Skip to main content

Letters To LeRoy Butler


Hello LeRoy, I love reading your answers to all the questions put to you. Here is a hypothetical one for you. You may only pick one group or the other; If you were a head coach, would you pick the top four best defensive lineman, or the top four defensive backs (out of seven) to build a great defense? What group do you think would be the best way to give you a good start at building a great defense? - Jerry (Erie, PA)

I definitely would go for the best defensive linemen because they are rarer than top defensive backs. If you can play four guys who can get after the passer and stop the run, like some of the top defenses of the past few years, you will be successful.

No quarterback can throw when he's on his back and no running back is going to hurt you if he's on his back. A defensive line that can swarm to the quarterback and constantly be in the backfield would allow an average secondary to play better than they really are.

That's why you always hear about teams looking for a pass rusher off the edge, and the Packers are lucky to have a guy who can harass QBs in Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

I think you build from the ground up. If you try to build from the sky down, I just think you'll have to get into shootouts to win games, and I'm not interested in being in a shootout.

LeRoy, At the season's end the healthiest teams make the playoffs. If the NFL were to help teams plagued by injury early in the year by eliminating a preseason game for an extra bye week, helping teams get healthy for a playoff run, in your opinion, would teams, and players favor such a move? - Mark (West Bend, WI)

I think so. My solution to the injury problem is similar.

If it were up to me, each team would only play two preseason games and get moving. Just get into the regular season and make it to where the playoffs would start in December rather than January.

Teams do most of their preparation and evaluation during training camp with practices rather than in the preseason games, and there's always a greater risk for injury in a game situation. Preseason injuries can really hurt a team for the whole season - just look at what happened to the Falcons and Jets last year when their quarterbacks got hurt in games that really didn't mean anything. Their entire seasons were completely changed and they went from playoff contenders to average teams.

LeRoy, I'm a huge fan, I was wondering about what you said in your breakdown about leadership and how some players are going to have to step up. Who do you think a few will be and do you have any examples of these acts of being a leader? - Justin (Montreal, Canada)

Somebody once told me that leadership is overrated, but I'd have to disagree. Leadership is when you're down 14-0, and you reach down inside and don't go to 'rah rah'. You put it on yourself to make a play, and when you make that play, you tell people to watch you and how you're going to play. They will feed off you. That's leadership.

Leadership is when you know the magnitude of a game and you get your teammates ready to play. Not so much holding them up and screaming or taking them in the locker room and ranting and raving. Leadership is just saying the things that get guys motivated.

You would thing that in the pros you wouldn't need that, but leadership is something that you have to have. I had it my whole career - either I was the one in a leadership position or I followed Reggie White or some of the other vets when I first came in.

Anybody can take over a leadership role, but if you don't have leadership it's difficult to succeed.

Hey LeRoy! The Pack used to be so good in the turnover ratio. Why can't they force turnovers anymore? - Michelle (Rensselaer, IN)

That's a good question. Turnovers are definitely stressed every day in meetings and in practiced. I heard about the importance of turnovers every day of my career.

You have to be prepared to go out and get turnovers. An example is that opposing defenses have studied Ahman Green and have seen that he always carries the ball in his left hand, and they attack that hand.

Our guys have to study each runner each week and see how they can take advantage of their tendencies to get the ball out. Every guy has fumbled in his lifetime. The Packer defenders have to go in and study each play and find out what has caused the opponent to fumble in the past, and try to get the ball out.

The reason the Packers haven't gotten many interceptions is that their coverage has not been tight enough. For the most part, nobody has been near enough to the ball to pick the pass off.

To increase turnovers, the defense needs to gang-tackle. The first guy has to stop the runner and hold him up, while the rest of the defense attacks him and strips the ball out.

LeRoy, Many Packer fans are frustrated right now. While I refuse to be negative, I have to say that while at Lambeau Field for the Giants game, I noticed that the team seemed incredibly "flat" ... the same was true last night against the Titans. There just doesn't seem to be any intensity from the players or the coach. Is it just hard to be energetic when you're on a losing streak, or is the losing streak caused by the lack of energy? - Karen (Minneapolis, MN)

That's a very good question. I think it's a little of both and unfortunately they seemingly feed off of each other.

There's only one guy in every helmet. It's up to each player to get ready and be pumped up for each and every game, no matter what the circumstances are. The energy of the crowd can sometimes get guys more ready than others, but last night it seemed like the Titans weren't going to be denied.

I don't know if some of the Packers were counting on winning simply because it was Monday night and they were at home, but you have to go out and treat each game like it's the most important game you've ever played.

Last night I heard John Madden say that in Super Bowl II he was more honored to be standing across from the legendary Vince Lombardi than playing the game. Is this common practice in the NFL and who would you say you were in awe of standing in the same arena with and why? - Mike (Hammond, WI)

I was in awe of Joe Montana the first time I played against him. Everybody is a fan, and they look up to the great players, especially when you're first in the league.

I played against Joe Montana in my rookie year at Lambeau Field, and I thought, 'Man, this is great. I'd love to go pick him off.'

Sometimes coaches like going against certain other coaches. I think you always want to go up against the best and measure yourself against them and try to beat them so that you might be considered in their class.

So far this season the offensive playmakers are turning over the football leading to points by the opposition. Would it be more effective for them to be conservative with the football or continue to try and make plays and just play through the mistakes? Also how does the negative turnover ratio affect the defensive unit? - Mark (Overland Park, KS)

The playmakers have to continue to make plays, but they must hold on to the football. That's just the way it is.

As a defense, if you've just given up a big play, or even if you've done a good job, but then you have to go right back out on the field again, that can be demoralizing. You need time on the sideline to gather yourself, and if you don't have the time to analyze what you're doing and go over some of the corrections, it can have a domino effect. I think that's part of what happened Monday night.

*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 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,*

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content