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Custom Blake Martinez Jersey Large

 

GREEN BAY – Packers linebacker Blake Martinez has been chosen as the team’s 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

The annual award is one of the most prestigious in the league, recognizing one NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field. From the league’s 32 nominees, one winner will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony on Super Bowl weekend.

Martinez, in his fourth NFL season out of Stanford, currently is second in the league with 129 tackles (79 solo, 50 assists) in addition to two sacks and a forced fumble. He’s started 45 consecutive games at inside linebacker dating back to the Packers’ 2017 regular-season opener against Seattle.

Since being drafted in the fourth round out of Stanford in 2016, Martinez has been active both in the Green Bay community and back home in Tucson, Ariz. Earlier this summer, he also was honored as the team’s 2019 community service award recipient.

“One of the things I wanted to get into once I got my feet underneath me in the NFL was being able to help out anybody, whether it be kids, adults, high school, whomever,” Martinez said. “To be a good role model, help out the less fortunate, and use my platform for the greater good. It’s just a testament that doing the right things always ends up helping yourself and the other person out. This nomination gives me more and more motivation to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Martinez’s charitable and community involvement began during his time at Stanford, when he and his fellow teammates would volunteer at homeless shelters and visit children’s hospitals and museums.
Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry & Tyler Lancaster sign autographs for charity

Packers LB Blake Martinez and defensive linemen Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster signed autographs at Lambeau Field Monday night in exchange for donations to the Salvation Army.

In Green Bay, Martinez has been involved extensively with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Salvation Army. He also participated in the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour in 2018 and the team’s annual Give Back Celebrity Bowling Event, which raises money for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) Promise Scholarship and for the Wisconsin Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association.

An avid gamer, Martinez donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for every 100 followers he gets on twitch.tv/packernation50 as well as 100 percent of the money he receives from subscriptions and ads. He played in the Fortnite Celebrity Pro-Am this past June in support of St. Jude, a cause close to his heart since his childhood friend, Richard Blau, passed away before his 15th birthday due to complications from osteosarcoma.

More recently, Martinez became a spokesperson for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, visited cadets at the Challenge Academy in Fort McCoy, Wis., and helped with a Play60 football camp at nearby Syble Hopp School.

“We just helped them catch footballs, do certain obstacle courses, asked questions, talked to them. We just had a blast,” Martinez said. “It’s those type of moments they don’t typically get to do that. They don’t get to take that time away and just be kids. It was cool to see them have that moment and … being able to see them have a smile on their face.”
Packers kickoff third year of Packers vs. Cancer

Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, Packers LB Blake Martinez and K Mason Crosby helped kick off another year of Packers vs. Cancer.

As a nominee, Martinez will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.

Martinez is the fifth consecutive defensive player to be the Packers’ annual Man of the Year nominee, following Kenny Clark in 2018, Clay Matthews in 2017, Jayrone Elliott in 2016 and Sam Barrington in 2015. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the team’s nominee, and eventually a league finalist, in 2014.

Whoever is chosen Walter Payton Man of the Year will have $250,000 donated to a charity of his choice, while the other 31 nominees will have $50,000 to a charity of their choice.

“It just gives you more motivation to keep influencing and keep motivating the younger generation,” Martinez said. “It’s those small little interactions that can change a person’s life. Whenever I have those moments, if I can go there and change one person’s mentality or give one person motivation, it’s going to be a positive interaction for me.”

For the fifth year, each Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee will also take part in the Charity Challenge, a social media challenge that encourages fans to post on Twitter using a unique hashtag for each player. Fans are encouraged to vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee’s last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 12 and Jan. 12 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations.

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Custom Jared Veldheer Jersey Large

 

The Green Bay Packers have activated T Jared Veldheer from the exempt/commissioner permission list and released G/T Adam Pankey. General Manager Brian Gutekunst announced the transactions Monday.

Veldheer (vel-DEER), a 6-foot-8, 321-pound 10th-year player out of Hilsdale College, was claimed off of waivers by the Packers from the New England Patriots on Nov. 29. He was originally selected by the Oakland Raiders in the third round (No. 69 overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. Veldheer has played in 118 regular-season games with 113 starts for the Raiders (2010-13), Arizona Cardinals (2014-17) and Denver Broncos (2018). He also started three postseason contests for the Cardinals (2014-15). He has started 91 games at left tackle, 21 games at right tackle and a game at center. Veldheer has started every game he has played in since Week 7 of his rookie season. He will wear No. 68 for the Packers.

