Q&A: Fontenot on Packers-Bears

We talked to assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot, who was on the wrong side of the Instant Replay Game during his eight-year run as a center for the Chicago Bears.

Packers assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot played center in the NFL from 1989 through 2004, including his first eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. Packer Report talked to Fontenot this week to get his perspective on the NFL's longest-running rivalry.

As someone who played in this rivalry not so long ago, what are some of your memories?

Well, I have quite a few, but I guess the most talked about one — in fact, it's still argued and talked about today — is the famous (Don) Majkowski pass (Instant Replay Game on Nov. 5, 1989), which promptly plummeted our season. I think we won one of our next seven games after that game. It's funny, because ‘Camp' (offensive line coach James Campen, a Packers center back then) and I still argue about that today.

So, a change in employer hasn't changed your perspective?

No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's all about time and place, and back then I still defend what was right.

Did you hate the Packers back then?

No, back then as a player, we had certain rivals, and Green Bay was one of them, Minnesota was one of them, and certainly within our division, those were our two biggest rivals. I had some friends that were playing for the Packers back then. I knew Matt Brock (a defensive lineman). I didn't hate anyone but they were definitely going to get my best effort and I was going to rightfully get theirs. We knew that if you could control the teams within your division — that's what creates great rivalries is the fact that if you can control the teams within your division and do whatever it takes to win those games, then you stand a chance of getting into the playoffs. We were on the back end of the whole (Mike) Ditka era, Ray Nitschke, guys like that who took ‘angry' to a new level. Being a part of that and being able to play off the heels of that was kind of fun.

Does this game mean anything extra to you or is this just another game?

No, I'd like to win this one as much as any of them, if not more. I do have some good friends that are still there within the organization — obviously not players — but it's fun to compete with those people. It's about winning, period. It makes it even more special being able to play these guys first game of the season, ‘Sunday Night Football,' and having that connection there for me personally makes it a little more interesting for me.

You came to Green Bay after spending your first year out of football doing TV. Did you come here because of your relationship with Mike McCarthy (who was the Saints' offensive coordinator when Fontenot played center for New Orleans)?

Actually it is. When Mike got the job here, I called him and congratulated him and said, ‘Hey, put me to work.' Fortunately, he had an internship open and that's what we did. We had talked about it when I played in New Orleans and he was coaching, we had talked about my transitioning from a player into a coach back then. So, whenever he got the head job here, it was a great opportunity for me because it wasn't that far from where I was, which was Chicago.

Was it odd going to work for the enemy?

You know what? As far as organizations go and fans go, I can remember coming to games here as a Bear and my father-in-law, who was a lifelong Bears fan, said that this was his favorite stadium to watch a game in because he said the fans were just fantastic. They loved the sport of football and were going to stand behind the Packers but they were never rude or obnoxious to Bears fans. He loved coming to games here, and that made it more special for me to be able to come here and be a part of an organization that has such class and dignity and a rich history.

Do you tell stories about the rivalry in the locker room or is that Campen's job?

I think that's everyone's job that was a part of it. It's all about enriching those guys' knowledge with history and what's taken place and what we expect of them today. I think we all pull our weight when it comes to that.

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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. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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