Big changes coming for the Packers

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Big changes coming for the Packers

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- One by one, Greg Jennings took down the photos of his wife and children that lined his locker, careful not to rip them as he removed the tape. Below him, two plastic bins were filled with shampoo, lotion, toothpaste and deodorant.Still numb from the rout in San Francisco that ended their trying season, the Green Bay Packers headed into an offseason sure to bring change -- some of it big. Jennings and Donald Driver, key parts of the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, are all but gone, and Charles Woodson may have played his last game for Green Bay."At the end of the day, you know the Packers are going to do what's best for the Packers. And that's not going to change whether you're No. 4, No. 80, No. 85, No. 77. That's going to be the case," Jennings said Sunday, referring to Brett Favre, Driver and Cullen Jenkins, as well as himself. "And as the other half of the businessman sitting down at that table, I have to do what's best for myself and my family."Jennings finished with career lows in receptions (36), yards per catch (10.2) and total yards (366) after missing half of season with a torn muscle in his groin. He remains Aaron Rodgers' favorite target, however, and he reminded everyone why with one big catch after another when he returned from the injury. He led Green Bay with six catches and a score in Saturday night's 45-31 loss to San Francisco in an NFC divisional game.But the Packers have perhaps the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, and breakout seasons by James Jones and Randall Cobb have made Jennings, an unrestricted free agent, expendable."Everybody in this locker room is trying to win Super Bowls, but everybody in this locker room is trying to take care of their family as well," Jones said. "Football is our job and football is how we do it, and we understand that we've got four or five No. 1 receivers that are going to want money at some time. So we know it's going to be hard for this organization to pay everybody what they want, which (stinks) ... because I wish we could stay together for the rest of our career and go on a run and win some Super Bowls."Driver is Green Bay's all-time leading receiver, and is adored by fans. But he will be 38 next month, and had only a bit role in the offense after restructuring the final year of his contract. His eight catches for 77 yards were his lowest totals since his rookie season, and he was inactive for four games, including the NFC wild-card, possibly his final game at Lambeau Field.Driver would like to play until he's 40, and thinks he can still help a team. But he said he'll talk with his wife and children before making any decisions on his future."If (Saturday) is my last game, then it was a true honor just to put that uniform on once again," said Driver, who played on special teams Saturday. "I wore that uniform for a long time and it's truly a blessing to be wearing the green and gold."Woodson, linebacker A.J. Hawk and big tight end Jermichael Finley are all under contract for next year. But they're all due raises, too, and the Packers have to begin making tough decisions because they need to lock up long-term deals with Jones, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji. The three, considered cornerstones of the franchise, all will be free agents after next season.Woodson, the 2009 defensive player of the year, is one of the most-respected players in the Packers locker room -- by players and coaches alike -- and he's still disruptive. But he turned 36 in October and missed nine games with a broken right collarbone, the same one he broke in the Super Bowl. Youngsters Casey Hayward and M.D. Jennings made big impressions this season, and the Packers may decide they're enough to make up for Woodson's absence.The Packers were repeatedly torched by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, and Hawk looked particularly overmatched.Then there's Finley. He set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end this year, and few Packers were better down the stretch. But he's mercurial, and general manager Ted Thompson may decide he's not worth the big bump in payroll."We just finished losing, man," Finley said. "Hopefully I'm here forever. I'm good for next year, as far as I know."Regardless of what the roster looks like, the Packers have to find a way to finish better next year. This was the second straight year they were bounced out in the divisional round, and neither game was close.In fact, finishing was a season-long problem for Green Bay. The Packers fell to 2-3 after blowing an 18-point halftime lead at Indianapolis. They also struggled to put away less-than-mediocre teams like New Orleans, Jacksonville and Detroit. After securing the No. 2 seed with a rout of Tennessee, the Packers gave it up to San Francisco by losing to Minnesota in the regular-season finale.And after Mason Crosby's 31-yard field goal midway through the third quarter tied Saturday's game at 24, the 49ers steamrolled the Packers, scoring three straight touchdowns."We didn't finish. That's the bottom line, we didn't finish," Jones said. "We had a chance to do something great and get back to the Super Bowl. (But) we didn't finish our season strong. So got to start all over."NOTES:RB Cedric Benson, who played only five games before a season-ending foot injury, hopes to return next year. "Absolutely. I don't have a preference to be anywhere else," he said. "This is what I know and I'm excited about winning Super Bowls, too, and everybody around here is as well." ... RT Bryan Bulaga, who suffered a season-ending hip injury Nov. 4, expects to be ready for next season. "It's a little bit far out in advance to tell what I'm going to be doing, but I'm pretty confident training camp is a good goal."

