Notebook: Chillar Happy To Be Staying In Green Bay

The versatility that linebacker Brandon Chillar has shown in his first two seasons in Green Bay likely meant he would get some interest from other teams this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but the sixth-year pro said he wasn’t looking to go anywhere else. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 16

The versatility that linebacker Brandon Chillar has shown in his first two seasons in Green Bay likely meant he would get some interest from other teams this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but the sixth-year pro said he wasn't looking to go anywhere else.

That interest was mutual, as Chillar and the Packers agreed on a long-term contract extension earlier this week.

"It has a lot to do with how happy I am here," Chillar said. "I don't need to go searching for anything else out there when I have everything I need here. I'm happy it got done and I'm happy to be here. I like the organization, love the city, so I'm just happy overall that everything went the way it did."

Chillar signed a two-year deal with the Packers as an unrestricted free agent in March 2008 after playing his first four seasons with the St. Louis Rams. Last season he established himself as the team's top cover man against opposing tight ends, posting a career-high nine passes defensed, and matched his career best with 13 tackles on special teams.

"I came here and I didn't know what to expect, but as soon as you play one game out there (at Lambeau Field), I think everyone knows what it is about and I'm happy to be a part of it," Chillar said.

This season Chillar has played in 10 games with four starts, working at both inside linebacker spots as well as an extra linebacker when the team goes to its 'Big Okie' package that takes a safety off the field.

"I think I have shown that I am a good player," Chillar said. "I'm versatile and I'm willing to do whatever they need. Hopefully that came into account, and I'll just keep doing what I have been doing and try to help the team win."

Through the first six games of the season, Chillar ranked second on the team with 39 tackles, along with a sack, a fumble recovery and three passes defensed. But on Nov. 1 vs. Minnesota, Chillar broke his hand in the first half. He missed the next two games, and returned in Week 11 vs. San Francisco, playing only on special teams with a club cast on his hand.

Chillar began seeing time again on defense two weeks ago vs. Baltimore, and has seen limited action the last two games in both the 'Big Okie' package as well as the five-linebacker 'Psycho' nickel package on Sunday in Chicago.

Even though Chillar was on pace to have one of his finest seasons as a pro, he said he has tried to focus on the team's stretch run as opposed to the 'what ifs?' had he been healthy all year.

"Yeah, it's wasted energy," Chillar said. "It's part of the game. Just to have perspective, you're looking at guys on crutches with (knee injuries) and stuff like that. You've really got to keep things in perspective. It could have been worse.

"I'm happy where I'm at. I've just got to keep fighting. Every season is a struggle, and we still have got some football left."

Going home

Mike McCarthy will be playing in Pittsburgh during the regular season for not only his first time as the head coach of the Packers, but also in his NFL coaching career.

The Packers visited Heinz Field during the 2007 preseason, McCarthy's second season in Green Bay. During his 13 seasons as an assistant coach (1993-2005), his teams faced the Steelers six times, but each of those contests came at home.

"It's very special to go home," McCarthy said. "Make no bones about that. But it is a business trip. You probably have about two or three hours to have dinner with your family. But it's a great opportunity for our football team. I have a lot of pride in my football team, and to take them back to Pittsburgh and to compete against the world champions. That's the way I'm viewing the game, I know that's the way our team is viewing the game.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get to 10 wins, and they are still the champion until acknowledged otherwise. We're looking for a competitive atmosphere over there at Heinz Field, and I'm really looking forward personally."

McCarthy's parents, Joe and Ellen, still live in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh where he grew up, and this rare trip back will give McCarthy a chance to do something he hasn't been able to for a while.

"We haven't really had an opportunity to be together as a family, shoot, for I don't know how long around Christmas, so we're going to have a Christmas dinner," McCarthy said.

Buying time

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has made a lot of plays with his feet this year, evidenced by his 283 rushing yards, tops among NFL quarterbacks, but the quarterback across the field from him this Sunday will provide a test for the Packers' defense with his mobility.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't the rushing threat that Rodgers has been, but he is one of the best in the league at moving around the pocket and absorbing hits from defenders to keep plays alive.

"It's a huge challenge both for your rush unit and your coverage unit because the rush unit has to obviously keep him in the pocket," McCarthy said. "He's a very strong man. The first guy doesn't usually get him down so you have to tackle him and get him on the ground is the first part of it. The second part of it is the ability in the coverage unit to plaster and to stay with the receivers because he is definitely looking to throw the ball down the field.

"He makes a ton of plays week in and week out doing that. He's as effective as I have seen in the league as far as extending plays and throwing the ball downfield."

Chillar faced Roethlisberger in 2007 when he was with the Rams, and agreed that the 6-foot-5, 241-pounder presents a unique challenge for defenders. In that contest Roethlisberger posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating, completing 16-of-20 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

"Sometimes it looks like he is sacked and he comes out of it and throws the ball," Chillar said. "Even if he looks like he is going down or someone has their arms around him, you've still got to stay on your coverage because he is a big, strong guy and he has made a lot of plays.

"I think you definitely can't go high. I've seen him throw people off of him. I've seen a lot of people struggle with getting him down, so if I get the opportunity I'm just going to do whatever I can to get him down."

Focus is on the field

Safety Nick Collins, who could potentially be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, said he was "happy" to see Chillar receive a new contract.

Collins' status for this offseason is in question because of the uncertainty surrounding the NFL's labor situation. If a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached this offseason then 2010 becomes an uncapped season, and Collins would be a restricted free agent, rather than unrestricted under the previous rules.

{sportsad300}Collins, who ranks second on the team with six interceptions, said he is focusing on what he can control, which is his performance on the field.

"I'm thankful that I'm here, blessed that I'm here," Collins said. "I've got a lovely family that I go home to every day, and that's the only thing that matters to me, and my teammates.

"I'm a guy, it's not all about the money. I come to play football and win games. If I'm blessed to have the opportunity one day to get paid, let it be. Until that day comes, I'm a Packer and I'm going out there to play football."

Injury/participation update

Linebacker Jeremy Thompson, who has missed the last two games since spraining his neck in a Dec. 4 practice, is out again for Sunday.

Linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice, but McCarthy said it was more the team taking a cautious approach as opposed to Barnett aggravating the injury.

"He'll probably be limited (Thursday), and then we'll re-test him on Friday," McCarthy said. "He has some swelling and we're just being smart."

Nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who was inactive for Sunday's game in Chicago because of a hamstring injury, also didn't participate in Wednesday's practice.

"He tested today with the trainers, and I have not been given the results yet," McCarthy said. "Just like a lot of muscle pulls or strains, tomorrow will be the determining factor.

"The little that I did see of the workout, I thought he was moving pretty well. We'll see how he feels in the morning."

Cornerback Brandon Underwood (hip) didn't participate, and defensive end Johnny Jolly (knee) and cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) were both limited.

For Pittsburgh, linebacker James Farrior (not injury related), safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and wide receivers Limas Sweed (illness) and Hines Ward (hamstring) did not participate on Wednesday.

Defensive end Brett Keisel (neck) and guard Chris Kemoeatu (wrist) were both limited participants.

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