255 million, according to financials revealed Monday by the Green Bay Packers, a team that is a public company because it sells shares from time to time to raise money, even though its shares are technically worthless.
The bump is an increase of 4.9 percent in national revenues, attributed to an escalator in the league’s TV deals and the league’s Thursday Night Football package becoming more valuable.
Packers president Mark Murphy said any effects from the NFL’s tough season, including the national anthem controversy, did not manifest in the books.
As for the Packers themselves, they say they generated $199 million in local income. While that’s up 0.8 percent from last season, Murphy said the Packers had fewer offseason visitors to Lambeau Field and the Packers Hall of Fame after the team missed the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Total revenue for the team has been climbing since the Packers renovated Lambeau in 2003, with 2017 bringing in another record: $454.9 million.
The team has invested $370 million to expand and renovate Lambeau in the past eight years. New upgrades this season will include concession grab-and-go stations, a new sound system and LED stadium lights.
The team netted $38.6 million, down from $72.8 million. Murphy says that has largely to do with a previous bump in revenue from league-shared relocation fees. None of the teams has received any money yet from the Rams’ and Chargers’ move to Los Angeles and the Raiders’ eventual move to Las Vegas, but the line item was credited to all teams last year.
Increased costs included travel, as the retirement of aircraft previously used by airlines to charter teams means the team has to send two planes, instead of one, to road games, Murphy said.
Expenses should go up soon, as Murphy said he expects to sign quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose contract expires at the end of the 2019 season.
“We want to get a deal done with Aaron, and Aaron wants to get a deal done with us,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the Packers have so far invested $65 million into Titletown, an area surrounding Lambeau that has sprouted into a new community. Phase 2 of the development will include residences. Murphy said the project means a lot more given its scope in a much smaller community, compared to other teams that have purchased land around their stadiums.
“We really feel like this will have a much larger impact in Green Bay than Patriot Place does to New England,” he said.
Despite the team’s missing the playoffs last season, Murphy isn’t worried about filling the seats this season. He said more than 99 percent of season-ticket holders renewed for the upcoming season, and the Packers’ waiting list, the longest in the NFL, now stands at 135,000 people.
Will the Minnesota Vikings defend their NFC North crown in 2018, and which teams from the division will make the playoffs? Our division reporters make their predictions:
Courtney Cronin, Minnesota Vikings reporter: Packers. Green Bay will halt the Vikings’ attempt for a second straight division title and capture the NFC North in Aaron Rodgers‘ season of redemption. Green Bay made a ton of changes to its coaching staff and drafted cornerbacks with its first two picks to combat a passing league. They also have two of the league’s top red-zone targets, Jimmy Graham and Davante Adams, and added three receivers in the draft. The entire division got better this offseason, including Minnesota stealing the spotlight by signing Kirk Cousins. Still, the Packers and Vikings will be the only two teams to make the playoffs from the North. Chicago and Detroit are improved but probably still a year away from reaching the postseason.
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers reporter: Vikings. This looks like a two-playoff-team division if the Vikings and Packers live up to expectations. The Week 2 game between the two teams at Lambeau Field will give one of them an early leg up in the division and could shape the way things go the rest of the way. At this point, though, the Vikings look like the more complete team thanks to a strong defense, an improving offense and stability off the field in the coaching and personnel departments.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bearsreporter: The Minnesota Vikings. But I also have the Green Bay Packers making the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Vikings are the easy choice to win the NFC North after they reached the NFC Championship Game last year and then signed quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency. I also fully expect Aaron Rodgers to have an MVP-type season after he missed nine games last year due to injury. I’m not sure what to make of the Lions under Matt Patricia. And Chicago — under new head coach Matt Nagy — is an improved team, but I don’t anticipate the Bears qualifying for the postseason.
Michael Rothstein, Detroit Lions reporter: Vikings. Rodgers is back and automatically makes the Packers one of the top teams in the NFC, but Minnesota might be the top team in the conference other than Philadelphia and maybe Los Angeles. The Vikings improved from last season, added Kirk Cousins, get Dalvin Cook back from injury and have the division’s top defense, so they win the division again. The Packers also make the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Lions end up close but a tough schedule at the beginning and end of the season keeps them out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Here are the five players who can help make the Green Bay Packers playoff contenders this season:
Aaron Rodgers, QB: Just turn on the film of Brett Hundley last season, and you’ll know why Rodgers is the most important player in the NFL. The Packers are built around the quarterback; coach Mike McCarthy has never shied away from that idea. If the quarterback can’t operate the offense the way it needs to be run, then the Packers have no chance. It’s nearly impossible to build a team with both a franchise quarterback and a dominant defense in the salary-cap era. The Packers have never had both during McCarthy’s tenure, and though efforts have been made to upgrade the other side of the ball, this is a quarterback-driven team.
