Mike Ditka says he’s a fan of the Packers

Mike Ditka is the ultimate Chicago Bear. He was a five-time All-Pro tight end with the Bears in the 1960s. He won championships with the Bears as a player in 1963 and as the team’s head coach in 1985. People who are associated with Chicago are supposed to hate the Green Bay Packers, so hearing Ditka gush about Aaron Rodgers and company is probably painful for Bears fans. If so and you are one, avert your eyes.

“I’m still a Bear fan. I got a right to be a Bear fan,” Ditka said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “We won two championships in the last 60 years – I played on one and coached the other one. So I got a right. I’ll always be a Chicago Bear.

“Now, I’m a Packer fan too – for one reason. First of all, I love the coach, he’s from Pittsburgh. But Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in football – without question. He gets it, he understands, he’s a class act. He’s a great leader. I hope they give him a little more protection than they’re giving him right now or he’s going to get his (expletive) busted.”

Isn’t that two reasons? In any event, it’s tough not to like the Rodgers and the Packers as someone who lives and breathes football. Chicago and Green Bay may be division rivals, but there certainly wasn’t much of a rivalry this season. The Packers have been a much better team in recent history and that trend has continued this year. Somewhere in heaven, Chris Farley is wearing his “Da Bears” attire and shedding a tear because of Coach Ditka’s comments.

Brandon Marshall: I really don’t like the Packers, this is personal

Brandon-Marshall-BearsThe Chicago Bears had plenty to say before their first meeting with the Green Bay Packers back in September, and not all of them are willing to back off of that simply because they lost the game in convincing fashion. Jay Cutler basically said Green Bay would be making a mistake if they played press coverage against Chicago’s physical receivers, and the Packers went out and held them to 10 points. Brandon Marshall had just two catches for 24 yards in week two, but he is still overflowing with confidence heading into Sunday.

“I’m not going to say hate, but I really don’t like the Green Bay Packers or their players,” Marshall said Wednesday according Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “This is personal. … This is the biggest game of my career.”

Marshall feels as though the Packers were disrespectful to the Bears after the game. He mentioned these comments about Cutler from Charles Woodson before downplaying the ability of Green Bay’s defensive backs and explaining how things will be different this time around.

“They want to roll coverage to me, shoot, I got Alshon Jeffery on the other side,” Marshall said. “He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s not rusty anymore. (They’re physicality) is non-existent. Not physical at all. Leading up to the game, they were talking about how big I was, I was a cheater.

“I would love their play to back up their talk.”

Trading trash talk the week before a big rivalry game isn’t exactly a novel concept, but I don’t understand what Marshall is gaining from making these comments. He and Cutler were horrible in their first meeting against Green Bay, so the only thing they can do to silence the doubters is go out and vastly improve this weekend. Talk is cheap. It’s even cheaper when the last time your players spoke they embarrassed themselves.

Photo credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

Aaron Rodgers, Packers dissatisfied with running game

The Green Bay Packers are on a roll lately, having won three games in a row to improve to 5-3. Though the team appears to be coming together, the running game is still lagging.

The Packers are 26th in the league in rushing with 90.1 yards per game, despite being 17th in the league with 195 attempts. Second-year running back Alex Green has carried the load the past three games since Cedric Benson was hurt against the Colts in Week 5, and his teammates believe he hasn’t done well enough.

“Quantity is important – we want to have a certain amount of runs every game to keep them honest,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during his radio show with Jason Wilde on WAUK in Milwaukee this week, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But I have to say the quality of them has not been anywhere where we’d like them.

“We’ve got to run the ball better,” Rodgers said. “If we can do that, then we are going to have the opportunity to make some of those play-action gains, make some of those gains with big plays over the top. Then you are going to see the runs in the fourth quarter pick up. That’s maybe the one area we haven’t been effective and haven’t had a bunch of. We have not been able to close out games running the football. So that keeps our attempts down. We haven’t been ahead by maybe two or three scores and kept those drives alive at times to give us even more attempts. So we have to do a better job in the quality part that goes along with the quantity of runs we get.”

Rodgers made his comments in the context of noting that he’s on pace for a career-high 594 passing attempts. He’s not the only Packers player who has said the running game needs work.

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Anonymous Packers player: ‘I think the refs are out to get us this year’

Green Bay entered the season as a heavy favorite in the NFC, but things have not gone as planned. Thanks in part to one of the most controversial endings to a game in NFL history, the Packers find themselves with a 2-3 record and an upcoming road game against the undefeated Texans. A number of things have gone wrong — including some bad luck — but one unnamed player reportedly thinks the officials have it out for the Packers.

“It’s definitely on us as players,” the anonymous player told the Journal Sentinel on Monday. “But I think the refs are out to get us this year.”

Green Bay has ben flagged a ton this season, both by the replacement refs and the regular officials. Everyone not named Golden Tate or Pete Carroll thinks they got screwed in Seattle, but the Packers were also flagged seven times for 43 yards against the Saints and nine times for 89 yards against the Colts — games that were called by regular crews. Bad officiating or a lack of discipline?

As Pro Football Talk pointed out, the regular officials were open in expressing their gratitude toward Aaron Rodgers for being one of the players who took a stance against the league for locking out its refs. To think that the refs are “out to get” any particular team seems a bit far-fetched. Whoever said it is likely just frustrated with the way the early part of the season has gone, which is why they chose to remain anonymous.

Blown call costs gamblers $150 million-plus, Sportsbook.com refunds Packers bets (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Deadspin pointed out that the website Sportsbook actually runs two separate sites — one that services the United States and another that services the rest of the world. Conveniently enough, bets are only being refunded through the site that Americans do not use.

Losing a wager because of a Hail Mary is a tough enough pill to swallow without the replacement officials making it even harder. The Packers were 3.5-point favorites at most major sports books and on most gambling websites Monday night. Green Bay had the spread covered until Golden Tate’s phantom reception won the game for Seattle, and ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that the blown call shifted at least $150 million in wagers worldwide. After refunding all lost Packers bets, the gambling website Sportsbook.com can no longer be included in that figure.

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Packers TE Tom Crabtree compares loss to someone taking a dump on your painting

As expected, the sports world has yet to stop buzzing about Hail Mary-gate. Social media sites and sports blogs have been overtaken by the call that will likely define the 2012 replacement officials. Amid a see of angry tweets from players and fans and cries for the NFL to end the madness, there have been a few comments that stand out above all the rest.

After flying back to Green Bay and sleeping on the heart-breaking loss, Packers tight end Tom Crabtree summed up the controversial evening the best way he could:

We’ve heard players say the officials are affecting the integrity of the game and others reportedly telling them to kill themselves, but no player, coach or fan has used a better metaphor to describe the situation than Crabtree. If someone crapped on your prized painting, you would not be pleased. The NFL and it’s replacement officiating crew dropped a steaming pile right on Green Bay’s canvas on Monday night.

H/T SI Hot Clicks

Packers players cuss out replacement refs, NFL on Twitter after game

The Packers were livid after being robbed of a 12-7 victory over the Seahawks by the replacement officials who gave the Seattle a 14-12 win on a controversial call to end “Monday Night Football.” Offensive lineman T.J. Lang was the most vocal Packers player after the game, dropping f-bombs on Twitter:

Teammate Josh Sitton was just as profane:

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