The Lass Word: Blocking His Way Into History

Why the Packers always find room for Marcedes Lewis.

On April 29, 2006, Paul Tagliabue, in one of his final acts as NFL commissioner, declared the NFL draft open at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  The Houston Texans had the number one pick, and selected defensive end Mario Williams out of North Carolina State.  The New Orleans Saints followed by snatching running back Reggie Bush, who starred at Southern Cal, and the Tennessee Titans then picked quarterback Vince Young from Texas. 

In all, 255 players were taken in the two day draft.  Today, only one of them remains on an NFL roster.  Marcedes Lewis, a star tight end at UCLA, was the 28th player selected in the first round of that 2006 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.   When the Green Bay Packers open camp at the end of next month, number 89 will be making league history.  He will tie Tony Gonzales and Jason Witten for the longest career by a tight end, as he begins his seventeenth season. 

To put that into perspective, the Packers picked linebacker AJ Hawk with the fifth overall selection in that same 2006 draft.  Hawk, who had a solid career, has been retired for six years.   

Seventeen year careers are generally reserved for star players, perennial all pro types, many of whom wind up in the Hall of Fame when they finally do hang up the spikes.  Marcedes Lewis may be the most unsung seventeen year veteran in league history.  He has been voted to just one Pro Bowl (2010), and has never been a first team all pro.  Yet he played through twelve years and three contracts with the Jaguars, and is about to embark on his fifth campaign with the Pack.   

Green Bay signed Lewis to a one year deal in 2018.  He played in all sixteen games that season, catching a grand total of exactly three passes.  Yet the Packers readily re-signed him to another one year deal in 2019, then another in 2020, and then a two year deal in 2021.  He just turned 38 years old.  What is his secret? 

It’s not a mystery to his coaches, nor to anyone who’s ever played on the same team with him.  He is the poster child for hard work, lack of ego, and locker room leadership.   You see, Lewis’s job is to block.  And there have been few who have been better at it over the past two decades.  Blockers seldom get headlines or the acknowledgement and adoration of fans, but the team recognizes their critical value.  That’s why there has always been a place for Marcedes Lewis.   

A massive human being at over six foot six and 267 pounds, the California native is understandably known to his teammates as the Big Dog.  Lewis not only excels at blocking, he loves it.  “The way I play the tight end position” he said at OTA’s recently.  “I’m not necessarily dodging people.  I’m puttin’ people in the ground.  So, I’m the one that’s enforcing that pain.” 

There you have it.  The perfect mentality for a blocker.  Let the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and even the other tight ends have the glory, make the highlight reels.  He’s content to road grade a would-be tackler to pave the way for somebody else to run for a first down, or throw for a score.  He is also a force in the locker room.  Peers have often made reference to his willingness to step up vocally to fire up or calm down the troops as needed. 

The delicious irony is, Lewis does his job so consistently well, defenses tend to just regard him as a member of the offensive line, forgetting that he is an eligible receiver.  The Green Bay coaches noticed this of course, and last season they began to call plays that were designed to have Big Dog come off a block and lope out into the flat, where he is inevitably wide open.  The team especially likes this play on third and short.  In 2021, Lewis actually caught 23 passes, ten of which resulted in a first down.  Is there anything more fun to a Packer fan than watching Big Dog turn downfield with the ball, and start pounding through defenders, many of them getting brushed aside like flies off a horse. 

General managers love him because of his durability.  He has never had a major injury.  In only two of his first sixteen seasons has he missed more than one game.  “It’s hard work” he says of his offseason conditioning program, much of which involves mixed martial arts.  “I feel like when you work your butt off you put yourself in position to catch a little luck (with injuries)”. 

Regarding the longevity record for tight ends, Lewis just smiles and says “this year I’ll tie the record.  It would be great to break it, and then I would consider, okay, I’ve done that.  Eighteen (seasons) is kind of bazaar.”  His latest contract will expire after this season.  To break the record, someone would need to bring him back for one more campaign. 

