Friday, June 11, 2010

Apologies? Good. The Need to Apologize A Lot? Not So Good.

It's been a couple days of apologies from Packer players lately, insuring that our hopes for an eventful offseason come true (though perhaps not in the way the we would have wanted).  Personally, I was hoping for a free agent signing or something.

Let's do the roundtable of apologies (and non-apology) and my two cents on each.

Brandon Underwood:  Underwood apologized to his teammates Wednesday for the mess he found himself in after Clay Matthews' golf outing in Lake Delton.  Underwood looks to be potentially facing a charge of intention of solicitation of prostitution, but it also looks as if he was the target of a robbery-gone-awry from a pair of ladies who turned it into a poorly-structured claim of sexual assault.

When the news broke, I cautioned folks to hold off on judgment.  Having lived through the 1985 dual-sexual assault cases of James Lofton and Mossy Cade, both players fought a PR battle as well as their own legal battles.  What always baffled me is how the Packers ended up cutting Lofton, an iconic player who ended up being acquitted of his charges, while they hung on to Cade, a little-known cornerback who served a year of jail time.

In short, the two women appear to have targeted Underwood, money did exchange hands (according to the police reports), and then they couldn't quite get their story straight as to who assaulted them when they were caught trying to rob Underwood.  The police have turned the case over to the District Attorney without a recommendation of charges against Underwood.

My guess is that no charges will come against Underwood, as it seems clear he was likely a target of a crime.  More importantly, though, is the judgment that will be coming from two other sources:  Roger Goodell, who has taken a firm stance on players placing themselves in questionable circumstances; and Underwood's wife, Brandie.

My unsolicited two bits:  Brandon, the time has come to grow up.  I know there are many guys on the Packers and other teams that screw around, but you've been called out in a very public way.  Adding to the fact that your position coach called you "immature" last year and a teammate said you've been "a problem" for a while tells me that this incident may not be as isolated as you'd like it to be.  Dan Artkush seems to think that your position is pretty safe, but I think the time has come to apply yourself professionally (and personally), because I'm not as sure.  Ted Thompson is the guy who coined the phrase "Packer People", and there are going to be people watching him quite closely to see if that was just words or a real philosophy.

Aaron Rodgers:  A-Rodge backed off his somewhat-controversial smack-down of ESPN reporters Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski with an apology...not for the comments themselves, but for how they were delivered.

"Unfortunately the message of really in jest talking about that, it was probably inappropriate for that setting and I didn't mean to offend anybody personally," Rodgers said today. "I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they do. It's something that I know is more difficult than it looks at times and I meant no personal disrespect to anybody and I apologize if any of them took offense to what I said. Unfortunately the translation is often lost when it's on radio, not on TV."

When asked if he regretted any of his statements, Rodgers said, "I regret that it was an inappropriate setting, I think, for those comments."

Now, Rodgers' initial comments garnered a wide range of responses from Packer fans, ranging from concern to outright glee.   There was certainly no one coming to the aid of Kornheiser, and even he himself seemed to agree with Rodgers' assessment of him.

That stated, there are a large percentage of fans who are "stoked" by Rodgers' "fiestiness" and willingness to "say it like it is".  And, I myself have no problem with having a quarterback who is able to rise to his own defense.  However, Rodgers has endeared himself to many Packer fans by being the ultimate strong, silent leading man.  He could have teed off about his draft-day fall back in 2005, but he didn't.  He could have whined from the bench in 2006 about how he should be starting ahead of Brett Favre, but he didn't.  He certainly could have spoken his mind during FavreGate in 2008, insisting he was the better man for the job and what a diva Favre was, but he didn't.  And he's had every opportunity to tell everyone he told them so since then, but he hasn't.  All he's done is bide his time, work hard in practice, and let his play do the talking for him.  And there isn't a Favre Lover out there who can criticize how he's handled himself.

Don Banks' story over at talks about a Rodgers that has chosen to be vocal behind the scenes, as he reveals it was Rodgers who spearheaded the "Come To Jesus" team meeting after the Tampa Bay debacle that changed the fortunes of an entire season.

"It was the first time in my five years here that we had a players-only meeting that was actually productive,'' Rodgers told me. "It was all about conflict. It was guys getting on the linemen about blocking, linemen getting on the receivers about catching the ball, guys getting on me about getting the ball out of my hands quicker. Everything just got out on the table. It was all out there, and the great thing was we were able to talk through our issues and move forward. And from that day on, I felt a different air of confidence about our team. We believed in each other and it was a different group of guys, a different team after that.''

