Letters To LeRoy Butler

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Hey Leroy, in the first playoff game we will be hosting are you worried about playing the Vikings because it is very hard to beat a team 3 times in 1 season. - Mitchell (Plainview, WI)

It is difficult to beat a team three times in a row because they will have a chance to watch the film and make corrections on what happened to cause them to lose, just like the Packers can watch that film and see what was successful and build on it.

But if you asked me if I would rather play a team that I haven't seen in maybe two or three years or a team that I see twice a year every year, I would rather play the team that I'm more familiar with.

I especially think the Packers are looking forward to playing the Vikings again because Minnesota's not riding real high right now. They backed their way into the playoffs and it will be interesting to see what kind of emotion they come out with on Sunday.

You always would rather play a team that doesn't have a lot of confidence, and I think the Saints or Panthers would have been a more difficult opponent because they were both playing well at the end of the season. With all that said, I think the Vikings are the right opponent.

After watching the game on Sunday against the Bears, I was just wondering - In your opinion, how good is Craig Nall? He seemed to play very well all season when he was given the opportunity to play. Do you think he could take over the job of starting QB someday in Green Bay? - Jake (Eau Claire, WI)

Think about this - look at Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer, Kurt Warner, Doug Pederson, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck - all these guys have something in common. They were all Brett Favre's backup at one time in their careers.

They all moved on to other teams and have been starting quarterbacks, most of them making big money and leading their teams to a good amount of success.

Craig Nall is definitely the future of the Green Bay Packers, and I think he can definitely step up and make the throws that the coaches would like him to make. I think he's going to be the quarterback of the future - if not in Green Bay, it will be somewhere because he's definitely going to be a starter in this league.

He's smart, he has a strong arm, he's big - he's everything that you want in a quarterback. And he's been in this system for a couple years behind Brett Favre and he's learned what it takes to run a football team.

Hey LeRoy, nice to know we're in the playoffs, but I'm hoping that we'll get as far as we possibly can. I think that one thing that has been a thorn in our side has been our kickoff and punt return coverage. If you saw the punt returns that Philly made against us, as well as the kickoff returns that opponents are regularly making, I think you can see that we really need to practice that better. How does a team practice that kind of special teams coverage though? We are giving up far too many yards on those (except for Jason Horton's tackle on Burleson last week) to survive the toughest games, and they really should go over that in practices! Thanks, and hopefully this element improves and we can get to the Super Bowl! - Ken (Bridgewater, NJ)

I think the special teams understand the magnitude of playoff games and have been getting better over the last few weeks, with more improvements to come in the postseason. John Bonamego is one of the better special teams coaches in the league, and he's good at confusing other teams with his blocking schemes and coverages.

The special teams will definitely be relied upon to win a game in the playoffs, since it takes great contributions from all three phases - offense, defense, and special teams - to do damage in the postseason.

As far as the practices go, you can't really practice with full contact, but the coaching staff puts the special teams units through an extra 30 minutes of high-speed work at the start of every practice the Packers have.

Hi LeRoy, Love your column. I've been to a few home games when I've sat in the end zone and noticed that while on defense, the crowd waits for the opponents huddle to break before getting loud. In your opinion, could a louder crowd while they are in the huddle disrupt the opponents' plays? - Keith (Green Bay, WI)

I think any time the crowd gets into it, it's hard for the visiting team to get done what they want to get done, even when they're standing right next to each other in the huddle.

That's the one thing about home field advantage - you've got to yell every time the opponent has the ball. You've got to let your team know that you're behind them and let the other team know that nothing's going to be easy for them at Lambeau Field.

I think home team players feed off the crowd's energy just as much as the visitors are affected negatively by it. If you've got a sold-out crowd yelling and screaming, players just get excited, their juices get flowing, and they get very aggressive.

The best thing about the crowd at Lambeau Field is that they are very intelligent and they know that they are part of the game and know when to get loud and help their Packers.

It seems like the Packers defense played better in the second half of almost all of the games? Am I wrong? Why do the Packers seem to struggle in the first half? - Steve (Hudson, WI)

I think you've hit on one of the big problems the defense has faced all year - coming out of the box fast and making plays early. Had they started games a lot faster this year, I think you could be looking at a 12-4 or 13-3 record right now.

One game that really cost the team was the Monday night game against the Tennessee Titans. The Packers fell behind early because they didn't come out on fire. The most important quarters of the game are the first and the fourth quarters. You've got to start fast and finish strong.

I believe that will be one of the team's main focus points in the postseason - getting off to a quick start on both sides of the ball. If the defense can make a big play early in the ballgame - much like you saw them do in the second Monday Night Football game at Lambeau against the St. Louis Rams - you'll see them run away with a game.

How would you describe the difference between players who show confidence and players who just show off? Is it usually a situation where it evolves with maturity and experience or is it all about character? Look forward to your column every week LeRoy. Thanks. - Peggy (Bloomer, WI)

A lot of it is character. The difference between having confidence and showing off is that when you're showing off, you're by yourself and trying to draw as much attention to yourself as possible, rather than just celebrating with your teammates.

If you're having fun with your teammates, I don't see anything wrong with that at all. Any kind of individual act is something that the Packers have never really been fond of promoting. I think you should play hard, have fun, and celebrate with your teammates and with the fans, but never showboat and try to make yourself more than the game.

Hey LeRoy, why did the Vikings make the playoffs when the Saints have a better conference record? - Caleb (Wind Lake, WI)

Since there were three teams that were tied for the two Wild Card spots with 8-8 records (St. Louis, Minnesota, and New Orleans), here's how the tiebreakers came down to determine who made the playoffs:

First off, the Rams won the three-way tie because they had a better conference record (7-5, compared to 6-6 for the Saints and 5-7 for the Vikings), giving them the #5 seed and a trip to Seattle.

After that, in a two-way tie the first tiebreaker is a head-to-head meeting and the Vikings beat the Saints 38-31 at New Orleans on October 17, the game where Randy Moss injured his hamstring and was knocked out for most of the second half of the season.

*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 again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

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

LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.

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