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Letters To LeRoy Butler


LeRoy: Thanks so much for your column and for all of those wise words! What will it take for the Pack to revive its passing game so that we can threaten teams with the run and the pass? Why is Brett Favre throwing so many interceptions? - Chandra (Santa Barbara, CA)

I think Brett Favre's interceptions have come from impatience. He needs to go through his progressions and be willing to throw the ball away when nothing is there. However, his first interception was a simple overthrow.

As for opening up the passing game, there really isn't a reason for the Packers to do that right now considering how well the running game is going.

Simple logic says that there will be games later on this season where the passing game will be more important, but for the moment it would be foolish not to keep pounding the ball on the ground.

And remember that for all of Favre's success winning games in the cold at Lambeau, it's always easier to run the football in winter conditions.

Would you agree that despite a worse record, Green Bay is leaps and bounds better of a team than they were last year? - Joey (Charleston, SC)

Absolutely! Their running game is the best in the league, and maybe the best in Packers history. The wide receivers are better than last season, even if they aren't used as often. The defense right now -- coming off of a great game against San Francisco -- is definitely improved. And the Packers are much better overall on special teams.

Also, I think this Packers team knows more about what it takes to be in the race and really fight for something. Last year's team got up in the standings so fast that they blew away the competition.

In my opinion, teams play harder when they have something to fight for, and in recent weeks the Packers have been fighting for their lives.

If they can make it to the playoffs, and I think they should, their toughness displayed during the season to turn things around will make them a better post-season team.

LeRoy, I hope you can answer this question because no one in this area can. There has been talk from Coach Sherman that much of the upcoming Detroit game has already been planned for in the bye week. What do they really mean by that? To me, any team can change after multiple games. Wouldn't you need to review tape of the last couple of consecutive games to really get a feel for the team? I hope you can shed some light on this! - Bill (Garnavillo, IA)

Bill, you're correct that teams can change from week to week, but not by much. Don't worry, the Packers players and especially the coaches will be reviewing film of the Lions' latest games, but what Coach Sherman has done is very smart.

He has the Packers ahead of the curve for a couple reasons: 1) they play Detroit twice a year, so they're familiar with the Lions players; 2) they've played new head coach Steve Mariucci several times when he was with the 49ers, so they know him too.

From all of those prior meetings, the Packers know the Lions' major tendencies: key formations, key players, key plays.

In the bye week, the coaches laid out that basic information so that the players could absorb it ahead of time. As a result, this week it's more of a refresher course on the opposition than an emergency crash course.

The only thing that's risky for the Packers this week is that they're playing a Lions team that has nothing to lose, so Detroit might run a lot of trick plays or fakes, many of which they probably haven't shown in any games this season.

LeRoy, what is going on? The "predictable" play calling is still in place. Don't you think that the O-line and Ahman Green are going to get beat up and lose their legs? Also, what about the lost passing reps? Don't you think that Mike Sherman is again trying not to lose instead of winning outright? Instead of getting conservative with a lead, put another touchdown on the board and separate your margin. Doesn't that make sense? If it's Brett Favre's thumb then tell us, but with a good team this strategy will only lead to more losses don't you think? Please LeRoy be straight up and address this. Thanks - Big D (Scottsdale, AZ)

Okay, Big D, I'll be straight up.

In the games the Packers have rushed the ball 34 or more times this season, they are 5-2. Their running attack is the best in the NFL. In the last two games, their only turnovers have come in the passing game.

The quarterback has a broken thumb, and over the weekend the weather was cold and wet, which isn't exactly a pass-happy scenario.

So in light of all that, the Packers did exactly what they should have done against San Francisco: Ran the ball over and over.

The Packers finished the game with 243 yards rushing against a quality opponent and they made two huge plays in the passing game, and yet you're still concerned about the play calling. How is that?

Yes, there were probably many times you 'predicted' at home that the Packers were about to run the ball on the upcoming play. And, yes, the 49ers predicted the same, but did they stop it? Never!

I say that if you're the best running team in the league, you should run the ball. I say that when teams rush the ball 48 times, it means that they have a lead and aren't playing from behind.

