2019 Season-Ending Press Conferences - That’s What Cheese Said

It's the final That's What Cheese Said of the 2019 season. Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur spoke to the media to put a bow on the season before looking forward to 2020. 

General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur met with the media this past week for their season-ending press conferences. Both spoke to the media for roughly 30 minutes, addressing a number of topics from the 2019 season as a whole to Matt LaFleur’s first year as head coach and what positions the team is looking at in free agency and the draft. 

Naturally, one of the first things Coach LaFleur addressed at the podium was his displeasure with the way the 2019 season came crashing to a halt in Santa Clara. 

“I was just disappointed. It didn’t seem like we had the same energy and effort that we had displayed throughout the season,” he said of the team’s 37-20 loss. 

“That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out right now,” he said of his team’s lack of energy in a game with a Super Bowl berth on the line. “Why weren’t our players playing with their hair on fire?”

Going into the offseason, there’s plenty for LaFleur and Gutekunst to keep tabs on. The Senior Bowl took place this past Saturday, and in a few weeks it’ll be time for the NFL Combine. After that, free agency kicks off in March with the Draft in late April. 

First, though, Gutekunst was asked about retaining some of his own players, saying he had a lot of “Ted Thompson” in him with wanting to keep all of his own guys first, acknowledging right tackle Bryan Bulaga, kicker Mason Crosby, and cornerback Tramon Williams specifically. 

“Mason’s going to kick for quite a while longer if he wants to,” Gutekunst said, referencing that the kicker’s talent hasn’t dropped off and he had one of his best years statistically. 

“I think there’ll be plenty of opportunity for us to improve our football team,” he added, addressing the team’s financial situation allowing them to be active in free agency if desired. 

One position both the GM and head coach agreed needed an infusion of talent was the wide receivers group, while neither wanted to say it outright. Gutekunst called the position one they’d “like to add talent to” and LaFleur said there was plenty to improve on at every position, not just wide receivers. 

Gutekunst did reiterate however that the Packers weighed their options at the trade deadline for an explosive offensive player, calling it the one area they were looking at adding. 

Another topic both men touched on was the idea of drafting Aaron Rodgers’ successor when he still has quite a few years left on his current contract. Both LaFleur and Gutekunst were in agreement that there’s been no drop-off in talent as far as Rodgers is concerned. 

“I think he’s still one of the most talented players out there,” LaFleur said of the quarterback. “He seemed energized all season long. His mind is as sharp as they come.” 

Still, neither could rule out the possibility of drafting a quarterback this year, though they acknowledged it’s the same mentality every year when considering finding talent at the league’s most important position.

“I was raised by Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson,” Gutekunst said.

“You just can never have enough great quarterbacks,” LaFleur said smiling, emphasizing the team’s history at the position. If a good player is there, you take them. 

When Gutekunst was asked specifically about his “all-in” strategy going into last year’s offseason, he shrugged it off. 

“I kind of feel like we’re all-in every year,” said Gutekunst. “I mean it’s not, I don’t think we try to build for windows. It’s Green Bay, Wisconsin. We have Aaron Rodgers and we’re going to be in it every year. That’s kind of how we think.”

Gutekunst was also asked how he thinks his young players will make second and third-year jumps.

“When you stay as healthy as we have, it really does limit opportunities for young players,” Gutekunst said of the development of guys like Josh Jackson and Oren Burks. He was quick to point out that both played well down the stretch, but neither were given as many opportunities given the overall health of the defense as a whole. 

He was also heaped praise on No. 12 overall pick Rashan Gary, in addition to saying guard Elgton Jenkins could be one of the premier players at his position over time in Green Bay. 

“When he was in there I thought he affected the game,” Gutekunst said of Gary. “His explosiveness off the edge was very evident, and I thought he affected the passer when he was in there.”

In Gary’s specific situation, Gutekunst felt he has great players and great coaches to learn from, also comparing his role to the role Za’Darius Smith plays as a versatile rusher, lining up in the three-technique, standing up over the center, or rushing off the edge. 

Both Gutekunst and LaFleur kept reiterating during their press conferences that this is only the beginning for their team, and while there’s plenty to improve on, there’s also plenty to like with the talent that’s already on the team. 

