The Green Bay Packers head west across the St. Croix river to play the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, and it is a big rivalry game with implications for the NFC North Division. So, what was the major topic of conversation on Wednesday when tight end Kyle Rudolph (who scored a touchdown last Monday night) met with the media at Winter Park? The “Duck, duck, gray duck/goose” touchdown celebration controversy.
“We wanted to do something fun—obviously [it was] Monday Night Football,” Rudolph said when asked of the cellie’s origin. “The NFL relaxed the celebration rules, so guys can do something like that and make it fun. I don’t know where the idea came from, I just thought no one has done “Duck, Duck, Goose” yet in the NFL”
And as far as Minnesotans are concerned, no has yet. It’s called “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” in these parts.
Sick of hearing about it yet, you goose? Yeah, so are we. The Packers game is of much more importance and there are plenty of more important questions to consider—such as what will you call the name of the Vikings quarterback this week—Sam Bradford of Case Keenum? You can be sure that Packers coach Mike McCarthy is concerned about that question.
“You just watch more video. It’s part of the preparation,” McCarthy said when asked how the quarterback shuffle in Minnesota affects his team’s preparation. “We had a chance to see Sam come back in the early part of the game against Chicago, and we’ve watched Case has done. I’ve been very impressed with Case. The offense has been very productive when he’s been in there. You can see his command, his ability to go no huddle and change the tempo and things like that. So, we’ve just got to be sure we’re ready for both of those guys.”
We all know the story of the Vikings quarterback situation, and if we can glean anything from the Wednesday media access at Winter Park is that the Vikings trotted out Keenum for questions again and Bradford was nowhere to be seen. Although head coach Mike Zimmer hedged his bets, perhaps to force McCarthy’s hand in watching more video.
“As far as Sam, he’s feeling better again today so, we’ll just see how it goes,” Zimmer said. “If it comes to a time where he can’t go, then I’ll declare him out. We’re just going to keep seeing what he can do and how he can go.”
Meanwhile, Zimmer will likely concern himself with the whereabouts of another quarterback—namely Packers starter Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had another one of his last-minute wins last weekend and Dallas, and while everyone in Minnesota was buzzing about a duck/goose kerfuffle, everywhere else they were focused on once again, Rodgers raising the level of his team that has been weathering their own share of injuries.
“He gives us a chance to overcome some of the challenges we’ve had on the injury front,” McCarthy said.
As long as Rodgers is behind center, the Packers are never out of game, and no one knows that better than Zimmer, even in his relatively short time in the NFC North Division.
“Anything new? No,” Zimmer said when asked about Rodgers latest heroics. “They just let him have the ball; he’s too good at that. He beat Cincinnati with 21 seconds left. He beat Dallas with no time left, basically. If he’s got the ball in his hands, then you’ve got a chance to end up losing the football game. He does what he does; that never has changed.
“I’ve been in the NFL 20-some years and I can’t remember a guy that does the things that this guy does. Obviously, we’ve played against [Tom] Brady and Manning, Peyton Manning, other Mannings, all these guys. This guy, when you combine everything—his arm strength, his intelligence, his escape ability, the way he sees things. I think they should trade him.”
In fact, Zimmer has plenty of film work to do, just in preparing for Rodgers. His work load might be similar to McCarthy, who is preparing for two potential QBs.
“Yes, I think you have to [prepare longer with Rodgers],” Zimmer said. “He can do so many things, you have to be on top of everything that you do. He can get the ball out so fast if you pressure him. He sees it and they’ve got a good scheme. They do a good job of trying to attack the coverage that you’re in. I think he has a lot of flexibility and things that he can change at the line of scrimmage. He’s great on the hard count. He’s unbelievable on the hard count. He gets guys to jump, and it’s a bad deal.”
One player he may be trying to catch is defensive end Everson Griffen (who McCarthy says has developed into one of the better defensive ends in the league). Griffen appears to get a very quick jump when getting off the ball, leading to 6.0 sacks on the season (T-3 in the league) and at least one in every game.
“I key the ball and work extra twice a week, every week with my movement guy and my D-line coach, Andre Patterson—he’s the best D-line coach in the NFL,” Griffen says. “I just work at it each and every week and get a better and better get off.”
Griffen says “there are plenty of opportunities” to get to Rodgers, as the Packers like to throw the ball down the field. But in the past two weeks the Packers have begun to develop a running game with the emergence of rookie running back Aaron Jones taking over for the injured Ty Montgomery (broken ribs). Griffen has certainly noticed Jones (who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start last week against the Cowboys), but he knows that he can’t lose sight of the original Aaron in Green Bay.
“He looks good,” Griffen said of Jones. “He can get hit holes good. He’s running the ball good. He’s [running] downhill. But, everything starts with 12. It starts with Aaron. From his play actions to him getting the ball out quick. In my opinion he’s one of the best if not the best quarterback in the league right now. His reaction time, his ability to scramble—and that just gives you another dimension. He’s like a running back and you’ve got to treat him like one, because he’s going to get out of the pocket and run.”
And the Vikings certainly don’t want to be chasing Rodgers around like they were kids playing Duck, Duck, Grey Duck (it is usually hard to get to the “ducker” who always has the head start). In fact, they won’t want to be as confused as the rest of the country that doesn’t really know the name of that game.
“I saw them sitting on their butts over there and I just asked, ‘What the heck they are doing?’ I don’t know,” Zimmer said of Rudolph’s touchdown celebration. “I didn’t know what was going on. I know I hadn’t seen them practice it. If we score a lot of touchdowns, I’ll jump in with them.”
That is just like Zimmer, not afraid to jump in head first. In fact, he even weighed in on the controversy surrounding the name of the game.
“I am in Minnesota, so I’ll go with grey duck,” he said. “I never heard of that before but I am a Minnesotan. I’ve probably shot a grey duck.”
On Sunday, though, his team will be taking down Packers instead of “quackers” on their way to tying themselves for the lead in the division.
Minnesota–24, Green Bay–23