After World Cup of Hockey, Patrick Kane joins Blackhawks at training camp

After World Cup of Hockey, Patrick Kane joins Blackhawks at training camp

Patrick Kane’s break from the ice lasted less than a week, his time in Toronto serving as a good preseason primer, of sorts.

And with the season about two weeks away, Kane said he’s about where he needs to be.

Kane and Michal Kempny joined the Blackhawks on Tuesday, two of several players beginning to trickle in from their World Cup of Hockey stints. For Kane, the World Cup didn’t go nearly as long as expected – Team USA was ousted in the preliminary round. But now, the focus is on honing things before the season begins.

“I feel pretty good,” Kane said following the second group’s practice on Tuesday. “I feel like everything’s starting to come around right now for sure. I guess, starting to feel kind of like myself again on the ice, so to speak. It’s good to be back in the locker room here with all the guys and back in a Blackhawks uniform, too. It’s always fun coming back. Feels like home, for sure.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

Kane will not play Wednesday, when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins in their preseason opener. How many preseason games he does get is uncertain; but considering Kane’s time in World Cup of Hockey, the Blackhawks aren’t concerned with him getting rusty.

“He’s going to probably want to do it sooner than later, but I think we can be patient because he’s already been playing games,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “Usually the veteran players when you come into a normal camp, they want to play maybe two or three games to just get their timing. For him, he’s already played quite a few games. There’s no reason to get him in right away, so we’ll just kind of bring him along, especially this early into camp.”

Team USA had a dismal showing at World Cup of Hockey, losing all three games in the preliminary round. But Kane said he’s put that behind him.

“It was a situation, looking back on it now, where we lost to a good team in Europe – they’re in the championship now – and I think at that point there’s a lot of noise from the outside that maybe crept in to our locker room a little bit. We needed to beat Canada. You could say they probably outplayed us but we had chances I that game to keep ourselves in it and ended up losing that one and we were out. But you’re playing in the World Cup of Hockey, you’re playing for your country, it’s always an honor to play for the United States. I’ll always remember playing for my country and always want to do it if you get the opportunity.”

BRIEFLY

  • Duncan Keith skated with the second group on Tuesday. The Blackhawks will continue to monitor him. “He’ll probably want to get maybe a couple of [preseason] games just for his timing, especially for a defenseman, too. Just so he’ll able to get his gap control and things like that. I imagine he’ll want to try and get some games, but we’ll just see how his knee’s come along and how he responds,” Kitchen said. “We don’t want to put him in a situation before we have to because it only is preseason. We’ll just have to monitor that.”
  • Scott Darling is scheduled to play the entire game vs. the Penguins tomorrow.

Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

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Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

According to a report from Crain's Chicago Business, Chicago's Soldier Field may be in the running to host next year's MLS All-Star Game.

The report says the city and Major League Soccer are discussing Chicago hosting the All-Star Game, which includes a number of other events in the lead up to the game.

Toyota Park, which is located in suburban Bridgeview, hosted the All-Star Game in 2006 less than two months after the stadium opened. Soldier Field has never hosted the MLS All-Star Game.

The Chicago Fire played in Soldier Field from the team's expansion season in 1998 until Soldier Field renovations in 2002. The Fire moved back to the renovated Soldier Field midway through the 2003 season before heading to Toyota Park.

If Soldier Field hosts the All-Star Game, it would be the first non-MLS venue to host the game since 2010 when Houston's Reliant Stadium hosted the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United.

This year's All-Star Game was in San Jose's year-and-a-half old Avaya Stadium. Arsenal beat the MLS All-Stars 2-1.