“I’m excited about our future here moving forward,” said LaFleur, emphasizing that Gutekunst did a great job not only adding good players but high character players. “I don’t think by any stretch we’re at a finite spot. I think it’s going to continue to evolve. I think this offseason will give us a good chance to reflect and see what we did well and see where we want to go with it.”

Some adjustments LaFleur mentioned specifically were third downs, saying all season they were “not up to standard,” and that he wants to look at the tempo of the offense. 

“What I’m excited for is, this is going to be the first time I’ve been in year two since 2015, after the 2015 season in Atlanta,” said LaFleur. He’ll now have an entire offseason to work on a game plan for his second season at 1265 Lombardi Ave. 

Gutekunst acknowledged the same thing with LaFleur, and also pointed out the success Matt Ryan had under the coach. It isn’t out of the question to think Rodgers could have the same type of performance going into his second year under LaFleur. 

“This was Matt’s first year. I think all outside expectations, he probably went beyond them,” said Gutekunst. “I think when you get as close as we got, it’s a disappointing time because we wanted to finish that thing off the right way. I know long term I’m really excited about the foundation.”

“The fact of the matter is, as a team, we found a way to win 14 games,” said LaFleur. “Anytime that comes to an end, it’s tough. Especially when you have a bunch of great guys like we do. To get the buy-in that we had was pretty special.”

“We want to finish hoisting that trophy up, and until we do we’re going to keep working,” added LaFleur.

“I’ve got a lot of optimism going forward,” said Gutekunst.

 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcasts for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (45)

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wildbill's picture

January 28, 2020 at 03:32 pm

This year went way beyond my expectations. I’m excited for next year. Already tired of reading mock drafts though, lol

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LeotisHarris's picture

January 28, 2020 at 06:18 pm

I'm with ya, wildbill! Last offseason was filled with so much uncertainty for me, along with all the predictions of a return to the 70s-80s Packers. I think we have a ton to build upon and a bright future. I'm hanging onto that and steering clear of the mock drafts for now.

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gene.chu@icloud.com's picture

January 29, 2020 at 08:47 am

Thank you, Maggie, for bringing to the dedicated Packers fan base your take on the team’s latest. I fully enjoyed reading your articles of “That’s What Cheese Said”. Looking forward to next season already. Go Pack.

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Guam's picture

January 28, 2020 at 03:40 pm

Not at all surprised they want to bring Bulaga back. He played well this year and is only 30 and should have 2-3 more productive years. I found it interesting they want to bring Twill back and made zero mention of bringing Martinez back. Twill will be 37 and with Sullivan and Jackson waiting in the wings I was a bit surprised they want to resign him. Martinez is gone. Given that the draft is a bit thin at ILB, I would guess the Packers will be actively pursuing either Littleton or Schobert.

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albert999's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:43 pm

I like Schobert

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Leatherhead's picture

January 28, 2020 at 07:30 pm

Well, this was all glitter dust. I wouldn’t read much into it at this point but actions speak louder than words.. We could really improve a defense that’s already top ten in a lot of ways.. We were only average at running the ball and most of the playoff teams were better than us and we should improve that, IMO.

Guam, what happens if we release Martinez but Littleton and Schobert sign elsewhere?? Do you really want to create a big hole in a pretty decent young defense? Shouldn’t we be looking to upgrade Burks and Summers instead of replacing Martinez?

Bulaga.....he’s 30 with some serious injuries in his past and could cost $10 million. That’s kind of a big downside to bet against.

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CAG123's picture

January 28, 2020 at 11:44 pm

Silence says it all though Clay Matthews knows how that feels as does Randall Cobb. They mentioned the guys they wanted to resign and Martinez wasn't among them in his few years as GM Gute makes his intentions pretty clear.

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:23 am

Exactly. For all the clownz constantly whining about Martinez time & time again, A) compare his 2019 run stop % & the points of initial contact to Kendricks, Kuechly, Wagner, Schobert, Littleton, and you'll see why Martinez value is going to get him huge $, B) Burks & Summers & Goodson suck in comparison. Bitch about them, not the guy who saved a ton of touchdowns.

