Young Pack Will Be Back
Green Bay has only 8 players 30 or older.
By: Mitch Light | 2/10/11, 4:58 PM EST
By Charean Williams
The good news for the Green Bay Packers is they won another Lombardi Trophy. The better news is the Packers are the second-youngest team in the league.
They could be contenders for a while.
The Packers had barely finished celebrating their latest championship — the 13th for the franchise — when they started thinking about a repeat.
“We feel very blessed in Green Bay to have a tremendous history and tradition, and that’s something that now we’re permanently part of,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That will be something that we’ll use as a strength and an outlook. I don’t look at it as pressure. I don’t feel stress from it. I embrace it. It’s something that players feed off of. We celebrate it as fine as any sports organization in the world, and we’ve added to it. So to me, our tradition and history and our ability to repeat, that’s exciting to us. That’s the next challenge.”
The Packers had 15 players on injured reserve, the most in the league. Six were starters on their opening-day depth chart. Among others, the Packers will get back running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley, whom Aaron Rodgers calls “the best tight end in the league.”
And their young players will be a year more experienced.
They have only eight players 30 or older. Rodgers is only 27.
The Packers ended the 2010 season with the title. They are the favorites for 2011 already. One online betting service has Green Bay with 7-1 odds to win Super Bowl XLVI, with the Patriots (8-1), the Steelers (10-1) and the Chargers (12-1) following.
“It’s going to be exciting,” McCarthy said of next season. “On paper, it’s a lot like this year. Coming out of training camp it was the best football team that I stood in front of. I knew we were going to have an excellent opportunity to win the Super Bowl. When you look at the returning roster next year, it’s the same type of situation.”
Ty Warren readying for next season
The Patriots missed Ty Warren more than the defensive end missed football. Warren had hip surgery Aug. 16 to repair a torn labrum, keeping him on the sidelines for a football season for the first time since he began playing football.
“I think I needed it,” Warren said. “I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard for the past couple years, and I’ve been known to overtrain. It was good for me, and I’ve been enjoying spending time with my family.”
He didn’t watch a single game start to finish. If he had, Warren would have seen the Patriots struggles up front without him.
With Warren in the training room, the Patriots were forced to move nosetackle Vince Wilfork to defensive end at times. They finished with 36 sacks.
Warren was on crutches for two months, while rehabbing in Vail, Colo., where he had his surgery. He then returned to New England for more rehab.
Warren was checked out by team doctors during the Patriots’ exit exams at the end of the season and is fully healed, he said.
Warren has played in 105 games since the Patriots picked him in the first round of the 2003 draft. But he has missed a total of 22 games the past three seasons. Warren, 30, has plans to play another couple of years before calling it quits. Now 100 percent, he thinks he can be as good as old.
“Everything is good,” said Warren, who has 496 tackles, 20.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his career. “I’m just trying to get back in the swing of things, and start my  season off a little early.”
Fourth and Short
The Saints will work on a contract extension for Drew Brees, who is due to make $7.4 million in the final year of his deal. They have a bigger decision about Reggie Bush’s future. He is due a base salary of $11.8 million next season. He said he will consider restructuring his deal to remain in New Orleans. The Saints, who were hit hard by injuries at the position in 2010, might need him back. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory both have had ankle surgeries since the end of the season.
• Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is expected back with the Jets. He signed a two-year deal in the offseason and is scheduled to make $2.4 million in 2011. Tomlinson averaged 5.7 yards per carry in the first five games before dipping to 3.3 the rest of the way as Father Time seems to have caught up to him. Tomlinson, 31, still lead the Jets with 914 rushing yards and 51 receptions. He has said he’s willing to take a reduced role behind Shonn Greene next season.
• The Eagles had 12 rookies who started or played regularly. By the end of the year, Philadelphia had 17 rookies or second-year players on their 53-player roster and five more rookies on injured reserve.
• Jason Campbell will enter 2011 as the Raiders’ starting quarterback. He solidified his status in the final five games, and his 84.5 passer rating for the season was the team’s highest since Rich Gannon in 2002.
• Giants receiver Mario Manningham finished the season with three consecutive 100-yard games. He had 113, 132 and 101 yards, becoming the first Giants receiver with three 100-yard games in a row since Homer Jones in 1968.
• Only four teams — the Giants, Houston, Jacksonville and St. Louis — failed to score a defensive touchdown last season.
• The Cardinals are in desperate need of an outside linebacker (or two). Clark Haggans and Joey Porter, both of whom will be 34 for the start of the season, combined for only 97 tackles and 10 sacks.
• The Falcons will draft 27th. The Patriots drafted Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty with the 27th pick last season. Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams and Utah cornerback Brandon Burton are among the players who could be available for Atlanta.
• Dave Wannstedt, who spent six seasons as head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, will have his hands full in Buffalo. The Bills ranked last against the run, 28th in points allowed and 24th in yardage allowed. Buffalo does have the No. 3 overall pick.
• Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who played in only six games before going on injured reserve, is expected to become a free agent. Jonathan Stewart, who had 770 yards in 14 games, is ready to become the starter, and Mike Goodson showed promising flashes as a backup.
• The Bears’ best offensive lineman, Olin Kreutz, is scheduled to become a free agent. But Kreutz is 34. Chicago allowed Jay Cutler to be sacked an NFL-high 52 times, so the Bears have some improving to do on their line, whether they get a new center or not.
• Carson Palmer, who has asked Cincinnati to trade him, is 46-51 as the Bengals’ starter, including 21-31 over the past four seasons.
• The Browns would like to find Peyton Hillis a capable backup. He rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns but failed to score in the final five games. He fumbled eight times. The Browns figured out that his 270 carries were too much.
• After going 4-5 as the starter in place of Tony Romo, Jon Kitna will return as the Cowboys’ backup quarterback.
• Colts receiver Reggie Wayne took his receiver teammates with him to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Wayne’s five Pro Bowls are three shy of former teammate Marvin Harrison and one less than Hall of Famer Raymond Berry.
• Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew missed the final two games with a knee injury. He revealed after the season that it was bone-on-bone, which will require about four months recovery time. It raises a question about whether he can be as effective as he was the past two seasons — rushing for 1,391 yards in 2009 and 1,324 in 14 games in 2010.
• The Chiefs are expected to move on without receiver Chris Chambers, who was a healthy scratch for the playoff game. Chambers had only 22 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown this season.
• After ranking 30th in total defense and surrendering 427 points, the Texans are expected to use at least three of their top five picks on defensive players, including the first round. They are hoping to get a third-round compensatory pick for cornerback Dunta Robinson, who signed with the Falcons as a free agent in 2010.
• Champ Bailey turns 33 next season, but as a free agent, he still likely will command a big contract. The Broncos aren’t likely to franchise Bailey as it would cost them a cap hit of roughly $15 million.
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