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Custom Lucas Patrick Jersey Large

 

GREEN BAY (WKOW) — Some Packers players visited patients at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay today .

Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley and Lucas Patrick all stopped by.

They said they wanted to spread a little holiday cheer. Something that goes both ways.

“They really cheer for the people we are, is what it feels like, as opposed to wins and losses,” said Packers offensive lineman Lucas Patrick. “We want to win. We want to do well. It seems like they really support us and it’s the least we can do to give back and show our appreciation to everyone.”

Patrick says he’s visited patients at Bellin before, and he’s amazed every time at the strength and determination they show.

WKOW

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Custom Allen Lazard Jersey Large

llen Lazard walked into the Buffalo Wild Wings in Ames, Iowa, full of excitement and brimming with anticipation for what was to come on April 28, 2018.

After watching the first two days of the NFL Draft at home, Lazard had more than 40 of his closest family and friends come together to see where the 6-foot-5 receiver would land following his record-breaking run at Iowa State.

A few even flew in just to be part of the post-draft celebration, with Lazard projected to go anywhere from the fifth to the seventh round by most scouting agencies. The Des Moines Register was there to document the occasion, while the Iowa native smiled and greeted everyone who had shown up.

Internally, Lazard still tempered his enthusiasm. Because you never know what could happen on draft night.

The fourth round came and went without any action. No problem. In the fifth, his former coaches traded confused looks when the Indianapolis Colts drafted receiver Daurice Fountain out of Division I-AA Northern Iowa, but Lazard maintained his poise.

And then the sixth round passed…and slowly the seventh.

By the time SMU receiver Trey Quinn was announced as the 256th and final selection of the draft, Lazard knew he would be signing as an undrafted free agent with Jacksonville, but those closest to him could still sense his disappointment.

“We stayed until the final pick, my wife and I and a couple assistant coaches,” said Brad Bjorkgren, Lazard’s former basketball coach at Urbandale High School. “My heart just went out to him. It’s like, ‘Man, you must really have to be good to be in the NFL because this is the most special athlete I’ve ever coached.’”

The crowd dispersed. The friends went out, but Lazard sat and quietly reflected about what had just happened – not just in the draft, but everything leading up to this moment.

Once the top receiver recruit in the country, Lazard kept his word to Iowa State, even when the Cyclones went 3-9 during his senior year at Urbandale and bigger offers were flooding in.

An almost immediate starter, Lazard left Ames as the school’s all-time leading receiver and only the second Cyclone to be named first-team All-Big 12 in multiple seasons. His 241 receptions are 65 more than any other receiver in program history.

And yet, despite 33 receivers being drafted in 2018, Lazard now needed to take an undrafted detour to achieve his NFL dream. There was no tantrum or woe-is-me moment. That isn’t the way they handle adversity in the Lazard household.

Instead, Lazard waded through a quiet catharsis and came to a resolution. He has to prove it to them. Like he always has.

“I obviously thought I was going to (get drafted), and had the hopes and dreams for it,” Lazard said. “It was just a realization that my future is completely dependent on me. I knew whatever I wanted in life, I had to go get it myself.”
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‘Hakuna Matata’

Lazard was barely four years old when his father, Kevin, sat him and his brother, Anthony, down to watch film – and not just the typical X’s and O’s.

Yes, sometimes Kevin would bring up tape from his playing days at Iowa State but other times it would be ESPN highlights, the good and the bad. If a player acted out or let his emotions get the best of him, Kevin would discuss it with his children.

“I always made sure to point out to them, ‘Look at how this person handled this. Maybe you should handle it this way or maybe before you answer this way,’” Kevin said. “Examples of how to handle themselves and the type of character they want to display to other people to let them know who they are.”

From the start, Kevin and his wife, Mary, preached the importance of maintaining character through adversity. A defensive back and team captain for the Cyclones in the early ’90s, Kevin never went to a bowl game or won more than five games in a single season.

Frustrating? Sure. But those teams remained tight-knit. He’d bring Allen with him to Iowa State football games and letterman reunions, and proudly show him the stadium and facilities. The younger Lazard’s passion for ISU athletics started there, quickly learning every member of the football and basketball teams.

By the time Allen could walk, he was a natural athlete. With a small football tailored for his hand, Allen would fire tight spirals to his dad and punt balls with perfect technique before he was even in elementary school.

A gym rat in every sense of the word, Allen was a fixture in the weight room in middle school. Blessed with height from his mom’s side of the family, Allen shined in football, basketball and baseball growing up.

