GREEN BAY, Wis. With his one-game suspension over, Packers linebacker Erik Walden was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and re-joined his teammates on Monday.
Walden was arrested late last season on a domestic abuse charge and spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend in jail. Though the charges were later dropped, Walden was suspended by the league eight months later and had to miss Green Bay's season-opening loss Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers.
"It was very tough," Walden said Monday. "You're at home, you're not able to contribute, you're not even able to come to work . . . But, at the same time, I got a lot of time to think. Now it's time to get back to playing football and doing what I love to do."
Walden spent the majority of his week away from the team in Georgia, where he continued working out in preparation for Week 2 of the regular season.
"I know I'm going to be a little rusty," Walden said. "My big thing is probably tackling. Being out of the game for a week, you can't really just prepare yourself for tackling. (I'll) make sure I'm fundamentally sound and ready to go."
In order to make room on the 53-man roster for Walden, Packers general manager Ted Thompson had to make another move, with the team deciding to release cornerback Brandian Ross. Thompson could still try to free up a spot on the practice squad for Ross, who spent all of last season on Green Bay's scout team. One hour after the transaction was announced, Ross' locker was still intact.
Walden, 27, started 15 games at outside linebacker for the Packers last season and recorded three sacks and 41 tackles. But due to his inconsistent performance throughout the season, Walden was not in the starting lineup for Green Bay's final regular season game, nor its playoff loss to the New York Giants.
This offseason, the Packers drafted Nick Perry in the first round and immediately inserted him as the starting outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews. That leaves Walden in a reserve role this season, competing with undrafted rookie Dezman Moses to be the team's first outside linebacker to come in off the bench.
Replacement referees were noticeable: One of the most poorly officiated games in Week 1 was the Packers-49ers matchup, according to FOX Sports analyst and former NFL Vice President of Officiating, Mike Pereira.
Though Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton did not blame the referees for Green Bay's loss to San Francisco, he did notice that it had a negative effect on the game.
"There's a lot of things that they didn't necessarily get correct out there," Sitton said at his locker on Monday. "It's definitely noticeable. I'm not going to B.S. you, it's noticeable for sure. You can see it when there's a certain call, a penalty or something, and they've got to huddle up for an extra 30 seconds because they don't know what they're doing, and they've got to discuss it."
After the game Sunday, veteran cornerback Charles Woodson was also bothered by the referees.
"It's frustrating when there's obvious things happen, when you can see it," Woodson said. "We're not talking about questionable calls, we're talking about obvious things. So you're going to get frustrated. That's human nature."
There were a total of 18 penalties called in the game, 10 against the Packers. Most of the questionable calls actually benefited Green Bay, including a non-call on Randall Cobb's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. On the play, Packers rookie Terrell Manning seemed to have a block in the back, which was originally flagged. However, after a discussion by the referees, the flag was picked up and Cobb's touchdown counted.
"I think there were calls on both sides that were interesting," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game. "But a couple of the plays were either no calls that should have been calls or not the correct call."
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