We're one step closer to the Super Bowl, playing for the NFC championship. How great is that? As I rookie, I have nothing to compare this to at the pro level, but as a former college player I can tell you that no experience I've ever had in football comes close to the excitement I'm feeling right now.
There's a different feeling this week, I think. You can't help but think back in time to the days of Vince Lombardi and George Halas and how much they would have enjoyed all of this, these division rivals meeting for the championship. Amazing.
What's important right now for all of us, I think, is to keep absolute focus on the game that is coming up this weekend. The task at hand is always the most important one. That's not to say we won't ever think about going one step further, but that definitely won't happen unless we pay close attention Sunday.
Somebody asked me if the throwback T-shirts that many of our players are wearing this week was in honor of the history of the Bears-Packers rivalry. That's funny, as I hadn't really noticed, but now that I look around the locker room I do see guys with "Decatur Staleys" shirts and those hats with the retro B on the front. It's not anything that was planned, but the fact that so many of them have chosen to honor Bears history at this time is pretty cool.
Since I went to Northwestern, I am well aware of how competitive this game is, and I'm certain that having so much at stake this time will make things much more intense.
It's been crazy at Halas Hall since the game against Seattle. There are members of the national media all over the place, which is something I am not at all accustomed to seeing. They let us do our jobs, of course, but we're definitely aware of their presence.
I think that will be one of the biggest things for us this week: to keep absolute focus. We're going back to basics again, much as we did during the recent bye week. The team is concentrating on fundamentals first, then moving on to the game plan for the weekend.
That week off was huge for us, a crucial opportunity to rest a little bit and a chance to heal, particularly for the rookies. 16 weeks is a long season if you aren't used to it. That weekend off gave each player a chance to step back briefly, then return with renewed enthusiasm and energy.
I spent last Saturday watching the Packers game. It was impressive, to say the least. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has formidable skills, and the offense he leads is going to present challenges for our defense. My take on what I saw is that to succeed against the Packers, as far as the defense is concerned, means getting in there fast. If you can get the pressure on Green Bay's passing game, perhaps a few mistakes might happen on that side of the ball.
Of course, we've already played Green Bay twice this season. They know us, and we know them. I'm sure some new things will come into play Sunday, but for the most part we know what we'll be up against. They are a fast, tough team with a quick offense and a strong defense. You can't let them get away from you, or you'll spend the rest of the day playing catch-up.
As a team, we'll want to bring pretty much what we brought against the Seahawks: a fast, balanced attack by all three phases. Having our offense get a score early on in that game took some of the pressure off of the defense. Our teammates got excellent production and made our job easier. Special teams gave us great field position throughout. They are one of the best units in the league, and from that game it's easy to see why.
The field conditions should be fine, pretty similar to what we had last weekend. I know there's a lot of press saying that Soldier Field has the worst turf in the league, but that certainly hasn't been my experience. If you are careful in your choice of equipment, it should be fine. It will be cold, though. We're having walk-throughs this week indoors, but then actual practice outside. That way we acclimate to the temperature when we are playing at full speed.
I've heard from a lot of my friends this week. Old teammates and guys from college are checking in. I'm sort of surprised that nobody has asked me for tickets. They probably know how expensive it would be to get in the game and have decided to watch from home instead. My entire family is coming to town later this week. I'm really looking forward to that, although I won't have any time to spend with them until Sunday night.
This rookie year, being able to dress for a division playoff game and now for the NFC Championship Game, is a dream come true for me, and I'm just trying to take advantage of this opportunity.
Corey Wootton and other first-year Bears are putting together their Rookie Diary entries with correspondent Beth Gorr throughout the 2010 season exclusively for BearReport.com.
BR Rookie Diary: Wootton, 7th Entry
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