NEWS AND NOTES
FUN OVER! PACKERS GIRD FOR OPENER
SEPTEMBER 17 (Milwaukee Sentinel) - The Packers dragged themselves into Green Bay late Sunday night after a 12-hour train ride from St. Louis confident after their best pre-season showing (4-1) in a decade but anxious for a two-week preparation for their bruising opener against the Lions September 30. Coach Liz Blackbourn liked what he saw Saturday night in Missouri: "great tackling, good passing, good running." However, the Packer boss could point out several defensive and offensive lapses in the Bays' 29-21 win over the Cardinals - "things which must be ironed out before those Lions arrive." Blackbourn said he would wait and carefully check pictures of the Cardinal game before cutting his squad. He brought 40 players back to Green Bay and said he would trim that number to 35 so he has plenty of time to gear the machinery before starting play for the blue chips. "Tobin Rote had a good night," praised Liz, "completing 14 of 26 passes for 232 yards. That one to (Billy) Howton was a beauty (59-yard game-winning touchdown). It's not very often you get behind (Night Train) Lane. They were doubling up on (Gary) Knafelc, so Tob started hitting (Howie) Ferguson and Howton. I thought our line gave him good protection." Blackbourn was not too disappointed with his rookie quarterback Bart Starr, who had his poorest night with the Packers. "He was bound to have that pass intercepted, sooner or later - he'll be ok." Liz credited the Packer defense in checking Ollie Matson, Frank Bernard and Johnny Olszewski. "Oh, they got a little mixed up at times and made a few mistakes, but things are shaping up." Asked about other pre-season showings, Blackbourn said, "We're starting to get the pitch on Detroit. Their defense is out of this world. Yale Lary, service returnee, and Jack Christiansen are giving quarterbacks nightmares. Another toughie in a loaded division." No injuries worth reporting were mentioned. So with a two week preparation for Detroit the squad should be at its very best. Blackbourn singled out tackles Bob Skoronski and Forrest Gregg, both rookies, as "really fencing off for Rote. That protection was the way we want it."
BLACKBOURN RATES HIS PACKERS AS 'BETTER', TEMPERS ENTHUSIASM WITH A LOOK AT WEST
SEPTEMBER 18 (Milwaukee Journal) - Lisle Blackbourn, Green Bay Packers coach, said Tuesday that on the basis of play in exhibition games he thought he had a "better ball club than last year." Then he tempered his enthusiasm by mentioning how rugged the Western Division of the NFL looked. "Yes," said Blackbourn, who is starting his third year as Packer coach," I'd say we're better. How much better is hard to say. We're pleased about the preseason games (the Packers won four and lost one). We wish we had the victories in the league standings, though. Confidence accounts for at least half the improvement. We're not too far away from having the same personnel as last year. Now they think they have the stuff. But look at the Western Division. Somebody - I don't remember who - said recently, 'A very good football team is going to finish at the bottom." That is the way it us." The Packers finished preseason play at St. Louis last Saturday, beating the Chicago Cardinals, 29-21. They have two weeks in which to prepare for the Detroit Lions in their league opener at Green Bay Sunday September 30. Where, Blackbourn was asked, did improvement come from, aside from added confidence? "Mostly in the offensive line," he said. "Two new men, Skoronski and Sandusky, have started the last three games at tackle. The blocking for the runners, the protection for the passer have been better." Bob Skoronski, 245 pound rookie from Indiana, is termed by Blackbourn "a fast, quick big man with lots of ability." John Sandusky brought six years of league experience with him when he came over in a trade with the champion Cleveland Browns. Quarterback Tobin