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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Hi LeRoy, do you see the need to throw the ball downfield more, utilizing the wide receivers, or is the team intent on setting a new record for attempted screen passes in a season? - Richard (North Providence, RI)

Richard, I agree with you that the Packers need to go downfield more often.

In addition to a possible big gain, going deep helps open up a lot of perimeter runs. The Packers like to run sweeps where Ahman Green breaks around the corner and has a 1-on-1 with a linebacker. Running receivers deep helps open up those plays by drawing defensive backs into the secondary.

Also, going deep just loosens up a defense. If the Packers don't look downfield, teams will continue to line up in Cover 2 on what is essentially a shortened field.

Even if the Packers don't complete a downfield play, it makes the defense worry about the deep threat, and sometimes that's enough.

But if you think the Packers need to go downfield a lot, I disagree. I'm talking about taking one shot per quarter. If the Packers hit just one or two of those a game, they're in good shape. If not, it should still help open up the rest of what's already working.

The Packers might be 3-4, but the offense is ranked fifth in the league in total yards and fourth in the league in points per game.

It's the turnovers that have killed them, not play-calling.

LeRoy, I have really noticed that Brett Favre is telegraphing his handoffs something horrible, resulting in Ahman Green's running holes being filled by the secondary sooner than they should! Why? - Patrick (Jackson, TN)

What you are describing is called a stretch play. When Brett Favre extends the ball like that, it's to confuse the safeties.

You have to understand that Brett is one of the best play-action quarterbacks in the game. Sometimes he stretches the ball out like that and it's a handoff. Other times he's going to pull it in and look for a big gain down the field.

Since the Packers are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing, his "telegraphing" of the handoff obviously isn't a problem.

What running back do you think hits the hardest in the NFL? And who do you think is the most underrated RB in the league? - Andrew (North Carolina)

The Miami Dolphins' Ricky Williams is the hardest hitting running back in the league by far. He plays more physically than anybody.

As for an underrated running back, I'd have to pick Minnesota's Michael Bennett. Obviously he's had some injury problems, so people don't talk about him much. But when he's healthy, he's a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

Ahman Green used to be on the underrated list, but now he's virtually on everyone's top-5 list. So that cat's out of the bag with him. He's in the elite class now.

LeRoy, it's great to be reading your columns on this year! With the recent injury to Joe Johnson, do you think the Packers will be signing a replacement, or do you think that Aaron Kampman will do the job? - Tyler (Madison, WI)

With the way things are structured in the NFL now, Aaron Kampman or Chukie Nwokorie has to be able to do the job. There's just no other choice than to fill the role in-house.

First of all, the salary cap makes going out and signing someone a challenge. Secondly, if a player was that good that he could be a starter in the NFL, he'd be on someone else's roster already.

And this brings up an interesting point: I don't think there are enough trades in the NFL anymore.

This year's trading deadline passed October 14, just after the sixth game of the season. But everyone around the NFL knows that injuries become a larger problem in Weeks 7-9.

If they moved the deadline back, more teams would have injured players they needed to replace and would be more open to trades. Likewise, more teams are out of the race at Week 9 than at Week 6, so those losing teams would be more willing to unload a star player and build for the future.

But even if the deadline was moved back, trades are tough because of salary cap restrictions.

Hi, Leroy. Last week Darren Sharper made some controversial comments and then blamed the media for taking them out of context, even though it was obvious he was talking about the D-linemen. Why do athletes always seem to do this? - David (Sheboygan, WI)

When we talk about issues like the one involving Darren Sharper, the first thing we need to keep in mind is that the reporter doing the interviewing and writing the story isn't usually the same guy that writes the headlines.

A lot of times the way a headline is written will influence the way someone reads the story.

Also, in an interview situation, a reporter has to take what the player said, understand it and then rewrite the story in his own words. Unfortunately, in the process the reporter's opinion sometimes gets mixed in with what the player actually said.

Most of the time what you read in the paper is an accurate account of what the player said and how it was said. But sometimes the player's words don't come out the way he intends them to, or the reporter doesn't understand him correctly and things get confused.

When I was a player, I never blamed the media for reporting something I said, even if it was taken out of context. The way I looked at it was that anything that came out of my mouth was my responsibility.

But it can be a tricky situation.

I guarantee you that Darren Sharper wasn't trying to stir up a hornets nest last week. What he was trying to say was that the high-paid players and the Pro Bowl players needed to be making more plays for the Packers to be successful.

