On to the second round of the playoffs, baby! The Packers are headed back to the house of the Dirty Birds, this time to pluck and roast them, in order to make that title game in Seattle. Come ON Seahawks! (I know that is SO not going to happen, but if it does and the Packers win I can go to the NFC Championship game. Which would not, as they say, suck.)

For quite a while now as the Packers have become stronger I have heard a lot of comments along the lines of “just think what we’ll be like next year when everyone’s back.” The thought of having Jermichael Finley back makes me giddy, I’ll admit; I’ve said “Wait until next year” too.

But.

What if the Packers hadn’t been decimated by injuries this year? What if the defense hadn’t gone down one by one? What if Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley had made it out unscathed?

I think the Packers might not have been in the playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve missed all of the guys on IR and I will be delighted to get them back. This team had a lot of pressure and expectations, both internally and externally. There was Super Bowl talk in the locker room. McCarthy even uttered those words. This was supposed to be a cake walk through the NFC North and into a first round bye. There were going to be home playoff games this year. There seemed to be perhaps a bit too much confidence, which can be a season killer, oddly enough. In a room full of superstars, egos can flare and conflicts that hobble a team can arise. The number of so called “superstars” in the Packers locker room has dwindled alarmingly this season.

This team has seen their hopes of a post-season run potentially dashed with every injury, and with every injury someone has stepped up and shown the “right stuff.” Sam Shields for heaven’s sake? Tom Crabtree (much as I love him, he was a surprise making the team)? John Kuhn? ERIK WALDEN????

Because of fate and “bad” luck, we’ve got a bunch of hungry young men out to prove themselves. In that sense, Shields, Starks, Kuhn, Crabtree etc. are much the same as QB 1. They’ve got fires in their guts and chips on their shoulders. The better they play and the further the Packers go, the brighter their futures will be.

Because of the adversity they’ve faced, the need for so many to work so hard just to prove worth that is not assumed because of past performance, this team really is functioning as that – a full team. It’s great to see.

It can carry them all the way to Dallas.

Forget next year. I’m enjoying right now.

 

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  • http://www.twitter.com/midwestfan David

    I agree with this 1,000%. I have said many times this year that a lot of out injuries this season have been blessings in disguise.

    Ted knows what he’s doing. These “no name back ups” are good players, which is why I haven’t used the “whoa is me, we lost because we have too many injuries” card after losses this year.

    I’m glad someone else finally agrees with me on this.

  • Chris

    No way losing Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley is a “blessing in disguise.” In the same way, we’ve lived through the growing pains of a rookie tackle playing out of position at RT. Perhaps had Colledge gone down instead of Tauscher, that would have been a “blessing.” As it was, I think they would have gotten more consistency out of the vet on the right side. My guess is that their offensive inconsistency can be traced to not having these three players.

    On defense, having Bishop at ILB has been a plus, but I am not sure that Zombo or Walden were upgrades over Jones. Due to the injuries, they are dangerously thin at LB right now. Peprah v. Burnett is probably a push. The pass rush has been OK, but losing Neal didn’t help it get better; the short time he was in there it was clear he brought something extra.

    So, yes, the reserves have stepped up. But they were reserves for a reason. I am not saying their would have been 13-3 with a healthy team, but I do think they would have locked up a playoff spot sooner and, with it, a higher seed.

  • foundinidaho

    David – thanks. I was just thinking last night about how much these guys had overcome and the thought occured to me – look at the Vikings this season compared to last. Things can go disastrously awry.

    Chris – I would kill to have Grant, Finley, Barnett, Burnett, you name him back. I’m not saying that things would have been different (worse) if we’d kept everyone healthy. I’m just saying you never know how things would really have turned out.

    I would also say at this point (IMO) Walden is an upgrade. I don’t know that he can sustain that level of performance though. I do love Jones b/c he knocked Favre on his ass. ;)

  • http://Twitter.com/RichWardJR Rich Ward

    I think losing key contributors certainly opened the doors for smaller names to prove themselves, and it also shows that Green Bay may have several diamonds in the rough. That’s for sure.

    Obviously the injuries didn’t outright benefit the team, but I definitely think the adversity they endured helped mold them into something almost no one thought could be possible.

    Either way, Aaron Nagler wasn’t kidding when he stated how good this was. Nice job Colleen!

  • http://greenbaypackernation.com John Rehor

    Very nice read Colleen!

    A season which could have headed south quickly with the number of injuries did not disappoint as the Packers made it into the playoffs. Although it did not go quite to plan, and the preseason t shirt selling and hype was put on the back burner, the Packers are in the NFC hunt for the Super Bowl.

    Anything can happen in the playoffs. I tell myself that every day

  • foundinidaho

    Thanks guys. That was really my thought, – what they’ve gone through this year has bonded them. And I think made them play better than they might have otherwise.

  • http://www.packersnews.NET JustJeff

    Outstanding read.

    I have wondered if the “no excuses, no regrets” mantra that has recently surfaced from the locker-room has been an all season thing.

    McCarthy has implied it all season. It makes one wonder if the resolve has been the bonding agent that has helped the team to gel.

  • http://pauladrake.co.cc/ Paula Drake

    David – thanks. I was just thinking last night about how much these guys had overcome and the thought occured to me – look at the Vikings this season compared to last. Things can go disastrously awry. Chris – I would kill to have Grant, Finley, Barnett, Burnett, you name him back. I’m not saying that things would have been different (worse) if we’d kept everyone healthy. I’m just saying you never know how things would really have turned out. I would also say at this point (IMO) Walden is an upgrade. I don’t know that he can sustain that level of performance though. I do love Jones b/c he knocked Favre on his ass. ;)