Mike Vandermause column: No room for hype in Packers' locker room

Sep. 9, 2012

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Packers Mike Daniels celebrates after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn in the third quarter of the Packers preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lambeau Field on August 30, 2012. / File/Press-Gazette


In September 1970, then-Green Bay Press-Gazette sports writer Tony Walter boldly predicted the Packers would win the Super Bowl.

It was hard to determine who looked more foolish, Walter or the Packers, after the Detroit Lions came into Lambeau Field and trounced the home team 40-0 in the season opener. The Packers went on to post a forgettable 6-8 record. The only way members of that team were getting to the Super Bowl was by buying tickets.

Prior to Walter’s retirement earlier this year, barely a day went by that I didn’t remind him of his abominable forecast that is etched indelibly in the Press-Gazette archives.

Apparently I didn’t learn from Walter’s unbridled optimism. Here it is 42 years later, and I’m traveling down the same treacherous path and predicting the Packers will win the Super Bowl.

At least this time around, if the Packers go down in flames, I won’t be the only one wiping egg off my face.

Every member of our Press-Gazette pro football coverage team is picking the Packers to win the championship, with a regular-season record ranging from 12-4 to 14-2. Before accusations of blatant homerism commence, it should be noted that the Packers have become the popular pick around the country.

Four of eight USA TODAY NFL writers say the Packers are headed for a championship. And six of 23 ESPN football analysts chose the Packers to win the Super Bowl, more than any other team.

The Packers’ high-powered offense, led by superstar quarterback and NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, has everyone drooling. Not even a shaky Packers defense, ranked last in the league in 2011, can sway the masses.

Apparently none of the hoopla surrounding the Packers is going to their heads. Numerous players interviewed in the locker room this week claim they aren’t listening to the chatter.

“We don’t look at what the media says; we don’t care, honestly,” said guard T.J. Lang, repeating a common refrain. “That doesn’t mean anything to us. We never once brought it up, saying, ‘Oh look what these guys are saying, look what they’re saying about us.’ It doesn’t matter. What’s important to us is building our own identity and what we have to say about ourselves, not listening to all the hype.”

The hype would suggest the NFL is littered with flawed teams.

The defending champion New York Giants lost their opener and might have trouble winning their division.

The San Francisco 49ers boast a formidable defense, but quarterback Alex Smith looks better at managing games than winning them.

The New Orleans Saints are reeling from the bounty scandal.

The New England Patriots haven’t won a title in eight years.

“Everyone has the same exact shot as we do,” said tackle Bryan Bulaga. “Right now (the predictions) don’t mean anything. … Everyone can make a prediction.”

Sure, there are plenty of contenders, but none look quite as good as the Packers.

But the sky-high expectations are taken with a shrug and grain of salt in the locker room. No one is worried that this Packers team is being set up for a fall.

“I think the only pressure is the pressure that we put on each other to perform at a high level,” said receiver Greg Jennings.

“Whether people are picking us to win the Super Bowl or not, it means nothing. People probably picked us to win the Super Bowl last year and it did not happen. It’s a game that has to be played within the lines, not a game that’s played on paper.”

Walter, my former colleague, can vouch for that. And you can be sure he’ll be the first to let me know if the Packers fall short of my lofty predictions.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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