Rote, Blackbourn said, "looks real good." Better blocking in front of him and the work of rookie Bart Starr of Alabama behind him have helped. Other offensive backfield starters likely will be fullback Howie Ferguson, left half Breezy Reid and right half Al Carmichael. Joe Johnson, a valuable asset at halfback and end, will again spell Reid. Rookies Jack Losch, first draft choice, and Bill Roberts, free agent from the Marines, are trying to make it as "swing" men, defensive backs and flanker backs on offense. End Bill Howton now is ready to go. Blackbourn let him take his time recovering from a leg injury so it would heal properly. Howton's running mate, Gary Knafelc, is rated "much better than last year." Len Szafarn, regular offensive tackle last year, has been working at both tackle and at guard, where he spells Joe Skibinski, Buddy Brown and Jack Spinks. Larry Lauer will back up Jim Ringo at center. Forrest Gregg, second draft choice from SMU, will become a "real good offensive tackle" in time, Blackbourn said. The defense will be much the same as last year's, which had much to do with the improvement to a six won, six lost record. There is versatility at linebacker and middle guard as Tom Bettis and Bill Forrester can and do play either and Roger Zatkoff and Deral Teteak make the linebacking solid. In the backfield, rookie Hank Gremminger of Baylor and Jim Capuzzi, on and off the roster last year, are fighting for the spot vacated by Doyle Nix's departure to the Air Force. Billy Bookout, Bob Dillon and Val Joe Walker, veteran Texans, will hold forth again. John Martinkovic, large defensive end, has encountered his first knee trouble and because he missed the last two exhibition games, he may rusty for the opener. Nate Borden, Gene Knutson and rookie Emery Barnes have been sharing the top spots. At tackle, Dave Hanner will man one spot and Jerry Helluin or Don King, another former Brown, the other. The Packers, as presently constituted, include 41 players. They must get down to 35 a week hence. Blackbourn feels this last cutting job will be a difficult one. He hopes he can do as well there as he did in setting a goal for his team's offense against the Cardinals. He asked for 28 points and 350 yards, got 29 and 354.
GREEN BAY TO HAVE NEW VETS ARENA
SEPTEMBER 19 (Green Bay) - The Brown County Board Tuesday approved a $1,468,000 bond issue to provide revenue for the construction of a Veterans Memorial Arena. The supervisors, who approved the bond on a 37-13 vote, also voted to purchase 19 acres of land in the Town of Ashwaubenon on which the structure will be erected. The county set a price of $28,500 for the land which will be purchased from Dominic and Regina Olejniczak. Olejniczak is a former mayor of Green Bay. The memorial will be built on land adjoining the site of the new $1,000,000 football stadium that will become the home of the Green Bay Packers. There was no estimate as to when the arena will be completed. However, officials hope the Packers will be able to move into the new stadium by the 1957 season.
PACKERS TO HOLD OPEN HOUSE EVENT
SEPTEMBER 19 (Green Bay) - The Green Bay Packers will conduct a "get acquainted day" Sunday from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. at Green Bay City Stadium to give the fans a chance to get acquainted with the players and coaches and also to acquaint the fans with the various offensive and defensive formations that will be used throughout the league season. Lisle Blackbourn, head coach, will hold a regular practice session and he and members of his staff will give a detailed description of what they are trying to accomplish. Blackbourn feels that if the fans are acquainted with the various offensive and defensive formations they will understand and enjoy the football games more thoroughly. It is the first attempt of the Packers to do something on this order, and if it is successful it may become a yearly event.
