GREEN BAY—The Packers are returning on Sunday to the scene of the current era's greatest triumph.
Green Bay's first game since Super Bowl XLV at the former Cowboys – now AT&T – Stadium is sure to conjure up plenty of memories. Whether or not they translate into inspiration in a key game for the Packers is a question for after the game, but the flashbacks will be unavoidable.
It's not just any ol' stadium, for one. The "house that Jerry built" is truly one-of-a-kind, with the largest video boards in all of professional sports that hang above the playing field just part of the glitz and glamor that surround the place.
Super Bowl XLV is also the only game, until Sunday, the Packers have ever played there in the stadium's nearly five years of existence. There is no other history to draw upon at the place that replaced Texas Stadium, which was far less kind to the Packers for a number of years.
"I think everybody will feel it when we pull into the tunnel," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "That's something you never forget, and it'll never go away."
McCarthy and the Packers are being realists, too, of course. This isn't the Super Bowl, and half of the roughly 100,000 fans in attendance won't be wearing green and gold like last time.
There won't be any glimpses of Cameron Diaz feeding popcorn to Alex Rodriguez on those monstrous video boards during a TV timeout, either.
"It's going to be a totally different situation. Obviously then, it was a circus going, but now it's going to be mellowed down a little bit," cornerback Tramon Williams said, before reconsidering for a moment. "I guess you could say that, but it still is Dallas and Cowboy country."
A lot has changed for the Packers since then. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the other day he was going through the 2010 team photo and counted only 28 players on the current roster who were part of that Super Bowl. That's the nature of life in the NFL.
The Packers will also be in a different locker room this time – the visitors' one – after using the Cowboys' locker room as the "home" team three years ago.
With the Packers a half game out of first place in their division and the Cowboys one game out in theirs, this clash isn't about gloriously capping a season. It's about saving one.
"It's always difficult when you go on the road, but yeah, we're both in desperate situations," defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. "We both need this win."
For what it's worth, the Packers have a historical quirk to overcome, too. Following the franchise's Super Bowl I, II and XXXI victories, Green Bay faltered the next time it returned to the championship venue, losing to the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1967, to the Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in 1971 and to the Saints at the Louisiana Superdome in 2002.
Curiously, when the Packers returned to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in 1999, two years after their Super Bowl XXXII defeat, they beat the Chargers.
None of that really matters, of course, just as the Packers' three consecutive playoff losses in Dallas in the 1990s didn't matter on Feb. 6, 2011.
Those nearly three-year-old memories will take a back seat to the here and now once the ball is kicked off late Sunday afternoon. It's not as though any of the 28 players are bringing their Super Bowl rings with them for nostalgic reasons.
"Mine's put away," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "I don't ever see it, don't ever think about it. People ask me to bring it to different stuff, and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'll bring it,' and the day it happens I forget it because it's not on your mind.
"I think for the most part, everyone has moved on from that experience, because we're still searching for another."
Another supreme triumph, another celebration to beat all celebrations, is the goal. The NFL's Taj Mahal is only a stop on that possible journey and not the destination this time, but in any case, a moment of reflection is allowed, and guaranteed.
"I just remember the confetti," Pickett said. Additional coverage - Dec. 13