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Ex-Jets head coach, NFL LB Michaels dies at 89

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Walt Michaels, who was the head coach of the New York Jets for six seasons and was the team’s defensive coordinator on the franchise’s only Super Bowl championship team died Wednesday at age 89.

His daughter Mary Ann told the Times Leader that her father died six years to the day that his wife Betty died.

Michaels also played in the NFL for 12 seasons as a linebacker and was selected for the Pro Bowl five times. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1951 draft by the Cleveland Browns but was traded to the Green Bay Packers before the season. He played for the Packers, Browns and the Jets from 1951-63 and was part of two Browns championship teams in 1954 and ’55.

His one-game appearance in 1963 came while he also was a Jets assistant coach. He was with the Jets from 1963-73 and was the team’s defensive coordinator for Super Bowl III when the Jets upset the Baltimore Colts 16-7. He also was an assistant with the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles.

Michaels went 39-47-1 in six seasons as the Jets’ head coach from 1977-82 and led the team to the AFC Championship Game after the strike-shortened ’82 season, where it lost 14-0 to the Miami Dolphins.

He resigned just weeks later, saying he needed a break from football. He later resurfaced as the coach of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, which were owned by current United States President Donald Trump. He coached the team for two seasons from 1984-85.

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Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay Packers lobbied in fourth for Allen Lazard to play

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers wanted Allen Lazard on the field, and Lazard wanted Rodgers to throw him the ball.

Both moves helped save the Green Bay Packers on Monday night against the Detroit Lions.

Even with Davante Adams already out for a second straight game with turf toe and Geronimo Allison knocked out of the game with a head and chest injury, the Packers still didn’t immediately turn to Lazard.

In fact, it wasn’t until after rookie receiver Darrius Shepherd dropped a pass at the Lions’ 1-yard line — it actually ricocheted off his facemask and was intercepted — that the Packers finally went to the relatively unknown 6-foot-5 receiver.

And not until Rodgers asked for him.

“I may have put in a good word there in the fourth quarter to get him some opportunities,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said he went to receivers coach Alvis Whitted and asked “if [No. 13] could come in for a little bit.”

Four catches, 65 yards and a touchdown later, the Packers had a new hero. Yes, Mason Crosby officially finished off the 23-22 victory with a 23-yard last-second field goal — with his wife, Molly, in the stands a mere six weeks after she underwent surgery to remove a cancerous spot in her lung.

But if not for Lazard, who before Monday night had never caught a pass in a regular-season game from Rodgers, the Packers might not be 5-1 and atop the NFC North.

Down 22-13, Rodgers first went to Lazard on deep ball that fell incomplete. One play later, Rodgers went back to him, and it turned into a 35-yard touchdown.

It was Lazard’s first catch of the season and just the second of his career.

Last season, the former undrafted free agent from Iowa State who originally signed the Jaguars and then was signed by the Packers off Jacksonville’s practice on Dec. 18 played one snap and caught one pass for 7 yards. It came in the regular-season finale against the Lions after Rodgers had left the game because of a concussion.

Before Sunday, Lazard had played just 21 snaps and his only target wasn’t even an official target because pass interference was called in the Week 4 loss to the Eagles.

Yet there was Lazard after Monday night’s game oozing confidence.

“I’m made for this s—,” Lazard said.

Lazard’s other three catches all came on the game-winning drive. Two went for first downs.

“I actually sit next to him in the team meetings, and we’ve struck up a pretty good friendship,” Rodgers said. “The thing that got me was, which you love as a quarterback, and that’s receivers coming back and telling you he wants the ball and what routes he wants to run. The big first down we had to him on the out route, that was him coming back to the huddle and telling me what play he wanted. For a young guy to do that, how can you not have confidence in that.”

Rodgers said coach Matt LaFleur had two play calls in mind.

“I said go with the first one because I’m going to throw it to Allen and we’re going to move the sticks,” Rodgers said. “And we did.”

All this for a player the Packers cut at the end of training camp in favor of Shepherd.

“I was definitely worried he was going to get picked up because the production was there in preseason,” Rodgers said.

After no one claimed Lazard off waivers, the Packers re-signed him to their practice squad immediately and then promoted him to the active roster the day before the season opener at Chicago.

