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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Hello Leroy. How physical can the corners be in the first five yards? Are the young guys bumping enough at the line? - David (Minneapolis, MN)

That's where you've got to be your toughest, within that first five yards. That's where you can really throw a receiver off of his route. All passing plays are built on timing, so if you can disrupt the timing within those first five yards, you won't have to worry about a lot of downfield stuff.

It's key to get your hands on the guy at the line of scrimmage. If you're going to go up there, you might as well be aggressive. Why else even go up there?

In your opinion, can the Packers afford to give away such good field position to a season full of foes with short kickoffs? We all know Ryan is dead accurate but what's the trade-off in your opinion? - Big D (Scottsdale, AZ)

That's a good question. Until the defense gets where it needs to be, they want to make sure each kick is inside the five-yard line.

I think Ryan has the ability to do that. He's got to make sure to move the ball a little bit on kickoffs, though. Not just kick it down the middle, but kick it deep right or deep left. Hopefully, he can get enough distance on it to where the other 10 guys can cover.

The Packers' kickoff team is one of the best in the league at getting down there and making tackles. If Ryan can get the runner to catch the ball inside the five, which I think he can, they can stop teams from starting on the 30-yard line.

The Packers have had trouble in the past beating teams when the opposing team's QB runs a lot. Have the Pack tried to address this during preseason? - Kris (Eureka, MT)

The Packers have put in a package called a 'Spy' package. When they go up against a quarterback like Michael Vick or Daunte Culpepper, they will assign a guy to make sure he doesn't win the game with his legs, to keep him in the pocket.

When they want to, I think the Packers can stop anybody. They'll put a linebacker, probably Nick Barnett, out there to follow the quarterback wherever he goes. He's as fast as any guy out there on the field. It's kind of like a box-and-one defense in basketball where you focus on taking one guy out.

LeRoy, I Loved watching you play the game. Your abilities to read and to anticipate are still missed. Concerning the new rules adopted for d-backs this year, what rules will the officials enforce on wide receivers? In particular, how much latitude will be given to wide receivers to push-off to create separation in the fashion so successfully employed by Terrell Owens today, and players like Cris Carter and Michael Irvin in the past? - Ted Wittig (Sonoma, CA)

New rules are usually set up for offenses to score more points. You will very rarely see a referee make a call on an offensive player, because they figure if a receiver is pushing, the defensive guy is getting too close and he's just trying to separate. They almost never make that call.

I wish they would make those calls both ways, but it doesn't look like they are going to. You just have to teach your defensive backs to be aggressive within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and after that, try to get into great position.

Hey LeRoy, with the new emphasis on pass interference, do you think it's time the NFL adjusted the penalty to bring it more in line with other infractions? A pass interference can be up to a 99-yard penalty. While some may argue that if no PI had occurred, the pass would have been complete, you could argue that when a defensive lineman holds the running back, he also could have gone the distance. I thing the penalty should be 5-10 yards and an automatic first down. - Randy (Sturtevant, WI)

That's a great question. I think what they should do is, if it's a pass over 20 yards, you get 20 yards. If the pass is under 20, it should be a spot foul like it is now. I don't think any penalty should be more than 20 yards.

To put a team on the one-yard line if they throw a 65-yard bomb, that takes away from the aggressiveness of the defender.

On the other hand, if that were the rule, defensive backs might just start tackling receivers if they got beat, and only give up 20 yards.

It's hard to decide on that, so I guess we'll just have to leave the rule as it stands.

Leroy: Can you explain how best to defend the tall receivers we will be seeing this year (Moss, Owens, etc.)? Not the obvious part - getting a decent pass rush, etc. - but the TECHNIQUE our corners will use. For example, does your technique change when you go up against a taller receiver vs. say a small, fast receiver? How do you know when to stop looking at the receiver and turn to look back for the ball (which, if memory serves, you were pretty darn good at, Leroy)? - Randy (Green Bay, WI)

I remember playing against Herman Moore, and he's 6'4". I would tell myself that I would have to beat him to the spot where the ball was going to be. Once I get to the spot, it's all about quickness. I try to jump quicker than him - I know he can jump higher than me, but if I jump before he does, I have the advantage. I have to make sure to always look for the ball.

It's just like boxing out for a rebound in basketball. When that ball's in the air, you want to box out and elevate to the ball. Make the receiver go through you to get to the ball.

To know when to look for the ball, when you're running down the field with the receiver, you have to look at his eyes. If his eyes get big, you know the ball's coming, and you turn and lean and look for the ball.

If the receiver does not look for the ball until the last minute, as soon as he reaches his hands out, you turn and elevate. At that point, it's just a reaction. If he doesn't look for the ball, you don't look. If he looks, you look.

Do you think that Darren Sharper is the next LeRoy Butler? - Anthony (Louisville, KY)

Those are some big shoes to fill, but yes I do think Darren could be qualified as the next LeRoy Butler. I think I'd like to see him blitz a little more, though. He's pretty much filled my shoes on everything except in one capacity, and that's vocal leadership.

Stat-wise, I think Darren will be better than LeRoy Butler. The leadership qualities - and that's what I'm working with him on - being vocal and making sure he's the leader of the defense, is what he's got to do. Just because you're an All-Pro, that doesn't make you a leader. The leaders show by example and also vocally, and I think he can be a great leader for this defense.

Since you were the first to ever jump in the stands behind the end zone, are you proud of the fact that jumping into the stands after a score is now know as the 'Lambeau Leap,' regardless of which team it is? - Danielle (Dallas, TX)

Absolutely, it's great to see it done anywhere. Why I loved it so much was the fans at Lambeau Field. If it wasn't for the fans, we would just hit cold steel when we jumped into the seats. The love of the fans is what created the Lambeau Leap, and that love between players and fans is great everywhere, but especially in Green Bay.

LeRoy, I am helping coach 5th and 6th grade boys tackle football. I am helping out with the Defense. Do you have any basic tips you could give me to give to the boys? - Gary (Willmar, MN)

The basic tip I have is to make sure you teach the kids teamwork. Make sure all 11 kids are on the same page. Do a lot of walk-throughs and a lot of classroom stuff. Not so much physical drills, because they can look good in the drills, but if they don't know where they're going on the field, they're going to get beat.

Teaching, teaching, teaching - I can't emphasize that enough. You've got to teach them exactly what you want them to do, so on Saturday when it's time to play those little league sports, they will take what you've given them and go out and play their best.

*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,*

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