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Letters To LeRoy Butler


LeRoy, I was just wondering why on third-and-short, or any short yardage situation, the defensive backs don't use press coverage to prevent the quick pass to the outside receiver? I know that Al Harris and Mike McKenzie are physical enough to do it, but they always seem to give them a 7-12 yard cushion. -- Mark (River Falls, WI)

That's a good question. Normally if you're blitzing six or seven people, like the Packers did much of Monday night's game against the Bears, the 'book' calls for the defensive backs to play off a little bit.

The reason why is that you don't want play-action, or a quick initial move by the receiver, to result in an easy touchdown. You can still be aggressive, but the general rule of thumb is that when you attack with that many players in the middle of the field, you have to be a little more conservative to the outside of the field.

Remember that if the Packers bring the safeties or the linebackers up to blitz, the corners don't have much help out there. Better to allow a 4-yard pass and a first down than a 44-yard pass and a touchdown.

LeRoy, during the third quarter of the Packers-Bears game it appeared that the defense went into a prevent mode and the offense played much more conservatively. I have seen this in the past when the Packers have a comfortable lead. Are the coordinators intentionally changing the game plan or are our players incapable of playing four quarters of football? In the NFL I don't believe a team should ever let its guard down during a game, no matter who they are playing. Thanks for your time, great to have you back with the Packer organization. – Carrie (Minneapolis, MN)

It's hard to say that the Packers started playing conservatively Monday night. Defensively they kept blitzing all game long. As a matter of fact, on the 67-yard touchdown run by Anthony Thomas, the Packers were in an eight-man front. Everyone was pretty much in his gap, it just turned out that Nick Barnett was a little too fast on that play and overran it a bit (which is fine by the Packers, because they can correct that with coaching -- you can't teach speed).

And the bottom line is that Thomas just made a great run. In the second half as a whole, the Bears had some success. That doesn't mean the Packers started going easy on them, it's just that NFL teams are going to make plays.

Just because they had some success doesn't mean the game plan changed.

Also, the Bears defense came up with a couple stops, but the Packers offense didn't go conservative either. For example, if the offense was playing conservative, then on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter they would have run the ball rather than throwing downfield for that 24-yard gain to Bubba Franks.

I do agree with you that teams can build early leads and then start to play conservative too soon and allow the other team to catch up, but I don't think that was the case Monday night.

Both teams are going to make plays. The Packers just have to make more than their opponent.

With the performance Ahman Green had against Chicago and the fact that Brian Urlacher was never really in the picture to stop him, why doesn't William Henderson get more respect? It seems to me that every time Ahman broke a big run, William was taking Urlacher out of the play to clear the way -- Bill (Appleton, WI)

William Henderson has always been a top-5 fullback, but he never gets a lot of credit because of Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott. Alstott isn't a true fullback, he's more of a halfback, but he always gets the touchdowns, the yards and then the Pro Bowl votes.

But as you could see from Ahman's success, plus Henderson's touchdown pass and great effort on the fake field goal, William is capable of doing great things in a game.

Maybe we can turn around the Pro Bowl voting by spreading the word on!

Now that Antonio Freeman is back, why is he not seeing more playing time? – John (Fairborn, Ohio)

Antonio Freeman is in the offensive package when the Packers go with three- or four-wide receiver sets. Otherwise it's pretty hard to crack the lineup when it includes Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker.

Let's be honest: players lose a bit as they get older, so Freeman isn't the same guy he was five years ago. But he can still do great things for the Packers.

It's a long season with lots of ups and downs, so I'm quite sure that he'll have a few moments before it's all said and done.

In the meantime, give him credit. Freeman is being the ultimate team player. He's been to the Pro Bowl, and he could go around being like a Terrell Owens and being a 'me, me, me' guy. But he's not.

He's being unselfish and putting the team before himself. I have a huge amount of respect for that, as should everyone who watches the Packers.

The Packers looked great against the Bears. Is that because the Packers played well, or the Bears are just that bad? – Rocky (Seattle, WA)

I think it's a combination of both. I think with the way the Packers played Monday night, they would have beat anybody in the league. Let me repeat: anybody. They played a near-perfect game. On the other hand, Chicago has a lot of problems. They can't throw downfield and they're soft on the perimeter. Their defensive line isn't as big as it normally is and they're going to struggle.

But I would say that Chicago is a little bit better than Arizona. The Packers would like to have that loss back, but they can't, so they have to move on.

You just can't get too down over any loss, but you also can't get too excited for any win either. The Packers needed the victory in Chicago, and it's something to build on, but there's a lot of season left.

The Packers played with an aggressive blitz-happy defense against Chicago. Can they afford to keep that up, or will teams prepare for it and start to exploit it? – Charlie (Las Vegas, NV)

I think the Packers have to find a way to keep it up if they want to win the NFC North. They might have caught Chicago by surprise, but I still think the strength of their defense is using Mike McKenzie and Al Harris on the corners and applying pressure on the quarterback in terms of speed and numbers from everyone else.

*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.

Every Monday you can come to to ask LeRoy questions that he will answer along with his Tuesday column.

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

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