“I honestly just believed in myself,” Lazard said. “I knew what my capabilities were. I know the talent that I have, I know the production that I produced before. It’s a different stage, but it’s the same to me.”

It’s unclear when Adams will return; he said last week that his toe “doesn’t feel how I want it to feel at the moment.” And Allison’s injury could potentially be serious. But it’s clear Rodgers thinks he has a new reliable weapon in Lazard.

“I think sometimes you have an injury or whatnot or for whatever reason and that’s how some guys become who they are,” LaFleur said. “He was given his opportunity and to his credit, he was ready for that opportunity.”

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Tracy Walker of Detroit Lions goes off on referees after loss

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Awful. It was the first word out of Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker’s mouth late Monday night when he was asked about the unnecessary roughness call against him when he collided with Packers receiver Geronimo Allison on the first play of the third quarter.

Walker was flagged for 15 yards on the incomplete pass — and after said he was just going for the ball, criticizing the officiating while explaining it.

“Awful. It was an awful call,” Walker said. “I felt like I went for the ball and just so happened we collided, but I was looking for the ball. It was an awful call by them. It is what it is, though.”

Walker said he wasn’t even trying to make contact with Allison and was going for a potential interception of an Aaron Rodgers pass. They collided, he said, but he was “attacking the ball.” When asked if the defensive back has the right to go for the ball in that case, referee Clete Blakeman explained what he saw in a postgame pool report.

“That’s a good question, but the reality is, it is strict liability for a defensive player,” Blakeman said. “In this case, he may be going for the ball and not intending to hit the helmet, but when there’s helmet contact, it is a foul in that situation.”

Blakeman said even if Walker had intercepted the pass, he still would have been flagged.

Walker used the word “awful” five times to describe some of the penalty calls against the Lions in a 23-22 loss to Green Bay on Monday night.

“Extremely pissed off right now,” Walker said. “It is what it is. Disappointed. Hurt. We had that game. I’m going to say the same s—. We should have won it. It is what it is, though. Got to bounce back.”

When asked who he was pissed at, Walker blamed, well, everything.

“Honestly, just the whole game in itself, the end result,” Walker said. “I felt like we could have had a better game and we were supposed to come out victorious with that game, you know, but Green Bay came to play.

“There were some awful, awful calls. But we got to play through them and overcome those.”

When told he might get fined for his comments, Walker said “whatever. It don’t even matter. It is what it is.”

Walker wasn’t the only Lions player unhappy with officiating Monday night. Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara tweeted and later deleted about Green Bay offensive lineman David Bakhtiari appearing to put hands in a Lions’ defender’s face. The tweet featured a photo that appeared to show Bakhtiari with hands to the face of a Lions defender and included illustrative arrows.

And defensive end Trey Flowers was flagged twice for illegal use of the hands on third downs in the fourth quarter that would have ended drives but instead granted the Packers 5 yards and automatic first downs. He explained multiple times what he was actually doing after the game.

“I actually changed the position of my hand because it was to the chest initially,” said Flowers, his pads still on after the game. “Which is right here. I was doing it all game. I didn’t know that was a flag to the chest so I could change it to [motioning somewhere else on his chest]. They called it again.”

When asked if he thought it was a penalty, Flowers said “nah, I didn’t think hands to the chest was a penalty. I thought hands to the face. But I had them right here on the chest. Second time I changed it to right here.

“That’s part of a move that I do and yeah. I don’t think it’s a penalty.”

Flowers again reiterated that it’s part of a move he does and that if he slipped, he would have agreed it would be a flag, but he didn’t slip.

Blakeman then explained what the umpire who threw the flag, Jeff Rice, saw on the fouls.

“The umpire threw both of them. The last one was really the only one I’ve discussed with him,” Blakeman said. “Basically, it’s for illegal use of the hands, hands-to-the-face foul. To be a foul, we basically need some forceful contact that’s prolonged to the head and neck area of the defender.

“So, in his mind he had pinned him back, it was prolonged, and that’s what created the foul.”

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Lions safety Quandre Diggs sits vs. Packers with hamstring injury

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Lions safety Quandre Diggs sat out Detroit’s 23-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

Diggs, 26, has been a key part of Detroit’s defense and was a Pro Bowl alternate last year. He injured his hamstring against Kansas City in Week 4 and was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday. He did a little more work Saturday but still not a complete set of work.

Diggs has 13 tackles on the year.

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