Davante Adams, WR: Midway through last season, opposing defenses began to view Adams as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver. Now that Jordy Nelson is gone, there’s no doubt about that. Plus, the Packers are no longer deep at the position. Behind Adams and Randall Cobb are a slew of unproven receivers. Adams’ concussion history — he had two last season and another in 2016 — could be worrisome. But the Packers paid Adams like a top-tier receiver ($14.5 million per season), and their offense would take a huge hit without him.
David Bakhtiari, LT: Protecting Rodgers is of the utmost importance, and Bakhtiari is one of the league’s premier left tackles. A two-time, second-team All Pro, Bakhtiari’s absence was felt when he missed four straight games early last season because of a hamstring injury. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) unlikely to be ready for the season opener, Bakhtiari’s presence this year could be even more important.
Clay Matthews, OLB: There’s even more pressure on Matthews — and fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry — this season, given that new GM Brian Gutekunst didn’t sign an outside pass-rusher in free agency and waited until the seventh round of the draft to pick one. Although Matthews’ sack totals have dropped — he hasn’t posted a double-digit sack season since 2014 — he’s still the player most opposing offenses have to game plan around given his versatility.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S: With the departure of Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Steelers in free agency, Clinton-Dix should become the captain of the secondary. Although his big plays dropped off last season — whose didn’t on the Packers’ scuffling defense? — he has the most big-play potential. He’s only a year removed from his five-interception, one-forced-fumble season of 2016. The former first-round pick also is in a contract year.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — There are a couple of ways of looking at Randall Cobb:
He’s an old 27 given the toll that 107 career NFL games, including playoffs, have taken on his body.
Or even though he’s entering his eighth NFL season, he’s not yet 28 years old.
This season could dictate how the Green Bay Packers receiver is viewed and what it means for his future with the team that picked him in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It’s a pivotal spot not only because he’s in the final season of a four-year, $40 million contract, but given the opportunities he should have after the Packers cut receiver Jordy Nelson this offseason. Some thought the Packers might dump Cobb and keep Nelson. Instead, the receiving corps consists of Cobb, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison and a host of young, unproven players, including three draft picks.
A monster 2014 season — with 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns — created expectations that Cobb has not matched in part because of nagging injuries. He’s missed only four games combined the past two seasons, but he’s also played hurt throughout. That’s to his credit, although his production has slipped. Yet at times, there have been moments of brilliance; he caught three touchdowns in the 2016 playoff win over the Giants after he missed the last two weeks of the regular season because of an ankle injury. Cobb is again dealing with an ankle injury that could sideline him for the beginning of training camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“When he’s healthy and playing for us, our offense is a lot different,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this offseason. “I think we saw it a couple of years ago against the Giants when he came off some injuries and a disappointing season filled with multiple injuries, he had three touchdowns. Obviously one was the Hail Mary, but he had two other really nice plays for us in a big game. That’s what he can do for us when he’s out there.
“Tough guy to cover. He really understands coverages and route concepts and soft spots in zone — stuff you just can’t really teach. And he’s so multidimensional. We can obviously put him at punt returner, we can split him out, we can put him the backfield and give him the rock.”
Whether he likes it or not, Cobb is the old man in the receiver room. He’s no longer the highest paid; Adams’ four-year, $58 million extension late last season took care of that. But Cobb has the potential to give the Packers a difficult matchup in the slot for defenses to deal with. The 5-foot-10 former college quarterback has 432 career receptions in the regular season, and 337 of them have come from the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Even with the addition of a dynamic pass-catching tight end in Jimmy Graham, Cobb could have a significant role in the offense.
“He’s got a lot left,” Adams said. “He’s an incredible athlete, he’s still got the burners and he has a lot to offer for the young guys as well. You go out there and you watch how he gets down on the field; he’s consistent and he’s one of the best, one of the hardest-working guys in the game and in practice and things like that. It makes it easy for the young guys to pick up on that.”
In some ways, Cobb has always been mature beyond his years. He was 20 when the Packers drafted him, and in his NFL debut he returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against the Saints. On that night, he became the first player born in the 1990s to play in an NFL game.
“When I came in, I thought about him like he was 10 years in,” said Adams, who joined the Packers in 2014, Cobb’s fourth year. “It’s funny, because when [Allison] came in [in 2016] he said the same thing about me. He felt like I was an old guy. And I still don’t feel like an old guy now. So now, when they come in, I let them know — I’m right there with you. I’m not that old just yet.”
So how does Cobb feel?
“Do I feel like the old man in the room?” he said. “I feel like I’m still young, but they’re looking at me like I’m old, so I guess I must be.”
Not so fast, according to Cobb’s new receivers coach, David Raih.
“This business is funny, like 27 years old all of a sudden you’re old,” Raih said. “I just think there’s a lot of football left in Randall Cobb, and especially now this guy is one of the most tenacious people I’ve been around — and I’m talking about all the time. His story, too, I mean his entire life he’s heard something along those lines.