Salary cap permitting, I’m guessing the Packers would be first in line. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (33)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

June 24, 2022 at 06:34 am

I for one love that "Big Dog" is back. I mean common, who doesn't love watching Lewis catching a pass in the flat and then watching him rumble and stumble down the field. He did that more last season than any other season in GB so far, many times for a big first down.

That play against the 49ers when he fumbled broke my heart. First off for Lewis who's NOT a fumbler, not in the least. It was his first as a Packer and his first SINCE 2013. But also for the Packers offense. After that play, it seemed the Packers completely lost the ability to move the ball down the field. After that play, Rodgers seemed to completely ignore the rest of the Packers who didn't wear a #17 or #33 on their jersey.

Big Dog is back to finish some business. No matter who the Packers decide to play at RT, Lewis will probably be right there next to him PAVING the way for Dillon and Jones.

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Swisch's picture

June 24, 2022 at 04:37 pm

I, too, am a big fan of the Big Dog, but it did seem that he was holding the football rather carelessly before that fumble against the 49ers, which was surprising to me in a veteran of his distinction.
I'm glad if it's an aberration, because it is a treat to see him after a reception rumbling without bumbling for big plays down the field.
May he continue to be a force for the Packers to win a Super Bowl title.

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PatrickGB's picture

June 24, 2022 at 04:13 pm

He lamented about that for quite some time. Yet Warner is sneaky good too and came up from behind him.

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Swisch's picture

June 24, 2022 at 04:43 pm

I'm glad if he is willingly accountable and cares about it deeply enough to correct it -- but hope he doesn't dwell on it.
I can live with honest mistakes by players doing their best to be coachable and giving their all for teammates and fans.
Here's hoping he gets an opportunity to make a big play toward a title.

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SanLobo's picture

June 24, 2022 at 07:39 am

I’m glad to see Lewis on the field. Not for nostalgia’s sake, but because he is still getting the job done. And because he brings experience and leadership to a young TE room. He is still good for the team.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 24, 2022 at 07:56 am

The secret of the LaFleur offense is that we have six offensive linemen and a WR who can get guys blocked.

Lots of people wish we had a seam-splitting pass catcher at TE. Not me. I Ike these guys like EdWest, and Bubba, and Marcedes, who get their guy blocked and catch a couple of short passes.

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mrtundra's picture

June 24, 2022 at 08:17 am

Love me some Big Dog! I am glad he is back with the Pack playing his usual role as a blocking TE. I love it when ARod passes the ball to him as he plows over and through defenders. I love how much the fans love him and especially how much his teammates love him. A true leader and a great locker room presence! He's gotta make the Packer Hall of Fame, after he retires. Here's hoping that won't be for a while, yet! GO PACK, GO!!!

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wildbill's picture

June 24, 2022 at 05:43 pm

Love Big Dog but a Big No for the Packer Hall Of Fame .

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stockholder's picture

June 24, 2022 at 09:31 am

Sorry; but you're looking for a unicorn here. He isn't. He fumbled in the play offs. His blocking can be replaced by a Back- up Tackle. And maybe his hands too. Sure he's still got the talk. But he hasn't gotten better. I don't wish him bad. But he's over-paid now. And it translates too; the packers must get BETTTER, at TE. What needs to be done with the TEs? Is better requirements. (Size ,Speed, Blocking etc.) . Sure, Lewis might be a roll model. But I'm just not seeing it. Looking across the board. Rodgers and the packers are in a world of hurt at TE. And the more they try and be versatile. The players don't/won't fit the Cap room. Lewis hasn't been enough. The TE position must be corrected. And the sooner the better.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 24, 2022 at 10:30 am

“His blocking can be replaced by a backup tackle…..”

That much is true. In fact, if it was a good tackle it might even improve the blocking. About 20 years ago, the Packers lined up a tackle at TE and had great success with it, especially against undersized defenses. Ahman Green had a fantastic season.

I think we had the league’s #1 scoring offense in 2020, and the #1 time of possession offense last year with the TEs we have. I also think that the TE is not a big part of the passing game, and that’s by design. Their #1 job is blocking.

