Butler: Packers Will Follow Their Leader

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In football, one team's loss is another's gain.

And this week the Green Bay Packers found out they'd be losing a great one in running backs coach Sylvester Croom, who on Tuesday accepted the head coaching position at Mississippi State.

A longtime NFL assistant, Croom is a fantastic coach and an outstanding man. And if I was at Mississippi State right now, he's just the person I'd want taking over my football program.

When times are tough, teams look to strong leaders.

That's why Mississippi State needs Sly Croom. And that's why the Green Bay Packers shouldn't worry about who is leaving, but feel confident because of who is still around.

Trailing the Minnesota Vikings by a game in the race for the NFC North championship, the Packers can find all the leadership they'll ever need in the same place they've found it for more than a decade.

Brett Favre.

Since September of 1992, coaches and players have come and gone in Green Bay but Favre hasn't missed a start for the Packers.

This weekend he'll pass Forrest Gregg as the team's all-time leader for consecutive regular season games played.

As a former teammate of Favre's, I can't tell you what it means to know that your best warrior is going to be on the field every week without fail. And yet as I read the comments of some Packers fans this week, a good number of them wondered whether Favre is hurting the team by playing with a broken thumb.

It's a fair question, I suppose, coming off of the Detroit Lions game in which Favre fumbled the ball once and had three interceptions.

But to me the idea that Packers fans would want anyone other than Favre at quarterback is hard to comprehend. Maybe because I know that opposing defenses would rather face any other quarterback than No. 4. And maybe because I haven't forgotten about all the big plays Favre has made this season.

Sure, he hasn't thrown for 300 yards in a game. Sure, the offense has been led by Ahman Green. Sure, opponents down the stretch will try to stop the run and force the Packers to throw like Detroit did last week.

But even if the 2003 Packers don't pass as much as the teams of the mid-90s, Favre remains as dangerous as ever.

Despite his injury and increased attention on the running game, Favre still has managed to complete a touchdown pass in 21 straight games. And his 18 touchdown passes this season tie him for the NFC lead.

Yet Favre's best contribution to the team isn't even what he brings on game days, but what he brings to the practice field and the locker room.

He's never been a vocal leader, but he practices just as hard on Wednesdays as he plays on Sundays, and nobody plays harder than Favre.

The impact that has on a team goes beyond statistics and it outweighs even the most costly of turnovers.

Even if Brett Favre, at 34, doesn't seem to play the same kind of football he used to, there isn't a team in the league that wouldn't want him wearing their uniform right now, which is why it's ludicrous to think the Packers would ever want him out of theirs.

I guarantee you that there isn't a player in the Packers locker room who wants Favre on the sidelines.

And with only four must-win games left this season, resting the iron man isn't an option anyway.

Injured or healthy, Favre gives the Packers the best chance to win each week. His strong plays outweigh his mistakes.

And right now the Packers need their leader where he's always been: on the field.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

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