What's Columbo? It's the Packers' favorite card game, and players say it's building a winning locker room chemistry
GREEN BAY — The game is called Columbo.
One deck of cards, anywhere from seven to 10 players. Those around the table depend on their memory of where certain cards are, in search of the four lowest cards on the table. The rules are based on a limerick.
Four’s a party, five's a wild time. Six is a crowd, and with seven and eight, know your fate. Nine and 10, learn a friend, Jack is blind, Queen’s can look and switch, the King of Hearts loses one.
The locker room tables, which had been absent from the common area while clubs adjusted to COVID-19 regulations the past two years, were finally returned earlier this summer. And more often than not, the table that sits between Aaron Rodgers' locker and the row of defensive backs, hosts a deck of cards and a round of Columbo that will start before practice and pick up after.
Rasul Douglas says Rodgers made up the game and introduced it to the Green Bay Packers locker room. Rodgers credits the family of David Bakhtiari, who taught him the game last Christmas. Bakhtiari says the game was introduced to his family by an old friend.
No one really knows where the Columbo card game originated. All that really matters is that this offseason, it made its way to the Packers locker room.
The game, in and of itself, is not groundbreaking. It’s fast-paced and requires instinctual memory. It’s just a card game, to pass the time. But it says a lot about this team.
“There is a certain feel that the best teams that we've had start to take on ... and it involves a unique connection between the guys on the team,” Rodgers said Wednesday, "which is usually centered around people hanging out outside of normal team activities."
The Packers are getting ready to kick off their 2022 regular season, with a divisional rival no less in the Minnesota Vikings. Rodgers, preparing for his 15th season as a starter, has a defense to study and a young receiving corps to bring along, but the card game is worth noting.
“COVID kinda put a stop to most if not all of that," he said. "So it's been nice this year to have opportunities to have dinners on the road. More time in the locker room.
"They've just put those tables back in here, which they’d taken out, you know, so there's, there's guys hanging out, talking at the tables, playing cards, spending time with each other, going out to dinner during the week. That goes a long way.”
While COVID may be to blame for a lot of teams losing chemistry the past two seasons, there is a formula in a locker room that helps make a team capable of going all the way.
Matt LaFleur, heading in to his fourth year in Green Bay, credits general manger Brian Gutekunst with creating a locker room that has always been easy to be a part of, this year being a shining example.
“I think that we feel really good about the people in the locker room, not only as football players, but as men," LaFleur said. "And I think we've had that, I mean, the whole time we've that I've been here.”
Sammy Watkins has seen those locker rooms. He’s been a part of a few. While at Clemson, the Tigers weren’t quite the national championship contenders they are these days, but the foundation was being set. Among a group of 18- to 22-year-olds, the college game combined unwavering expectations and lasting memories. Watkins, who has been in the league for nine years now, has been searching for that feel again.
He believes he’s found it in Green Bay.
“I feel like I'm in college again," Watkins said. "That's the best feeling to have, to get to be grown, but to be like a teenager and kids every day I walk into the building. I think that's what makes football special is being a kid and having fun and enjoying it.
“And that's rare in certain buildings. Everything is kind of business, business, business and we get that here but it's really close guys. I chill with the defensive players, I chill with these guys (in my locker row). We joke, we laugh. It's rare to get that on every team.”
Watkins, along with Rodgers, is one of the few players in the Packers current locker room who has won a Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs’ chase for the Lombardi Trophy in the 2020 season struck that vibe and was the pro locker room by which Watkins measures all others.
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He sincerely believes this Packers locker room can match it.
“You can definitely look at a team," he said, "and know like ‘man, we just got football luck, God and can stay healthy on both sides of the ball.’ This team feels similar to when I was at the Chiefs. But, you know, we got a better defense and little stuff like that. But the same time, it’s a vibe around here that I get that’s family-oriented.
“That’s very rare.”
Rasul Douglas likes to brag he’s the best Columbo player in the locker room, the declaration coming with a smirk that dares anyone to a game.
“Just go ask Aaron,” he goads.
Who wins, though, is not as important. The cards are on the locker room table and if it helps the Packers play better together, that’s all that matters.