You saw what happens when Blake doesn't make the stop. Raheem Morris looked like Gale Sayers/Marcus Allen.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 29, 2020 at 08:07 am

"You saw what happens when Blake doesn't make the stop. Raheem Morris looked like Gale Sayers/Marcus Allen."

Martinez was on the field for Raheem Moestert's out of body experience that channelled those two greats. Crappy use of an example to prove his worth since he was there and proved himself worthless in preventing it.

Certainly I don't put that game all on Martinez. But then we circle back to cap value. If he cannot make a difference, he should not be paid like he can.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 11:02 am

I don’t think you understood his point.. The point is that when Martinez doesn’t make the stop you have a guy like Mostert running wild.....because nobody else is stopping him. Martinez needs some help.

Rewatch the film. What happens when Martinez gets blocked? And your solution is to replace him with somebody who doesn’t get blocked? Good luck with that.

Seriously......watch these plays in slo mo and tell me who got off their blocks and made a tackle.

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CAG123's picture

January 29, 2020 at 02:06 pm

The problem is his inability to fight off blocks once olinemen get their hands on him he’s done and if he’s going to warrant Wagner money he needs to be able to do Wagner things. I’m not saying he should be able to fight off EVERY block that’s impossible but he’s easily washed out of plays when they do. Plus his overall all lack of athleticism and you have a pretty average LB the Packers should offer him 8-10 million if someone offers more than that he can go there.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 05:05 pm

You should rewatch the film. That’s not what you are going to see.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 29, 2020 at 04:11 pm

He simply is not fast to the gap and will not plug a guy on the spot. Two egregious whiffs in the 49r game where he had the RB dead to rights in the hole and it was Ole'. Get better inside.

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stockholder's picture

January 29, 2020 at 05:29 pm

He will make 10 mil. a year No matter what. Bonus 10mil. 1/2 Guar. 3-4 yrs. Too much fora guy that can't get sideline to sideline.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:22 pm

And yet, you see him involved in numerous plays along the sideline every game. How.? And despite all his deficiencies, he had way more tackles than anybody else on a defense that jumped from #22 in scoring defense to #9. How?

I am painfully watching the first half of our last game. Frame by frame-at times, and I’m seeing several reasons for these “gashing” plays of 8 or more yards including poor run support by people who aren’t named Martinez.

We should be adding good defenders, not spending draft picks or FA money on guys you HOPE can replace the guy you let leave.

I think he has a lot of reasons to play for the Chargers next year. I don’t expect him back, but I hope we try because he’s not going to be real easy to replace.

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CAG123's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:24 pm

I mean he's the starting MLB he should have the most tackles that's like bragging about your starting center in basketball having more rebounds than anyone else. I must ask were you this defensive of AJ Hawk?

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Guam's picture

January 29, 2020 at 08:23 am

LH: I didn't say I agreed with letting Martinez go, I was just noting that it is pretty clear the Packer FO has already let him go. I have posted many times in the past that I thought they should resign Martinez to a reasonable ($7-8 million) contract and only let him go if he were too high priced for his production (i.e. don't do another NIck Perry contract and overpay for four years because he is the only guy available).

The Packers will be in a serious bind if they don't sign someone else and have to rely on the draft to fill that hole. Obviously Gute appears to be willing to take that risk.

Regarding Bulaga, yes there is injury history but there is also a pretty good performance history too. I think that is a better bet than drafting a young tackle and hoping he works out, because if he doesn't you get an aging and less mobile QB1 killed.

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Tundraboy's picture

January 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm

Exactly. like a basketball player scoring 20 when they take 40 shots.

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stockholder's picture

January 29, 2020 at 05:48 pm

Wagner Detroits RT made 9.5 million last year. No way Bulaga takes less the 10 a year. I'd draft a OT before I'd pay Bulaga that.

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Lphill's picture

January 28, 2020 at 03:57 pm

Nick Kwitakowski from the Bears can be had, he is a thumper and the Bears have cap trouble right behind the Vikings.

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dobber's picture

January 29, 2020 at 09:11 am

Kwiatkowski < Martinez.

