The questions can range from the serious to the silly to the ridiculous to the inane. Most players try to have fun with the experience, be entertaining or just be entertained. That was the Packers’ approach for the most part on Tuesday at Cowboys Stadium, the site of Sunday’s big game.
Here’s a sampling of some of the more interesting chatter and banter from the Packers’ defensive players on Tuesday:
The Packers’ defensive line already made some headlines by traveling to Texas on Monday in cowboy outfits, complete with belts, boots, jackets and hats, mimicking those won by the offensive linemen back in training camp.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins even purchased some rattlesnake-skin boots to accompany the rest of his gear.
“I’d like to think mine was the best, but I’ll leave that for you guys to judge,” Jenkins said. “I thought everybody looked pretty good with the outfits on.”
But one topic on Tuesday was the defensive linemen’s weight, because even Jenkins, listed at 305 pounds, is small compared to Ryan Pickett (340), B.J. Raji (337) and Howard Green (340).
“I didn’t know I was going to be this big probably until high school,” Pickett said. “I was a big kid, but I blew up in high school. Probably my 10th grade year was when I jumped. I was like 200 pounds, and then my sophomore year I was like 260. I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to be pretty big.’”
It was somewhat unexpected for Pickett, who said his older brothers were all running backs and receivers, but he ended up a lineman.
It turned out to be a productive choice for the 10-year veteran, but he explained that he does have to watch himself, because the team monitors all the players with a Thursday weigh-in.
“I have to be 338 every week,” Pickett said. “If I’m over, they fine me $500 a pound that I’m over. This year, I was three pounds over once. That’s not bad, but I hate giving that (money) back.
“Every time, right when I get on the scale, you start having flashbacks, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have done that this week. Why did I do this? I would have been fine.’ You definitely have the flashbacks.”
One indulgence for the linemen is a weekly feed on chicken wings, which the group gets on Thursday – after the weigh-in, and after practice.
“We just gorge after practice, and every time you do it, you’re like, ‘Why did I do it? I shouldn’t have done it. That’s bad.’ A week later you have to weigh in again.”
The jokes about weight can be non-stop, especially when someone misses his target. Jenkins is the biggest jokester of the bunch, and he’ll spare no one, not even Raji when he gets the big interception for a touchdown to help win the NFC Championship in Chicago.
“It was funny because the previous week or two weeks, when they were talking about the Seattle game (vs. New Orleans in the Wild Card round), and when Marshawn Lynch scored that touchdown, and they said it registered (as an earthquake),” Jenkins said. “I thought the same thing when B.J. scored. He got to rumbling there, I could feel the ground shaking a little bit.”
Speaking of Raji, he’s become a bit of a cult hero for his end-zone dance and all the nicknames being bantered about following that big touchdown.
Raji was asked if he’d given any thought to a nickname like “The Big Green Tractor,” and the reporter actually put a little green toy tractor on the podium in front of him.
“That’s pretty creative, man, but I don’t know,” Raji said. “We’ll see what happens, if that sticks or not.”
So what’s his favorite nickname for himself?
“I like ‘The Freezer,’ but to be honest, people have been calling me ‘Raj Mahal’ since high school,” Raji said. “So that was pretty funny when I heard that again.”
As for his dancing, Raji was told there’s a rumor he’s going to produce a dance tape.
“Who rumored that?” he said. “I don’t know about that. We’ll see about that.”
Safety Nick Collins was asked if there was an NFL player he idolized growing up, and while he said there were plenty he looked up to, he didn’t hesitate to say there was only one person he idolized.
“My father was my biggest idol,” Collins said. “He introduced me to the game at an early age, and I appreciate it.
“I started playing football at the age of 6, so I’ve been in this game for a long time. It’s been a great journey.”
Collins didn’t even have to say it, but he clearly would have appreciated the opportunity to share this Super Bowl week with his father. Unfortunately, Willie Collins succumbed to a three-year battle with prostate cancer in May 2009, which was a difficult blow for Nick.
