Commentary

There are Packers and there are Packer players. LeRoy Butler will always be remembered as a Packer. Add his name to such Titletown icons as Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Larry McCarren, Johnnie Gray and so on.<p>

Packer players come and go as part of their tour of the National Football League. But some embrace the team and community, perform at a high level, and serve as a symbol of the Green and Gold. The creator of the Lambeau Leap, Butler has done all of the above for the past 12 seasons.

When it comes to team players, Butler is the example. Since he was drafted in 1990 by the Packers he consistently did what was best for the team. He began as a cornerback, but moved to safety to fill a hole left by the departed Mark Murphy. He took three pay cuts in recent seasons. He has played through injuries. He developed into a leader for teammates on and off the field.

Butler has always found ways to help the team physically and financially. A few weeks ago, he accepted a large pay cut for the upcoming season. But when X-rays of his mending left shoulder revealed that it is not completely healed, he decided to retire and allow the coaching staff to hand the baton to a new starter at safety.

Greed obviously is not in Butler's vocabulary. He could have left Green Bay years ago for more money with another team, especially in 1997 when his contract was about to expire and the Packers were coming off an NFL title season. He could have hung on, like many athletes do. He could have gone through training camp, probably standing on the sideline while the rest of the team practiced, hoping that the broken bone in his shoulder would fuse. He might have even cleared his physical near the end of camp. But that's not the best preparation to help a team that is pegged by many to make a Super Bowl run this year. And there was no guarantee that he would have retained his starting position.

Instead, Butler took the pressure off the coaching staff of possibly having to release him by making the decision to leave football on his own terms. He came in as a rookie, making an impact, and he left as a starter and possible Pro Football Hall of Famer. In between, he made enough money to last a long, long time and created memories with fans that will last forever.

His decision to leave the game will help future safeties such as Antuan Edwards, Bhawoh Jue or Marques Anderson get a jump start on the season ahead. Butler, who would make a great coach, also has offered to stick around and offer his assistance. A true pro, all the way to the end.


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