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CAG123's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:14 pm

Gute you're going to have to chalk it up on Jackson and Burks man lol if any of these guys had shown development and promise they would be on the field but Jackson can't even beat out an UFA throwaway in Sullivan or an old man in Williams and Burks can't assert himself as the three down LB over undersized safeties and BJ Goodson. Jackson should be traded at this point send him to a needy CB like the Eagles for a potential 4th/5th round pick they're too thin at LB to do anything with Burks so I guess he'll get another year. What I didn't hear from Gute is an endorsement for Blake it seems like they're going to let him walk.

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albert999's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:41 pm

I’d draft ILB DL before receiver....running defense was our downfall not receivers in the championship game

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Turophile's picture

January 28, 2020 at 07:08 pm

If you look at where the sweet spot for various positions is, then DL is relatively weak this year while WR is very strong. There aren't many solid 1st round DL, maybe Alabama's Raekwon Davis or Neville Gallimore. Of the top 15 or so edge guys only Epenesa is 280 (the rest are 265 or less). Possible round 2 DLs, are Blacklock and Madubuike.

ILB isn't strong at the top, but there should be more prospects in rounds 3 and lots in round 4.

Therefore, DL/WR are the first two picks (in any order), then something/ILB, or ILB/something.

The 'something' could be OL (Guard or Tackle), a double dip at any of the three positions already drafted, a RB, a TE, a CB, heck it could even be a QB if the Packers found a later prospect they really liked, just sitting there.

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stockholder's picture

January 28, 2020 at 07:34 pm

Davis always is hurt. The rest to light for the line. I believe Gute signs Defense. also believe the top 6 wrs are gone before he picks. My choice now is RB #1. D'Angela Swift Rb. GEo. T. Pride jr. CB ND , Denzel Mims Wr Baylor, Collin Johnson Wr Tex, Albert Okwuegbunam TE (past injury), Quez Watkins S. Miss. Wr, G. Stone S Iowa. John HighTower WR. Boise, Jeff Thomas WR Miami

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BBlake's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:44 pm

It will be interesting to see if Gutekunst is willing to swallow his pride and make decisions that are best for the team, or if he makes decisions based on his past decisions (i.e. keeping Graham & players he drafted).

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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:24 am

Good point. He only gave J'Mon Moore 1 year, his first WR he ever drafted. So that's good.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:45 pm

I may be the only one who thinks that the team should keep Martinez is the price is right. But at the same time try and find his replacement in the draft or FA. A lot of time if Martinez did not make the tackle nobody else would. It’s not that I think he is great, it’s just that there are few options for a MLB who knows the defense as well as he does. It sucks but I don’t think there is much hope for a premiere ‘backer to come available anytime soon. It’s one thing to complain that he is not premier it’s another to dump him just because he is not. A stud DT or DE would help as would the development of somebody like Burks.

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Gort's picture

January 28, 2020 at 06:37 pm

Why not re-sign the guy who lead the league in tackles? Martinez may not be the shiny new toy that many crave, but he is solid and deserves at least a reasonable offer. If someone else offers him a superstar contract that he signs, then good for him. Business decisions are made by both sides.

Burks' performance has not been good enough to rely on as a starter.

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scullyitsme's picture

January 29, 2020 at 11:12 am

Not sure why I keep hearing this argument, since no one really is disagreeing with it. The point is that the current predictions of Blake Martinez’s free agent value is somewhere around 16mil. God knows why. I don’t sign him for half that. He was a 5th round pick I think, he’s played well for where he was drafted. Nobody dislikes him. He’s just not worth big money he’s likely to get. I’d take my chances in more athleticism and less experience at that price.

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dobber's picture

January 29, 2020 at 04:08 pm

I haven't heard numbers that high on an AAV basis. I think the Packers need to decide what he's worth and if the bidding goes beyond that value, then wish him well. Although BG's tendency in the past has been the clean break rather than any amount of lowball negotiation.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:49 pm

OTC.com has him at $8.8 mil AAV. That's still way too rich for my blood.

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Packers0808's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:46 pm

Didn't play with their hair on fire, quite simple I think they knew they were out classed, out manned and read to many things that they weren't good enough to win and they believed it1 thus lack of push to win, didn't have the will to do it!

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 11:05 am

IMO, the leader of this team is not a hair-on-fire kind of guy. Why would you expect the team to play that way?

Personally, I’m more of a fan of cool execution.

