Sydney Speaks! Special teams can be special

Harry Sydney, the special teams captain of the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in the late 1980s, had a chance to sit down and talk with new Packers special teams coordinator Mike Stock. Sydney explains in his column today why there is reason for optimism for Green Bay's special teams units this season.

Over the last several years there has been an area of the team that has basically done nothing to help the Green Bay Packers win a game. As a matter of fact, these units seem to do everything to make it harder for the Packers to win, and that's the special teams!!!!!!!!!!

I understand that part of the special teams was Ryan Longwell and his ability to make game-winning field goals kept this team afloat for many years. Quite often they got a passing grade even though in reality they have been horrible for the most time, especially the return game. Trust me, it wasn't just because of the returners but also because of the scheme and the philosophy of the coach running the scheme. This is where I think the most impact might be felt. I believe that things are going to change because of Mike Stock their new coach.

I got to spend some time with him last week and we got to talk about the good old days and where we crossed paths during our careers. So as we were talking we talked about his days at Cincinnati and mine at San Francisco, and we talked about how we would battle each other. I remembered the special teams battles that we had. I started to like him even more. Special teams coaches are about attitude. He understands the wars that take place he understands that it takes a special type of individual to run down on kickoffs just to sacrifice his body to bust up a wedge. He also realizes that he has to put his players in position to have success. We discussed blocking schemes and the need to create running lanes for his returners. This statement brought back memories of the Super Bowl when they hit a kickoff return for a touchdown. We talked about how they blocked it and I told him he didn't have to remind me because I was there.

What I really like about him is that he is old school. I know someone might say what does old school have to do with special teams. I'll tell you it has everything to do with it even more than on offense or defense. Special teams is about hitting, hitting and more hitting. It's about taking advantages of blocking angles. It's about match-ups and your players winning those match-ups but for that to happen it's the responsibility of the coach to put them in the best position for that match-up.

After talking to Stock I felt good about this year's special teams, but then he said something that I enjoyed hearing even more. He said "that they all look good in underwear, but that means nothing to me." Then he said I need some nasty hardcore son of a BLEEPS. He said he didn't need any choir boys, and I almost fell off my seat. Then he said a few more things which I thought were the things necessary to change things around such as that Mike McCarthy knows the importance of special teams. Teams aren't good unless the head coach makes it a priority. Part of what Ted Thompson has done over the last couple of years has been add some serious speed and youth to the kicking game, and Mike Stock feels it's time to take advantage of it. Let's take a look at some of the youth that has a chance to make an impact. Guys like William Blackmon, Leo Bookman, Nick Collins, Samkon Gado, Rod Gardner, A.J. Hawk, Michael Hawkins, Noah Herron, Abdul Hodge, Jason Horton, Greg Jennings, Vonta Leach, Chad Lucas, Roy Manning, Mike Montgomery, Brady Poppinga, Ben Taylor, Marviel Underwood. Because of this youth if I were Stock I'd be a little excited about coaching as well.

The other thing we talked about was the support he was getting from McCarthy. He might even be able to us some of the starters because they know it's about winning and that if you are playing special teams it's not a demotion. Stock knows the importance of every play of a game and how a special teams play can change the game. Talk about momentum. Think about what a blocked punt does to the team or a punt return for a touchdown. Remember Super Bowl XXXI? Don't you think Desmond Howard's kickoff return for a touchdown affected the game? Think about how many yards this offense lost over the years because of Antonio Chatman's lack of return skills. What about the Ryan Longwell effect of short kickoffs and the field position the opposing offense got to start at compared to the Packers? There is so much hidden yardage that the Packers didn't capitalize on in the past years because of a terrible kicking game. I am hoping things this year will change and the special teams JUST MIGHT BE SPECIAL!!!!!!!!

Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to managing editor Todd Korth at, and it will be forwarded to him.

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