GREEN BAY — Sometime before kickoff Thursday night, Tim Boyle might want to seek out Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
Since Boyle holds the job Pederson did for eight seasons during two separate stints with the Green Bay Packers — backing up a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback — Boyle might benefit from a pointer or two. Like, how to get your own radio show even if you never get to play.
Yes, at the height of the Packers’ popularity, Brett Favre’s backup had his own radio gig.
“I did,” Pederson confirmed with a chuckle during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters Tuesday in advance of Thursday night’s matchup with the Packers at Lambeau Field. “I had it for a few years in Kimberly at Tanner’s.”
Tanner’s Grill & Bar is still open in the greater Fox Cities metroplex, though Pederson has gone quite far since his first (1995-’98) and second (2001-’04) stints in Green Bay. He led the 2017 Eagles to the Super Bowl LII title in his second season as coach, and rallied them from a 4-6 start last season to reach the playoffs, where Philadelphia upset the third-seeded Chicago Bears in the NFC wild card round.
This year, they come into Lambeau Field at 1-2, following back-to-back losses to Atlanta (24-20) and Detroit (27-24) in which wide receiver Nelson Agholor dropped what likely would have been a winning touchdown against the Falcons and dropped two passes and had a costly fumble against the Lions. (In Agholor’s defense, he also caught two touchdown passes against Detroit.)
“We’re maybe two plays or three plays away from possibly being 3-0 or at least 2-1. I just have to remind the guys, ‘Listen, one play at a time. Don’t lose your focus, stay on task, do your assignment, stay within yourself, don’t go searching for plays. When they come to you, make them,’” Pederson said. “You just have to keep talking, keep their spirits up. The players know. They’re smart enough. I don’t have to sit there and remind them or beat them over the head with all of that. They understand what could have happened. But look, we’re not (3-0). We’re 1-2, and we have some work to do.”
That work starts Thursday night in Green Bay, where he’s still a favorite among fans who remember his clipboard-carrying days.
“I loved playing there for the eight years I was there,” Pederson said. “Passionate group. I love the community — and I still get letters and cards and things like that from a lot of the fans there, whether it was during my time doing the radio show at Tanner’s or just being a part of that community.
“I think, too, just Lambeau Field, the stadium itself. I wasn’t there obviously for the last full renovation, but going through the first renovation (in 2003), just watching what whole stadium sort of change its décor a little bit and where it is today. It’s a great place to play. It’s a football town. I love coming back there and I love playing there.“
Trying to balance recuperation with preparation, Packers coach Matt LaFleur didn’t have his team practice, opting instead for a walkthrough inside the Don Hutson Center— which veteran tight end Jimmy Graham (groin/quadriceps) was able to take part in.
Since it wasn’t a full-fledged practice, the Packers’ practice designations were estimations, but the team said Graham would have practiced on a limited basis had it been a normal workday. That’s encouraging news for Graham, who is coming off back-to-back reception-less outings but LaFleur still considers one of the offense’s premier weapons.
Both running backs, Jamaal Williams (neck) and Aaron Jones (shoulder) also are on the injury report, but after being estimated as being limited on Monday, the team said both would have been full participants on Tuesday.
Asked how he arrived at his approach to this week, LaFleur replied: “I looked at a lot of schedules from previous stops and just kind of took what I felt worked best for us as a football team. I do know the priority is, again, making sure our players are well-rested and making sure that they have a plan that allows them to go out there and play fast and not think a lot.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, are expected to be without No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot) but got encouraging news on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) and tight end Dallas Goedert (calf), both of whom would have practiced in full. Ex-University of Wisconsin running back Corey Clement (shoulder) would have been limited in practice.
Among the traits that have become increasingly noticeable about LaFleur is, in news conferences at least, he blames himself for any of his team’s failings before mentioning anyone else’s mistakes. That was the case again this week, when he took ownership of the offense’s struggles and No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams’ lack of targets.
“I just think that’s part of my job. I’m always going to look at myself in the mirror first; and if I think I can do a better job, I’ve got no problem saying that,” LaFleur said. “And I know that there’s a lot of areas where we have to be better, but ultimately I truly believe that it starts right here.”
Well, in that case, LaFleur was asked half-kiddingly, what else are the Packers not doing well enough that LaFleur can be blamed for?
“I just think there’s more out there for us as a football team. And that’s not just offense; that’s offense, defense and special teams,” he replied. “You look at the other day, we had too many missed tackles, we didn’t get off the field on third down, we gave up some big third-down conversions in long-yardage situations (on defense). Special teams, we gave up a big kickoff return; we had two penalties—we always talk about being penalty-free on teams — (and we) missed a field goal.
“So there is a lot of areas that we can improve upon. But ultimately, again, when it comes to the offense, if I don’t feel like we did a good enough job of putting players in position to make plays, I’m just going to take responsibility for that. I got to do a better job.”