Packers camp report: Seeking advice from Ari
GREEN BAY -- Mike McCarthy swore it was a coincidence.
After Wednesday night's practice, the Packers coach was laying out the team's schedule for Thursday's no-practice, so-called "recovery" day.
In the morning, McCarthy said, the players had a 7:30 lifting session, followed by meetings and then a walkthrough in the gym.
"And then we're having a guest speaker," McCarthy said. Then, after a pause, "Ari Fleischer is coming."
A big smile, coupled with another pause. "And he was booked a long time ago," McCarthy said with a laugh.
One more pause. "We're going to get our money's worth out of him, I guarantee you that."
Indeed, the former White House press secretary's visit couldn't have worked out better.
"It was definitely good timing," kicker Mason Crosby said.
"It is kind of ironic that it would happen at this moment," added left guard Daryn Colledge.
In truth, after McCarthy heard Ari Fleischer's spiel to a roomful of head coaches at the NFL owners meetings this spring, McCarthy decided right then that he wanted Fleischer to come to camp and address the team.
And as another day passed without a resolution in the ongoing Brett Favre Saga, the Packers were putting Fleischer's lessons to good use. McCarthy said he did talk to Fleischer after his presentation to get his take not so much on what the Packers should do about Favre but more about how to handle the public-relations battle that has been going on between the two sides.
Meanwhile, starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has spent almost all week fielding Favre-related questions in front of his locker -- also had a private chat with Fleischer after his presentation.
"Just to be able to spend some one-on-one time with him afterwards for a couple of minutes, I just had a couple of good questions for him. And he told me some very interesting stories," Rodgers said. "I thought it was very helpful as far as his advice on dealing with the media."
Fleischer, who was President George W. Bush's press secretary from January 2001 through July 2003, also visited the San Francisco 49ers' camp earlier this week.
"Definitely, we talked about a number of things," McCarthy said. "All (the) good organizational policies and principles that you read about, ours are being tested at this time. He really kind of reinforced a lot of the things that we have been doing. It was very encouraging, Ari's words as far as how we are handling it as opposed to what his philosophy is. Definitely I think we are going about it the right way.
"For as popular or unpopular it is, for as difficult as it is, I think the organization has stood strong. They have been decisive, and they are continuing to work through this. Everybody wants this resolved; don't get me wrong. No one thought it would get to this point, but this is where we are."
Where that is, exactly, is hard to say. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell postponed acting on Favre's application for reinstatement to active status for yet another day because, according to a league spokesman, the Packers and Favre were "continuing their discussions" on Friday.
Although Favre faxed his reinstatement papers to the league offices on Monday, and Goodell's approval was seen as a mere formality, the situation remains unresolved. Goodell was at the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, and since the commissioner doesn't want that event to be overshadowed by the Favre saga, it is unlikely that he'll rule on Favre's application before Monday.
According to two league sources, Favre was still mulling the Packers' 10-year, $20 million marketing and licensing offer Friday, but he hadn't yet given up on his desire to play in 2008.
One of the sources said because the Packers have moved on, Favre's preferred team remains the Minnesota Vikings, and the source said he "for sure didn't get the feeling" from his last contact with Favre that Favre was leaning toward taking the Packers' offer and remaining retired.
McCarthy said that while he has "never been part of" the marketing agreement discussions, he sees the offer as a good thing for Favre.
"I know Packers president and CEO) Mark Murphy had talked to me about it in the past, how important it was for Brett to continue to be part of the organization after he was done playing," McCarthy said. "And frankly, it's good for Brett, because Brett needs to stay part of football, and obviously he's a part of the Green Bay Packers."
Shorewood's Carollo hanging 'em up: No, it wasn't a certain veteran quarterback talking about retiring "on top" Friday, it was NFL official and Shorewood resident Bill Carollo, who is entering his 20th and final season before taking over as the Big Ten Conference's director of officiating.
Carollo and part of his crew are in town for Sunday night's intrasquad scrimmage at Lambeau Field and will deliver a presentation tonight to the coaches and players on rules changes and points of emphasis for the upcoming season. They also worked both practices Friday and will work today's practice as well.
For Carollo, who Super Bowl XXX as a side judge and Super Bowl XXXVII as the referee, coming to Packers camp was a treat since the league doesn't assign him to Packers games during the regular season.
"I got in really young, and I'm going to leave really young," said the 56-year-old Carollo, a Brookfield native who played quarterback at UW-Milwaukee and who in addition to officiating also serves as vice president of global sales for Milwaukee-based Manpower, Inc.
"I haven't done everything, but I did what I wanted to do. I love the NFL and I'll probably try to do something somewhere with the NFL, but I'm going to do this Big Ten thing for awhile. ... It's kind of a bell-shaped curve.
My first five years, I didn't know the rules -- I was a rookie and I was lost. But those middle years, you're really productive, and then ... your skills diminish a little bit. I want to get out before someone says, `I think you should've retired a couple years ago.' I want to kind of retire on top and move on."
The End Zone: The agent for unsigned running back Ryan Grant said the two sides "made some progress not enough to make a deal." ... New Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean, a friend of McCarthy's since Crean's days at Marquette, was at practice. The odds are still against him, but little-known wide receiver Johnny Quinn had the kind of practice Friday night that turns heads. He had several big catches during 7-on-7 and the 2-minute drill, when he caught a slant pass from Brian Brohm to set up the go-ahead field goal for the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense. McCarthy called Quinn "probably one of the hardest working guys" on the team before adding, "I'm impressed with what he's shown."
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