The Packers have the finest collection of offensive weapons in the stratosphere. They are the chosen ones. There’s not a first rounder among the receiving corps, if you can believe that. But they play like what they are, gems excavated by the team’s scouting department in lower rounds, most with a chip on their shoulder for this reason or that. They play like they’re the cat’s meow because, as we all know, they can back it up.
I sort of spent time with all 10 of the offensive players who’ve scored receiving touchdowns this season, a stat that led the NFL. Six of the players were cardboard, four were real life people.
My feature on FOX NFL Sunday will be on Aaron Rodgers’ embarrassment of riches and how they’ve managed to thrive in a situation that breeds frustration. Somebody will leave unhappy on any given Sunday, but with only so much to go around, like precise routes, the pass catcher’s prerequisite is to do his job and keep his mouth shut (at least to the media) if he happens to be ticked off about his limited chances.
In a television feature that lasts less than three minutes, it wasn’t feasible to interview all 10 guys who scored touchdowns, so we whittled the list. We didn’t want to slight the other players completely so 5×4 action photos of the rest of the contributors were set up and dotted the background. The set looked cool.
Our feature producer decided to give everybody their photo board as a keepsake. Little-known rookie tight end Ryan Taylor heard about them and stopped by later that afternoon after the shoot was finished to claim the one of him shown spiking the ball. It was after his only NFL catch, a four-yard touchdown.
With 15 TDs, Jordy Nelson’s obvious and hard-earned chemistry with Rodgers has propelled him to the top of the Packers’ receiving list. Nelson led that unit in catches and receiving yards.
“It’s just being a consistent player day in and day out, I think helps Aaron out a lot. I think that’s where his confidence in me, (that’s) how we’ve just grown together,” Nelson said.
Meanwhile, speculation about the group of wideouts has been not if, but when it would implode. One football with five good receivers in Nelson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Randall Cobb, plus a formidable tight end in Jermichael Finley in the mix, many thought would cause dissension and hard feelings because they all want the ball.
The only thing Driver would say along those lines is admitting to frustration at times when he feels he’s beaten his man and Rodgers may have missed it. Driver knows there are only so many opportunities he’s going to get in a game and he gets a little irked when he thinks one’s been lost. Sure he’s happy for the guy that made the play, but …
“On the next play that it might have been Greg (Jennings), or it might have Jordy (Nelson) or James (Jones) that got the ball or Jermichael (Finley),” Driver says. “I don’t think I was mad that they got the ball, I was just mad that I beat the guy and opportunity wasn’t there at the time.”
Finley knows opportunities in the Packers’ offense can dry up in a hurry if he’s not more careful. Finley, who Rodgers will tell you in a minute is the best tight end in football, had 11 drops this season, which was fifth-most in the league.
He brought up his drops and kept bringing them up throughout our conversation as if that’s why I asked to speak to him. They weren’t. But once the topic was raised by Finley I sensed he wanted to get something off his chest about his off and on struggles securing the football.
“I try to talk to myself and talk myself out of not getting down,” Finley said. “It’s hard. It’s hard not to.”
Finley seems to come close to tearing up about losing most of last season to a knee injury. It taught him it could all be gone tomorrow, the game. He wants to be great and this offense will allow for that once everything comes together for the fourth-year player.
“I’ll never take a play off. I’m going to try to catch every ball,” Finley said. “When I was sitting out last year I told myself that I was going to do my best.”
Finley’s re-dedication to go along with a group that’s never lacked for it means just one more committed player to an offensive attack that can beat opponents down at a moment’s notice.
Through a season of prying eyes they kept it rolling … not always happy with too few chances at times, but always harmonious, they say, because they are teammates first.
For Pam’s complete interview with the Packers, tune in Sunday to NFL on FOX for America’s No. 1 pre-game show at noon ET/9 a.m. PT.