Joe Philbin urges Packers to savor final week before Lambeau becomes 'ghost town'
GREEN BAY – No one could blame Green Bay Packers players if they have their boxes packed and cars running in the parking lot Sunday night.
Their season, for all intents and purposes, ended two weeks ago in Chicago and all that is left is a final meaningless game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
After that, there are a lot of players – and coaches – who might as well head to their off-season homes because even if they’re lucky enough to come back, they’ll be serving a new head coach, who will begin making changes as soon as he walks in the door.
There’s no reason to stick around while that gets settled.
Interim coach Joe Philbin said he told the players that this is their last opportunity to take something positive out of the 2018 season.
“Obviously, there will be elements of finishing things that you started,” Philbin said Wednesday morning. “The reality, and I told the team this morning, by Monday at 5 o’clock, right, this is going to be a ghost town.
“I mean, it ends rapidly, and whether you finish the season as Super Bowl champions or you lose in ‘X’ round of the playoffs or you don’t get to the playoffs, it (ends abruptly).
“As I said to them, since April 16, my mind has been how can I contribute to the success of the Green Bay Packers in 2018? And then bang, all of a sudden it’s over. And the reality of it is some of these guys may never see each other the rest of their natural lives on earth, right, because things change in the National Football League regardless of the win-loss record you had that particular year. So just basically, let’s enjoy the week.”
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Philbin is treating the week the same way he would any other. The Packers (6-8-1) will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and then play the season finale against the Lions (5-10) at noon Sunday.
The Lions are also out of the playoffs and so it will be a match-up of two teams whose season went off the rails a while ago. The two head coaches are trying to convince the players that there is capital to be built for next season even if the reality is many of them won’t be here after Sunday.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia is apparently telling his players that the team can still get better, which has to be a hard sell to an outfit that has lost four of its last five, including a 27-9 decision at home Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I think it’s a great week for us to go out and compete and get better,” Patricia said.
Philbin had the players go through corrections from the 44-38 overtime victory over the New York Jets, which might seem like a waste of time at this late juncture of the season. But it’s important for him that the Packers show they haven’t quit and he told the players they can at least go home with some of the good vibe they felt on the plane ride home Sunday if they play well again.
“They’ll never regret finishing the season strong,” Philbin said. “I said, ‘Guys, five years from now you’re probably not going to remember the score of the Jets game, you know? But you’ll remember the feelings you had in the locker room.
“I thought the Jets team played their butts off. It didn’t matter what the teams’ record was. It’s still an awesome opportunity to go out there and compete and play in the National Football League. And to do it for the Green Bay Packers is, it’s about as good as it gets.”
Kenny Clark's season over
It was apparent Kenny Clark would not play again this season, but the Packers made it official Wednesday morning when they placed the third-year defensive lineman on injured reserve.
Clark has not played since the Packers' win against the Atlanta Falcons this month. He returned to the field after injuring his elbow, but did not play the past two weeks in Chicago or at the New York Jets.
Further evaluation after the Falcons game revealed a more significant injury than expected, Clark said. He sprained his ligament that attaches the elbow to his triceps. Though he will not need surgery, playing would have risked a more significant injury.
It’s a disappointing end to what had been a breakout season. Clark, a Pro Bowl alternate, had six sacks, eight tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. Philbin said Clark’s future remains promising.
“He’s a football player,” Philbin said. “The guy is fundamentally sound. He’s got good play strength, he’s got good get off. He plays the game the right way. His effort’s good. I think he really has an excellent future in this league as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
“I wish he could’ve, as I’m sure he does, I’m sure he wished he could have finished the season. But this is what’s really in the best interests of the whole football team.”
Tight end signing
The Packers signed tight end Evan Baylis to their practice squad. A 6-5, 250-pound first-year player out of Oregon, Baylis signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in May of 2017. He spent time on the Texans’ active roster (appearing in one game) and on their practice squad, as well as the practice squads of the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers. Baylis was released by the Panthers after training camp in August.
Baylis caught 44 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns in his four-year college career.