When the Packers face the Raiders in their home preseason opener on Friday, they'll encounter some familiar faces, former players that used to call Green Bay home.
But these aren't your run of the mill former Packers, players on the roster bubble that were cut at the end of training camp.
These are guys that were integral pieces to building a consistently succesful organization and winning Super Bowl XLV.
"James Jones, Charles Woodson, I think it'll be great to see those guys," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "They're onto a new opportunity."
They may have left Green Bay in different fashions, but both Woodson and Jones are trying to re-capture the same magic they experienced in Titletown.
Jones departed Green Bay earlier this offseason via free agency, his contract expired, to return to his native Northern California.
Woodson, meanwhile, found he wasn't wanted by the Packers, a casualty of both a big contract and declining production in his advanced age. He decided to sign with Oakland, where he began his professional career back in 1998.
"I know when Ted (Thompson) and I sat down that day, and the final decision's made, you go back to his first year and everything that was accomplished since then, it's just how the whole, really the dynamics of our football team changed," said McCarthy. "Charles was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. He had incredible success here. That's definitely one of the tougher ones."
The Packers arguably made a mistake in not asking Woodson to come back on a restructured contract for less money, considering the poor play they got from the safety position last year, but they can't go back in time.
They've set about rectifying the situation by selecting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a first round draft choice and converting Micah Hyde to safety and now can only wish Woodson the best.
As a fellow captain on the Packers' Super Bowl team from the 2010 season, Aaron Rodgers calls Woodson one of his "all-time favorite teammates," but the Packers quarterback probably had a closer on-field relationship with Jones.
"James is a talented guy," said Rodgers, reminiscing. "I loved his presence in the locker room; I loved the way that he practiced. He's a guy who you knew would go up and get the ball. He made some incredible catches in his time here.
"I think he progressed as well. He really became an even better teammate and player with better practice habits as his career went on and led the league in receiving touchdowns a few years back and made a ton of good plays for us over the years. But I loved having him around. I still kept in touch with him and wish him and his wife the best."
In addition to Jones and Woodson, the Raiders also have on their roster C.J. Wilson—a starter on the defensive line in Super Bowl XLV—that left in free agency back in March. And there's also defensive back Brandian Ross, who was also a part of the Packers organization.
Making Oakland "Green Bay West" is former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie, who became general manager of the Raiders in 2012, taking over for longtime figurehead Al Davis.
McKenzie, too, was a big part of the Packers' championship team four seasons ago, one of many smart football minds in the Packers front office.
In fact, seeing some familiar faces on the opposing sidelines goes beyond the players suited up for action. When McKenzie and the Raiders come to to town this weekend, it begins a streak of three consecutive weeks the Packers will face teams headed by former executives.
"We have the side benefit of the next three games we play Reggie McKenzie's team, John Dorsey's team and John Schneider's team, which is unusual, all right in a row," said Thompson. "But (we're) looking forward to seeing all those guys."
Following the game against the Raiders, the Packers face Dorsey's Kansas City Chiefs team in the preseason finale on Aug. 28 and then Schneider's reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the annual NFL Kickoff contest on Sept. 4.
"Before the game you usually have a chance to shake hands, give each other a hug and wish everybody well," said Thompson. "And the winner's happy about it and humble, and the loser's dejected but comforted by the winner usually. It's real friendship, real people, real stuff."
The next three weeks will be a time for reminiscing and nostalgia for the Packers organization, but such thoughts are likely to end the moment the regular season starts against the Seahawks.
Even though many talented individuals have left Green Bay, the cupboard hasn't been left bare in either the locker room or the front office.
There's every reason to believe the Packers can contend for another Super Bowl title in 2014 and after the plesantries are exchanged between some old friends, it will be time to get down to work Sept. 4.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
- Like Like
- 5 points