A quick look at three storylines heading into the Packers' showdown with the Bears on Thursday night. (Sept. 26, 2017)
GREEN BAY - There are only two NFL teams that have yet to return a kickoff this season, and the Green Bay Packers are one of them.
They have allowed seven touchdowns and six field goals, plus received the ball three times to begin a half, but the end result is zero runbacks for return man Jeff Janis.
The only other team without a kickoff-return attempt is the Baltimore Ravens.
“I feel like I’m getting used to it now,” Janis said. “It sucks but I think once the weather starts getting colder and things like that, that usually kind of helps us out in the return game. So I’ve just got to be patient and wait for it to happen.”
Janis has served as one of the primary returners for each of the last two seasons, beginning with his breakout performance against the Minnesota Vikings (two returns for 83 yards) in 2015. Since then, Janis has returned 20 kicks for an average of 26.2 yards per return. His longest runback is 70 yards; he has three returns of 40 yards or more.
Most of Janis’ success came in 2015, when he took over the job in late November. Janis returned 14 kicks an average of 29 yards that year, whereas in 2016 his average dipped to 19.8 yards.
So whether teams are kicking away from him out of fear or simply to boot the ball through the end zone, Janis continues waiting.
“Anytime you’re in this stadium you got a chance of getting a return because of the winds and so forth,” special-teams coordinator Ron Zook said of Lambeau Field. “Hopefully, we’ll get a return or we’ll get an opportunity to get one (against the Chicago Bears on Thursday).”
While Janis admitted he has been tempted to return kicks from deep in the end zone — he wants the chance to make a play for his team — abiding by Zook’s rules is an important part of his job. And keeping the ball in the end zone guarantees the Packers will start each drive at the 25-yard line.
“That’s something we talk about as a kickoff return unit with coach Zook,” Janis said. “If it’s in the end zone we’re probably going to keep it in the end zone, things like that. Unless, I mean, if it’s just one of them games where we need to make something happen. It’s always possible.”
Goodbye for now: Packers reached an injury settlement with long snapper Brett Goode, one day after he was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring problem.
By settling with Goode, the Packers have the option of bringing him back later in the season without using one of their two IR-designated to return tags, which are typically reserved for players at more important positions.
League rules state the team agreeing to a settlement cannot re-sign the same player until at least three weeks have passed beyond the length of the settlement. A source said Goode has a four-week injury, meaning he would be eligible to return to the roster in Week 11.
The Packers signed long snapper Taybor Pepper on Monday to replace Goode.
Tiebreaker: The Packers and Bears enter Thursday's game with their overall series deadlocked. Since 1923, the two teams have played 194 times, and the record stands at 94-94-6.
With a win Thursday, the Packers would take the series lead for the first time since 1932.
"Coach McCarthy, since he’s been here will always show a tape in regards to the tradition," Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. "Bear Week. Packers and Bears. The Rivalry, dating all the way back. That’s part of the education standpoint as far as what this rivalry truly means and I think our players understand that — the history of what it means, moving forward, our role in it.
"It’s always a special week. Anytime you talk about the Packers and the Bears, it’s a special week. This happens to be on Thursday Night Football, so everyone is watching and it gives us another opportunity to go out and earn an additional win and show what we’re all about."