Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Panic on Kampman, But Wise To Be Concerned

Greg Bedard over at the JSOnline Blog noted some issues with DE/LB Aaron Kampman. Now with OTA's in full swing, the Packers apparently wanted Kampman to break his silence about his move from his preferred 4-3 DE spot to the 3-4 OLB spot as the Packers change the scheme. Problem is, Kampman reportedly declined again to discuss the situation. Bedard moved Packer Nation to DEFCON 3.

Now there can be no doubt Kampman is uneasy about his transition to a new position after seven standout seasons.

Coach Mike McCarthy admitted as much after practice.

"I think there's always hesitancy when you're asked to do something different," McCarthy said. "Aaron was very comfortable in the old scheme."

During the first public practice since the scheme switch, Kampman stood up in a two-point stance most of the time and was asked primarily to rush up the field.

The few drops into coverage Kampman was asked to do, he looked very awkward and stiff.

Just like at the rookie camp, McCarthy again tried to publicly sell Kampman on the switch.

"I don't want to be redundant but I think this defense is going to help Aaron Kampman," McCarthy said. "I think this is going to create more opportunity for him, the diversity of the scheme. First and second downs are clearly different for him. The sub packages, there's some multiplicity there that I think will also help him. I think he moves well in space. He's spent a lot of time with (outside linebackers coach) Kevin Greene. I know Dom and Kevin feel very good about where Aaron is today and he's only going to get better."

Now, some have already tried to reassure the crowd that this is all way overblown and Bedard is overreacting just a bit. And, certainly, there is some truth to that. Face it...we don't know what is being said behind closed doors, and the silence makes us often assume the worst before we assume the best. And this is just the very beginning of the OTA's, a far cry from even the beginning of training camp, much less the preseason.

But I wrote not too long ago about some of the misgivings a 30 year-old defensive lineman might have in facing such a monumental change late in his career (and in a contract year, no less). Kampman has reached the age where he is no longer worrying about bling and wheels (not that I think he ever did), but is likely realizing the mortality of his football career. This is the time to finish strong and secure himself and his family financially.

The thought of Kampman moving awkwardly and stiffly in his new position gives me pause. Kampman is a great player, an even better person, and one of the hardest workers in the game. But if you look at his career, it took him time to grow into his position. He started out as a fill-in along the line for his first two seasons, before earning a starting spot. He gradually improved from being a serviceable starter to a solid playmaker, but it has been a process. There was no huge splash or "the light coming on" for Aaron Kampman. He worked for everything he has accomplished.

Which is what makes such a move difficult for a player like Kampman, who might be the kind of guy who needs to work to make himself better, instead of simply being a great natural athlete that can adjust quickly.

Do I think that this is a DEFCON 1 situation? No. Even DEFCON 3? I don't think so, but I think we are securely in DEFCON 4. This is concerning because you don't want one of your veteran team leaders setting a tone of silence in what should be a very positive atmosphere of change and improvement.

I've said it myself: the goal is to take the scheme and make it work with the talent that you have, not to try and stick square pegs in round holes. Dom Capers is likely going to try and make that defense work around Kampman as much as he can...but that is the key. How much can you work with a guy who is too small to play the DE position in the 3-4 and too stiff and slow to play the OLB position? Sure, we can incorporate hybrid schemes, allowing Kampman to come in and play on a four-man front, but that's not going to be every down.

If Kampman does struggle to fit, is he going to be happy in a part-time role? In a contract year? At this point in his career?

The key in this whole she-bang (and what we aren't going to end up seeing from the outside) is communication. We don't know if Kampman has aired concerns to MM and TT, and we don't know if they are entertaining the idea of keeping him or moving him. But as Capers and McCarthy divine more observations and evaluations of how Kampman is going to fit, it's going to be imperative that those lines of communication are open.

If all ends up going fine, I have no concerns that communication will be fantastic between all parties. It is when there are issues and doubts that communication could break down. Ted Thompson has never been a fast mover, particularly when it comes to potentially distracting personality conflicts (Sherman in 2005, Favre last summer). It's one thing to take your time negotiating a's another thing to be passive when your subordinate feels they aren't being respected or are upset and hurt.

Feelings like that don't extinct easily. And the more they are ignored, the more the intensify.

So, while I don't think we are anywhere near panic mode yet, this is a situation that I think should be handled prudently, professionally, and respectfully by all parties. And, with appropriate haste.

1 comment:

IPB said...

Sounds like Kampman isn't real thrilled about the 3-4, L.A. - course, that could be the girlie-man media creating yet another drama-queen event. Who knows. Still, Kampman has been resisting Media interviews for the last two weeks, or (actually) since the changeover to the 3-4. Will he be successful in this new System? He's fairly athletic, so one would think it's not a stretch. Yet, Peppers has lived his career in the 4-3 as well, and some guys simply cannot change into the 3-4. Not everyone has the James Harrison ability, let alone Troy Polamalu's (yes, I know it's Strong Safety - Bigby appears to be inheriting that slot). My drift, is Kampman simply may not ever feel comfortable switching to the 3-4. While others (Thompson?) might seem to flourish.

What have you heard since this posting?