Tim TeBrink, an assistant football coach who also coached track at Urbandale at the time, convinced Allen to come out in the spring. As a freshman, he won a state title as a member of the shuttle hurdles team.

“He was a hard worker. He was raised that way with his mom and dad,” TeBrink said. “They’re both good quality people who taught him and his brothers, and his sister how to work hard. And that carried through. He pushed himself.”

The father’s even-keeled temperament transferred to the son. Allen was as competitive as they come, but there also was a lighter side to him. When Lazard wasn’t playing sports, he often could be found watching the movie “The Lion King.” A lot.

“The VHS tape got wore out,” Kevin Lazard said. “He knew every song, every lyric, everything.”

“Little Allen” took a big liking to the film and adapted its popular catchphrase “Hakuna Matata” as his own personal mantra. Even today, Lazard can be seen wearing a shirt with that inscription around the Packers’ locker room.

And he lived it. He had that “clutch gene,” a cool-as-a-cucumber approach that allowed Allen to drain every last-second free throw, or make a difficult pass or critical tackle.

“He never flinched at all his entire life, which always kind of amazed me,” Kevin said. “He has that motto, ‘Hakuna Matata.’ I believe that was something he really took into his own character and made that one of his main skills. To just not let things get to him.”
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‘Your word is your bond’

Iowa isn’t exactly known as a hotbed for elite Division I talent. So when Lazard began to shine in sports, he “stuck out like a sore thumb” in the Des Moines metro area.

By his sophomore year at Urbandale, Lazard had narrowed his focus down to football and basketball. A savvy and smart student of the game, Lazard was a standout in both sports.

Bjorkgren, who coached for 27 years at Urbandale before accepting the head coaching position at Division III Simpson College a few years ago, holds Lazard in high esteem.

Capable of dunking as a freshman, Lazard broke a school record with six dunks in a single game on opening night of his junior year. As a senior, Lazard dunked 47 times in games.

A power forward and physical post player, Lazard starred on two state-qualifying teams at Urbandale. While football was his primary sport, Lazard received plenty of interest from D-I basketball programs across the Midwest.

In the process, Allen formed a strong bond with Bjorkgren, whose mother, Norma, became one of Allen’s biggest fans all the way until her passing a week ago at 95 years old.

“She didn’t miss a Green Bay game because of Allen Lazard,” Bjorkgren said. “She’d be like, ‘What time is the Packer game? What channel is it going to be on?’ I’d get those calls all the time.”

The football field is where Lazard really separated himself, though. He was thrown into the starting lineup as a free safety during his freshman year after injuries hit. Kevin was his position coach at the time.

When he was younger, there were times Allen would get a little peeved when his dad would sit him down to watch film, but he started to see the benefits of that approach in high school. He saw the game at a different level and set him up for success at his natural position of receiver.

By junior year, Lazard was playing both sides of the ball. His production caused Urbandale to alter its triple-option offense and incorporate more spread concepts to capitalize on Lazard’s big-play potential.

TeBrink, an Iowa State alumnus, remembers a conversation he had with then-Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads about Lazard as early as his freshman year of high school. Legacy or not, TeBrink was convinced Lazard was a player Iowa State needed to pursue.

“I had played at Iowa State and Coach Rhoads had recruited me before he left to go to be a DC at Pittsburgh,” TeBrink recalled. “He walked over at a basketball game and we were talking, and I said, ‘I think this is a kid you’re going to want to get on your radar pretty quick if he’s not there already.’”

Iowa State began recruiting Allen during his sophomore year, while also trying to get his older brother Anthony to walk on to the football team.

Kevin never pressured his son to play for the Cyclones. He loved his experience in Ames but that was his experience – and also his only D-I offer coming out of high school. If he wanted to go to rival Iowa, Kevin told his son: “For those four years or five years, I’ll wear that Hawkeye sweatshirt because you’re there.”

The only thing Kevin asked was for his sons to think long and hard about their decision. Because once they committed: “Your word is your bond. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.”

Anthony eventually walked on at ISU, and Allen followed suit after his junior season, committing after the Cyclones’ six-win campaign that earned them a trip to the Liberty Bowl. By this time, Allen had emerged as one of the top recruits in the country after catching 40 passes for a whopping 928 yards and 11 touchdowns.

As more scouting bureaus caught onto Allen’s hype, offers came in from the likes of Notre Dame, Stanford, California, Oregon and LSU. Coaches would come to Urbandale’s basketball practices just to watch Lazard.

The interest from programs with national title aspirations was tough for Allen to process, especially after Iowa State went 3-9 during his senior year of high school.

