Letters To LeRoy Butler

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Hey LeRoy, this year I am sure you have seen the play of tight ends around the league. With this rise in play from that group why hasn't Bubba Franks been one of those guys having a career year, because I put him in the top five of the NFL as a tight end. Is it because of the play of Javon Walker or is it that the Packers no longer want to play short and middle of the field and go for the home run? - Brian (Moreno Valley, CA)

I think whenever teams play a lot of cover-two defense, the Packers don't really send the tight end down the middle of the field like you've seen other teams do. The Packers tend to send the tight ends up the middle primarily in the red zone and on a lot of crossing routes in other areas of the field.

Bubba Franks makes a lot of athletic plays and is widely known as one of the top tight ends in the league. He's been to three Pro Bowls in five seasons with the Packers and defenses realize that he's a big target and try to take him away much of the time.

Bubba is a guy that the Green Bay Packers definitely need to keep around and he's going to be a free agent at the end of this season.

LeRoy, The Packers young defensive backs seem to be improving but penalties remain a problem. Some of the calls however seem to be very ticky-tack and I was wondering if you thought because they have gotten a reputation that the referees are unfairly looking for or anticipating an interference call. I realize that there has been a crackdown league wide on defensive backs but I see many teams getting away with much more contact and not being flagged. - Tom (Gilbertville, IA)

Absolutely, the officials are going to be watching the Packers defensive backs more closely because they've developed a reputation for committing penalties. And if the officials weren't going to watch for it, the opposition would definitely remind them to watch for infractions, just to gain an advantage.

The officials have now started to watch the defensive backs instead of watching the receivers, and any time you stick your arm out on defense, they're going to throw the flag. It's almost an unfair advantage for the offense, but people like to see a lot of points, so that's the way the league wants the officials to call the games.

I think some of the penalties the Packers have gotten thrown on them have been pretty unfair and ticky-tack. I think that's the reason why the Packers' defenders have gotten a bad name - some of the calls have been warranted - but I wish the officials would just let the guys play.

Hi Leroy, I have a technical question: When I see really old NFL film from games from the 1940's, it seems that the players hardly wore any padding. From the 1960's onwards, it seems like there was more and more padding. Now it seems like there is less and less again. I know the players want to look sleek and don't want to play with the extra weight of padding, but isn't the reduction in padding responsible for more on-field injuries? If so, wouldn't it be better for players if the NFL mandated the use of certain padding for everyone? Thanks in advance for answering my question! - Sue (Bethesda, MD)

Injuries are going to come as part of the game, no matter how much padding you wear. When I played, I didn't wear any thigh pads or knee pads because I felt that I wanted to be able to run faster.

Plus, most of the receivers weren't wearing the pads either, so I said, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' After I took the pads off, I was faster and was able to run with the receivers and cover them a lot more easily.

Although someone wearing less padding to be able to run faster will be at risk compared to someone who wears the full suit of armor, it's just one of those things where once you accept that injuries are a part of the game, you just line up and play and don't worry about getting hurt.

Hi LeRoy, As I'm a huge Packers fan but don't have a lot of technical knowledge of the game, I really appreciate your insight (and your great play with the Packers)! I had read that NFL teams don't do "real" tackling during practice due to the potential for injury. Is this true and how do the Packers practice their tackling techniques? It seems to be an ongoing issue for them even with the thrilling win Friday. Thanks! - Mary (Grafton, WI)

That's a very good question. You definitely can't do much, if any, live tackling during the season because if a guy gets hurt in practice, that's one of the worst things that can happen. One thing the players must do is to get to practice early and work on hitting the tackling dummy, which is a still target.

The Packers also have another dummy that moves, and as it moves, you have move your feet and that drill really helps your technique. It's a tough target, and if you work on those drills before and after practice, your tackling will improve.

Guys work on these drills, but the problem I've seen in the games is that it seems like guys on the defense are going for "kill shots" instead of just worrying about tackling and wrapping up the ball-carrier. The way it's supposed to work is the first guy makes the tackle and the next guy in goes for the ball. That's how the players are taught and that's how they have to play.

LeRoy - I have a 'what if' question. If a team decides to kick a field goal on third down and misses it, do they get it again to try on fourth down or do they have to turn it to the other team? - Gail (Brookfield, WI)

I know you often hear the TV announcers suggest late in the game that a team should try their game-winning or tying field goal on third down to make sure they allow some room for error.

While that can be a good idea, it's not because you get a second chance if the kicker misses the kick on third down. Once the ball has been kicked, if it doesn't go through the uprights on the goalpost, it will be the opposing team's ball.

However if there's a bad snap or bad hold and the kicker never gets to kick the ball on third down, the team would get a chance to try again on fourth down, but the line of scrimmage would be where the holder got tackled with the ball.

With the game against Chicago having no playoff standing implications, as a player how would you prefer to handle that situation -- play and stay sharp (hey, it is Chicago and they beat you earlier), rest up and heal or avoid injury, treat it like a pre-season game and play a little and sit down early? - Ron (Sykesville, MD)

I would treat it like a preseason game, much like you saw the Philadelphia Eagles do against the St. Louis Rams this week. My guess is that Mike Sherman will play the starters a little bit and get them out of there.

The guys are sharp right now. They don't have to worry about a two-week layoff if they rest for the second half on Sunday. They're going to be ready for the playoff game with two weeks of hard practice and some time on the field on Sunday.

This is also a great opportunity to get a look at some of the guys you might have to turn to in a key situation in the playoffs. You want to see what Craig Nall and Andrae Thurman and some of the backups on defense can do, just in case they have to step in when a playoff game is on the line.

Playing in a big rivalry game like this week against the Bears will give them a good shot to show everyone what they are capable of.

*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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