There's nothing like learning on the job in the NFL. Center Scott Wells learned that the hard way last weekend in Philadelphia and received yet another lesson in the Packers' 16-13 victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday afternoon.
After Grey Ruegamer injured his ankle late in the second quarter against the Eagles, Wells was forced into action. With Ruegamer still unable to play against the Lions, Wells received the first start of his professional career and all signs suggest that he held up just fine.
Although the film session doesn't take place for players until this Wednesday, Wells' teammates liked what they saw of the former Tennessee Volunteer.
"He played really well," guard Mike Wahle said. "For being a young guy and being thrown in there, he battled. He played against probably one of the toughest guys in the league (Shaun Rodgers) and I thought he held his own."
"He did a great job," running back Ahman Green added. "Even with the call, he did an awesome job out there - you wouldn't even know he was a rookie."
The "call" negated a 79-yard touchdown reception that Green would have scored on. Favre found the running back in the flat and it appeared that Wells made a routine block to spring Green for a big play on the screen pass. However, an official called a holding penalty on Wells and the Packers offense went back to the drawing board.
Marco Rivera, who has played guard for the Packers for nine seasons, offered his rookie linemate a bit of advice regarding the play.
"I said basically to just settle down and don't worry about it," Rivera explained. "Just come back and focus in on the next play and that's it.
"The last thing you want to do is start screaming at the guy. That doesn't work. You've got to calm him down and tell him that things happen. Everybody gets called every now and then. He moved on and had an excellent day today."
The Packers handled the penalty with ease and ended up scoring on the drive anyway with Favre finding Donald Driver for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Wells admitted he was relieved that the team could overcome the penalty.
"Anytime you have a big play like that and it's called back, but you continue the drive, it's big," Wells said.
According to the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wells, there's no sense in getting too worked up over the penalty, either.
"We can sit here and evaluate it all we want, but it still goes in the book as a holding," Wells said.
Beyond that, Wells felt good about his performance.
"I was comfortable enough and I had confidence in the game plan," Wells said. "I thought I played a pretty good game. We'll see after watching the tape, but I feel pretty confident in how I played and a lot of that had to do with preparation this week.
"I got the chance to see the guys all throughout the season, seeing how they performed and watching film with them certainly helped."
Wells certainly made it through his second big test in as many weeks with a passing grade and it's the valuable experience that will make him a better player in the long run.
"I feel like I learned more this week than I did all of training camp," Wells explained. "I worked with guys like Marco and Mike Wahle and that helped tremendously."
Weather Conditions Offer Another Challenge For Packers
As if it wasn't difficult enough battling a divisional foe, the Packers also took on the weather in Sunday's victory. At times it was difficult to judge who got the upper hand in that category.
With a 33° temperature at kickoff, and swirling winds often taking control in the kicking games the weather certainly played its customary role at Lambeau Field in the middle of December.
Both teams' passing games were hampered by the strong winds and because of some light sleet that later turned into flurries, the ball was also difficult to grip for Brett Favre and Joey Harrington. Although Favre has been known to play extremely well in cold weather, he wasn't too excited about Sunday's conditions.
"It was terrible," Favre said. "It was terrible. It was bad so we were just fortunate to win the game. If you had to go that way (into the wind), it wasn't good."
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman also wasn't a big fan of the conditions his team had to deal with Sunday.
"I don't ever worry about the rain, the snow or the sleet or coldness at Lambeau Field as much as I do about the wind," Sherman said. "When I got here about four hours before game time the wind wasn't too bad.
"Then I went back out there before pre-game and it was picking up. In pre-game it was swirling type of winds and it just gusted and changed at times. So it was tough to predict exactly where the favorable end zone was necessarily."
With the wind playing tricks on some of Brett Favre's throws, the Packers had to rely on their running game more than usual. Naturally, Ahman Green didn't seem to mind.
"It was something where we did what we had to do," Green said. "I don't think it was that hard. It's cold - it's Green Bay. It's the way the area is and we have to be ready for it.
"It doesn't really matter. I knew in a game like this I could possibly have a lot of runs because of the weather."
When asked if this meant more pressure for the running backs, Green shrugged off that theory.
"I think we can handle it," Green said. "We've got three running backs that can do it and fullbacks that block and an offensive line that can do their job. I don't think it's something that we worry about. We welcome it because it's a challenge just like everything else."
Green Bay Not Satisfied Yet
It's very rare that an NFC North team runs away with the division and things are no different this season. The teams are often so familiar with one another that the games are highly contested and very close. That makes every game crucial, especially in the Packers' stretch run.
Going into Sunday, the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings were tied for first place at the top of the division with identical 7-5 records. However, the Vikings suffered a 27-23 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks to fall one game behind the Packers who are now 8-5.
Because the Vikings contest started at noon, many Packers knew that their bitter rivals had lost. Still, most players said they weren't concerned about that game in the first place.
"A couple people knew the outcome of the Viking game but we weren't focused on that," Nick Barnett said. "We were focused on the Detroit Lions. They played great and I have to give it to them."
Brett Favre said it's too early for the Packers to start celebrating their slim lead over the Vikings.
"We are in first place as far as the statistics go," Favre said. "Does that mean we are the best team in the division? I don't know. We'll find out in a couple weeks. We have a lot of football left. We could have easily lost a tough one today."
"We should feel good about this win but we're not good enough to feel that good. We'll see what happens the next few weeks. We bounced back from a very disappointing loss last week, but there's no guarantees left in these three games so we'll see what happens."
Grady Jackson agreed with the Packers quarterback.
"We feel great," Jackson said. "But you look at it and we can't worry about Minnesota or anybody else. We have to take care of our business. We can't have any letdowns anywhere and we have to play Packer ball from here on out."
Certainly that type of attitude has to please Sherman, who had no problem putting the Packers situation in perspective.
"I told them not to get too excited about that because there is just so much football left," Sherman said. "No one gives out awards for first place. They give out awards for championships. We haven't done that yet."
"It is good that we are in this position but we have to stay in this position and there's three games left to do that. We have a ton of ball games left to play so first place doesn't do a whole lot for me. I am happy that we beat Detroit today but how other people do, I really don't worry about that."