“I went through a period of time of being very unsure,” Lazard said. “Having a foot in each door, half-in, half-out, but then I realized when I close my eyes and I picture myself playing college football, there’s only one uniform I pictured myself in. It was Iowa State.”

It was one down year, Allen convinced himself. As tempting as it might have been to go play for a more established program, Allen felt like he could help Iowa State put together a run of “bowl games all four years.” If only it was that simple.
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‘You can’t write that story’

It wasn’t one down year. It was several for the Cyclones. Iowa State went 2-10 and 3-9 during Allen’s first two college seasons, winning just two Big 12 Conference games.

Individually, Allen was a smash hit. A big-bodied receiver who could high-point a ball, Lazard caught 99 passes for 1,411 yards and nine touchdowns during those first two years.

As a team, however, Iowa State went into full rebuilding mode. Rhoads was fired after 2017 and Toledo’s Matt Campbell was brought in.

Allen considered transferring but he also had visions of possibly enrolling early for the NFL Draft, if his junior year went well. If he left, he’d have to sit out an entire year.

Instead, Lazard had a 1,000-yard season as a junior, and like his father, was named a team captain. But the Cyclones suffered another three-win year and Allen was dangerously close to going his entire college career without a bowl appearance like Kevin did.

“Usually once you get to mid-October and get to loss five or six, it’s a little bit of realization we’re not going to get to a bowl game again,” Lazard said. “It was really kind of hard to stick with it through those times.

“But looking back, it really taught me how to persevere, how to handle adversity, how to be a leader, and ultimately not to worry about the exterior things and form that bigger picture mentality.”

Lazard returned for his senior year and was rewarded with an eight-win season that included a monumental 38-31 upset victory over No. 3 Oklahoma on Oct. 7. Allen caught three passes for 69 yards in the game, including the game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:19 remaining. The photo of his touchdown catch still hangs in Bjorkgren’s office.

It also came almost exactly 27 years after the Cyclones beat No. 16 Oklahoma 33-31 on Oct. 20, 1990, during Kevin’s freshman year.

“You couldn’t make that up. You can’t write that story,” Kevin said. “I was just so proud, excited and happy for him. It’s amazing. It’s a miracle.”

Lazard capped his college career with a 21-20 win over Memphis in the Liberty Bowl, marking only the fourth bowl victory in program history and Iowa State’s first bowl win since 2009. He finished his run at ISU with five school records.

“Carrying my dad’s legacy on and our last name meant a lot,” Allen said. “Obviously, my career there didn’t go as planned, but the way I left and the way the program is now was everything I could have asked for.”
191222-lazard-body-D-2560
The big break

The NFL Draft was over and Lazard was headed to Jacksonville.

He’d heard all the stats about how undrafted free agents make up such-and-such percentage of NFL rosters and those who succeed are eligible for a second contract one year earlier than players who were drafted.

That was all well and good, but statistics also mean precious little when you’re fighting for a job against established veterans and draft picks.

Lazard was guaranteed nothing other than the modest signing bonus the Jaguars gave him. Predictably, he didn’t play much in the preseason, was cut at the end of camp and signed to the practice squad.

And that’s where Lazard toiled for most of his rookie year. Jacksonville got off to a slow start and players got injured, but Lazard remained on the scout team. By December, he was worn down mentally.

Lazard had just finished a Tuesday lift for the practice squad when he received a call from the Packers, offering him a chance to sign to their 53-man roster. Lazard immediately accepted.

“As a wide receiver, there’s only a few teams you don’t pass up for quarterbacks,” Lazard said. “This is obviously up there just from that standpoint, let alone all the exterior stuff. I’m also getting closer to home. Being back in the Midwest, it’s more of my element. I like the cold. I think I play better in the cold, too.”

Lazard flew up, picked up the playbook and even caught a pass in the team’s regular-season finale when Pro Bowler Davante Adams was inactive with a knee injury.

The whole experience gave Lazard a much-needed jolt and a renewed focus entering the biggest offseason of his football career.

Reflecting on 2018, Lazard felt like there were two prevailing reasons why he didn’t get drafted. Scouts felt he’d maxed out his potential at Iowa State, and teams didn’t know whether he was a tight end or a receiver at the next level.

In college, he felt like being a bigger receiver worked to his benefit. In the pros, it seemed like everyone viewed that negatively. In the offseason, Lazard wanted to change that.

