'Got To Be Determined Week After Week'

The Packers are embarking on one of the biggest challenges in sports: repeating as Super Bowl champion. We have the perspective from today's Packers as well as some of Lombardi's legends, who did it not once but twice.

The Green Bay Packers might as well change their uniform for this season.

Scrap the familiar green jerseys and replace them with concentric red and white circles.

Welcome to being a defending Super Bowl champion. Welcome to wearing a bull's-eye for the rest of the league to take aim at.

While the Packers know they're going to get everybody's best shot every week, they vow not to change the mind-set that made them champions. Coach Mike McCarthy's drumbeat for this season is that his Packers aren't defending anything. Rather, they're just one of 32 teams that are 0-0 and chasing the same goal of playing in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.

"We're not defending anything," McCarthy said. "We've climbed Mountain 45, it was a great climb, it was one that we'll have experience that we can probably pull forward to this year, but we don't get any wins and there's nothing really to gain from being the champion last year. This is a whole new journey. This is a whole new football team. We're at the bottom of the mountain just like everyone else is right now. We're at the starting line, and we need to do the things that are necessary throughout training camp, build our team, select our football team and start the climb. There's a path out there for us to get to Indianapolis. It's our responsibility, and our focus, commitment to stay on that path. And that's the way we view it."

Player after player echoed those talking points in the locker room.

"I think a lot of people take the approach that they're being hunted and there might be added pressure," running back Ryan Grant said. "Hunted is almost a victim. We're going to attack and be aggressive. I think that's what's got us where we are."

"Nothing's promised," 36-year-old receiver Donald Driver said. "If that was the case, when I walked in here in ‘99, I would have said, ‘We're going to win the Super Bowl again.' That doesn't happen. Thirteen years later, I win one. You've got to take the one that you did win, embrace it, love it, then you've got to put it behind you and try to win another."

The challenge of winning another is huge. Of the 44 teams that had a chance to win back-to-back championships during the Super Bowl era, only seven were successful. The first, of course, was Vince Lombardi's Packers, who capped an almost unprecedented three-peat by winning Super Bowls I and II.

"Everybody's going to be shooting at you," Glory Years center Ken Bowman said. "It's like several years ago, when everybody was touting Indianapolis and Peyton Manning, and they were going to be a shoo-in. They weren't a shoo-in because everybody – even the teams that are 0-7, they can make their season if they can beat the Green Bay Packers. Everybody gets higher than a kite for you and everybody gets ready for you. It's a tough thing to repeat. We did it three years in a row. But we had a team. When you've got 11 guys in the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame, what you're saying is these guys are not only the best players on the field at this time but they're some of the best players that have ever played the game."

The Packers might not have 11 future Hall of Famers dotting their roster but there are no shortage of game-changers. Seven members of the Packers made NFL Network's list of the top 100 players, as voted on by other players.

Still, other teams have plenty of good players, and it's important to remember that the Packers made the playoffs on a tiebreaker. Two of the teams they beat in the playoffs, Philadelphia and Atlanta, have dramatically upgraded their rosters. Tampa Bay and Detroit look like teams on the rise.

So much of the difference between success and failure boils down to preparation, hunger and focus. The Packers had that in spades last season. Only time will tell whether they retain that magic formula.

"Coach Lombardi always said it's tough to become a success, and when you do, it's even tougher to stay a success," said Bart Starr's backup quarterback, Zeke Bratkowski. "That's what they're going to face. They're going to face teams that are going to be gunned for them because they came on so strong so late and then got to the Super Bowl. Everybody's going to be gearing up for them, and they've had the whole offseason to study their offense and defense. It's not going to be easy."

Complacency is Public Enemy No. 1 for a champion. Fortunately, the Packers might have a ready-made safeguard to combat that. A cavalcade of top players are coming off of injured reserve, eager to earn a Super Bowl ring to join the one they were awarded. And while general manager Ted Thompson said this wasn't his intention, an influx of 10 draft picks and 17 undrafted free agents should ensure spirited practices.

"If four or five guys got complacent, we've got 13 guys off IR that are going to sit them down and get that going again," said one of those returning players, tight end Jermichael Finley. "We've got some hungry guys right now. It's ridiculous. I've never been on a team like this. Guys are ready to go and get at it."

At the end, though, it comes down to guts and want-to. The last of Lombardi's NFL championships was the Ice Bowl. Jerry Kramer said the Cowboys were "probably physically a better team" but it was the mental toughness that pulled the Packers through on the final drive.

"That was focus and determination and concentration and consistency and discipline and everything (Lombardi) stood for," Kramer said. "Those things have to be a part of the equation. You've got to keep your mind sharp, you've got to be determined week after week after week, you've got to meet the challenge on Sunday afternoon."


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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.


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