Green Bay Packers' RB coach Edgar Bennett draws on '96 ring to inspire

Feb. 4, 2011
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Green Bay Packers Super Bowl analysis: Injuries: Mike Vandermause and Rob Demovsky talk about injuries the Packers are dealing with heading into the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers running back Edgar Bennett carries the ball against Seattle on Sept. 29, 1996, the season the Packers last won the Super Bowl. / File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

DALLAS — Green Bay Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett has been wearing his Super Bowl championship ring this week.

It serves as a reminder of the Packers’ glorious past but also provides motivation for the players attempting to win another title on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I didn’t want to wear it out on the practice field, but I’ve been wearing it this week,” said Bennett on Thursday at the Packers’ team hotel. “It’s more just a reminder.

“We’re going after that Vince Lombardi Trophy to bring it home where it belongs. And it’s also about that ring because you’ll be a champion forever.”

Bennett was the starting halfback on the Packers’ championship team that beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI in January 1997. He sees a lot of similarities between that team and the current one.

Bennett was reluctant to go into detail because there’s some unfinished business to address on Sunday.

All he would offer was that both teams featured up-and-coming young quarterbacks (Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers) as well as dynamic defensive playmakers that were signed as unrestricted free agents (Reggie White and Charles Woodson).

He could have added that both teams had head coaches in their fifth seasons (Mike Holmgren and Mike McCarthy), both teams had 58-year-old general managers (Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson) and both teams boasted top-10 offenses and defenses.

Both lost key playmakers to injury — Robert Brooks and George Koonce went down in 1996, while this year’s Packers have lost six starters for the season, including offensive stars Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant in addition to veteran linebacker Nick Barnett.

“It’s quite a few similarities,” Bennett said. “Before we go down that bridge I just want to make sure we take care of business and finish, but there’s so many.”

Who better than Bennett could say with authority which team was better?

“As long as we get an additional ring, it doesn’t matter,” replied Bennett diplomatically and with a smile.

Who better than Bennett to give current players some Super Bowl advice? Here’s what he has been telling them this week: “For most, this is a once in a lifetime experience so enjoy that but don’t lose focus and sight on why we’re here. This is a business trip. We’re here to win a Super Bowl.”

Bennett’s running backs have been all business this week since arriving in the Dallas area. Prior to their early-morning media obligations, they came down to a conference room at their team hotel and watched game film.

There’s nothing like playing in a Super Bowl, according to Bennett, but he’s excited about the chance to coach in the big game.

“It’s the next best thing, given the opportunity to teach and demand from your guys, and you kind of do it vicariously through them,” he said.

Bennett knows better than anyone not to take these moments for granted. He tore his Achilles’ tendon in the Packers’ first preseason game following their Super Bowl triumph and never played for the Packers again.

He is grateful to McCarthy for putting him in this place and being able to share these moments. “I thank him for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this, to work on this staff,” he said.

Bennett has been in this position before and he knows what a championship looks like.

“It’s about bringing that trophy home and putting another ring on your finger,” he said.

Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

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