“I look at the guys in my room and I’m comparing myself to them all the time,” said Lazard, who reported to Jacksonville at 233 pounds. “Looking at the tight ends, I started to realize I was getting closer to the tight ends than the receivers. And I didn’t want to do that.”

Training in Denver, where he lives with his girlfriend, Lazard became ultra-conscious of his weight and diet. He cut McDonald’s and fast food out and put together a training plan.

Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who held the same post in Jacksonville during Lazard’s rookie year, mentioned recently how the receiver appeared 20 pounds lighter when he reported for training camp in July.

That’s because Lazard literally was…and it’s been reflected in his play.

“I just feel a lot lighter. I feel a lot more explosive in running,” Lazard said. “Before, I did feel like I was kind of carrying something. Now, I feel more aggressive and powerful in my running.”
191222-lazard-body-E-2560
‘It’s a blessing’

Even with a new lease on his football life, Lazard still faced long odds to make the Packers’ 53-man roster last summer.

The 6-foot-5 receiver was staring up at a depth chart that included Adams, veterans Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow, and three returning 2018 draft picks in Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore.

That didn’t stop Lazard from methodically stating his case, though. He made play after play in practice, and caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games.

“He wants to obviously be a factor on this football team and I think during camp he showed that,” receivers coach Alvis Whitted said. “He works his tail off. He’s what you want and he wasn’t given anything.”

All the changes Lazard installed appeared to put him in contention for a roster spot, especially after St. Brown was placed on IR with an ankle injury and Moore was released during final cuts.

However, the Packers chose to keep undrafted rookie Darrius Shepherd as their sixth receiver and exposed Lazard to waivers on cut-down day. He was hanging out at cornerback Kevin King’s house when he got the news. Dejected but not defeated, Lazard was again on the outside looking in.

“When I got told I was getting cut, Kevin was the person I was with,” Lazard said. “He hung up his phone immediately and started talking to me. That’s something I really appreciated at that time.”

Lazard cleared waivers and was offered a place on Green Bay’s practice squad. The reactionary thing to do would have been to sign elsewhere, but Lazard wanted to stay and make all his work over the past eight months pay off.

He stuck around, and three days later when rookie tight end Jace Sternberger was placed on IR, Lazard was promoted to the active 53.

Kevin Lazard has made the six-hour drive up for nearly every Packers home game this season. He’d planned to go to the Packers’ Monday night contest against Detroit on Oct. 14 before finding out Allen had given his tickets to another player.

Kevin had no problem with it. Instead, he stayed with his wife and watched on DirecTV. Not wanting to miss a single play of Allen’s, the couple fell minutes behind after constantly rewinding to watch their son on special teams.

That’s when both of their phones had started to blow up. Their son Anthony, now a strength and conditioning coach at Appalachian State, was among the excited masses.

“They’re all saying, ‘Great catch!’ And we’re like what happened?” Kevin said. “So we kept watching and then finally got to the part where it happened and we just screamed our heads off.”

Looking for a spark, the Packers called Lazard’s number on offense in the fourth quarter. In only 17 snaps, he caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown with nine minutes remaining to bring the Packers back within two points of the Lions.

Green Bay eventually completed the comeback and quarterback Aaron Rodgers praised Lazard afterward for his clutch performance in the 23-22 victory.

“Anytime you hear someone say any great things about your child, it’s a blessing,” Kevin said. “It was a surreal moment. I don’t think we even went to sleep that night we were so excited.”

The Lazards didn’t make the same mistake twice. When Allen caught three passes for 103 yards and a touchdown earlier this month in New York, Kevin and Mary watched it all in real time.
191211-lazard-birthday-3
No limit

The journey isn’t over. With everything he’s had to overcome, Lazard freely admits this dream could end at any moment.

Right now, however, it’s still very much real. In 14 games, Lazard has caught 26 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. A valued contributor on special teams, Lazard also has seven coverage tackles on coordinator Shawn Mennenga’s units.

At the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, friend and former Iowa State teammate Hakeem Butler said it was “bogus” Lazard wasn’t drafted. Ask anyone close to the Cyclones program and they’re likely to say the same.

Always confident in his abilities, Lazard won’t say “I told you so” but there is a part of him that laughs when people talk about his emergence in flabbergasted tones.

“That’s why I don’t understand why people are so blown away, because I feel like they’ve had the answers to the test this whole time and they chose to ignore them,” said Lazard with a smile.

“That’s why I don’t really try to focus on what other people say or how other people try to limit me or try to put me in a box or whatever. I’ve just always stayed true to myself and I think that’s what’s really helped me with my success now.”

