GREEN BAY – Compliments are always nice. Compliments from the GOAT? Those are tough to beat.
So when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – the greatest quarterback of all time, with no less authority than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers having said so this week – gushes about what a great teammate and player Patriots running back James White is, well, that’s next-level praise.
That’s exactly what happened this week when Brady, during a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field, was asked about White, the ex-University of Wisconsin standout who is in his fifth season with the Patriots after a standout Badgers career.
“I’ve played with a lot of great players, and James is right there at the top,” Brady told Wisconsin reporters. “In terms of consistency, dependability, making great play after great play, James is as good as all the good Patriot players – Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk – (who have been) the most consistent guys who have been there every day, every week, every game, every play.
“James has done so many great things for us. He’s having another great season and you can see it on film. We’re giving him the ball a lot in the backfield, he’s making a lot of yards, we’re doing a lot of great things in the passing game with him. He takes it all. He’s really got our backs.”
White enters Sunday’s Packers-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium leading the team in receptions (55), receiving yards (459) and touchdown catches (six) while also having rushed 48 times for 204 yards (4.3-yard average) and two more touchdowns as the Patriots’ do-it-all offensive machine.
This isn’t the first time Brady has had high praise for White. After the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, Brady, who was named game MVP, said the award should have gone to White, who scored three touchdowns – including the game-winner in overtime – and a two-point conversion while putting up 139 total yards from scrimmage (29 rushing, 110 receiving). Brady then gave White the pick-up truck he received as Super Bowl MVP as a gift.
Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, meanwhile, said containing White will be one of the keys to his unit doing its job Sunday night.
“Outside of Brady, I think you could make the argument the first half of the season he’s their MVP,” Pettine said Thursday. “By far leads them in targets and receptions. He’s just such a good athlete. He’s a complete player. They can split him out and he can run the route tree. He’s like a wideout. He can run tackle-to-tackle. There’s not any one part of his game that he can’t do. So that just makes it very difficult.
“If they split him out, it’s, ‘OK, do we put a linebacker on him?’ I think certain safeties have a hard time covering him. … Guys like him can kind of fall through the cracks and the next thing you know they’re wide open and you’ve got a 1-on-1 with him in space and there aren’t a lot of guys who are going to win that matchup. He’s been special for them.”
Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams confirmed Thursday what many suspected: He’ll be playing safety Sunday against the Patriots as the Packers look to fill the void created there when veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was traded to the Washington Redskins on Tuesday.
“It’s not very hard at all. As long as you understand football, the transition can be made,” Williams said when asked how challenging the move will be. “Everyone has to know the defense. That’s the great part about it. Someone goes down, somebody else has to step up and play another position. That’s what we’re doing right now. … It’s not going to be that big of a transition for me.”
Williams, who spent his first eight NFL seasons in Green Bay and returned as a free agent in spring after three years (two with the Cleveland Browns, one with the Arizona Cardinals) away, said he agreed to make the switch after being asked to do so by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached him in Cleveland in 2014. Williams estimated he played about four games at safety for Pettine that season with the Browns.
“He’s going to play some. I don’t know if I would term it a full-time move at this point,” Pettine said. “There’s no reason to think he can’t at times help us at safety.”
Center Corey Linsley was added to the injury report Thursday with a knee injury, and it’s unclear what that means for his status for Sunday night. “Corey’s been a big, big part of what we do,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “You know how important that position is, you know how we believe that the center and quarterback alignment (is) so important in offensive football today. We’ll see.” … Wide receiver Geronimo Allison was added to the Packers’ injury report with a groin injury that must’ve cropped up in practice. … Linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) and safety Jermaine Whitehead (back) were limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday. … Special teams coordinator Ron Zook didn’t want to discuss specifics about his pre-kickoff instructions last Sunday to now-departed returner Ty Montgomery, who was traded to Baltimore after taking a late kickoff out of the end zone and fumbling. He said touchbacks are “something we always talk about before we break the huddle. But once again, sometimes things happen.”