Gray: Young Packers have learned how to win

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray offers his assessment of the Green Bay Packers after their impressive, season-ending victory over the Chicago Bears on New Year's Eve.

Another year has come and gone, but I am more optimistic about next season than I was at this time last year. Brett Favre's emotional display after that beautiful victory over the Chicago Bears proved how much of his heart and soul he has put into this team. He made a statement last summer about how much talent was on this team, and he was mildly upset after the Lions victory about talks of playoffs, saying that this team had so far to go to even have those thoughts.

On Sunday night, I don't think he cried because it was his last game, but because of how proud he was of how well this team played down the stretch and to get a victory over the No. 1 seed in the NFC on the road was just a bit too much.

During his post-game interview, he talked about feeling that he could still play at a high level, but as we saw last year, it wasn't his physical skills that diminished but his game management. Just when the Packers needed to bring their best against a porous secondary, Greg Jennings had to make an emergency trip back home to welcome his first child into the world. With the tight ends having their troubles catching the ball, this could have easily been one of those do everything and anything, throw it up for grabs kind of game. But Favre controlled his emotions, played with the talent that he had around him (Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday) and managed the game like a true professional. As he knew, he could.

It's one thing to play this way against teams like the 49ers, Lions and Vikings, but to be able to do it against a playoff contender that happens to a rival was awesome. Those competitive juices will get you all the time, not to mention that having swept the other teams in the division. A split with the Bears would prove that the Packers indeed were ready to dance if their song was played. Unfortunately, there's no more money in the jukebox, but what you do have is a bunch guys that have realized that if they had worked just little harder they would have had enough money to play a few more songs.

Many athletes make an NFL roster just because of their athletic prowess but the game is about trusting in your teammates and coaches and playing with emotion and passion. It's about competition and a willingness to do whatever it takes to walk away the victory. It's about beating the best at their place in front of a national audience when odds are against you. It's about winning.

Johnnie Gray

Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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