The Lazard family bond remains as strong as ever. During the dark times, it was that foundation that often lifted Allen back on his feet.

Like when he was little, Allen acknowledges his dad will still send him clips from NFL games, inquiring if he’d seen them. More often than not he has, but Allen still appreciates the gesture.

A long time ago, Lazard’s grandfather, Ernie Allen, told him “you can only learn from listening” and the 24-year-old has applied that adage to every part of his life and football career.

“He knows what he’s capable of and he just kind of goes out there and proves it,” Kevin said. “He lets the other people do their talking and whatever they want to do, and he goes out there and shows I’m going to outwork you and beat you, and you can’t do anything about it.”

Allen still has the list of names from his draft party in his Google Drive. He’s thankful for that disappointing day. It’s a reminder that “You’re not given opportunities – you have to go take them.”

He also remains grateful to those who helped him along his journey. When Bjorkgren attended the Packers’ game in Kansas City earlier this year, Lazard was texting his former coach hours before the game to make sure he was set up with pre-game passes.

Meanwhile, Kevin has established an email chain to keep all of his friends and former coaches in the loop.

“I told a kid today at school that I said I’ve watched more Packer games this year than I’ve ever watched in my life,” said TeBrink, now the head football coach at North Polk High School in in Alleman, Iowa. “It’s fun to see a kid who worked hard, you got to work with, and who’s humble and has done things the right way.”

Last Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Lazard signing with Green Bay last December. Over the past year, he’s sat next to Rodgers in meetings and taken every note possible from veterans around the locker room.

Because he doesn’t want to be a feel-good story. He wants to play in the NFL for a long, long time. As for the winding road he had to take to get there, well, “Hakuna Matata.”

“You can never get too down because, in life, bad things are going to happen to you,” Lazard said. “It’s more so how you handle it, how you adjust to it and the steps that you take to learn from your mistakes.”

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Custom Yosh Nijman Jersey Large

The Green Bay Packers shuffled the bottom of their roster on Saturday, placing offensive tackle Yosh Nijman on injured reserve and signing offensive tackle John Leglue from the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.

Nijman, a rookie, was ruled out for Week 16 with an elbow injury. He’ll miss the rest of the 2019 season.

Leglue (6-6, 301) is a rookie out of Tulane. He started 38 games over four different positions in college and originally signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent. He joined the Saints practice squad following training camp.

Leglue joins Jared Veldheer and Alex Light as backups at offensive tackle behind starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

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Custom Bryan Bulaga Jersey Large

Bryan Bulaga and his wife Abbie have done their best not to think too far into the future.

With the Green Bay Packers headed to the NFC playoffs and Bulaga in the midst of what might be the best season of his 10-year NFL career, the right tackle — an impending unrestricted free agent — has kept his focus on the present.

With one exception.

“I don’t talk about it too much, but we did talk about it over the bye week — ‘What if? What if we’re not back?’” Bulaga said at midweek as the Packers prepared for Monday night’s NFC North meeting with the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “To me, there’s a lot left in play here. So just make the most of it. I think that’s the biggest thing.
Aaron Rodgers readies for Vikings and ‘house of horrors’ — if you can call it that — of U.S. Bank Stadium
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Aaron Rodgers readies for Vikings and ‘house of horrors’ — if you can call it that — of U.S. Bank Stadium

JASON WILDE For the State Journal

“I can’t control what’s going to happen in March. What their plan is, I don’t really know it. And if I’m part of it or not, I really have no idea. I can just control what is right now, and that’s playing to the highest level I can and helping this team win.

“It’s been 10 years here. We’ve had a lot of fun here, we’ve grown up here, got married while we were here, we had both kids while I’ve been a Green Bay Packer. Made a lot of memories — been in the same house for 10 years. So, yeah, there’s a lot of nostalgia that goes along with thinking about (leaving). But business is business.

“I’m not quite thinking about that because there is a lot left here — big games, big things ahead of this team right now.”

And Bulaga has been at the heart of it. Despite a gruesome late October finger injury and a partially torn MCL in his right knee in late November, Bulaga has started all 14 games the Packers have played this season and is on course to make all 16 starts for only the second time in his star-crossed career.
Facing respected nemesis Mike Zimmer’s ‘challenging’ scheme, Aaron Rodgers preps for ‘a bunch of great players’
Pro football
Facing respected nemesis Mike Zimmer’s ‘challenging’ scheme, Aaron Rodgers preps for ‘a bunch of great players’

JASON WILDE For the State Journal

“He’s been absolutely critical,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Saturday. “First of all, I think he’s playing at a really high level. And, he’s been instrumental. It’s always important, especially when you talk about the offensive line, the cohesiveness in that group. If you can get all 16 games with the same starting five, that’s huge. That didn’t happen for us, but for the most part, we’ve been healthy up front.”