“And that’s just something that fuels his fire. He and I come in and we just have a business approach together, and I think it meshes well. I’m excited about Randall because every single day, every rep you can see him trying to use what he’s learning and what we’re talking about to improve his game, and he’s got the type of approach that will get results.”
By the time his eighth NFL season opens on Sept. 9 against the Bears, Cobb will be 28; his birthday is Aug. 22.
Just don’t tell that to his quarterback, who tried to settle the young/old issue.
“He’s done a number of things for us over the years, and still he’s relatively young,” Rodgers said. “First player born in the 1990s, so he’s not even 28 yet. He’s obviously a great friend of mine, but I look for a resurgence from him this year as long as he can stay healthy.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. — If you watched the New Orleans Saints last season — and looked specifically at how Sean Payton employed his running backs — then you have an idea how an NFL team can successfully incorporate two dynamic players at a position that typically features only one of them on the field at a time.
And how they can do it without taking the ball out of the hands of their Hall of Fame quarterback to boot.
You also might have seen a way the Green Bay Packers can meld their three potentially productive backs — Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones — into something similar even with the return of Aaron Rodgers from the broken collarbone that ruined last season.
The NFL always has been a copycat league, so don’t be surprised if coach Mike McCarthy takes a page out of Payton’s playbook. The Saints coach fielded the NFL’s fifth-best rushing attack last season in large part because he blended veteran running back Mark Ingram with Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. It wasn’t just your standard starter and third-down/change-of-pace combination; the two were essentially interchangeable, which kept defenses honest no matter which one lined up behind Drew Brees.
McCarthy certainly wasn’t going to tip his hand when asked last week if he studied how the Saints used their backs and if it could be applicable to his offense.
“The fact of the matter is we’re going to go running back by committee,” he said during an interview at the conclusion of the offseason program. “But if one of them would emerge as that full-time guy then you have to have that ability to … adjust to that. As far as planning and going into the season, that’s why we’re going about it that way. We feel like we’ve got three guys that have all done it, but they haven’t done it over a long period of time, so I think it’s just practical thinking from that position and realizing that it’s a very demanding position.”
Ingram ranked fourth in the NFL in both rushing yards (1,124) and rushing average (4.9). Kamara ranked 26th (728) and first (6.1), respectively. Kamara led all backs in receiving yards (826) and ranked second in catches (81). Ingram ranked 13th (416) and eighth (58), respectively.
That’s where Montgomery, Williams and Jones come in for the Packers. While none has done it for a full season — all three battled injuries at different points last season, something McCarthy has been rightly reminding everyone of since early in the offseason — they’ve all shown the ability to stay on the field for all three downs. All three can carry the ball, catch the ball and pass block, but the third skill might be the most shaky for each one.
By now, all three have become familiar: Montgomery, the converted receiver who provides matchup advantages; Williams, last year’s fourth-round pick who led the team in rushing; Jones, the small but explosive fifth-rounder who averaged 5.5 yards a carry and had perhaps the highlight run of the season with the 20-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Buccaneers.
“We’ve got young players that we really like that all played really well, but it’s been in short periods of time,” McCarthy said. “Ty Montgomery had a run there where he was outstanding. Jamaal has probably been the most available of the three, and Aaron has been so impactful when he’s been in there. I just think like anything, you project and you set a path.”
For his part, the 5-foot-9 Jones set out to bulk up this season in an effort to become more durable. He sustained a pair of MCL injuries — one to each knee — that derailed what could have been a special rookie season.
“I’m bigger all around,” Jones said this offseason. “That’s something that’s going to help me in pass protection and that’s something I want to get better at. I’m stronger, so definitely when a defender who’s bigger than me comes up I can hold my ground this year. I feel like any athlete wants to get bigger, stronger as long as they can stay explosive. I still feel just as explosive as I was if not even more.”
Perhaps the best thing about the Packers’ running back combination is they’re a year older and wiser. Given that it was Montgomery’s first full year as a running back, position coach Ben Sirmans essentially worked with three rookies last season.
“I think the thing is it gives you more confidence when you have a play design that they’re going to operate and do it correctly and not as concerned or worried about it as you were when they were rookies,” Sirmans said. “Are we putting too much on their plate? I think more than anything, it will allow us to expand the menu of what we’re doing.”
Whether it’s the Saints’ approach or some other form of running back by committee, it has become clear that McCarthy doesn’t plan to rely on one back and one back alone.
“You’ve got to be honest about that position; there’s not too many guys that can play 19 games,” McCarthy said. “To be the workhorse and do it week in and week out for 19 games, you’re a unique player. Your availability is at the top of the line because that’s such a demanding position. I can remember back in the 1990s seeing Marcus Allen in the cold tub after seeing him carry 25 times in a game. It took him probably until Wednesday or Thursday to recover. You always remember the first time you see what these guys go through at that position. And I think it’s no different for us because you do have to make a determination based on your players.”