The Packers drafted Washington State guard Cole Madison in the fifth-round of the 2018 draft, but he stayed away from the team after mandatory minicamp in mid-June and was placed on the reserve/did not report list at the start of training camp. The last report we heard on the matter came in August, when GM Brian Gutekunst indicated that Madison was dealing with a personal issue but that he was expected to eventually contribute to the team.
Michael Cohen of The Athletic has now provided some answers, but they are not pleasant. Cohen reports that Madison has been deeply affected by the death of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide two weeks after playing in the 2018 Holiday Bowl. Madison and Hilinski were close friends, and a source close to Madison said, “[t]he death of Tyler is in his head. I don’t think he’s coming back. At least he’s not showing signs of it right now.”
At the 2019 Senior Bowl last month, Gutekunst neither confirmed nor denied that Hilinski’s death was the source of Madison’s decision to step away from football. Like all other members of Green Bay brass that have been contacted about the matter, he simply said that Madison is dealing with a personal issue and that the team supports him.
Madison was reportedly in good spirits during the draft and all the way through minicamp, but something changed during the interlude between minicamp and training camp. Cohen suggests that Madison’s mindset may have changed when he learned that Hilinski had been suffering from CTE, which was reported in late June.
Green Bay had hoped that Madison could contribute right away and believe he has the potential to be a starting guard. The Packers will not receive a compensatory draft pick if Madison retires or never plays for them. They have paid out a $324K signing bonus — the only guaranteed money in Madison’s standard four-year, $2.78MM rookie contract — and they have made no effort to recoup that bonus at this point.
The Packers could use some help on their O-line, but they will not press the issue. Gutekunst said of Madison’s potential return, “If that happens, it’s great. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”