DAHMS GOES TO CARDINALS
SEPTEMBER 20 (Green Bay) - Tom Dahms, regular offensive tackle last season, was traded Wednesday by the Green Bay Packers to the Chicago Cardinals for an undisclosed draft choice. Coach Lisle Blackbourn said, "I'm sorry to see Tom go because he is a good man and a good football player. He will help the Cardinals. He could make three or four clubs in this league." The trade indicated that the Packers had strengthened their tackle situation over the winter. Dahms ranked no better than fourth when he left, behind John Sandusky, veteran obtained from Cleveland, and rookies Bob Skoronski of Indiana and Forrest Gregg of SMU, high draft choices. Also, Len Szafaryn, the other regular tackle last year, has been working at guard. Dahms was obtained a year ago from the Los Angeles Rams for defensive end Carlton (Stretch) Elliott, who failed to stick with the Rams, and Green Bay's third draft choice last winter. Blackbourn and his assistants must still prune four more players off the roster to reach the season opening limit of 35 next week. The Packers will open against Detroit here September 30. Then two more played must be trimmed after two weeks of the season. After practice on an unseasonably cold September afternoon Blackbourn was talking about the difficulties the final cuts presented to the coaches. "How about it, Lou?" he said to line coach Lou Rymkus. "We've never had to cut such good men so early in other years." This is Blackbourn's third season at Green Bay. "No, coach," Rymkus said, "it's really a problem." A delay in the arrival of movies of the Packers' final exhibition game, a 29-21 victory over the Cardinals at St. Louis last Saturday, had slowed Blackbourn's preparations for the Lions. The coaches will now hardly get a chance to study the films before they must be shipped to Buddy Parker, Detroit coach, as part of a new league agreement to exchange movies for scouting purposes.
OFFENSE BETTER, BLACKBOURN SAYS
SEPTEMBER 21 (Green Bay) - Coach Lisle Blackbourn of the Green Bay Packers said today the team's offense has shown "great improvement" over last season. Blackbourn, who will open his third professional season September 30, said quarterbacks Tobin Rote and Bart Starr were "effective" in preseason exhibitions. Rote completed 39 of 72 passes, good for 688 yards. Starr, his rookie understudy, completed 19 out of 31 for 191 yards.
PACKERS CONFIDENT OF BETTER NFL SEASON
SEPTEMBER 21 (Green Bay) - It's been 12 years since a NFL championship pennant flew from the flagpole here, but the waiting could end this season. The best exhibition record in years - including the first victory ever over the Cleveland Browns - leads fans to believe the Green Bay Packers will make a serious challenge for the Western Division title this year. Coach Lisle Blackbourn is swept up in the tide, too. He admits he probably has the "best personnel" in his three seasons here, but there are problems, he said, which could alter the rosy outlook. One of these is to find a defensive halfback to replace Doyle Nix, who was called into service, though it's possible rookie Hank Gremminger of Baylor might fill the gap ably enough. Another is to find a non-playing punter, rather than depend solely upon end Dick Deschaine, who will see considerable duty on offense. Blackbourn also needs more ends. Injuries and failure of rookies to report or stay around after the rough work started, left the team with only two at one stage of training. "We could use more relief at fullback and center," Blackbourn said, although fullback Howie Ferguson, second in league rushing last season, is "as mean as ever," Blackbourn said. Among the "improvements" are more depth in the offensive line, where rookies Forrest Gregg of SMU and Bob Skoronski of Indiana, both tackles, will back up veterans Len Szafaryn and John Sandusky. Sandusky was obtained from Cleveland. After a two year search, Blackbourn figures he has found a "topnotch" No. 2 quarterback in rookie Bart Starr of Alabama. Starr was the standout first year man in camp. He came without fanfare, although some Alabama coaches said he was a better thrower than his predecessor, Harry Gilmer, now with the Detroit Lions. In the first three exhibition games, he completed 10 of 14 passes for 81 yards and had none intercepted. "He throws a soft pass, something like Otto Graham of the Browns, and he's got a good head," Blackbourn said. Tobin Rote, starting his sixth season at quarterback, appears sharper than ever. His tireless arm accounted for 318 yards in victories over the Eagles, Giants and Browns, completing 19 of 34 passes. A good relief man could make him even better. Blackbourn's major disappointment has been halfback Jack Losch of Miami. He was the No. 1 draft choice, but he has been of little value thus far. First, he bolted the club. After he was coaxed back, he injured his leg. Losch had been counted to put some additional spark in the Packers' running attack. However, in early games, veteran halfbacks Breezy Reid and Joe Johnson showed plenty of punch. As it stands a short time before the start of the season here September 20 against Detroit, Rote will be at quarterback, Reid and Al Carmichael at halfbacks and Ferguson at fullback. Starr and Johnson are the No. 1 replacements, along with veteran placekicker Fred Cone, who came out of temporary retirement. Blackbourn said he'll give Cone more offensive chores this season. The Packers finished third in the Western Division in 1955 with a 6-6 record.
