True Leaders Make Big Difference

Smart guys call it parity. I call it no team is that much better than any other team. Regardless of what you call it, salary capped-free agency has made that a fact of NFL life.

If a club is fortunate enough to create a talent gap, it won't last. Other teams will start raiding its roster, the cap will rear its constricting head, and presto-chango, the gap is gone.

For that reason, intangibles are probably more important now than ever before. While the tangibles, i.e. talent, will always be a major factor in winning, in today's game the intangibles, that touchy feely stuff that you can't measure, may actually be the deciding factor.

Leadership certainly falls into that category, and quite possibly, may even top it. You could make a pretty strong case that a team with good leaders and a competitive talent level is positioned to make a winning statement in today's NFL.

The Green Bay Packers are one of those teams.

Just your ordinary everyday practice last week and as is usually the case, the special teams were getting some work in before it began. More specifically, the kick-off coverage unit, which William Henderson is a part of, was getting some work in. It's somewhat unusual for a starter going into his seventh season to be covering kicks but William is 250-plus, can run, not to mention the fact that he's also fearless.

The practice coverage was going along but not at a particularly intense level, physically or mentally. Just a little too much grab-_ _ _. William exploded. Normally, he's not the most vocal guy on the roster but he ordered everybody over at the top of his lungs.

William then proceeded to read his teammates the riot act. He told them Packer special teams don't practice that way. That it was flat-out unacceptable. That each member of the unit had to cover kicks to the best of his ability not sometimes, but all the time. That if he, a seven-year veteran could do it, then they (most of whom were first- and second-year guys), could damn well do it too. (Honestly, I'd never heard William swear before this particular day. He was that upset.)

There's not many seven-year veterans, let alone starting fullbacks, who would show that kind of commitment to practicing kickoff coverage the right way. As a matter of fact, a good number would be pouting at the thought of putting in the extra duty. Not William Henderson. He not only approached it as a true pro, he also set the tone for his teammates.

Leadership is a dynamic commodity. It can reveal itself in a variety of ways. Robert Ferguson was the Packers' second-round draft choice. The wide receiver has a world of talent. (Kind of reminds me of a taller Sterling Sharpe.) He's also was a non-factor this preseason.

Brett Favre, who knows a thing or two about the passing game, was asked about Ferguson's progress. Although he complimented his talent, Brett also said, "At some point the lights have to come on. In this league no one waits. Just because you're a high pick they may keep you around for a year, maybe two, but then you'll be somewhere else. I'm not saying that's going to happen to Robert, I'm just saying you have to treat this game very seriously..."

Wow! If you're a rookie wide receiver and that doesn't get your attention, nothing will. Brett's nobody's fool. He wasn't being malicious, he was just sending a message, a very loud and clear message to Robert Ferguson. Was it just a coincidence that he responded with 3 catches for 59 yards against Oakland? Methinks not.

Injuries are as much a part of the NFL landscape as blocking and tackling and how a player deals with them can eventually have a huge impact on his team's success or failure.

Last season, both Santana Dotson and Steve Warren suffered similar season-ending quadriceps injuries that required surgery. Santana looks like he'll be ready for the regular season opener against the Lions. Steve is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Mike Sherman remarked, "Santana is a veteran...he's been through injuries...things don't feel right, he fights through them...nothing against Stevie, it's just his first time through and I'm certainly sure he was concerned and wasn't able to push it like Santana has...Santana has done a remarkable job."

A job that Steve, no doubt, has noticed. Real leaders never stop leading, not even at the training room door.


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