Janesville37°

In Packer country, schedule means more

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Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 17, 2012
— It has been noted the Packers will play the NFLís second-easiest schedule based on 2011 records because they donít have to play their

15-1 selves twice this season.


Their opponents from last season were 120-136.


Fine, you say, but when are these games going to occur?


Sometimes, it is hard to quantify which ritual is more anticipated in Wisconsin.


The release of the Packers schedule or the NFL draft?


Both occur in April, a time that coincides with the so-called end of winter and the beginning of baseball season.


Both events are celebrated with equal enthusiasm, but it is almost as if the football-related events provide civic order and structure, although reasonable people might agree that sports should never be allowed to regulate the flow of life.


But they just do.


I was trying to clarify the phenomenon to a friend who occasionally visits Wisconsin, but after a while it was like explaining why breathing is necessary.


It just is.


Frankly, Iíd never fully appreciated the day that most of the other 31 NFL markets treat as a file-keeping kind of moment. My attitude was closer to what I could imagine might be the sensible reaction in St. Louis.


Oh, the Rams schedule just came out. Letís celebrate by rearranging the sock drawer and while weíre at it, maybe figure out Carlos Beltranís on-base percentage in getaway day games on the road.


But soon, I saw major life events in Wisconsin being shuffled to accommodate the dates on which the Packers would play. Weddings, family reunions, labor inducements. Entire social calendars are redrawn because of a football game.


Whether this is practical or even acceptable behavior is best evaluated in another part of the newspaper or maybe the privacy of a doctorís office. Suffice to mention here, the reaction to the releasing of the schedule just Ö is.


And, of course, the NFL, in its self-appointed role as nationís great and benevolent caretaker, likes to keep the enthusiastic fringe of its protectorate in a constant state of springtime anticipation.


The league just doesnít say in advance, ďWeíre going to announce the schedule today.Ē Oh, no. Itís not that the NFL just wants to regulate drama. It also wants to be Santa Claus and reserve the right to pop down the chimney any time it darn well pleases.


So, to the sound of trumpets, a thousand doves wings and maybe a few stretched MCLs, the schedule will be announced. At the risk of mass hysteria, Iím just saying it could be any moment now.


The draft takes on an entirely different dynamic. It is almost as if the buildup is such that a pressure-release valve is necessary. For no other reason, sometimes it happens with the ritual booing of the general manager.


Thatís odd. For the most part, Ted Thompson has drafted well enough to build a Super Bowl winner and consistent contender. Thompson typically makes self-effacing sport of fansí predictable reaction to him during his press conference. Itís probably cathartic for him.


To the business of which player Thompson should select in the first round a week from Thursday, the Packersí needs are fairly clear.


Their defense betrayed them last season. On top of that, opponents could devote way too much manpower to Clay Matthews, and there wasnít a whole lot the Packers could do about it.


They could use another outside linebacker or cornerback. That much is clear. It also would be very nice if safety Nick Collins could make a comeback, but not at the expense of his health.


Still, going with the best rush linebacker available makes sense, although it would be hard for me to pass up Wisconsinís Peter Konz, even if the Packers seem set at center for the moment with Jeff Saturday.


But that can wait because pretty soon weíre going to know when the Packers play the Bears. You then have the NFLís promise that life may continue.



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