GREEN BAY, Wis. — Fans loved Bart Starr.
They loved him because as a quarterback he led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships.
Because of his sneak in the Ice Bowl.
Because he represented everything that was special about the team in the NFL’s smallest market.
Because he embodied the competitive spirit that was his coach, Vince Lombardi, during the glory years of the 1960s.
And they even loved him after a nine-year tenure as the team’s head coach that resulted in only one playoff appearance.
Bob Harlan loved him for an entirely different reason — the one that only those who knew Starr behind the scenes could fully articulate.
Harlan, a former Packers president, was in his early days with the organization when Starr was in the final year of his playing career. It was 1971, after all the championships had been won and after Lombardi was gone. Harlan joined the team as the assistant general manager. His primary job was to help negotiate player salaries.
“I actually signed Bart to his last contract,” Harlan recalled in an interview with ESPN.com. “In fact after five world championships, I gave him his all-time high salary of $100,000.”
That was Dan Devine’s first season as the Packers coach and Starr’s last as a player. Devine lasted three more years, posting only one winning season after Starr retired as a player.
It was Devine who hired Harlan away from baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, and when Devine was done in Green Bay, Harlan wondered if he, too, might be done.
“Dan was the one who hired me so when Dan left, I thought I might have trouble,” Harlan said. “And the day Bart was hired [in 1975], he called me at home and said, ‘I want you to help me and take over doing all the contracts.’
“I said, ‘Bart it’s going to be an honor to work for you.’ He said, ‘You won’t work for me, you’ll work with me.’ And that was just the way he handled things. He was the boss, but yet he was such a gentleman.”
Starr’s coaching tenure (1975-83) ended with a 52-76-3 record (and a 1-1 playoff mark).
“He just was so raw in the position; he probably got the job too early,” Harlan said. “In ’83 we were so close, and I think a couple more years — and he had been here nine years, but the fans weren’t really screaming about it — if he had a couple more years we weren’t that far away.”
Still, Starr’s coaching tenure had a lasting impact on the franchise in large part because of the impact it had on Harlan.
For Harlan, Starr served a model for how to run things at 1265 Lambeau Field. It was a treat-others-how-you-want-to-be-treated mentality, something that served Harlan throughout his presidency.
It was Harlan who, as president, oversaw the resurrection of the franchise in the early 1990s when he hired Ron Wolf as general manager, who then hired Mike Holmgren as head coach and traded for Brett Favre.
Just like Starr welcomed Harlan into the Packers’ family, Harlan made sure Starr remained a key figure in the organization. What other team not only had three iconic quarterbacks in Starr, Favre and Aaron Rodgers but also ensured the trio would have strong personnel connections?
Harlan made sure Starr was a regular presence at Lambeau Field, something players who followed cherished. Their tributes on Sunday shortly after Starr’s death at age 85 spoke not of football but of the same qualities that Harlan loved about Starr.
Bart Starr was the most kind, thoughtful and classiest person you could ever know. I consider myself extremely lucky to have called him friend and to have been mentioned in the same breath. Deanna and I are praying for Cherry and the Starr family. #RIPBartStarr
— Brett Favre (@BrettFavre) May 26, 2019
Bart Starr is a legend in so many ways! I am so sad to hear this news today. I remember first meeting him my rookie year at the Lombardi golf classic. He always had time for everyone and made everyone around him better. Praying for Cherry and their family on this sad day. https://t.co/kSDVQTEXJ4
— Mason Crosby (@crosbykicks2) May 26, 2019
Rodgers, in an Instagram post, shared photos of Starr and simply added a heart in the comment section.
Indeed, Rodgers, who never saw Starr play or coach, loved the man for the same reason that Harlan did.
Minshew — ‘Gotta make the most of’ opportunity
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Not only is Gardner Minshew capably filling in for the injured Nick Foles, the rookie sixth-round pick is beginning to show he might be able to carry the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ offense.
The Jaguars’ run game was essentially nonexistent Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans until late in the fourth quarter, so it was all on Minshew. He delivered with two touchdown passes and two other scoring drives to lead the Jaguars to a 20-7 victory at TIAA Bank Field.
“I think we’re all building trust right now,” Minshew said. “Whether it’s me and Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) … or me and the guys on the field, all I can do is try to earn that trust every day, and I think when you do that you get more opportunities to do fun things.”
Things like beat a Titans team that had won four in a row in the series and had embarrassed the Jaguars in their previous two national television appearances. It was Minshew’s first victory as a starting quarterback and the Jaguars’ first victory of the season, and it came on a short week filled with a massive distraction: cornerback Jalen Ramsey‘s asking the team to trade him.
Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and wasn’t intercepted. He’s completing 74% of his passes in his three games, which is the highest completion percentage of any quarterback through his first three career games since 1970. Interestingly, No. 5 on that list is former Jaguars starter Blake Bortles (67%).
