Packer in trouble with fans

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Absence, it is said, makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of National Football League players and their fans, a little distance between them and their fans might not be a bad thing, either.

The NFL is investigating an incident in which Packers' safety Nick Collins is seen on video, aired yesterday by Fox 6 in Milwaukee, throwing what is believed to be his mouthguard towards a fan.

This comes a week after Brandon Jacobs of the Giants sent his helmet on an exploratory mission to see if there was any intelligent life beyond the sidelines.

Collins, reportedly, was provoked by a fan who spat his way and called him a racist expletive and league spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press the league is "in the process of reviewing all the facts."

Professional sports, not just the NFL, has been on a mission for almost a decade now to get fans more involved. The belief is that if fans can get closer to the action and interact more with the players that it will increase the popularity of the sport.

That's probably true. But while it brings more money and more fame it also brings more trouble.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the whole concept. Maybe fans and athletes are getting just a wee bit too close because it seems every week there's some incident or altercation either on or off the field.

Maybe players need to go back to the days when they celebrated with teammates but nobody went leaping into the stands. Ted Williams ignored both the cheers and the jeers. Just played. Mats Sundin was gracious but never effusively fan-friendly. Better that way. George Bell told them to "kiss my purple butt." Remember. We call them the good, old days.

Meantime, Collins' exit puts the exclamation mark on what was an utter disaster for the Packers who imploded -- if not physically, at least emotionally and mentally. Green Bay took 18 penalties, the most in a single game in team history.

Tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher struggled with the Bears' defensive front as they combined for six penalties. A holding penalty by Tauscher nullified a Packers' touchdown and a roughing the passer penalty nullified an interception. And Collins' frustrations were evident even before the final play sealed their defeat. Collins picked off Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler with the score tied 17-17, but the play was nullified by a penalty.

And on an earlier drive, Collins got called for a late hit on Matt Forte.

EDWARDS SEES THE LIGHT

A few weeks ago Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey looked at his starting quarterback, Trent Edwards, and said he saw "light at the end of the tunnel."

What he didn't tell anyone was that the light was in Jacksonville. After being released by the Bills last week, Edwards yesterday was signed off waivers by the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Edwards as the Bills' starting quarterback. Now it's quite possible that Edwards will nudge out David Garrard, who has had an abysmal season. But the Jags haven't had a backup other than 38-year-old journeyman Todd Bouman since Luke McCown tore up his knee.

While the Jags problems run deeper than Garrard, as evidenced by eight sacks the last two weeks, he also has thrown five interceptions.

Edwards at least gives them another option. In three-plus seasons, Edwards has started 32 games. His best season came in 2008, with 2,699 yards passing and a 65.5% completion rate in 14 starts. But Gailey benched him after he went 11 for 18 and 102 yards with two interceptions in a 34-7 loss to Green Bay. That was followed by a 15-10 loss to Miami and the ticket out of town.

Edwards' base pay is $1.65 million and the Bills already have paid him $291,176. The Jaguars would owe Edwards the balance of that deal.

QUICK HITS

The Bills have re-signed Levi Brown to replace Edwards. A seventh-round pick this year, he was released prior to the season. The 6-4, 225-pound quarterback set Troy University and Sun Belt Conference single-single records in 2009, completing 321-of-504 passes for 4,254 yards ... Titans cornerback Jason McCourty has undergone successful forearm surgery and will be sidelined 3-4 weeks. Alterraun Verner replaces him ... The Buccaneers could take a look at free-agent safety Ken Hamlin ... Jets linebacker Calvin Pace (foot) could return to practice today ... Rams signed running back Chauncey Washington off the Jets' practice squad, thus ending -- for now -- the Larry Johnson- to-St. Louis speculation ... Chiefs offensive co-ordinator Charlie Weis underwent emergency gall-bladder surgery Monday. Weis' offence leads the NFL in rushing and has been a top-10 unit in total points scored.

bill.lankhoff@sunmedia.ca


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