Explosive Packers avert serious injuries

In comedy, there is always a grain of truth, and sometimes the one-liners are so precise they become catchphrases.

During their preseason Week 2 game against Pittsburgh, a sideline reporter asked Green Bay Packers tackle David Bakhtiari how good this year’s offense can be.

“Very good,” he began, and then looked up at the scoreboard … “should’ve taken the Over.”

There won’t be a 51-34 win for the Packers every week, which would make betting the Over-Under line that Bakhtiari referenced a simple task, but there is reason to believe once again they will go as far as their offense takes them, and that the offense at full strength can outscore anyone.

Not to slight the defense, which produced two touchdowns on interception returns, including one on the first play from scrimmage. Ultimately, it was an exhibition game. The jury is still out on the pass rush.

No Packer was seriously hurt, which is the best possible result of a preseason game, but there was an infuriating element to the ankle injury suffered by running back Jamaal Williams.

He was stopped after a short gain in the second quarter, and was on the ground when the Steelers’ Vince Williams grabbed his foot and twisted. Gratuitously fiendish, the ankle twist was rendered forcefully, but went unnoticed and unpenalized. The running back left the field for the night one play later.

Williams’ injury was listed as minor, which is encouraging. With a roster long on talent but not especially deep, the Packers will need everyone on board for a serious title run.

At this stage, it’s hard to know who’s going to be good this season and which teams will fall off. Last year’s playoffs included only four teams returning from the 12-team field in 2016.

Individual observations are a little different. The experience of cornerback Tramon Williams was evident on the first play, when he jumped the route for the interception that began the blowout of the Steelers.

Jimmy Graham looked right at home doing his first of hopefully many Lambeau Leaps. Reggie Gilbert may turn out to be a productive edge rusher. The competition for the No. 2 quarterback job is interesting, if uninspiring.

A more experienced Brett Hundley is still a dangerous runner, as he showed in a 10-yard touchdown scramble. DeShone Kizer threw a perfect ball on an end zone fade route for a touchdown and appears to have a slightly better arm than Hundley.

If either of them is on the field for any meaningful length of time in the real season, it’s not going to end well. No quarterback can move the chains like Aaron Rodgers, who is by orders of magnitude the most valuable player to his team.

The NFL, which would prefer stars like Rodgers to be healthy and performing, is still struggling with how to enforce the new rule that prohibits the leading with the helmet by a defender or a ball carrier. A revised video explaining the new rule has been distributed to officials, players and coaches.

Laudable though the efforts may be, it’s tough to shake the hunch that some big games are going to turn on one of those calls.

While the league is fine-tuning the rules, it should consider stronger penalties for players who intentionally cause injury to another. The refs may miss it in real time, but that’s what replay cameras are for. The NFL window of earning opportunity is small, especially for running backs like Jamaal Williams. His wheels are his bread and butter.

“He could have stopped a long time before he did,” said Williams, who called the play dirty and unnecessary.

Unnecessary was also the word Rodgers used to describe the late, pile-driving tackle that ended his season in Minnesota last year. No penalty on that play, either.

Even if flags were thrown in either instance, there’s something sinister about intentionally messing with a pro athlete’s ability to work that can’t be walked off in 15 yards.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.