Packers' rookie Sternberger willing to weather the storm for more opportunities

-- Green Bay Packers rookie tight end Jace Sternberger received a bit of a 'Welcome to the NFL' moment on Monday.

During the first of what will be two joint practices between the Packers and visiting Houston Texans in preparation for their exhibition meeting on Thursday, Sternberger was leveled by Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. trying to catch a pass over the middle.

It was a crushing -- but clean -- hit that sent Sternberger's helmet flying.

Johnson stood over Sternberger's body, flexing; the cherry on top of the rookie-on-rookie crime -- and a gesture that wasn't too well received by either sideline. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien sent Johnson to the locker room for the remainder of practice, but not after a messy scuffle broke out between both teams.

Johnson, a second-round pick of the Texans in April, has since posted on social media that he "wasn't trying to hurt anybody."

Even so, Sternberger is well aware of the repercussions that come with playing his position and the dangers of being sent across the middle of the field where defenders lurk. But it's an unnecessary cost for a practice, especially when there will be more than enough opportunities for these types of plays on Thursday.

"I didn't know the whole second part, the whole flexing over thing. I guess that's why my teammates were so upset," Sternberger said after the joint practice, via It was the first joint practice held in Green Bay since 2005. "I still think it's football. It could've been the exact other way. It was just -- everybody's playing aggressive and intense, so it's a good thing."

The Packers' roster didn't take kindly to Johnson's hit. Wide receiver Davante Adams and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Lucas Patrick were all vocal in their disdain over the fact that it happened in the first place.

Said Adams: "That's unnecessary. We are in practice. We have plenty of time for that; you can do it in the games and get fined. You can be a coward and do stuff like that in practice. It's not a good look."

"If they want to play like that and they want to take side shots which we were told wasn't going to happen," Turner said. "You know what, then you gonna keep seeing some of your players out there getting laid out in the middle of the field like they laid [Sternberger] out."

Patrick, who was one of the first players to immediately jump to Sternberger's defense, had been rotating as the team's starting center with Corey Linsley out with a biceps injury.

"It is what it is," Patrick said. "We've got a rule we live by: team first. Jace is a teammate and protect the team at all cost."

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was reluctant to have his team participate in certain drills, most specifically the one-on-one exercises between wide receivers and defensive backs, which have a higher rate of sparking fights.

But for as much hooplah is being made about the whole ordeal, Sternberger couldn't be more unshaken.

"As long as I'm getting opportunities like that, I'll take whatever comes with it," Sternberger said. "I felt like I've always had bad luck with stuff like that, so I'm used to it.

"As a ballplayer who enjoys catching passes and running up the middle, breaking tackles, it's one of those things that comes with the territory. ... I should say I was surprised by it. As a pass-catcher running with the ball constantly, you're always thinking of getting hit, how you're gonna bounce off and make the next move. I'm not saying I expected it, but I'm not surprised by it."


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (7)

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NickPerry's picture

August 06, 2019 at 07:30 am

I like Sternberger's attitude about it. Hey, it's football. At least we know he can take a hit and get up.

You also gotta love Billy Turner's attitude, at least I do. Don't do anything stupid but let em know your there Big Bill!

5 points
Packers2020's picture

August 06, 2019 at 08:29 am

I have no issue with the hit but I do have an issue with a rookie taunting someone at a practice. Johnson needs to be blind sided and decleated. That will shut him up. Just like Turner said. :)

Show him that a rookie should not be flexing and taunting at a practice. Until he shows he belongs in the NFL and actually plays a real game, he probably should not be taunting anyone.

4 points
Mannix's picture

August 06, 2019 at 03:00 pm

I was trying to go back in Packers history and think of some higher profile cocky rookies that acted like Johnson of Houston did either my mouth or for hits like he did on Sternberger during a practice. Some could back it up with their play in the regular season as rookies while others couldn't. Here's some that come to mind for me. I am sure there's many others but these guys stand out to me.

1. Tony Mandarich ( Could not back it)
2. Terrell Buckley ( 50/50)
3. Ross Verba ( Could back it)
4. Ahmad Carroll (lol Nope could not back it)
5. Josh Jones ( Jury still out)

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PatrickGB's picture

August 06, 2019 at 09:29 am

Johnson was probably surprised that there is a code of conduct in the NFL that is unlike that in College. As others have posted it’s his immaturity that shows. I really do hope it doesn’t lead to further problems on Thursday night and our team gets drawn into something stupid.

1 points
Sol's picture

August 06, 2019 at 12:55 pm

I like the way Jace Sternberger is approaching this and not making it bigger than it really is. After all Football is a game of controlled fury. It is unfortunate that it happens against our team, but the young man, Johnson needs to learn that the Ref’s will now be watching him and one mistake a taunting penalty can change a game and get you cut from a very high paying job. Just look at what happened to Clay Matthews last year, he had a late hit early in the season, late in a game which honestly seemed to be more of a mental and the Ref’s picked on him for the first part of the season and it affected his whole season. They kind of used him for the whipping post while they sorted out their new rule on QB hits.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

August 06, 2019 at 01:40 pm

Doesn't matter if the hit was "clean or not" it's a PRACTICE. There's no reason to take that kind of shot. So much has been made about joint practices it'll be interesting to see if MLF does more during his time in GB.

0 points
KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 06, 2019 at 06:41 pm

Yea, Jace has a lot of weight lifting to do to fill out his body but then again Davis and King should be right there with him and they have been in the league almost 3 and 4 years. Sad actually on the latter two IMHO!

1 points