Packer Report Q&A: Nick Barnett

The spirited inside linebacker talks about facing new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, the excitement he feels about being healthy in time to play this game, and having ‘hate in your heart' for whoever he plays.

Nick Barnett had plenty to say about getting ready for his first regular-season game since tearing the ACL in his right knee against Minnesota about 10 months ago.

What are your impressions of new Bears quarterback Jay Cutler?

Watching film and watching Cutler, I think he has added a dynamic to their offense where he can throw the deep ball and kind of get it out there. He can make a lot of passes with better accuracy than (the Bears' quarterbacks from last year). So, he adds that dynamic. Him playing off of the boot, he's very mobile and able to run out of the pocket and able to throw it off the back foot or front foot, whatever it is. He adds another dynamic to their offense.

He has a track record of being flustered under the pressure. Is that the goal this week?

For us, our game plan is to play our defense, whatever it is. When an opportunity presents itself, we'll bring the pressure. If not, we'll play our scheme. It's just whatever presents itself. I'm not going to say we're going to go out there and pressure him the whole time and we don't end up doing that. It's how the game goes, and I'm sure (defensive coordinator Dom) Capers has a good game plan.

Usually, the talk is about the Bears' defense. This time, it's about the Packers' defense …

I haven't been paying attention to what people have been talking about as far as the defenses, but people can talk about our defense or they can talk about the Bears' defense, but for us, we have to go out there and prove it. Preseason is preseason. It doesn't really count for a lot except for it boosts our confidence. The regular season is a whole other monster, and we've got to go out there and tame it. We're ready to go out there and play.

How was the knee last week against Tennessee in its first game?


Nick Barnett helps bring down Jay Cutler during the 2007 game at Denver. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It went good. I felt good. I think I had about 28 plays. I felt good. I even had a play where I kind of hyperextended it but I was still able to finish the game and play good. As far as them taking it easy with me, we'll see what happens. I don't know. I'm just a player. I'll let them coach, and we'll see what happens on Sunday.

Is this a different week, with the regular season starting, you're playing the Bears, it's in prime time?

It's hard to say it's a different week than any other week in the NFL because every game you've got to prepare for as hard as you can. We look forward to, obviously, playing the Bears. That's our rivalry and we're playing in Lambeau, season opener, Sunday night game. We're excited about it, but we've got to keep our calm and just stay focused and keep our preparation just the way it's supposed to be.

Do the Packers and Bears not like each other?

Don't like each other – I don't like any other team, to be honest -- the Bears, whatever it is. Any other team going out there, we don't like, especially the Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Lions. Anybody that lines up, we don't like them. We're going to go out there and we're going to play, man. They're a physical team, and we pride ourselves in thinking that we're physical, so we're going to go out there and show them how physical we are.

Through all of your rehab, was this the game you had circled on your calendar?

Definitely. For me, as rehabbing, it would be great being back for training camp, but the No. 1 goal for me was to be back at the beginning of the regular season because that's where it counts and that's when we've got to win. So, that's been circled since I've been rehabbing and working out hard. I look forward to being out there. I'm excited that I'm going to get some plays, be out there running around, tackling, just being me. I'm excited about that.

What would you tell a rookie about this rivalry?

Obviously, it's a great tradition. The Bears vs. the Packers, but for me, every game has to feel like a rivalry. You've got to have some kind of hate in your heart for anybody you face, some kind of opponent. Other guys are different, but I don't think I could play any other way. Knowing I've got to punch another guy in the mouth, I don't think I could be friendly about it. ‘Oh, I'm sorry.' It's kind of the way we have to play. It's that extra emphasis when you play the Bears or any division rival.

You're going to be amped up. Is it going to be difficult to keep your emotions in check, with your return, facing the Bears, prime time?

I don't think you want to keep the emotions in check. I've never read anything about that in the rulebook. You've got to play with as much emotion as you can. I'm an emotional player. I don't know about anybody else. I like to let that bubble over and play. As far as being nervous, that's the kind of thing you've got to keep in check. Preparation irons that out. If you're prepared to go out there and play and you play with emotion and you know what you're doing, I can't see you losing in that. Some guys make the mistake of not playing with any emotion. Then, you're just playing the game.

Is 6-10 still in the back of your mind?

You know, I have no thoughts about last year. Last year was last year. This year is, right now, we're 0-0. We're confident in ourselves to have a better record than 6-10. We're going to take it one game at a time.


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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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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