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albert999's picture

January 28, 2020 at 05:46 pm

That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out right now,” he said of his team’s lack of energy in a game with a Super Bowl berth on the line. “Why weren’t our players playing with their hair on fire?”

Maybe Rodgers and the Smiths and the other veterans And coaches preached to much about just another game and don’t get to excited?
San Fran played the whole game on fire

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Since&#039;61's picture

January 28, 2020 at 07:09 pm

I think that Lafleur did a great job in winning 14 games this season and leading the Packers to the NFCCG. However, I also think that MLF should be answering the question, "Why didn't our guys play with their hair on fire?", rather than asking that question. Who is responsible for preparing the team and putting their hair on fire before the game? Isn't that the HC and the coaching staff?

If MLF had the team prepared they should have had their hair on fire from the opening kickoff, the 49ers certainly did. This and going for a 2 point conversion way too early plus an early onside kick attempt leave me with some concerns about MLF. Since he is a first year HC I can give him a pass and I know that he is smart enough to learn from his experience. Moving on to our players I would be fine to keep Bulaga and Twill for the right price. They provide great experience at their respective position. Crosby should also be re-signed.

Players like Martinez, Burks, Graham, and Jackson should be chucked. They cam be replaced with better and more athletic players. We added better players to our defense and our defense improved. It makes sense to me that if we add a few better players to our offense especially at WR and TE our offense will improve as well. We still need to address DL and ILB on the defense especially if we chuck Martinez.

Hopefully Gute can have another successful off-season in FA and with the draft. I'm looking forward to see how Gute handles the draft from the 30th position rather than the #12 slot. Thanks, Since '61

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 28, 2020 at 09:13 pm

La Fleur wants to find out who the true leaders are. More playmakers are on the agenda. The D line can bag guys in the fourth-sixth rd and a couple fair priced DT/DEs that play low and fast are part of the free agency pool. I still like bringing in the RT with a first round selection.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:40 am

I'm warming up to the idea of OT in round 1. Not only are Bulaga and Veldheer FA this year, Bahk's contract is up after next year. So adding a talented younger player to man the edge of the OL is not a bad idea with so much uncertainty on the horizon.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 29, 2020 at 04:19 pm

Giving Bhaktiari his third contract is the big decision. He is the ALL-PRO guy. He and Jenkins anchor the line. There is just a load of talented OTs in this draft. The personnel people know this.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 29, 2020 at 07:27 am

It's an interesting point they make about the good health being a limiting factor for younger player development. Josh Jackson is a great example. The guy was not sniffing the field much but on the rare occasion he did, he didn't look bad, IMO. And while they certainly had plenty of coverage break downs, I don't think there was a weak link in the top 4 CB group of Jaire, King, Tramon and Sullivan. The effort they make to re-sign or replace Tramon Williams will be telling. If they really believe it, they should feel comfortable sliding Sullivan up the pecking order with Jackson moving into the top 4.

I don't buy into the theory so much with Burks at ILB. They were so bad, if he had much of anything, he would have seen the field. Having said that, it would not be the first time a coaching staff fell into a comfortable rut with the likes of Martinez & Goodson. It's easy for a coaching staff to not want to suffer through the mistakes of a learning curve even if that is required because the guys not making mistakes are simply not good enough. With both Martinez and Goodson being FA, it is in Gute's court to force the issue. He'd be well advised to add some players to the mix, IMO.

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Lphill's picture

January 29, 2020 at 09:07 am

Packers will release Graham to free up cap space, and probably not re sign Bulaga so that they have more spending money , Clarke will take up a big chunk and Gute will go after a 3 down linebacker in free agency. Martinez is gone.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

January 29, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Literally amazing so many have opinions on Martinez and the NFCC game and seem not have watched it.

The key was San Fran NOT BLOCKING BLAKE.

Hello?

Blake was not blocked, he could not make plays. get over the hero blake fighting off blocks. it didn't happen

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 05:40 pm

You are totally 100% wrong about that.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 29, 2020 at 05:40 pm

You are totally 100% wrong about that.

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Lphill's picture

January 29, 2020 at 02:44 pm

Correct if you watch film of Martinez he seems frozen when being blocked.

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