Going into their regular season finale Sunday at Chicago, the Green Bay Packers have a chance to pick up their sixth win away from Lambeau Field on the season, a mark that would give the team its best road record in over 30 years at 6-2. The 1972 Packers posted six wins in seven road contests.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said that his team has become almost impervious to the difficult surroundings of a less-than-friendly stadium when they hit the road, a characteristic he started to see taking shape a season ago.
"We've certainly handled crowd noise much, much better than we ever have," said Sherman. "I could see it happening last year and we've evolved this year to where it's not an issue. We don't have very many procedural penalties (and) our quarterback has played extremely well in domes. I think the fact that the offense functions better than they have in the past with crowd noise has been a benefit to us.
"I think that we accept the challenge of playing on the road as something that we look forward to at times. Obviously you want to play at home, but we don't get all antsy about playing on the road."
Linebacker Nick Barnett said that he and his teammates' business-like approach to their games away from Green Bay has contributed to their success.
"The thing with winning on the road is that we have a great idea of what we're going to do when we go on the road," Barnett said. It's all business. We go there and focus on the game instead of letting things get to us. That's all it is."
Packers To Wear '92' Decal
The Packers announced Friday that the team will wear decals on their helmets featuring the number 92 in honor of the late Reggie White, the number the future Hall of Fame defensive end wore during his tremendous playing career.
The team will sport the decals beginning Sunday against the Bears and continuing throughout the playoffs.
Sherman said the team will honor White with the decal, but hopefully even more by the way they play.
"I hope we honor Reggie by how we play the game, more so than the decal that's going to be on the helmet," the coach said. "To me, that's really how you honor him. You can put a decal on there, but what does that mean? You honor him by how well you play and try to represent him on the field during the football game."
Safety Bhawoh Jue said that White will be with the team in spirit whenever they take the field.
"I think anytime we go out there for the remainder of the season, anybody that puts on the Packer uniform is going to be playing with him in the back of their (minds)," said Jue.
"He's an example and we have to take that to the rest of our games. As long as you play football, you can use him as an example of the way you should play the game. Myself and my teammates are going to wear it with honor."
Jackson Wants A Crack At The Bears
In the tough decisions Sherman faces regarding playing time given to his front-line players in Sunday's game - a game that will have no ramifications on the team's postseason standing, defensive tackle Grady Jackson is one of the more difficult cases.
Jackson suffered a dislocated kneecap in the first quarter of the season opener at Carolina and missed the Packers' next five games, including the first 2004 meeting with the Bears. The lineman has been a key player in shoring up the team's run defense in the two months since his return to the lineup.
Sherman held the nose tackle out of practice all week to rest his knee, a practice which has become the normal as the season has worn on, but the coach doesn't know just how much could be gained by sitting the run-stuffer down for Sunday's game.
"I had that conversation (about sitting Jackson) with the doctors this morning and obviously if you don't play, there are issues because you don't further injure anything, you're better from that standpoint, but (not) markedly different," Sherman said. "No, it wouldn't make that big a difference either way.
"I'm just going to play it by ear with him. But if there comes a time in the game where I think that Grady Jackson is better served sitting out than playing, then I'll make that decision at that time."
Jackson, who estimated his health at somewhere between 80-90%, said he hopes to be in the middle of the line Sunday to help stop Chicago running back Thomas Jones, who ran for 152 yards and a touchdown in Jackson's absence back in September.
"I would like to play because I didn't play against these guys when we played, just to help the team out," Jackson said. "I feel like we owe them from the first game."