|Ryan Pickett, an anchor in the middle, goes about his business at defensive tackle quietly. (US Presswire)|
GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- There are many key components of the Green Bay Packers' success. They possess one of the better head coaches in Mike McCarthy. Their quarterback is the best in football. And their front office might also be the best.
And there is something else: their players don't get arrested en masse. Knock on wood.
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Make no mistake: there have been Packers who have gotten in trouble with the law but, for the most part, a key reason why this franchise wins is because most of their players mostly stay off the police blotter.
"We're able to manage a lot of that stuff," said Aaron Rodgers. "We don't have a lot of distractions."
Rodgers called it the Packer Way.
"Keep your mouth shut and play."
When I asked how the arrests in Detroit would affect that team, Rodgers initially laughed. Then he said, in no uncertain terms, that what happened in Detroit would never happen in Green Bay because of "good leadership" on the Packers. Knock on wood.
Again, the Packers have had troubled players, but in small doses, and there is a larger story here that exemplifies a sub-current of success for franchises like the Packers.
According to a database created by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Minnesota Vikings have had 36 players arrested since 2000, the most in the league. Cincinnati is next with 35, Denver at 32 and Tennessee with 30. Not a lot of Super Bowls among that group.
In fact, look at the list of Super Bowl winners since 2000: the Rams, Ravens, Patriots, Bucs, Steelers, Colts, Giants, Saints and Packers. Some of those teams have had some issues, but none of them are among the top group of troublemakers previously mentioned.
Rodgers credited McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson for drafting guys who like to stay out of jail. That's a huge part of it but the Packers' leaders are the key. When there are guys like Rodgers and cornerback Charles Woodson, among others, running the Green Bay locker room, younger players, indeed all players, just don't want to screw around. No one wants to let Rodgers down. No one wants Woodson mad at them.
Rodgers finished our conversation with a common joke that is made by players about the city of Green Bay. The reason we don't have a lot of people getting into trouble, he smiled, isn't because it's Green Bay. Meaning it's not due to the fact that Green Bay is a sleepy town. It's because the Packers know what it takes to stay out of trouble.
Knock on wood.
• Make the defense better. Sounds simple, but of course it's not so easy to execute. In last season's divisional-round loss, instead of stopping the Giants on defense (and outscoring them), the Packers tried to outlast them -- and finally saw the danger in that approach. If the Packers can transform their defense into a top-notch unit, they would be unstoppable.
• Blend in a great deal of new talent. Rodgers spoke with marvel about how there are 31 new players on the team. That's good but that's also a challenge. "We're going to have to figure out what a lot of these guys do best," Rodgers explained.
• Enjoy the energy. Rodgers talked about the influx of energy guys and how it's already transforming the locker room for the better. When speaking to Rodgers, the locker room was so loud from the energetic chatting that I could barely hear Rodgers when he was speaking to me.
• On a team this stacked and set there are not a lot of major camp battles. One good one is the No. 2 cornerback job. Davon House is fighting with veterans Jarrett Bush and Sam Shields and rookie Casey Howard. House has a good shot to win. This week he had a nice pass deflection and an interception that caught McCarthy's eye.
• The last wide receiver spot. Tori Gurley has the edge. Gurley has made some big catches and he's solid on special teams.
Somebody to Watch
Anthony Hargrove. It's still not clear when exactly he'll play. He's scheduled to miss half the season after Roger Goodell suspended him for his alleged involvement in the Saints bounty scandal. That's probably what will happen. When he plays, he'll be a huge difference maker. Hargrove isn't just talented, he brings energy to the defense, something that was missing last season
• Tight end Eric Lair has a knee injury.
• Tight end Jermichael Finley is slowly returning back to practice after suffering a concussion.
• Wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out with an elbow injury.
The Last Word
Rodgers is right. The Packers won't duplicate their one-loss regular season but they will actually be better. The defensive line will be better. The offense could be better. Rodgers talked about how in team meetings the players and coaches are looking, for example, to get one extra third down conversion a game. They'll get better one small step at a time.
And because of that this team will reach the Super Bowl. The better players on defense will make the difference and the Packers will get to the Super Bowl despite the brutal division.