All he’s done since then is earn Pro Bowl honors both seasons since then, giving him three straight Pro Bowl selections in all. Collins’ game hasn’t suffered despite the personal setback, but call it irony or coincidence, he feels it’s fitting he’ll be playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Collins isn’t sure where it came from, growing up in Florida, but he said his father’s favorite team was the Steelers.
The Packers have a handful of players from Texas playing their first Super Bowl in their home state, and they were probably pressed with more ticket requests than a lot of other players.
But safety Charlie Peprah, who prepped at Plano East High, wasn’t going to let his entire Super Bowl experience be disrupted by issues with tickets.
“I didn’t try to get any more, I didn’t try to extend myself,” Peprah said. “I just said look, they give us 15, I’m going to hand the out to the first 15 I feel deserve it. That’s it. Leave me alone. I don’t care if you get mad. You can watch it on TV.”
In all seriousness, though, Peprah said it’s a bit surreal to think back to his days as a kid, when all his friends would fantasize that someday they’d be playing for the Cowboys in a Super Bowl at the team’s former home, Texas Stadium.
Peprah did attend games there, in the “nosebleeds,” he said, and he get to play there in high school as well, during the playoffs. He even remembers the locker room he was in being painted for the Dallas Knights, the fictional team in the movie Any Given Sunday that was being filmed at that time.
But the dream was always about the Super Bowl. That never changed.
“It is something we talked about as kids,” Peprah said. “We’re going to play in the Super Bowl, they’ve going to have it in Dallas, we’ll go hang out after the win. And it’s almost here. It couldn’t have been written any better. I couldn’t have foreseen this. I’m just going to try to enjoy it and take it all in.
“Man, it’s cool, it really is. I’ve been saying it all day. It’s a blessing. Words can’t really describe it. It’s all your cliché answers I guess, because it’s really the truth. To grow up here and to come home, it’s like everything comes full circle.”
Cornerback Tramon Williams was asked if he would let an Avatar play for him on Sunday.
“An Avatar? I don’t know,” he said. “This is the Super Bowl. I might let him play in the regular season, but I want to play myself on Super Bowl Sunday.”
As for whether he would want his Avatar to be blue, or if he’d pick another color, Williams didn’t even let the reporter finish the question.
“Green,” he interjected. “We’re going green. Green and gold, no doubt.”
New piece to the puzzle
One Green Bay defender who wasn’t part of the defensive debacle against Pittsburgh last year – when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for a franchise-record 503 yards – was rookie cornerback Sam Shields.
As a nickelback, Shields has added the type of depth to the cornerback position that the Packers are counting on to prevent a repeat of Roethlisberger’s aerial assault in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Shields said the cornerbacks have watched some of the film from last year’s game with position coach Joe Whitt Jr., looking at some mistakes that need to be corrected. But Shields hasn’t seen as much film from that game as he thought he might.
“It was crazy some of the stuff that Joe showed us,” Shields said. “He didn’t have it on too long because every time he watched it, he would get mad.”
Where are we?
The NFL generally selects southern locales for Super Bowls to stay away from wintry weather, but that hasn’t been the case this week.
An ice storm overnight blanketed the sidewalks and streets in and around Dallas, and some stiff winds had the wind-chill factor in the single digits on Tuesday. The weather may not be much better on Wednesday, either.
“When we woke up this morning I thought I was in Green Bay again,” Raji said. “I was freezing. It was frigid. The roads were slick. I thought Dallas was warm.”
The Packers’ previous playoff trip to the south followed some unique weather for that region, too, as a snowstorm during the week had practically paralyzed the city of Atlanta.
“It’s like we can’t get away from it,” Jenkins said. “I was telling guys earlier. We go to Atlanta, they’ve got snow. We come down here, they’ve got snow. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a good sign, though.
“With the D-line, we were talking about trying to go fishing today. But you know, with this weather out here, there will be none of that.”
Additional coverage - Feb. 1