“A lot of people never thought I would get this opportunity, so now that I do have it, I make the most of it,” Minshew said. “I’m super grateful for it, but I know through everything I’ve learned in my career, with the situation I’m in, I know I may only get one, so you gotta make the most of it, so that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
The Jaguars’ run game has been a huge disappointment this season, mainly due to a lack of production in the middle of the offensive line. The Jaguars had 19 yards rushing through three quarters, thanks largely to Minshew’s 18 yards on four carries. Leonard Fournette had minus-3 yards on nine carries. He finished with 66 yards thanks to a 69-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Minshew threw both of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, making him just the second rookie to throw two TD passes in the first 10 minutes of a game in the past 10 seasons. The only other to do so was Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, who did it in his NFL debut in 2015.
Minshew has five touchdown passes and only one interception in three games, which also makes him the second quarterback in franchise history to throw a TD pass in each of his first three games (Byron Leftwich did it in 2003).
Accuser says Brown sent ‘intimidating’ texts
The lawyer for a woman who earlier this week alleged sexual misconduct by Antonio Brown reached out to the NFL on Thursday night after the New England Patriots receiver apparently sent what were described as threatening text messages to her client, Sports Illustrated is reporting.
Attorney Lisa J. Banks wrote the NFL asking it to stop alleged conduct by Brown that she deemed as “intimidating and threatening to our client, in violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy,” according to the report. The NFL responded quickly, setting up a phone call between league investigators and the woman’s attorneys.
The woman told SI that, on Wednesday night, she received a group text message that appeared to come from the same phone number Brown gave to her in 2017, when she was hired by the receiver to paint a mural in his suburban Pittsburgh home. The text chain had four other numbers on it, SI reported.
The woman said she believes it was Brown encouraging others in the group to investigate her, describing her as a “super broke girl” and asking someone he refers to as “Eric B” to “look up her background history.” He then sent a screenshot of an Instagram photo she had posted showing the faces of her young children, adding “those her kids… she’s awful broke clearly.”
The texter accused the woman of fabricating her account of the 2017 incident for cash.
The woman’s allegations were first included within a larger Sports Illustrated piece published Monday that detailed multiple domestic incidents involving Brown.
According to SI’s initial report, Brown had hosted a charity softball game in Pittsburgh to benefit the National Youth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based volunteer group of women that promotes inclusion and gender equality, as well as developing academic skills in kids. The event had an auction that included artwork, and Brown agreed to purchase a portrait of himself before befriending the artist who created it.
Brown invited the artist to come to his home to create another painting of him, according to the report, arranging for transportation from New York to western Pennsylvania. The artist told SI she was thrilled by Brown’s willingness to share her work on social media, but on her second day in Pennsylvania, things changed.
According to the report, which did not include the artist’s name, she “was in a kneeling position while painting and turned to find Brown behind her, naked, holding a small hand towel over his genitals.” The artist said she didn’t stop painting and that “after that, it all ended abruptly.”
Brown paid her $2,000 for the mural, according to SI, and didn’t contact the artist thereafter.
The artist is not pursuing charges or remuneration, according to SI.
After SI published its story Monday, Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, tweeted that his client denied he ever acted inappropriately.
Heitner told SI he had not advised Brown to communicate with the woman, but otherwise declined comment when reached Thursday.
Messages sent by SI to Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were not immediately returned Thursday, according to the report.
The woman’s allegations are separate from those of Britney Taylor, Brown’s former trainer who filed a civil suit in Florida earlier this month. In the lawsuit, she alleged that Brown — in three separate incidents, two in June 2017 and another in May 2018 — sexually assaulted her.
NFL investigators met with Taylor on Monday, and a source previously told ESPN that there are “more interviews and information gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.” It remains unclear when or if Brown will interview with the league.
The receiver, who was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 9 — before Taylor’s lawsuit was filed — and made his season debut Sunday against the Dolphins, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the allegations came out. In the brief media session, Brown was not directly asked a question about his reaction to Taylor’s lawsuit and deflected a question on whether he’s heard from the NFL about being able to play throughout the 2019 season.
Rookie Minshew II leads Jags to 1st win of season
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Not only is Gardner Minshew II capably filling in for the injured Nick Foles, the rookie sixth-round pick is beginning to show that he might be able to carry the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ offense.
The Jaguars’ run game was essentially nonexistent Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans, so it was all on Minshew, and he delivered with two touchdown passes and two other scoring drives to lead the Jaguars to a 20-7 victory at TIAA Bank Field.
Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and wasn’t intercepted. His only interception this season came when one of his passes bounced off Leonard Fournette’s face mask in the season opener against Kansas City.
It was his first victory as a starting quarterback and the Jaguars’ first victory of the season. And it came on a short week and with a massive distraction when cornerback Jalen Ramsey asked the team to trade him.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Titans, who embarrassed the Jaguars on national television last season.
Minshew threw both of his TD passes in the first quarter, making him just the second rookie to throw two TD passes in the first 10 minutes of a game in the past 10 seasons. The only other to do so was Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, who did it in his NFL debut in 2015.
Minshew has five touchdown passes to his one interception in three games. He’s the second quarterback in franchise history to throw a TD pass in each of his first three games (Byron Leftwich did it in 2003).
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