Who You Calling a Coward?

A war of words has emerged during Packers week concerning the way the Pack intend to minimize the effectiveness of Pat and Kevin Williams. Is it legal? The Packers claim yes. Is it cowardly? The Vikings claim yes. In the process, they have added a new storyline to a matchup that really doesn't need any more buildup.

Blackboard material.

It's something that, from the high school level, becomes a storyline to a game. It's something that is hoped doesn't happen, the belief being that giving an opponent more ammunition is counterproductive. But, as the Vikings prepare to meet the Packers Sunday, both teams have the fabled "blackboard material" to use.

In a press conference with the Twin Cities media, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was actually praising Kevin and Pat Williams by saying that they're not only the best interior defensive line tandem the Packers have faced this year, but adding, "You can't single-block them. Frankly, we need to cut them all day."

By that, McCarthy meant the practice of cutting a defender at the knees to neutralize him. The Broncos have perfected the technique and are the gold standard of taking defensive linemen out of plays by blocking chop-blocking them low. As defensive linemen, this is viewed as not only cheap and illegal, but potentially career threatening. Almost all of the rules changes in the NFL in recent years have been to protect offensive players – from the QB slide rule to the 5-yard defensive contact with receivers to the horse-collar rule instituted after Roy Williams of the Cowboys hurt two players with the same type of tackle. Some defenders believe a quarterback should wear a skirt because, unless he is still holding the ball at the moment of contact, he can't be touched.

So it wasn't a shock that both of the Williams Brothers responded to McCarthy's comments about cut blocking. As players used to going heads-up with offensive linemen, being forewarned that they are going to have snaps where they go for the upper body of a center or guard and find them going for their knees to knock them off their pins wasn't the best thing a coach could have said in praise of an opponent. The Packers linemen and McCarthy were clumped together in being called "cowards" for taking the approach of cutting the legs out of a defender instead of neutralizing him with face-to-face technique.

The Packers responded in kind Friday, saying that their technique isn't illegal and making assertions that Pat and Kevin Williams are simply whining about the way they do business. But, it should be noted that, with two rookies starting at the guard positions for the Packers, if they get frustrated, they may go for the cheap shot with a chop block. Veterans understand the ramifications of doing something "stupid" on the field. If a player really wants to hurt an opposing player, the opportunities are there. Rookies trying to build a reputation are another story. In a game that didn't require any additional build-up, this one just got it.

The way the Packers decide to deal with the Williamses is going to be a point of focus Sunday. Depending on your point of view, the art of going after another guy's knees is seen in two very distinct ways – one saying it is legal and the other believing it almost lethal from the career perspective. One comment intended to be praise has become blackboard material for both teams. How it plays out Sunday will be a subject of interest that fans should follow.

* Napoleon Harris and Marcus Robinson have both been ruled out for Sunday's game.
* Fred Smoot is expected to return to the team Saturday night after the funeral of his brother, but, having missed all week of practice, he may be replaced in the starting lineup by Cedric Griffin and be used primarily as a nickel back.
* Chester Taylor and Tony Richardson were both upgraded to probable on the Friday injury report. Both are expected to assume their regular roles Friday.
* Troy Williamson spent an extra 15 minutes with media members watching catching passes from a JUGS machine following practice Friday. Williamson has dropped several passes, including a pair of critical balls in last Sunday's loss to the 49ers. Whether the additional practice was intended to be viewed by media types was planned or not, it's being passed along for the intended purposes.
* Rod Davis was fined $5,000 for a horse-collar tackle in last Sunday's game.
* Darrion Scott remains questionable for Sunday's game. If he can't go, Ray Edwards will start in his place.
* The Sporting News midseason All-Pro team included Steve Hutchinson and Kevin Williams as first-team selections.
* Erasmus James was initially scheduled to have surgery on a torn ACL one month ago today, but has yet to have the procedure done. Coach Brad Childress said there are valid reasons why the surgery hasn't been done, saying that the Denver-based surgeon wants to make sure the pre-operative rehab measures have been completed.
* Packers rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings practiced Friday, but was shut down after complaining of soreness in his injured leg. Brett Favre's best deep threat this season, he will be a game-time decision.
* Fans attending the game are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the game Sunday. The Second Harvest Food Bank will have representatives at all entry gates to accept food items for area food shelves.
* On Veteran's Day, all of us at VU would like to salute the men and women of the armed forces that have protected our freedoms in the past and continue to do so in the present and future. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

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