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Oppy's picture

June 25, 2022 at 10:26 am

Good ol' "U-71" formation

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BradHTX's picture

June 24, 2022 at 05:20 pm

Christmas morning at the Stockholder house…

Daughter: “Daddy, Daddy! Look at the cool bike Santa brought me!”

Stockholder: “Meh. It’s not a pony…”

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 24, 2022 at 06:13 pm

😁Why would someone downvote that?

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Oppy's picture

June 25, 2022 at 10:27 am

It can only be one of two people:

1) Stockholder

2) Stockholder's daughter

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Mmergendahl's picture

June 24, 2022 at 09:13 am

Bizarre not bazaar. Sheesh.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 24, 2022 at 10:17 am

There is a huge difference in the careers of Lewis with Gonzalez, Witten, and others unmentioned. Yes, some players for whatever reason get the opportunities to hang around for what seems forever, mostly because of a niche that a team can use because it can't find a younger player of equal value. Lewis is that player. To make his career into something much more than it is or was, especially in the comparison to the two mentioned TEs is wrong and any Packer fan should feel shame in doing or attempting to do so based on years played. There is no comparison between them that is of lesser value than the unremarkable career of Lewis with those mentioned. Lewis, by true comparison, is nothing more than a Participation Trophy winner in the league for longevity and not much else. Blocking TEs won't get a HOF call no matter how you pump up the blocking ability of a TE.

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Packers0808's picture

June 24, 2022 at 11:58 am

You know you and stockholder always so "F"ing negative should really just find a good site that allows you to complain and abandon this site for people who actually enjoy and like the Pack and its players. Both of you probably have a hard time finding your way out of your home john!

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barutanseijin's picture

June 25, 2022 at 09:52 am

I don’t agree with Taryn or stocky, but this place doesn’t need to be a go team go rah rah pep rally, either.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 24, 2022 at 12:07 pm

I guess you wouldn’t want me pointing out the similarities between the career totals of Marcedes Lewis and Keith Jackson.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 24, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Please do, One played for 9 years the other played for 17 and soon to be 18.
Something tells me you're going to say the numbers are near equal in total, less the 9 extra played by one, or will you compare the GB years for each, where one has done more in less than the one you seem to be defending. How is this a comparison that makes Lewis better or equal?

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Leatherhead's picture

June 25, 2022 at 11:14 am

His career numbers are HOF worthy. The length of his career......only Tony Gonzales played more games at TE.

IMO, having a good 17 year career is every bit as remarkable as having a great 8 year career. I haven't checked yet, but I suspect that a real high percentage of guys who've played as many games as Lewis go to the HOF. Obviously, the men who make their living off of NFL football like having this guy on the team. He was the #1 TE on the league's highest scoring offense. Does he get any credit for that at all?

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

June 24, 2022 at 12:25 pm

Shamed? You want to tell people to feel shame. Oh yeah, that's just what our world needs right now is shame over fondness for an NFL player who has been a contributor and done absolutely nothing wrong. Sure, blast LaFleur or Gutey if you think he does not deserve a roster spot. And I didn't see a hint of anyone saying he was as valued as Witten or Gonzales. Also we have no clue what all he is doing to develop the young TEs and what those guys have learned from him. There is value in that as well.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 24, 2022 at 12:54 pm

Who's talking about the world feeling shame. Let's keep it to the CHTV fans who believe Lewis should be mentioned in the same thought as Gonzalez and Witten.

The inability for the FO to find a younger TE that can block is a dis toward them. Which TE is able to relieve Lewis of his roster spot. It's one thing to keep a guy for his ability or his one benefit, and it's another to fail to get a younger player to fill that roster spot. The QB position is the one that has a justified reason for not doing so, other positions do not so much. When the one you think is being trained to do so arrives and does so, I'll speak of that player, but they are reliant on a 38-year-old TE to block and make a huge deal of the few passes he catches because Rodgers finds him. Tell me now that Love will find him before getting sacked etc. Lewis's total( micro) offense is due to Rodgers and the only reason he remains since his blocking won't be helping Love. The sole reason for keeping Lewis is Rodgers's ability to see/find at times. He would not be on another team with a QB far less than Rodgers's ability, otherwise, he wouldn't be in GB.

