Notebook: Capers Keeps His Focus

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers says he's got his mind on Saturday's playoff game rather than a possible head coaching position. Plus, Clay Matthews wins a major award and much more from Thursday.

As the coordinator of the NFL's second-ranked scoring defense, it's probably not a surprise that Dom Capers' name has been linked to one of the head coaching vacancies.

Reportedly, the Denver Broncos were interested in interviewing Capers to replace Josh McDaniels but team vice president John Elway on Thursday announced the hiring of John Fox, the recently fired coach of the Carolina Panthers.

"Believe me, I've been so focused in on this game," Capers said on Thursday, two days before the Packers face the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game. "I just feel like you never know when these opportunities will present themselves or when they'll come around again. So, I really don't pay any attention to all that stuff. My focus is on finding a way to go to Atlanta and win that football game.

With Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren hiring Pat Shurmur – the 45-year-old nephew of Fritz Shurmur, who coordinated Holmgren's Super Bowl defenses – and Denver going with Fox, the only coaching vacancy that exists is Oakland. At this point in the 60-year-old Capers' career, it's hard to imagine him leaving a quality coordinator post at what figures to be a perennial Super Bowl challenger to take over a dysfunctional – yet improving – franchise like the Raiders.

Capers has been the coach in Carolina and Houston. His career record is 48-80, though, in fairness, both teams were built-from-scratch expansion clubs. His only winning record came in 1996, when he led the Panthers to a 12-4 regular-season record and a berth in the NFC championship game, which he lost to Holmgren, Brett Favre and the Packers 30-13.

Hired by Mike McCarthy in 2009, Capers was named Coordinator of the Year by The Sporting News last year, when his unit rocketed from 20th to second in total defense and 26th to first against the run, as well as first in takeaways. This year, the Packers allowed a meager 15.0 points per game and finished second in sacks and sixth in takeaways.

"I've enjoyed this," said Capers, who called McCarthy a "tremendous" coach. "It's been a lot of fun. This year's been especially rewarding because of the number of new guys we've had step in, have done it the right way, applied themselves, and gone out and had success."

Because of Capers and the staff he put together, McCarthy has been able to turn more of attention to the offense. And without major weapons on offense like Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley, McCarthy has leaned on Capers' defense, which has performed brilliantly down the stretch against the Giants, Bears and Eagles.

"You have to have a defensive coordinator that A, has total command of the assistant coaches, because that's where it starts," McCarthy said. "It doesn't start when you get in the classroom. It starts up on the third floor, pulling assistants together, teaching them the scheme, make sure everybody's on the same page, and Dom does an excellent job of that. Then obviously taking it to the next step, and that's with the players. He's been doing it so long, very detailed, knows exactly what he's looking for, and I think that's really the true mark of an excellent coach. You have the vision and staying true to that vision and make sure you do not get off the path to accomplish what you want. I just think the success we've had in the two years is a big credit to Dom."

The Claymaker wins big

A panel of more than 600 players, coaches and personnel people selected Clay Matthews as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.


Read more about Clay Matthews and his thoughts on Saturday's game, at Fox Sports Wisconsin.

Matthews finished fourth in the league with 13.5 sacks and is the only player since sacks became an official stat in 1982 to register double-digits sacks and one defensive touchdown in back-to-back seasons. He is the only player in franchise history to record at least 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons.

Matthews received 188 of the 609 votes, with Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu next with 148, followed by Miami's Cameron Wake with 64, Pittsburgh's James Harrison with 45 and Chicago's Julius Peppers with 44.

The official award, handed out by The Associated Press, will be announced during Super Bowl week.

Packers injury report

Did not participate: C/G Jason Spitz (calf); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: LB Diyral Briggs (ankle); T Chad Clifton (knees); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle). Full participation: S Atari Bigby (groin); T Bryan Bulaga (shoulder); WR Donald Driver (knee); FB Korey Hall (knee); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

The injury designations (probable, questionable, etc.) will be released on Friday, even though there's no practice. Don't expect Zombo to play, though, as he has struggled to recover from a knee sprain.

"I've never had an injury like this but I'm just going to keep preparing like I'm going to play every week and hopefully that time will come," he said. "You come to the playoffs and it's the fun time of the year and you get bonus games. It's a fun atmosphere. But I had a good year and there are things that I can build on still. I plan on coming back and am still looking at this season."

Falcons injury report

Did not participate: CB Brian Williams (knee). Limited participation: DE John Abraham (groin); DT Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder); S Thomas DeCoud (ankle); LB Curtis Lofton (knee); C Todd McClure (ankle); WR Roddy White (knee).

The Falcons' report was unchanged from Wednesday.

Four-point stance

-- McCarthy, on the mind-set of his team: "Confident. Confident and ready to go. Looking forward to Saturday night."

-- McCarthy, on the noise in dome stadiums: "Minnesota is probably … I think if you went around the league, people would say that's probably the loudest. The loudest in my personal experience was probably the Superdome in New Orleans. I just remember when we won the first playoff game down there (as an assistant for the Saints), I've never heard anything like that."

-- If it didn't look like the Packers were rushing Michael Vick last week, it's because they weren't. "When we were rushing the quarterback, we weren't really going," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "Our thought was, Michael can certainly pass from the pocket but he's so dangerous rushing. He ran for 100-and-some yards in a half against us the last game. We weren't going to let him – we were going to try to limit his running ability and that was our game plan. We talked to our guys about rushing smart and not rushing stupid and I thought they did executed the game plan. Really, on the one run that he had, we didn't do a good job and we went way up the field on one of the positions and he found it and got 14 yards. The other one, we had a good defense but he just beat it."

-- Matthews also was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL 101 Awards. The 41st annual awards are billed as the "nation's only awards event dedicated exclusively to professional football." Troy Polamalu won the AFC award. Kansas City's Todd Haley and Atlanta's Mike Smith were coaches of the year in their respective conferences, and Tom Brady and Vick were named offensive players of the year.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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