Notebook: Familiar Face Across The Field On Sunday

Both Mike McCarthy and Marvin Lewis said a moment like this Sunday wasn’t even a thought for them when they were young coaches on the University of Pittsburgh staff together in the early 1990s, but it will be the first time the two have faced off as NFL head coaches in a regular-season game. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Sept. 16


Both Mike McCarthy and Marvin Lewis said a moment like this Sunday wasn't even a thought for them when they were young coaches on the University of Pittsburgh staff together in the early 1990s, but it will be the first time the two have faced off as NFL head coaches in a regular-season game.

The two coaches worked together at Pittsburgh from 1990-91 when McCarthy was a graduate assistant coach (quarterbacks) for the Panthers and Lewis tutored the outside linebackers. Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum was also on Pittsburgh's staff in 1990 as a graduate assistant (defense).

"Mike was just an extremely hard-worker, very thorough," Lewis said. "Everything he was asked to do was done at the utmost, just spotless, sparkling. Just worked his tail off and Shawn was the same way. That's probably why they still have the same bond they have today."

Sunday will be the first time that the two head coaches have been on opposite sidelines for a regular-season game since Washington traveled to New Orleans on Oct. 13, 2002, when McCarthy was the Saints' offensive coordinator and Lewis was the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for the Redskins. McCarthy was on the winning side of that matchup with the Saints beating Washington, 43-27.

McCarthy and Lewis have squared off in the preseason twice, including the 2008 opener at Lambeau Field.

"I think Marvin is an excellent football coach, a dynamic personality," McCarthy said. "It seems like only yesterday Marvin and (wife) Peggy, their family back there at Pitt, that he moved on right across the street to the Steelers.

"Very fond of Marvin. I think he does a great job and has been very successful in his years in the National Football League with the (Super Bowl) ring there in Baltimore (in 2000). I have a lot of respect for Marvin."

Lewis left the University of Pittsburgh in 1992 but stayed in the city when he was hired by the Steelers to coach outside linebackers, where he formed some other connections to Green Bay's coaching staff. He worked under Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who held the same position with Pittsburgh from 1992-94, and one of Lewis' pupils was Green Bay's outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who went to back-to-back Pro Bowls (1994-1995) under Lewis' tutelage.

McCarthy and Lewis weren't the only members of Paul Hackett's Pitt coaching staff that went on to become NFL head coaches as former Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden coached wide receivers for the Panthers in 1991.

"I look at that staff that we were on, Marvin Lewis, Jon Gruden and Scott O'Brien (current special teams coach for Patriots), I think practically the whole staff coached at one time or is still in the NFL," McCarthy said. "It was just a great group of people to be around, especially as a first-year coach.

"You could tell right away though that Marvin was unique. He had a certain way with his players, a very good communicator. It is no surprise to me that he is an NFL head coach."

Making the leap?

The Bengals' trip to Lambeau Field will be the first one since 1995, and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco already has an idea for what he will do if he is able to get in the end zone on Sunday.

"I'm just really focused on going out here and having some fun," Ochocinco said. "I'm looking to be embraced by the Packers fans and hopefully I can Lambeau Leap.

"It's no disrespect, especially coming from me. You know how I am; I just go out there and have fun. I enjoyed the Dawg Pound (in Cleveland) when I jumped in there. They embraced me and I am looking for the Cheeseheads to embrace Ocho also."

Ochocinco jumped into the stands at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sept. 16, 2007, following his second touchdown catch of the day in the Bengals' 51-45 loss to Cleveland. He finished the afternoon with 11 receptions for 209 yards and the two scores.

"I don't think the fans will be very pleased about that and they are going to reject him," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "I think they are going to throw him back on the field, but who knows?"

Lewis wasn't getting caught up in whether Ochocinco could make good on his end-zone aspirations for Sunday.

"There is no reason for him to worry about the Lambeau Leap because unfortunately every time he talks about what he is going to do, he gets no opportunity to do," Lewis said. "So it's better, as they say, let's under-promise and over-produce."

Still the youngest

For the fourth season in a row, the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL, as announced by the league office Wednesday.

Based on an analysis of NFL Kickoff Weekend rosters, the Packers have the youngest roster in the league with an average age of 25.70 years.

In 2008, Green Bay was tied with Kansas City for the youngest roster with an average age of 25.57. They held the youngest mark on their own in 2007 (25.72) and in 2006 (25.57).

The Packers also have the second-youngest team in experience (3.81 years) in the NFL behind only Cincinnati (3.77). Green Bay has the fewest players in the league that are 30 or older with four (Chad Clifton, Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Donald Driver).

Injury/participation update

Safety Atari Bigby (knee) is out for Sunday, and McCarthy said he will miss "at least four weeks." Aaron Rouse is expected to start in his place.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and cornerback/returner Will Blackmon (quad), who both missed Sunday's game, were full participants in practice. McCarthy said he wants to see both players go through a full week of practice before determining their status for Sunday.

"I think (Thursday) will be a big indicator," McCarthy said. "It's one thing to go through the rehab workouts and I know they both participated on Friday, but tomorrow is our heavy-lifting day. It's a padded practice, our most demanding practice of the week because we hit all of the different situations."

Running back Brandon Jackson (ankle), who missed Sunday's game vs. Chicago with the injury, did not participate in practice.

{sportsad300}Kicker Mason Crosby (abdomen) was limited in practice but is expected to be fine for Sunday's game. Crosby said that he felt fine during the game against Chicago, but noticed some tightness on Monday morning.

"I think if I just rest it and get a little recovery time, I'll feel good," Crosby said. "It's not really hindering much of what I am doing. I'll get some more leg swings and make sure that doesn't bother it there, but as far as I am concerned I'll be ready to go."

Wide receiver Greg Jennings (wrist) was also a limited participant on Wednesday. Jennings said he sustained the injury on the 10th play of Sunday's game when he slipped while running a route, took a little push from Bears safety Danieal Manning, and jammed the wrist into the ground.

"Initially I thought, 'Uh-oh', but I was able to play through it the entire game," Jennings said. "So it's the least of my concerns."

For the Bengals, cornerback David Jones (foot) and offensive tackle Andre Smith (foot) are both out for Sunday.

Guard Nate Livings (knee) and defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene (not injury related) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Halfback Brian Leonard (chest) was limited and offensive tackle Scott Kooistra (knee) participated fully.

NFL Network time

The Packers' season-opening win over Chicago will be re-aired on NFL Network's NFL Replay on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CDT.

NFL Replay highlights the most exciting games from the weekend, re-airing them in a fast-paced, 90-minute format that takes out halftime and other elements not critical to the outcome. The show also features sideline and on-field sound, exclusive shots and camera angles distinctive to NFL Films, and post-game press conference sound bites.

NFL Network is also debuting a new show entitled Greatest 4th QTRs on Thursday at 8 p.m. CDT, a 90-minute compilation of memorable fourth quarters in NFL history.

One of the featured games this week is the 1992 contest between the Packers and the Bengals when quarterback Brett Favre replaced an injured Don Majkowski in the first quarter and directed a 24-23 come-from-behind win at Lambeau Field.

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