This is the Aaron Rodgers we look to as an icon, a team leader, and a hero.  My question is, if you want to add fiesty, tell-it-like-it-is cocky quarterback to the description, why would you choose to start with a tool like Kornheiser?

My unsolicited two bits:  Aaron, you've kept a stiff upper lip and hid your feelings about how things went down for a long time, and like it or not, we respect you for it.  You've not given your detractors any extra ammunition and slowly silenced them with your play.  As a former Favre Acolyte, I wear my red #12 jersey with pride because of how you have handled yourself as much as your play.

So, that stated, if you really want to get this off your chest, don't waste time with the media.  Launch a smirky, tongue-in-cheek salvo at the guy who has been the center of many of your struggles:  Favre.  Ask him why he's not coming back this year.  Mention some of his diva behaviors in the locker room and wonder aloud how Jared Allen likes tiptoeing around him when he's in a bad mood.  Mention you're going to ask Mike to play safety at the end of the Vikings game so you can have one of his interceptions.   
Heck, if you're going to stir up the pot, this is the way to guarantee that not only will all of Packer Nation be behind you, but so will most of the national audience (and media).  Favre will have no choice but to return to defend his honor, and this time, it will be the final showdown.

Don't waste time with the media hacks.  You won't win in the end.  If you want to cleanse yourself of what ails you, take it to the source.  And we'll all be behind you 100%.

Johnny Jolly:  No, there isn't an apology forthcoming from the Jolly camp, but there should be.  This week's news featured a two-time felon being called as star witness against Jolly, followed by yet another delay of the trial that will now fall on the first day of training camp.  All this over 200 mg of codeine.  In 2008.  The swift wheels of justice don't roll that way when the defendant is apparently Jolly or the Williamses in Minnesota.

But Jolly didn't clean up his act, getting in trouble last month for fliers sponsoring a party at a Houston nightclub, which got him back in hot water with the judge, as he is prohibited from using alcohol or drugs as terms of his bond.  It probably didn't help matters much when the flier featured a picture of Jolly with a backwards baseball cap next to a picture of him with his Packer helmet on.

Add to it all that he still has not signed his restricted free agent tender, and you have what amounts to an ongoing headache for the Packers.  The doubts are creeping in this "Packer People"?  Nicholas Kashion over at the Bleacher Report says that the Packers would be foolish to sever ties with Jolly, citing a long list of statistics that prove he is far too valuable to cut over a small issue as being accused of a crime.
If the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him they would have gone to trial by now.  Their constant posturing in the media shows just how weak their circumstantial case against Jolly is.  They are now resorting to getting multiple felons to attempt to tarnish Jolly's image by leaking stories of alleged past misdeeds on the part of Jolly.  

True?  Perhaps, but the point still stands that if there are more alleged misdeeds, they are likely to come to light, and Roger Goodell will put his stamp on Jolly at the conclusion of the trial (estimated to be January 2023), regardless of the outcome.  And as for his production, Greg Bedard tweeted an interesting statistical analysis that suggests Jolly hasn't been as rock-solid as many of us presume, ranking just behind Jarrett Bush in defensive ratings.  I don't put a ton of stock in over-conglomerized statistical amalgomations, and this one seems a little slanted against defensive linemen.

My unsolicited two bits:  Johnny, you haven't offered an apology for this ongoing saga, and even Brandon Underwood apologized to the team for dragging them into the public eye with his questionable decision-making.  'Tis the season for apologies, so it might be a good time to give both your teammates, your coaches, and your fans a chance to see the Jolly that we want to see on the team...a little repentance, even just for the distraction this is causing, would be nice.  It's a 3-4 defense and the Packers have already added Mike Neal in the draft, and he sure comes off to me as Packer People. 

Mike McCarthy spoke out Thursday in reference to Underwood's situation that the Packers are making the papers too many times for the wrong reasons. 

"I’ll just address the activity this past week that we have had as a football team. We talked about it this morning in the team meeting. We discussed the fact that we are in an offseason program and we’re in the paper way too much with things other than football. We all have a responsibility and an obligation to represent the Green Bay Packers properly. Every decision we make, both on and off the field, has consequences, and poor judgment was made. With that, the circumstances are what they are. We have dealt with it as a football team and frankly we have moved on."

Certainly, the Jolly situation has to fall in this same category; and while Rodgers' statements and subsequent apology were far less serious, after suffering through FavreGate, McCarthy is acutely aware of how bad press can affect your team.

The 2010 version of the Green Bay Packers has a lot of optimism and hopes for a team on the rise and able to contend deep into the playoffs.  Let's hope that the Packers stop needing to apologize and keep the focus on the field, where it belongs...for all of us.

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