CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 23: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Words of wisdom occupy the Green Bay Packers history books, as sound bites of the great Vince Lombardi have seeped out of the woodwork recently, along with the casual pep talk from former Super Bowl winners.
I guess possessing a young quarterback like Aaron Rodgers warrants a few questions if you are a Packer fan. Green Bay’s golden boy makes his first appearance in the Super Bowl next Sunday, a game that has been overdramatized as Rodgers’ career defining moment, only if this is his third year under center.
To coax Rodgers along the way, former Packer great LeRoy Butler has taken Rodgers under his experienced wing. Green Bay’s All-Pro safety was part of the Packers 1996 Super Bowl winning team, earning head coach at the time, Mike Holmgren, his first and only ring.
According to Butler, the key to Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is for Rodgers to accept pressure, rather than brushing it aside in a confident and egotistical manner.
"Don’t say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to let a lot of pressure get to me because I’ll be back here,’" Butler stated. "I’m sure Dan Marino said the same thing."
The difference between Dan Marino and Rodgers, though, is the fact that Green Bay’s passing game is much more defined in the underdog role.
Unlike Marino’s Dolphins, the Packers past month has consisted of three tough road games against Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago, all of which have conditioned Mike McCarthy’s team for a trip to Dallas in nine days’ time.
However, that thought hasn’t been pondered by the mind of Butler.
The issue that many former Packers have with Green Bay’s current team is the unwanted memories that flood back with a trip to Arlington, Texas. After the Packers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 1997, Green Bay then made a consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl, only to slip up against underdogs the Denver Broncos the very next year.
Whilst John Elway was grateful for a ring, the Packers were devastated at the opportunity they had just let slip.
Maybe it is the championship drought that had occurred prior to 1997, or the winning expectations that come with playing in Lambeau Field six weeks a year, but to this day, the Packers loss against Denver still haunts ex-players.
"People used to ask, ‘You feel better because it was John Elway’s first one?’" Butler said. "Hell no! What kind of question is that? "I hate even seeing the highlights of that Denver game."
Therefore, next Sunday’s game comes down to much more than just another win for this generation of Packer players and fans, relevant of several Lombardi quotes.
Perhaps the major similarity between 1998 and 2011 is the injury bug that has swept through both sides. Thirteen years ago the Packers went without defensive end Gabe Wilkins, hence the impact from the Broncos offense during the game.
Fast forward to this year, and Green Bay are also seriously depleted. Tight end Jermichael Finley will sadly miss out, along with running back Ryan Grant and inside linebacker Nick Barnett. Three key players that would have come in handy throughout this year’s tight regular season games.
But in the thick of things, fortunately for McCarthy, these injuries haven’t limited his side too much this season. That is if you exclude the Packers six losses.
Currently Green Bay’s defense is impeccable in all areas, especially with rookie Sam Shields accounting for two of the Packers three interceptions last week in Chicago.
Rodgers on the other hand, his experience in The Windy City is best described as uncharacteristic. Two interceptions and only two third down conversions, the Packer offense stumbled their way to a cautious victory against the Bears.
Butler’s words of warning?
Well they can be taken with a grain of salt, or on the flip side, taken with extra precaution. Super Bowl week has been known to swallow up teams that become involved with the glitz and glamour, but luckily for McCarthy, the Packers are situated 25 minutes outside of Cowboys Stadium.
No paparazzi should come knocking as a result.
Passing down words of encouragement isn’t unusual for a team of Green Bay’s stature. At the end of the day, don’t be surprised to see a handful of green and gold greats speak up in the next few days.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.