'Conflict' Breeds Camaraderie at CB

The Packers are overflowing with talent at cornerback. Rather than selfish approaches in hopes of winning precious playing time, what emerged was an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality that's been typical of this carefully crafted team.

The Green Bay Packers have five talented cornerbacks.

Unless defensive coordinator Dom Capers comes up with something incredibly creative — or he moves one to outside linebacker — a player or two are probably going to be unhappy with their playing time on Monday night against Chicago.

"They're probably not the happiest bunch, but that's good. Conflict is good," coach Mike McCarthy said after Saturday's practice.

The word "conflict" only tells half the story. Yes, players are battling for playing time on the practice field and in the classroom.

From that, however, emerged an all-for-one, one-for-all mentality that should be celebrated.

Rather than individual players doubling down on their own efforts to get a bigger chunk of the playing-time pie, Sam Shields suggested to his fellow cornerbacks and position coach Joe Whitt that they study more as a unit and they take the end-of-week exam as a group.

Selfishness? Not in this group.

"I've been pleased with the way that they work," Whitt said when relayed McCarthy's "conflict is good" comment. "They're not all happy but there's not going to always be happiness. It's not about being happy. It's about winning football games. Every decision we make is going to be in the best interest of the Green Bay Packers and winning football games. They have a great understanding of that.

"The thing that I like that I saw this week is instead of complaining and moaning, they've really been helping each other. They wanted to do more group study than individual study. When we took our test today, we did it as a group and they asked to do it as a group. They thought that it helped us everybody together instead of individually instead of me just grading it. I thought that was the right approach from the individuals in the room."

This is the Green Bay Way. When the phrase "Packer People" is uttered, this is what general manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy have in mind. Of course they want good players. They also want good teammates. It's probably at least a small reason why Thompson doesn't dabble in free agency. He knows "his" players and he knows the chemistry in the locker room shouldn't be messed with.

In training camp, there was Johnny Jolly — coming off a three-year NFL suspension and stint in prison, and fighting an uphill battle to make the team — giving pointers and words of wisdom to the players he was battling for a spot on the roster.

"I think that's just the nature of him and really it's the nature of all of the guys in my room," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said during training camp. "They do that all the time. Believe me, I've been in rooms where a veteran's not going to tell this rookie anything because that sucker wants my job. These are good guys."

In the Week 1 loss at San Francisco, James Jones didn't catch a single pass after scoring 14 touchdowns in 2012. Did he complain? Not a bit.

"Yeah, man, it's tough but the ultimate goal is to win the game," Jones said a few days after the game. "I don't go into a game trying to get 160 yards and we come out with a loss. The ultimate goal is to win the game and that's why it's a team game. If I'm not making plays, that's why we've got other receivers and that's why we've got other playmakers. Nothing's wrong with me. I'm just out there trying to help my team win, and we didn't get the win done."

Jamari Lattimore has played well in three starts in place of injured Brad Jones at inside linebacker. Did Lattimore toot his own horn this week? No way. "I just go out and play," Lattimore said on Friday, "and that's what it's all about: Go out, show your team that you can play, step up, earn people's respect. That's what it's all about."

Did he do that? "I'm not going to make that statement. People who saw me play, that's on their part. Not mine."

B.J. Raji has never whined about the lack of true pass-rushing opportunities, even if his streak of 29 consecutive games without a sack is going to hit him in the wallet when he become a free agent at season's end.

So it goes in Green Bay, where winning isn't everything. It's the only thing that's important.

"I'm pretty sure it won't be easy for some guys," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "Obviously, there are only a certain amount of reps that can go around. The guys are doing an excellent job with not being selfish. Obviously, everyone deserves a chance to get out on the field. We all go out there every day and put everything on the line. Guys have been great about it, have had a great attitude about it. "

Added cornerback Davon House, who is playing the best of his career but hasn't gotten consistent playing time because of the depth: "It's good, especially since it's going to bring out the best in all of us because we all want to be out there, we all want to get better, and that's only going to benefit the team. ... Most likely someone will be (upset) but, hopefully whoever it is, they understand what's best for the team and as long as we get the win, that's what counts and just go at it next week."

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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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