Safeties' speeches embodied what it means to play for Packers

LeRoy Butler, Morgan Burnett talked to Green Bay’s roster about enjoying the ride

Pro Football Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler & Former Packers S Morgan Burnett

GREEN BAY – With the Packers' 53-man roster set, Head Coach Matt LaFleur lined up two special guest speakers to address the team on Wednesday.

The day began with recently enshrined Pro Football Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler giving a 10-minute speech prior to a "game-like" practice that drew rave reviews from quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb.

Afterwards, longtime safety Morgan Burnett said a few words to the team and broke down the post-practice huddle. The 10-year NFL veteran was in Green Bay to officially retire as a member of the Packers organization earlier in the day.

The safeties' speeches weren't performed in stereo with one another but conveyed a very similar message – to enjoy the ride.

"It goes by fast, this game," said Rodgers, who's entering his franchise-record 18th NFL season. "The most important thing is the perspective to stay in the moment, to cherish the opportunities, to not let a day go by without working on your craft and getting better, and to find time to connect with your teammates."

Last month, Butler became the Packers' 28th representative in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The four-time All-Pro played 12 seasons in Green Bay and was the first defensive back in NFL history to record at least 35 career interceptions and 20 sacks.

While Butler remains highly involved with the organization, he hadn't yet had many opportunities to work with LaFleur and the current roster due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Packers' fourth-year head coach wanted to change that. So, he reached out last week to see if Butler would be interested in talking to the team. It just so happened the speech coincided with the first day of school for Butler's son, LeRoy IV.

Not a problem. Butler made the two-hour drive up from Milwaukee, talked to the team about living in the moment and enjoying all the small blessings that come with playing professional football, and still made it back in time for the morning school sendoff.

Rodgers called Butler's address of the team "one of the best speeches" he's heard over the last decade.

"That's the beauty in this organization is you can bring guys back in the fold like that," Rodgers said. "Like Mo, wants to retire a Packer. It's important to him to be here. LeRoy, wants to be here to be a part of what we're doing. I think about our run in 2010. Willie Davis was always around. Wants to be a part of it and the organization wants them to be a part of it, too, and there's no place like this place."

Burnett, a member of the Super Bowl XLV team, played the first eight seasons of his NFL career with the Packers and started all 102 regular-season games in which he appeared.

The 2010 third-round pick finished his time in Green Bay with 721 tackles (556 solo), nine interceptions, 7½ sacks, 69 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.

Now back in Georgia, Burnett is enjoying dad life, while coaching his oldest son and namesake in youth football. While he announced his retirement in March 2021, the 33-year-old Burnett felt like his career lacked a definitive conclusion.

So, he chose to formally finish that chapter of his life where it all started in 2010, as a 21-year-old kid from Atlanta with a dream of playing in the NFL.

"I think this is really cool how you bring us back to say one time that I started as a Packer and now I can say I finished as a Packer," said Burnett during his retirement news conference Wednesday morning.

"I feel like I grew up here and I went from a young man to a grown man here. Green Bay holds a special place in my heart for not just me but for my family, as well."

Like Butler, Burnett talked to the team after practice about what it meant to him to wear a Packers uniform. Arriving alongside close friend Sam Shields in 2010, Burnett benefited from the tutelage of Nick Collins, Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and so many other veterans on Green Bay's Super Bowl team.

During Burnett's playing days, it was difficult to appreciate the present. There was always a new opponent to prepare for or a game plan to install. Looking back on it now, Burnett cherishes the memories and friendships he built along the way.

As the 2022 team readies to embark on another championship pursuit, the "carpe diem" movement has the current Packers roster remaining mindful of the opportunity in front of them.

"These are the moments that they look back on, being in the locker room, the team camaraderie, getting together, hanging out … the bond that you build and really being present," said Cobb, who was Packers teammates with Burnett for seven seasons.

"That's what it comes back to is not living in the past, not thinking about the future, but being present and being where your feet are, and really appreciating that moment."

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