Notebook: Hatred Replaced By Respect

Charles Woodson, Aaron Rodgers and Lance Briggs talked about the Packers-Bears rivalry on Wednesday. Plus, Rodgers talks about 'the championship belt' celebration and more from Wednesday.

Packers and Bears.

Those names practically drip with the blood, sweat and tears of physical and emotional battles from yesteryear.

However, the coaches aren't George Halas and Vince Lombardi, or Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg. B.J. Raji absolutely will not re-enact Charles Martin's body slam of Jim McMahon on Jay Cutler. Instead, the intense rivalry that so many fans grew up with has been replaced by a matchup of mutual respect.

"You know, during the week, no," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said on Wednesday when asked if this feels like the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. "But once you get into the game, yeah. It's all there. It's a rivalry, you know, it's all those things, all of those emotions. You kind of take on the emotions of your community. You know how much they want to beat Chicago. Yeah, during this point in time of the week, it's about preparation and getting your looks, watching film and understanding what you have to do that particular Sunday."

In today's NFL, friendships cross team lines. A major reason why Aaron Rodgers' brother, Jordan, is a quarterback at Vanderbilt is because of Bears quarterback and former Vanderbilt star Jay Cutler, who later helped Jordan get acclimated to life at the school.

"I think there's a lot of respect in this rivalry," Rodgers said. "Jay and I are buddies, but we're not going to text this week. Charles (Tillman) and I are not going to probably talk this week. But there's a respect level I think when you're on the field. They have a number of guys who played in the league for a long time, and I think you can't help but when you're playing guys like that have respect for them and what they've done in their careers. But it's about getting through this week, so there's not going to be a whole lot of friendship out there until after the game."

That it's come down to this game is no surprise to Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"Well it's only fitting that it would come down to that," he said. "There's a rival that everyone has, of course being a Chicago Bear fan, you know that it's Green Bay for us, so to have to beat the Packers to get to the Super Bowl, our ultimate goal, is the only way it should be and we embrace that."

The Bears won the division and are playing at home but the Packers are the favorites. Not even that has gotten under the skin of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

"No, that's all it is, it's a sign of respect for what the Packers and Aaron Rodgers have been able to do," Briggs said. "They have been doing a lot of that this whole year. Credit is due. For us, we face this team twice a year. They're about 4 1/2 hours from us. We're used to playing them, they're used to playing us. This is a team we are very familiar with."

The Belt

One of the bizarre moments of the Packers-Falcons game was John Abraham sacking Rodgers and performing Rodgers' championship belt celebration even with Green Bay in control, 28-14.

"It's fun, especially when you get a guy like John Abraham doing it after a sack and then he's able to run in for a score," receiver Greg Jennings said. "I'm on the sideline like, ‘Give him the belt again, give him the belt again.'"

Where did the celebration start?

"Just started in practice, the scout team, trying to get those guys to take it seriously and enjoy it, have fun with it," Rodgers said. "A lot of times on the scout team, you've got guys who wish they were starters or older guys who aren't playing or important backups who might not want to put as much effort into the scout team as you do as a quarterback trying to make that your whole game. So, I just tried to make it fun. So, the celebrating kind of grew and the guys enjoyed it."

Packers injury report

Did not participate: LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: T Chad Clifton (knees); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); RB John Kuhn (shoulder); CB Pat Lee (hip); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); C/G Jason Spitz (calf). Full participation: LB Diyral Briggs (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

"He was close" to playing last week," coach Mike McCarthy said about Bigby. "We just felt that another week would be better. I anticipate he'll have a good chance of going this week."

Zombo, who is nursing a knee sprain, didn't do well enough in testing to practice.

"Time is going to heal it. It's really rest," he said. "I kept on trying to get back real soon, so I kept trying to rush it, and in the long run, I was setting myself back farther. If I'd have completely sat out for three weeks, I would (have been) back three weeks ago. But I tried to rush back for certain games, and it set me back."

Bears injury report

Did not participate: WR Earl Bennett (not injury related); CB Zach Bowman (not injury related); S Chris Harris (hip). Full participation: DE Israel Idonije (thumb).

Harris, a starter at safety, injured his hip in the first quarter against Seattle before finally departing in the third quarter. He said only "an act of God" will keep him out for Sunday.

Four-point stance

— Practice was split between the indoor Don Hutson Center and the outdoor Ray Nitschke Field, which has heating coils to keep a portion free of ice and snow. With the doors open, McCarthy said the Hutson Center was between 29 and 32 degrees. The predicted kickoff temperature is 21.

— The officiating crew on Sunday will be led by referee Terry McAuley. McAuley worked the Week 3 game at Chicago in which the Packers were hit by a franchise-record 18 penalties. "The 18 penalties in one game, we look at that as more of an anomaly," McCarthy said. "I know it is more of an all-star crew. Terry is the referee. He has obviously been selected for this game for good reason."

— After four consecutive must-win games, McCarthy isn't worried about his team being drained, due in part to the Saturday game meaning an extra day of rest. "If we are guilty of anything, it would be too much energy. I don't think we're worn out at all."

— Jennings, on the Packers not crumbling beneath the injuries and a 3-3 start: "Well, No. 1, I think we're set up to accommodate for any injury. I think they've done a great job upstairs with personnel bringing guys in that can make plays if someone were to do down, and that was the adverse situation that we were faced with this year, and the guys stepped up in key positions and key roles and were able to make plays as both the starters were when they were in, and that's what has propelled us to be in the position we're in today."

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

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