As has Bulaga, for the most part. He dislocated his right ring finger at Kansas City on Oct. 28 — an injury so painful he expected to see a bone protruding from his glove when he looked down — and missed the final offensive possession, then suffered the knee injury on the ninth play of the team’s Nov. 24 loss at San Francisco. Remarkably, he was in the lineup the next week at the New York Giants in part because he doesn’t want to miss a moment of the Packers’ unexpected success after all the injuries he’s endured in past seasons.

“It wasn’t comfortable, it’s still not comfortable. It probably won’t be comfortable until I’m down in Florida training (in the offseason), not doing anything for a while,” said Bulaga, who suffered season-ending injuries midway through 2012 (hip) and in training camp in 2013 (ACL tear) before another ACL tear ended his 2017 season.

“It’s just one of those things where, if I feel like I can go out there and do it and still be productive, and play at a high level, I’m going to go out there and do it. I’ve missed a handful of games in my time here, and if I can go out there and play, I’m going to go out and do it. It doesn’t feel great, but you deal with it and go out there and get the job done.”
Packers’ Kenny Clark is finding his playmaking groove again
Pro football
Packers’ Kenny Clark is finding his playmaking groove again

JASON WILDE For the State Journal

And Bulaga has. During a season in which the Packers’ offensive line has been among the NFL’s best, it’s no coincidence the group’s two worst games came in the wake of Bulaga’s injuries: He played poorly at the Los Angeles Chargers when he was overcompensating for the awkward protective splint he wore on his right hand, and the line clearly missed him when he left that 37-8 loss to the 49ers after just nine snaps.

Remarkably, since left guard Lane Taylor’s season-ending biceps injury after two games, the Packers have started the same five linemen — David Bakhtiari at left tackle, rookie Elgton Jenkins at left guard, Corey Linsley at center, Billy Turner at right guard and Bulaga at right tackle — in the 12 games since. Bakhtiari, Linsley, Turner and Bulaga have all made all 14 starts, and not only have they kept quarterback Aaron Rodgers safe (32 sacks) but their blocking for backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams (1,916 combined yards from scrimmage, 23 total touchdowns) has been excellent.

“I think the line has been fantastic. And I think Bryan Bulaga has had a fantastic season,” Rodgers said. “Bryan has been an absolute rock for us at right tackle. He’s an absolute warrior when it comes to playing through injuries. Dave gets a lot of credit and well-deserved. Dave is a generational talent at left tackle, but I think Bryan has been fantastic on the right side.”

Even so, it was Bakhtiari who was voted to his first Pro Bowl team, while Bulaga wasn’t selected.

“He and I actually just talked about it the other day. I think this is the best year since I’ve been here that we’ve been together,” said Bakhtiari, who became the team’s starting left tackle as a rookie in 2013 after Bulaga was slated to start there but suffered that season-ending knee injury during the annual Family Night scrimmage. “Who’s better? I told him, quite honestly: I think he’s played better than me. He’s had some outstanding games against some of the best pass rushers. He’s showed up and showed out.”

Asked if he believes right and left tackle should be treated as separate positions in the Pro Bowl voting, Bulaga replied with a laugh: “I would advocate for that, yes. But I don’t want to say I’m ‘disappointed.’ Obviously every year, you have goals — making the playoffs, winning the Super Bowl. But then guys have personal goals, as well — Pro Bowl, All-Pro, statistics-wise, whatever. I think every guy’s goal in here is to make an All-Pro team, to make a Pro Bowl. But it doesn’t always work for right tackles.”

Right now, there are more important things anyway. Bulaga was the youngest player in NFL history to start a Super Bowl when the 2010 Packers won Super Bowl XLV with a 20-year-old rookie at right tackle, and now he’d like to make it back – regardless of the uncertain future ahead.

“There’s still a lot of football left, but overall, I feel like I’ve done a solid job,” he said. “I’ve gone out there, I’ve done my best to help the team win, to help win football games and create good running lanes for Aaron and Jamaal, and give the ‘other’ Aaron time to throw the football.

“We’ve played some really good defenses this year and I feel like as a unit, we’ve done a really good job. And I think I’ve done all right.”

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If Jimmy Graham is out against the Chicago Bears, Robert Tonyan should be given a bigger role in the Green Bay Packers offense.

