Letters To LeRoy Butler

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Hey Leroy! First off, I think that Ryan Longwell is one of the best kickers in the league. How important is it to have such a clutch kicker that when you put him in the game you feel confident he can make the kick? Also, who do you think is the best Packer kicker of all time? Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell, or someone else? - Aaron (Brandon, SD)

A clutch kicker can be the difference in two or three extra wins for a team every season. Good teams find themselves losing games they shouldn't just because they don't have a consistently clutch kicker. Just look at New England - Adam Vinatieri might not be the best kicker as far as percentages, but he's made the big kicks in the clutch, and I think Longwell will be ready to do the same if he's called on.

Ryan Longwell has got to be the best kicker in Packer history. He's got all the records for most field goals, most points scored, and has been a very consistent kicker over the years.

He has the range to kick 50-plus yarders and he is between 85 and 95% every year. That's exactly what you want from a kicker. I can think of a lot of clutch kicks that he's made and he's never, ever let the team down that I can remember.

LeRoy, Much props to your weekly insight. There is no doubt the Packers have been committed to establishing a run game (and have done so) from Levens to Bennett, and now Green. However, it would appear that opponents now concentrate on stopping the "run first" offense of the Packers. Would it be safe to say that because the Packers come in each game with a goal of establishing the run that it has become less affective? Would a better philosophy be to come into games passing and open up the run from there? To me this appears to be the key to the past success of the run. Favre is still a weapon but teams do not focus as much on that. - E (Denver, CO)

When you look at game plans, it's no secret to other teams that the Packers want to run the ball. If you look at all the top backs in the league, defenses know they are going to run the ball. What you have to be able to do to counteract the defense is to run play-action and hit them down the field with deep passes. That's what will open the run up.

Whenever you have a guy that rushed for 1,800 yards and the team led the NFC in rushing, people are going to stack the deck against you. The Packers have ways to get Ahman Green and the rest of the running backs on the perimeter and up the field.

I think the Packers will take advantage of whatever the opposing defenses show that they want to shut down. If they decide to concentrate on stopping the run, Brett Favre is able to pick them apart through the air, and if they want to try to shut down the passing game, the offensive line and Ahman Green will move the ball down the field.

I like the plays Sherman called against the Lions. Do you think his play calling contributed to the win? Thank you LeRoy! - Garrett (Long Beach, CA)

I think his play calling contributed a lot, but that's no different than the weeks when Tom Rossley's play calls have contributed to wins over the years. You get into a rhythm as a play-caller and get really focused in on what the offense is doing.

For a head coach to be able to do that and still worry about the other phases of the game, it takes a special person to be able to do that. Coach Sherman was able to do that Sunday. Some of the top coaches in the league have been able to do it, and I think Sherman can be right along with them.

But when you have a guy like Tom Rossley who has been very effective, it's helpful to let him call the plays so you can still be equally focused on all parts of the game.

Hey LeRoy! Great win on Sunday! Now that we have a huge win to ride on, do you think that this is the spring that the packers need to get back on track in the NFC north? Also, we only let up 10 points on defense; do you think that the secondary is doing better now that Ahmad Carroll is in the starting lineup? Go Pack! - Ryan (Chicago, IL)

I think this win is just what the Packers needed, but they still need a few more to get back into the thick of the race. They've got the Dallas Cowboys coming up and the Washington Redskins after that before the bye week. If they win those games, they will be back to .500 with two weeks to prepare for the Minnesota Vikings at home.

Another benefit to winning those games will be that those are all NFC rivals who you would be hurting in the potential race for the playoffs. Every game is important, but the NFC games are more important, and the NFC North games, like Sunday's win over Detroit, are the most important.

I think the secondary had a good game and Carroll got a good chance to learn in the game. Whenever you're a wide receiver, quarterback, or cornerback - the only way you're going to learn in the NFL is if you play. He's going to make rookie mistakes every now and then, but those are growing pains. He has to know that he is a target and teams are going to throw their best stuff at him. He's going to get better each week.

Hey LeRoy, love your analysis and the packers and am sick of hearing about the Eagles. I saw the game and after the interception by Sharper the defense really picked up. Was that all the defense needed, for someone to make a big play? Or did the defense just need a leader? Thanks GO PACK GO - Darayus (Philadelphia, PA)

Both. The defense needed somebody to step out and separate themselves and take it upon themselves to make a big play. That's what leaders do. Leadership is not just about what you say, it's more about what you do out on the field.

Just like on offense, a defense will feed off of someone making big plays, especially on the road. That was just what the Packers needed. That play kind of demoralized the Lions and it seemed like the game was over after that touchdown.

Do the kickers and punters practice tackling just in case they have to make the tackle in the game? - Erik (Sumter, SC)

Not really, they just know that have to essentially slow down the kick returner if they ever get caught in that position. I've seen kickers get hurt throwing their bodies around trying to make tackles when that's not really what they're on the field for. You kind of hope they stay away from contact.

Kickers should just slow down the returner enough for the rest of the coverage team to get there and make the tackle. Those guys are out on the field to make plays with their feet, not by making big hits.

How do you feel about the home crowd booing its team? Seems like ever since the Atlanta playoff debacle, the Green Bay fans have been apt to booing, almost like they are waiting to boo. Is this constructive at all to the players? does it motivate them somehow or does this bring them down even farther? Is there anyway to get the message to fans that booing the home team is not acceptable and we need to stick with these guys even through the tough times? Thanks LeRoy. - Spencer (Las Vegas, NV)

We're all accountable. The players are accountable for their play on the field and the fans are accountable for their behavior in the stands. A standard that Packers fans are held to by being called 'The Greatest Fans in America' is that you're not supposed to boo and you're definitely not supposed to leave games at halftime.

That was the most disappointing thing I've ever seen at Lambeau Field. When ABC showed on Monday Night Football all those "fans" leaving at halftime, I was really disappointed. As bad as that game may have been, you should still stand by your team in good times and in bad times.

These players definitely don't accept losing at home, but when the "fans" turn their backs on them, that doesn't help things. You have to stand by the team win, lose, or draw.

I think the fans have gotten spoiled with all the success the Packers have had, so they expect a lot, and rightfully so. The answer to their disappointment isn't booing, the best response is to get behind the guys and cheer them on to victory.

*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.*

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