by Troy Sparks–MCJ Sports Editor
GREEN BAY – Dress rehearsal is over for the Green Bay Packers. It’s time to get rolling.
The rosters are set, and all we’re waiting for now is if the Packers will be ready to go when they play the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field, Sept, 8.
Some of the key players were held out of their last exhibition game, Sept. 1, here against Kansas City. It made no sense to play them and risk losing them for the season from an injury.
Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki. He was injured in that game, and now he’s out for the year.
There were about a handful of roster spots that were up for grabs. The last preseason game was for the purpose of the backups that were on the borderline of making the team.
Aaron Rodgers and the offensive starters played at least one series before calling it a night. Part of that series was to get running back Ryan Grant on track and getting used to being hit after missing 15 games and the playoffs last season with a season-ending injury.
“Yeah, a single series for the first team offense,” head coach Mike McCarthy said after halftime. “I thought the first team offense and defense did very well in their short time on the field.”
The backups played well enough to give Green Bay a come from behind 20-19 win over the Chiefs. They will play Kansas City on the road, Dec. 18. McCarthy took a back seat to play-calling in the second half to evaluate the players who were fighting for space on the 53-man roster.
“You get a live evaluation and you’re able to watch certain players and certain plays based on what the call is,” said McCarthy. “Obviously, something you can’t do when you are calling plays.”
The Packers broke camp, and now it’s time to get the party started. The nationally telecasted game should be as good as advertised. “We just got started right away,” Rodgers said. “We have already done a lot of preparation for New Orleans and just keep that going.
It will be one of those weeks where it will be exciting to get to the game because there has been so much lead-up to it. We have seen a lot of Saints tapes so we are excited to get to that game and get it played.”
In your heart, you want to believe every word of what Rodgers said. You better believe that New Orleans head coach Sean Payton and his players have watched tape of the Packers. Some of their players probably circled the date on their calendars.
This is a matchup that everyone will enjoy. Both teams are in the top ten in wins against other NFC opponents over the last five seasons.
The Saints, who is No. 1, were 53-33 in that span and the Packers are No. 2 with a 53-34 record over that time.
This is the first time since the 2000 season that the last two Super Bowl winners will play in the season opener. Denver and St. Louis played in Week 1 in 2000 on Monday Night Football. The Packers never opened their season at home in prime time until now.
They opened the season against the Saints for the second time in team history. Their first meeting in a season opener between the two teams resulted in a 24-20 Green Bay win at New Orleans in 1977.
If the Saints are looking for some brotherly love in their fourth visit to Lambeau, they won’t get it. A win over New Orleans in Week 1 would avenge the two straight losses by them by an average margin of 14 ½ points.
The Packers lost, 34-27, at home to the Saints in 2006 and on the road in 2008 by the score of 51-29.
The Packers have 47 players on the opening day roster who are under 29 years old. Of the 53 players, 41 of them have five years or less of NFL experience. All of the Packers’ draft picks made the team along with three non-drafted free agents.
Play time is over. All the Super Bowl celebrations are over. It’s time to strap it up and get the NFL season going. And just think that both the players and owners got together to pull this thing off in the nick of time. Packers Coverage in MCJ
For the third straight year, I was given a season pass to cover the Green Bay Packers at home for the 2011 year.
It was a thrill to follow the team to Chicago for the NFC Championship Game in January and to Arlington, TX in February for the Super Bowl.
Every one of the 250 round trip miles for eight games at Lambeau will be worth bringing Packers coverage to the MCJ newspaper and online editions.
In addition to coverage in the newspaper and online, there will be a Packers Weekly report that will appear online at www.communityjournal.net by the end of the week.
It may include bonus coverage of the Packers road game in Chicago in Week 3 on Sept. 25. Taking the train for that trip to Chicago will be better than driving and fighting downtown traffic and paying an outrageous fee for parking.
I’m proud to state that the Milwaukee Community Journal is the only weekly paper in the Milwaukee area that’s granted access to the Lee Remmel Press Box and postgame access to the media auditorium and home and visiting team locker rooms.
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