I'd say there's no reason to ask Brett Favre to pass for 300 yards and four touchdowns when the Packers can win on the ground.

I'd say if you're rooting for the Packers, you shouldn't want them to do anything else until a defense can prove the running game can be stopped. Otherwise, you're doing the opposition a favor.

In your opinion who do you think the player of the game was on both sides of the ball? - Andrew (Hemet, CA)

On offense, it's got to be a tie between Ahman Green (27 carries, 154 yards, no fumbles) and the offensive line (243 yards rushing, 1 sack). On defense, it's Antuan Edwards.

With Darren Sharper out, Edwards stepped up and played a great game. He had a key sack, made a huge tackle on Terrell Owens and made an interception that basically sealed the win for the Packers.

Against the Niners, with our running backs averaging over 5 yards a carry, why would we be throwing the ball short up the middle into tight coverage? It seems to me more screens or deep balls would have been far better calls, especially with their defense up trying to stop the run. Three picks later, someone finally figured it out. - Dan (Port Charlotte, FL)

Dan, I agree with you to a point, but the Packers already had made some big plays down the sideline, so if I'm calling the plays I'm going to assume that San Francisco is going to be soft in the middle.

Give credit to the 49ers for staying home, and remember that some plays just aren't going to work, but they can still be effective at keeping a defense honest.

Play calls aren't responsible for interceptions. If the play isn't there, the quarterback has to just throw the football away.

On Brett Favre's first interception, Bubba Franks was open, he just overthrew him. You can't blame the offensive coordinator for that.

I heard the FOX guys commentating keep referring to the fact that this is no longer Brett Favre's team and that now it is Ahman Green's team. I disagree with this and think that as long as he is wearing the green and gold, No. 4 is unquestionably "The Man" on this team. Green has taken the burden of having to make all the plays off of Favre, but I still think when the chips are down this team looks to Favre to pull them through. Your thoughts? - Ryan (Dixon, IL)

In football, every team belongs to the guy who touches the ball on every snap, and that's the quarterback.

But Brett Favre isn't just The Man in Green Bay because he touches the ball on each play, but also because he plays each game and leaves it all on the field.

That said, Ahman Green is the best player on the team right now. So if you're the Packers, Green is the player you want carrying the load at this point.

But given all that Favre has contributed in the past and all he's capable of today, Favre is still The Man. No question.

Once Brett Favre's thumb heals a little more, do you think we'll see more passing, or do you think we'll pretty much see the running game doing what is has been doing the last three or four games? -Andy (Green Bay, WI)

Until a team stops the run, the Packers will continue to pound the ball like they have been.

Right now it's their best ticket to the playoffs and maybe to the Super Bowl (although let's not get ahead of ourselves), so they'd be crazy to go away from it.

But if Brett Favre feels he can be more aggressive in the passing game once his thumb is healthy -- which could still be a few weeks away -- I'm sure you'll see more pass plays.

At this point though, why change?

How much do players really care about what is written about them or said about them with regards to the media? - Jim (Oconomowoc, WI)

Don't let any player fool you, to some extent they all read the paper and watch TV. Especially after a big win like the Packers had over the 49ers, it's a thrill for players to turn on the TV and watch the highlights on every station.

It's also a safe bet that players read these stories, too, so you'd better be careful what you ask!

If you watched the game on FOX or saw highlights, they said that Robert Brooks started the Lambeau Leap. How do you feel when someone gives credit for starting one of the most famous things in the game, to someone else? And who was a better jumper, you or Robert? - Aaron (Brandon, WI)

Well there's no question in my mind that Robert Brooks was the better jumper than I was, but I got sick to my stomach when I heard the comments on FOX.

The Lambeau Leap was a totally spontaneous event that was born in 1993 against the Los Angeles Raiders. These days everybody is leaping into the stands, and just about everyone is getting credit for the leap except for little old me.

It's probably not helping my book sales any, but for me it's good enough that the true Packers fans know where the Lambeau Leap comes from. After all, doing the Lambeau Leap was about the fans in the first place.

*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 providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

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

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