PACKERS DROP TWO
SEPTEMBER 23 (Green Bay) - The Green Bay Packers Saturday asked for waivers on tackle Bill Lucky, of Baylor, and halfback Alton Romine of Florence (Ala.) State Teachers. Lucky and Romine were starting their second seasons with the Packers. Their departure will reduce the squad to 37.
PACKERS GIVE FANS A LOOK AT PLAYS
SEPTEMBER 24 (Green Bay) - The Green Bay Packers staged a scrimmage Sunday to climax the team's first "Get Acquainted Day" before about 5,000 fans at City Stadium. Coach Lisle Blackbourn preceded the workout by explaining the offensive and defensive maneuvers as the team demonstrated each play. Earlier the Packers were interested spectators as the Detroit Lions, their opponents here next Sunday in their NFL opener, lost to Washington 19-17 in a televised exhibition.
LIZ RATES PACKER TITLE HOPES 'GOOD'
SEPTEMBER 24 (Milwaukee Sentinel) - Liz Blackbourn said Monday his Packers have as good a chance as anyone else to win the Western Division title race which gets underway Sunday. But, like any other pro coach in his right mind, Blackbourn wouldn't predict anything. "I'm confident this club is a good one," said the Packer coach, "and I won't be satisfied if we don't show improvement over last year's (6-6) record. Sure, we have as a good a chance as anyone else. But I would be silly predicting anything in this topsy-turvy division. We're going to have a dogfight every Sunday." The Bears, Lions and Rams ranked as Blackbourn's top picks. "I''ll probably get some disagreement picking the Lions," Liz said, "but with that restored defense and Bobby Layne his old self they could go all the way." It just so happens that Detroit provides the opposition in the league opener here Sunday. "They could hurt us this time," insisted Liz, who recalled last year's 20-17 Packer win the last 24 seconds. "You gotta have that luck." Blackbourn reduced his squad to the 35-player limit when he put veteran defensive end Gene Knutson and rookie halfback Bill Roberts from Dartmouth on waivers. This meant Emery Barnes, 6-6, 230-pound rookie from Oregon and Jack Losch, the Bay's top draft choice from Miami, had earned their spurs. "We do need a third end, though," admitted Liz. "(Dick) Deschaine is a good punter - that's all." Blackboun said the reason he traded Tom Dahms, a starting tackle last season, to the Cardinals was because "we were getting more out of John Sandusky. We owe the Browns a draft choice for Sandusky, now the Chicago choice for Dahms will even that score." The squad should be at its peak condition for the Lions with end John Martinkovic, tackle Don King and halfback Breezy Reid shaking off minor leg ailments.
PRO FOOTBALL SHAPING UP FOR SEASON - JUST THE WAY IT IS EXPECTED TO DO
SEPTEMBER 25 (Milwaukee Journal) - Before a touchdown was ever scored or an extra point kicked in exhibition games, the NFL race shaped up like this: 1) The real power remains in the Western Division. 2. Within the Western Division, the strength appeared to be amazingly well distributed. 3. If there were any favorites, the Chicago Bears in the Western and the New York Giants in the Eastern seem most likely to unseat champion Cleveland (East) and Los Angeles (West). Now the 35 preseason games as Commissioner Bert Bell prefers to have them called, have been played and the season itself will be started Sunday. What happened in these teasing ground games distinctly bears out all early thinking. The records for them follow:
WESTERN DIVISION: Chicago Bears (5-1), Detroit Lions (4-2) Green Bay (4-1), Los Angeles (3-3), Baltimore (3-2), San Francisco (3-3)