Yes, we are all clueless until we see the product revealed from behind the scenes. That's why this is an opinion and something that you and others seem to want to deny others, like me especially, who simply won't play by your clique rules. Is it my defying the rules or that you cannot agree to some of my points out of false loyalty to the clique. I'll go with the latter, as nobody can honestly that willingly blind, or can one.

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Packers0808's picture

June 24, 2022 at 02:05 pm

Assumption is all you got!

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Grandfathered's picture

June 24, 2022 at 09:21 pm

I enjoy Taryn's occasional despairing tenor, when served with somewhat dark poetic style.

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Oppy's picture

June 25, 2022 at 10:33 am

"Let's keep it to the CHTV fans who believe Lewis should be mentioned in the same thought as Gonzalez and Witten."

I think you've invented an opposing narrative for yourself to argue against. Who has been claiming that Marcedes Lewis' talent is comparable to Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten? The author says his career length is equal. No more, no less.

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Jaqu’eau's picture

June 24, 2022 at 03:31 pm

A little dramatic considering, to most readers, the author’s comparison was mainly about longevity. Playing TE is a grueling profession, whether one is blocking defensive ends or getting hammered catching balls down the seam. Football, especially in Green Bay, has always been about the folk hero and fan favorites, even if sometimes, their tangible or statistical achievements don’t match the level of pride. I enjoy cheering for Lewis because he delivers much more often than not and he’s on my favorite team. If he is admired, respected by his teammates, inspires them, and maintains a high level of play, then I am all in, whether he’s an all-pro or not.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 24, 2022 at 04:10 pm

I can respect any player lasting as long as Lewis, but the article implied that a record was being broken and then placed Lewis in the same category as the two mentioned, as though their 17 seasons were on par with Lewis's, and being in the NFL and doing in the NFL for the same years is different, and that is why they shouldn't be in the same category or used in the comparison. My headline would be as such.

"Mercedes Lewis has endured and is beginning his 18th season in the NFL."

I would make no mention of him breaking a record of two HOF'ers, but simply say what his best attributes were, and not make it seem on the same level. Is it possibly nit-picking, sure, but too often and easily do we disregard the play of others to make another feel more than he was. Those mentioned are not equal in the 17 years of play and it shouldn't be deemed to be in any manner.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 24, 2022 at 06:22 pm

At no point did the author say Lewis was in the same category of a player as the other two. Longevity was the only comparison. Really stretching for something to bitch about today.

Open your blinds and you might discover it's a sunny day outside your window once in awhile.

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Lphill's picture

June 24, 2022 at 02:53 pm

If Lewis will be productive then great , but don’t overlook Dafney and his blocking skills either.

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CheesyTex's picture

June 24, 2022 at 04:31 pm

Big dog is pictured blocking Bears' #38 Amos, Jr. -- Adrian Amos.

Deliberate, or just to see whether or not we are looking?

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Gman1976's picture

June 24, 2022 at 10:20 pm

Big Dog may not be a big time pass catcher, but he is an inspiration to a lot of players, coaches, and fans. His longevity is quite remarkable for being in the NFL (Not For Long league). Happy to have him. He is not a jag, but an accomplished blocker and great teammate who has had a nice career. Sure, we would like to have a Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez-type TE on the team; but we can't have a superstar at every position. Big Dog may not be Hall of Famer, but he is a bright star to many of us for doing the dirty work and helping our well-paid stars be successful.

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Gman1976's picture

June 24, 2022 at 10:20 pm

Big Dog may not be a big time pass catcher, but he is an inspiration to a lot of players, coaches, and fans. His longevity is quite remarkable for being in the NFL (Not For Long league). Happy to have him. He is not a jag, but an accomplished blocker and great teammate who has had a nice career. Sure, we would like to have a Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez-type TE on the team; but we can't have a superstar at every position. Big Dog may not be Hall of Famer, but he is a bright star to many of us for doing the dirty work and helping our well-paid stars be successful.

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