A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 2

Don Horn with Coach Lombardi in Super Bowl II

Don Horn was a rookie quarterback on the 1967 Green Bay Packers, when he was drafted in the first round out of San Diego State. Horn remembers that day well.

“I was sitting in a little bitty room, which actually was in our public relations office there (San Diego State), and I’m just waiting for a phone call, ” Horn said. “I was listening to the draft on the radio, and a number of teams that said they were going to draft me, drafted someone else. It was getting near the end of the round, and the phone rang when Kansas City was going to make their pick. And a lady got on the phone and said ‘Please hold for Coach Lombardi.’

“And by then I’m thinking that someone is jerking my chain. I mean, I hadn’t heard from Green Bay at all. But back in those days, a lot of teams were in the same consortium of using scouts. Anyway, Coach Lombardi came on the phone, and I still didn’t believe it was really him until I heard his voice.

“And he said, ‘Don, this is Coach Lombardi. Did you sign any agreements with any other leagues?’ I said no. Then he went on, ‘We are considering making you our draft pick. Kansas City is picking right now, and I’ll get right back to you.’ Fifteen or 20 minutes later, he called me back and said, ‘You are now a Green Bay Packer. When can you get back here.’ So that’s how it happened.”

Little did Horn know that he would be part of one of the most legendary teams in NFL history that season.

The ’67 Packers went on to win their third consecutive NFL title, which was something that had never been done before in the modern history of the NFL. Plus, that accomplishment has never been duplicated since then.

The saga of that great Green Bay team in 1967 was masterfully chronicled in a fantastic book called Instant Replay, which was co-authored by the late Dick Schaap and right guard Jerry Kramer of the Packers.

The book offers an insightful view of the man who drafted Horn…Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

The Packers finished their wonderful 1967 season by winning Super Bowl II, when the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14.The victory was the second straight Super Bowl win for the Packers, as they had also defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-14 in Super Bowl I.

It was during an reunion/autograph session a few years ago with a number of the players on the Super Bowl II team, that Horn first heard about stem cell treatment from Kramer.

“When I first found out about this, I had bad knees, bad ankles and my hip and shoulder were bothering me as well,” Horn said. “So I went back to Wisconsin for a reunion about four years ago. 24 guys showed up for it. And over half of those guys had gone through hip, knee, shoulder replacement surgeries.

“Half of those guys were complaining that their situation was no better now than it was before the surgery. Jerry was sort of in the corner listening to the guys complain about their aches and pains. Then he started talking about stem cell treatment, as he recently had his hip injected in Florida.

“Jerry was raving about how great the process was. I was sort of intrigued and listened closely to what Jerry had to say. So I go back to Colorado and talked to some doctors there. They referred me to a clinic north of Denver, which was then called Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute (now Premier Stem Cell Institute). I went up and met with them and observed a procedure where they actually worked on a guy’s spine. I was really impressed.

“To make a long story short, I had them do work on my knees and I’ve had good results. So I’m thinking to myself, that there were a lot of guys I know who had the same issues I had. So since then, I’m kind of the NFL liaison to help promote stem cell treatment.

“We have probably had close to 175 former NFL players who have had a stem cell procedure done, some of whom are in the Hall of Fame. We also recently signed an exclusive deal with the NFL Alumni to be their official stem cell resource.”

Don Horn with Aaron Rodgers

Speaking of NFL Alumni and also a player who is also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Horn told me how stem cell treatment helped out Lance Alworth, the former star wide receiver of the San Diego Chargers, who was nicknamed “Bambi” during his playing days.

“Lance came out a couple of years ago,” Horn said. “He was all set to have a knee replaced, but I told him to come out to PSCI to have his knee looked at. The doctors looked at his knees and he was not considered a candidate for stem cell treatment.

“I mean, his knee was worse than mine. But because of who he was and because he made the trip from San Diego, they gave him an injection of stem cells into his knee. Six weeks later Lance calls me and says, ‘Don, I can’t thank you enough. I can walk again and I can golf. I’m 85 percent better and the pain is virtually gone.’

Horn is the key promoter of stem cell therapy to former NFL players and the list of players wanting treatment keeps growing. But the biggest component of why this outreach is working was when Kandace Stolz joined Orthopedic Stem Cell Institute. Shortly thereafter, the clinic was renamed Premier Stem Cell Institute.

“Kandace has such an affinity and a sincere desire to help people, ” Horn said. “”They really want to help former players get better. Kandace saw my value and that helped to open some doors because of my contacts. She saw that I had an ability to communicate well with people, just like Jerry Kramer.

“Kandace put together a marketing and business plan to push this thing further up the ladder. We have added many more former NFL players, and are branching out to other professional sports like the NHL. Plus, we are working with military veterans who we are helping out as well.”

All of this started for Horn four years ago when he heard Kramer talk about stem cell treatment at the autograph session in Wisconsin. The words from Kramer triggered a response from Horn, which led to his alliance with PCSI and his being the liaison to help other former NFL players.

Speaking of Kramer, Horn recounted a conversation that Kramer had with Stolz a few months ago.

“Jerry was very impressed with Kandace’s knowledge and vice-versa,” Horn said. “Kandace said she never talked with anybody who knew more about stem cells than Jerry Kramer does, who wasn’t a professional physician or something.”