Robert Tonyan has played well with limited opportunities over the past two seasons, and he can have an impact for the Green Bay Packers on offense. If Jimmy Graham has to miss Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, Tonyan should be given more opportunities.

Graham is listed as questionable on the final injury report with a wrist and groin injury. He was limited at practice all week.

Big Bob Tonyan has already created some great Packers memories over the past two seasons, starting with his memorable 54-yard touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks in 2018.

Unfortunately, it was an incredible leaping catch against the Dallas Cowboys that led to an injury that kept him out for over a month this season.

Tonyan returned a few weeks ago and made an important play against the Washington Redskins. He only played on 32 percent of the offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Reference, but he did catch a 12-yard touchdown.

In eight games this season and only one start, Tonyan has caught seven passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. But he’s never played more than 33 percent of the offensive snaps in a single game.

If Graham doesn’t play on Sunday, the Packers should see what Tonyan can do with more snaps.

Tonyan has shown he’s a good receiver and can make big plays, something we’ve barely seen with Graham for the Packers. Tonyan has made the most of his opportunities so far, and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t make an impact in this game in the same way Elgton Jenkins and Allen Lazard did when injuries opened the door for them to get more snaps.

Graham is questionable and could still play on Sunday, but if he’s out, Matt LaFleur shouldn’t hesitate to give more opportunities to Big Bob Tonyan against the Bears.

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There are always players who emerge as pivotal figures once the season begins and Texas A&M relied on several of them this year.

Here are five players who exceeded expectations for the Aggies in 2019:
Jalen Wydermyer, freshman TE

There was question as to who would step in at tight end for the Aggies to replace All-American Jace Sternberger, and Wydermyer filled the void after entering the season third on the list. With Baylor Cupp suffering a season-ending leg injury in a preseason scrimmage, Wydermyer passed A&M’s other scholarship tight end, Glenn Beal, by the Aggies’ fourth game of the season.

Even as a true freshman, Wydermyer emerged as a go-to target with soft hands and crisp routes for a big-bodied target. He leads the team in touchdown catches (6) and could add to his totals in the bowl game. The Aggies’ outlook at tight end is bright moving forward.
Ainias Smith, freshman WR

A&M added Smith on signing day last season and inking the Sugar Land product reaped benefits fast. Smith added speed to the Aggies’ receiving corps and also took over as A&M’s primary return man on special teams.

There’s no doubt Smith is a pivotal piece to the A&M offense in the future.
Charles Oliver, senior DB

Oliver came into the season as one of the Aggies’ most experienced defenders, but found himself moving positions. Starting at nickel in seven games, Oliver led the team in pass breakups (14).

Oliver made the most of his senior season, emerging as one of A&M’s most reliable pass defenders.
Aaron Hansford, redshirt sophomore LB

Hansford’s first two seasons were shortened due to injury, as he didn’t even see the field last year, but the third-year player made waves after moving from tight end to linebacker. Hansford was mainly used in A&M’s third-down sub-package and his fresh legs allowed him to burst into the backfield often.

Hansford had two sacks and three tackles for loss, constantly showing to be a disruptive defender. He also gave the Aggies valuable depth at linebacker.
Devin Morris, redshirt sophomore DB

The local product from nearby Caldwell finally found his niche as one of A&M’s nickelbacks. Like Hansford, Morris was mainly used in the Aggies’ third-down sub-package, but made key plays on money downs after coming on hot during the second half of the season.

Morris made some pivotal stops, including a sack and an interception, in wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Morris proved he deserved to be in A&M’s rotation as he turns the corner as an upperclassman next season.

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Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (shoulder) picked up 33 rushing yards on six totes and caught both of his targets for 19 receiving yards in a 23-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Williams ran well for most of the game before injuring his shoulder sometime in the third quarter. The Packers fed Aaron Jones the rest of the way, who exploded for 154 rushing yards. Williams will likely have an MRI this week to determine the extent of the injury. It’s unclear if he’ll be available for a Week 17 matchup with the Detroit Lions’ struggling defense.

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Dexter Williams will join Pack Attack Monday, Dec. 16 at Dale’s Weston Lanes.

The Packers drafted Williams in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.

He led ND in rushing as a senior with a career high 995 yards on 158 carries, averaging 6.3 ypc and 110.6 rushing yards a game.

Williams has appeared in three games this year for the Packers.

The show tapes at 6:30 at Dale’s Weston Lanes Monday night. If you can’t make it, you can catch it Tuesday night at the same time on News 9.