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Mike Vandermause column: 2010 title run a fitting template for this year's team

Oct. 27, 2012
 
Next man up: Injuries, which were a significant part of the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl season, are again a factor in 2012. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Next man up: Injuries, which were a significant part of the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl season, are again a factor in 2012. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Josh Sitton calls it “eerily similar.” Bryan Bulaga terms it “a coincidence.” Mason Crosby says “the variables are there.”

These Green Bay Packers players are talking about how much the current season reminds them of two years ago.

The list of similarities is striking between the 2010 and 2012 Packers teams:

• Both stumbled to 3-3 starts.

• Both lost a pair of early-season games that could have easily gone the other way.

• Both suffered significant injuries, including the loss of a starting running back, key pass catcher, starting safety and two linebackers.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers added one more item to the list.

“Another little talked-about fact was the 2010 World Series winners, the San Francisco Giants, are back in the World Series as well,” said Rodgers, “so we’re pulling for the Giants to get a win and hopefully that means that we head down to New Orleans.”

Rodgers, of course, was referring to the site of the Super Bowl in February. He is hoping history repeats itself and the Packers, despite injuries and early struggles, march to another championship like they did two years ago.

“Is this the same point we were at in (2010)? I don’t know,” said Bulaga. “As a team we’re starting to play better and better each week. … I think that’s something maybe we were doing in 2010 because we started to play better as the season went on. We started out a little bit slow, didn’t play our best football. We kind of just got it going little by little. By the end of the season we were rolling.”

The 2010 Packers picked up some mid-season momentum and carried a 6-3 record into their bye week. The 2012 Packers can match that record heading into their bye with victories at Lambeau Field against Jacksonville Sunday and Arizona next week.

The NFC landscape surrounding the Packers also looks very familiar. The Atlanta Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the conference, just like in 2010, and the Chicago Bears occupy first place in the NFC North, just like they did two years ago.

Publicly at least, the Packers aren’t buying into the theory that the 2010 and 2012 teams are linked by any sort of karma or destiny. The common belief is that every season and every team is different.

For example, only 29 of 53 players remain from the Packers’ Super Bowl roster. Just eight of 22 starters who will line up Sunday against the Jaguars are the same as two years ago.

But among the players that remain from 2010, one practical lesson they learned was how to deal with adversity. The recent rash of injuries has elicited a collective shrug and a matter-of-fact, next-man-up mentality.

“I think that maybe is a product of going through it in the past,” said Sitton. “I know in 2010 there was a lot of talk around the locker room, ‘Geez dude, we can’t catch a break, dah, dah, dah.’ This year you haven’t really heard any of that stuff. We know we’re capable of going out there and winning with whoever.”

It’s a theme that coach Mike McCarthy has ingrained in his team’s psyche to the point that he barely has to mention it anymore.

“I think anytime you have an experience, specifically the challenge as big as 2010 was and everybody knows what the numbers were, it’s something you can point to, something you can draw from,” said McCarthy. “I know personally you don’t get as emotional or maybe as stressed about it as much as probably the first time you go through a difficult situation. I think that’s human nature.”

In 2010 the Packers wound up with 15 players on season-ending injured reserve, including Jermichael Finley, Nick Barnett, Morgan Burnett, Ryan Grant, Mark Tauscher, Brandon Chillar and Brad Jones.

Dealing with injuries has become such a part of the culture in the Packers’ locker room that no one blinked when key players started dropping like flies this year with significant injuries, such as Desmond Bishop, Greg Jennings, Cedric Benson, D.J. Smith and Charles Woodson.

“It’s really not even talked about,” said Sitton. “Every now and then you hear ‘next man up,’ but it’s not something we ever really discuss. We know that’s the goal here.”

It helps that Jennings, Benson and Woodson could potentially return for a playoff run this season, but there’s also something to be said about the Packers’ overall mindset.

“I think the maturity level of this team helps out,” said Crosby. “We understand how this game is, the physical aspect, guys are going to get hurt. We can’t really dwell on that mental side … we’ve got to keep moving forward.

“Two years ago we were able to do that and get to the Super Bowl. Now there’s a couple guys banged up and we’re going to have to kind of do the same thing, pick up those pieces and make sure we don’t skip a beat.”

The Packers won’t get any sympathy from opponents, so what’s the use feeling sorry for themselves? Discouragement isn't tolerated on this team, especially when there’s work to do.

“Whenever something goes wrong, there’s never a panic mode where guys kind of get down,” said Crosby. “We just keep moving forward.”

It sounds like 2010 all over again.

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

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