In his mind, those players are the superstars. So if the Packers are going to win or lose, the Packers fans deserve to see the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the Pro Bowlers.

Sharper included himself in that statement, but in the paper it came out like finger-pointing.

In this situation, it's fair to say that Sharper's intent wasn't accurately reported. But it's also fair to say that Sharper can't blame the media for the way things looked in the paper.

Hey LeRoy! Something I've always wondered about NFL game times, especially with a number of nationally televised games coming up for the Pack: Do later game times (3:15, 7:30, 8:00) affect the way a player gets ready for a game as compared to the usual noon start? Do players tend to "over-think" and end up coming out flat? Or do players get pumped up to play under the lights? How did you deal with it? Thanks! - Pete (Franklin, WI)

That's a very good question. You're obviously a knowledgeable football fan.

Yes, the late starts do affect the players. In general, guys like to play as soon as they wake up. They want to eat breakfast, call their wife, call their homeboys and then go play.

Waiting around for the game to start can cause guys to 'over-think.' Take this weekend's game for example: The Packers will spend the day thinking about all of Minnesota's formations and schemes, whereas if they were playing at noon they'd just get up and play.

The key to combat this is to develop a pregame ritual and to just do your best not to get stressed before the game.

Of course the stress is the same on both teams, but probably the only time that playing at night isn't a problem is when it's a Monday night game or a playoff game, because then the thrill of the game outweighs the inconvenience of waiting around.

LeRoy, I know you did a few dance steps here and there after a good play, but what are your thoughts on it now? I believe these "celebrations" after a tackle are getting a bit excessive, especially when it's one's job. I'd rather see them simply high-five the nearest teammate to thank him AND the ten others guys for doing their job on that play, too. I know the game is supposed to be fun, but when your team is down 10 points in the 4th quarter, saving one's energy on defense for the next play makes more sense than running 15 yards down the field to claim one's greatness to the crowd. Any insights on these celebrations? - Don (Denver, CO)

I think there are good things and bad things about celebrations in the NFL.

The Lambeau Leap is a celebration, but that only comes after a touchdown, and even then it rarely happens if the Packers are far behind.

In general, I think celebrations should happen after a big play of the game, like a touchdown or an interception, and it should be with your teammates, rather than a solitary action.

I don't think that guys should make big celebrations after routine plays, but I do understand how in the excitement of the game a guy can get carried away and take it too far sometimes.

Remember, most fans have kind of a double-standard about celebrations.

This season when the Packers haven't been celebrating, they've been criticized for not playing with heart and emotion. But when they do celebrate, they're being criticized for being over the top.

So what's a player to do?

One thing I don't think players should do is take their helmets off after plays, something that the NFL currently doesn't allow but that Warren Sapp recently suggested should be okay.

The helmets need to stay on, but the celebrations should be allowed to continue when the time is right.

Just look at Brett Favre. He doesn't celebrate after every play, but when something big happens he goes crazy. That's part of the reason people love watching Brett play.

Celebrations are part of the total entertainment of the NFL, but they're best when done in a team setting, and when reserved for the proper moment.

Considering the Packers current personnel and the fact that they have had little success on defense, wouldn't it make more sense to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4? - Anthony (Staten Island, NY)

Whew! Man, I love the 3-4!

I think it's a great defense because it's so flexible, allowing you to drop eight guys into coverage on one play and blitz seven on the next.

But in this day and age, it's more about the players than the scheme. Look at the Atlanta Falcons. They run a 3-4, but they're the worst defense in the league.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay runs a Cover 2 out of the 4-3 set and they're one of the best defenses in the league.

What's the difference? The players, not the plays.

But I do like the way you think, and if things get bad enough the Packers could switch to a 3-4 midseason if they had to. But with the way NFL teams look to attack first on the ground, you're usually much better off with four linemen instead of three.

Have you seen that ESPN show Playmakers, and if so, what do you think about it? - Rocky (Seattle, WA)

I think ESPN's Playmakers is totally out of touch with the NFL.

It's absolute fiction from start to finish.

All Playmakers has done is take every negative story, every bad stereotype and every outrageous headline and package it all on to one team.

If you've ever seen any of those United Way commercials, you should at least have some idea that there are some outstanding people in the NFL. But where are those positive stories on Playmakers?

It's just a total fiction, all in the name of making money. If you find it entertaining, that's fine. But don't think it's anything close to being real.

*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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