Notebook: Packers Ready For Bears

After "Go Pack Go!" chants rang through a Brad Paisley concert, all that's left is to kick off the game on Sunday. Plus, Aaron Rodgers and Brian Urlacher talk turnovers and more from Friday.

On Thursday night, country music star Brad Paisley played across from Lambeau Field at the Resch Center.

In the audience, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers hoped onstage and said he was supposed to sing a line from "I'm Still a Guy." Instead, the crowd was so loud that Rodgers couldn't hear the music, so he audibled to high-fiving the fans.

"That's probably a better option for me anyway, if anybody's heard my singing voice," Rodgers joked at his locker on Friday. "As we got off-stage and we're back stage, all I could hear front stage was "Go Pack Go" chants. We love our fans and the support is incredible. Hope to see a lot of them down in Chicago this week. This place is nicknamed Titletown, and it's been too long."

The Packers are two games from putting the "title" back in "Titletown" for the first time since 1996. The next step is Sunday NFC Championship Game at Chicago.

"Definitely ready" was coach Mike McCarthy's assessment. "Normally on Fridays when the heavy lifting is done, there's a lot of energy in the morning meetings, definitely the energy will carry throughout practice. I was pleased with the practice, the standard and the level of practice, the efficiency and everything of it.

"Now it's 50 hours (to kickoff). The 50-hour rule is in place at this time for them to get their bodies ready, ready to go, rest and everything. From here to kickoff it's all mental."

While the laid-back Rodgers said he felt "0 percent pressure," his counterpart admitted that he'll have to conquer his nerves on Sunday.

"We're ready to play," Jay Cutler said. "I think we've had a great week of practice. Offensively, the guys are ready to go. I know everyone's excited. We just have to stay calm. I'm sure there is going to be a lot of jitters early on, but we have to settle down rather quickly in that game and execute our game plan."

Talking turnovers

The Packers and Bears split the season series, with Green Bay owning a scant 27-23 advantage in points. With two strong defenses, chances are this will be another close game.

"I would say turnovers," Rodgers said about the key to the game. "I think the team that wins the turnover battle should win the game. They do a good job of forcing turnovers. We've done a good job the last four years of being in the top 10 in turnover ratio. We need to play a zero-turnover game to win this thing."

Green Bay finished the regular season with a turnover margin of plus-10 and is plus-2 in two playoff games. Chicago was plus-4 in the regular season and plus-1 last week against Seattle.

"That's all we talk about, taking the ball away, causing fumbles," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "Peanut (Charles Tillman) is the best at it, I think, in the NFL at getting the ball out. We have a lot of tipped balls this year. I think that is a big deal. We've missed some also, but we've had a lot of tipped balls. Guys are thinking about taking the ball away, which is always in the back of our minds. When you get the tackle secured, the other guys try to strip the football."

Memory lane

As tends to happen, out-of-town reporters like to turn back the clock and cover topics that are pretty well known at home.

So, a reporter asked McCarthy to recall his time as San Francisco's offensive coordinator and the 49ers' decision to draft Alex Smith rather than Rodgers with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft.

McCarthy said Rodgers has improved his mechanics and his conditioning during their time together.

"But the talent was always there," McCarthy said. "I can recall walking off his workout at Cal Berkeley that day and it was clearly the most impressive workout that I had seen live of a college quarterback throwing the football. So, he was able to develop for two years, and then when his opportunity came, he's been a very consistent player and he's getting better and better and has a chance to achieve greatness with a Super Bowl victory."

Packers injury report

Out: LB Frank Zombo (knee). Questionable: C/G Jason Spitz (calf). Probable: LB Diyral Briggs (ankle); T Chad Clifton (knees); LB A.J. Hawk (knee); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); RB John Kuhn (shoulder); CB Pat Lee (hip); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); LB Erik Walden (shoulder); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

Hawk and Walden were added to the list but McCarthy expressed no concern that they'd be in the starting lineup on Sunday.

Bears injury report

Questionable: S Chris Harris (hip).

Harris, a starter, was limited at Friday's practice after being held out on Wednesday and Thursday. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee) was removed from the Bears' injury report Friday.

"Chris Harris was able to do some things today so we feel like we'll have our entire group ready to go for that and just feel like we're ready to play," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Four-point stance

— Hall of Famer Willie Davis will be the Packers' honorary captain. Richard Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX and a Hall of Fame finalist, will be the Bears' honorary captain.

— This will be the sixth NFC Championship Game to be played between teams from the same division since 1970. The average margin of victory has been 18.8 points, ranging from 13 to 23 points. The home team is 5-0 in those games.

— With a bitter-cold minus-10, McCarthy kept the players in the Hutson Center. With the doors open, McCarthy said the temperature was 18, making it just about right for the predicted kickoff conditions.

— For evidence that this isn't the same type of rivalry as 25 or 50 years ago, Rodgers recalled the two-point conversion at Chicago last year. "As I got the ball off, somebody was on my legs and my knee was twisting a certain way and I was able to avoid injury. As I looked at the film, Tommie (Harris) kind of pulled off there, knowing he had me in a compromised situation as far as my knee and, thankfully, he's not a dirty player. He plays tough and he plays hard. I hope maybe our friendship factored into that. I have seen him at charity outings and there's a respect level on both sides, the way that he plays and I think he respects the way I play. He kind of pulled off and let go of my knee so I could finish out the season."

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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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