Dan Pastorini and Lee Roy Jordan were two of the former NFL players who Horn reached out to let them know how stem cell treatment could help them. Pastorini had one shoulder replaced and both hips replaced, while Jordan had both shoulders replaced and both knees replaced.

In a future part of this article, Pastorini and Jordan will share how great they feel now thanks to receiving stem cell treatment. Another former NFL player, Mike Golic, who is currently one of the stars of the popular Mike & Mike Show on ESPN, will also comment on how well he is doing thanks to stem cell treatment.

The list of former NFL players seeking stem cell treatment help keeps growing, thanks to the efforts of Horn and Stolz.

Horn wants to help former players like himself, because he knows how much pain he was in before he received treatment.

“Bob, seven or eight years ago, I couldn’t walk,” Horn said. “I couldn’t walk 20 or 30 yards. I just could not walk, it hurt so bad with my knees. It got to the point where I was definitely thinking of having knee replacements.

“Then I heard Jerry speak at the Super Bowl II reunion and my lifestyle has completely changed for the better thanks to the stem cell treatment I received.”

To read Part 1 of this article, go here.

Green Bay Packers: Inside Linebacker is Suddenly a Position of Strength

Blake Martinez II

Linebacker Blake Martinez

You have to hand it to Ted Thompson. Yes, he has his share of critics, but the depth he has assembled for the 2016 Green Bay Packers is the best I have seen since Thompson first started his tenure as general manager in 2005.

Since Thompson brought in Mike McCarthy as head coach in 2006, the Packers have been as successful as any team in the NFL.The Packers have had a 104-55-1 record during that time, which breaks down to a .653 winning percentage.

The Packers have also gone to the playoffs eight times, won five NFC North titles and also won Super Bowl XLV.

This year, it seems like almost every position is deep. Especially if one looks at the wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back positions.

There certainly will be some very difficult cuts when the final 53-man roster is configured on September 3.

One position that was considered a weakness in 2015, has all of a sudden become a strength. That would be the inside linebacker position. At least based on the play of the linebackers vying for spots there in training camp and in preseason games.

In 2015, for the second consecutive year, Clay Matthews moved inside to man one spot. No. 52 did well enough to earn another bid to the Pro Bowl. But the other inside linebacker position was in a state of flux all season.

Sam Barrington suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 and was lost for the year because of the injury. Nate Palmer then stepped in and was third on the team in tackles (80) for the season, but he never flashed any big plays, plus gave up too many.

That is why rookie Jake Ryan got an opportunity to play later in the season, as he started five games. No. 47 also started the two postseason games that the Packers played in. Ryan looked more comfortable with each and every start. Ryan averaged eight tackles a game in his seven overall starts.

One of the biggest issues that the Packers had last season was using one of the inside linebackers as a cover linebacker on passing plays. The job ended up going to Joe Thomas. Thomas was okay in coverage, but not great.

The Packers have certainly changed the landscape at inside linebacker this year with two big changes.

For one, the team decided that Matthews will move back to outside linebacker, which is his more natural position and allows him to better use his speed.

Also, the Packers drafted Blake Martinez of Stanford in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft.

So far, in OTAs, training camp and preseason games, the Packers have to be thrilled with the way Martinez has performed.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how well Martinez has been playing.

Bottom line, Martinez looks to be a three-down linebacker. No. 50 will play in the base, the nickel and the dime.

It appeared that Ryan would be playing next to him at inside linebacker, at least based on the OTAs and the early part of training camp. However, a hamstring injury put Ryan on the shelf for a couple of weeks and he has just this week returned to practice.

That situation opened the door for Barrington, who recently came off the PUP list. Barrington has looked good in his limited playing time so far, similar to how he played in the second half of the 2014 season when he became a starter.

In terms of roster spots, I believe that Martinez, Ryan and Barrington are locks to make the team.

Carl Bradford

Linebacker Carl Bradford

But two other players have looked exceptional in the two preseason games so far.

One player is Thomas, who has bulked up a bit and been very steady. The other player is Carl Bradford, the former fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Bradford is playing like the light has finally been turned on for him in terms of what he should be doing in his role on defense.

Both players are playing well overall so far this preseason and both have flashed big play ability.

Both Thomas (South Carolina State) and Bradford (Arizona State) were tackling machines in college and are playing like that now.

The key for both of them is to continue the momentum they have created in the next two preseason games. If that happens, the Packers will have some difficult decisions to make.

The odds are pretty strong that the Packers will keep either Thomas or Bradford. Especially with Ryan just coming back from his hamstring woes and Barrington coming off an ankle injury which cost him an entire season.

There is also a chance that the Packers might keep both Thomas and Bradford. That would mean keeping five inside linebackers on the roster.

Sound farfetched? Not if the Packers keep 11 linebackers on their roster, which is what I believe they might do.

The four  outside linebackers who would be locks on the team would be Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Datone Jones. Jayrone Elliott, Lerentee McCray and rookie Kyle Fackrell are fighting for the other two spots, if the team kept six OLBs.

Based on history, the odds are strong that Fackrell will be kept, seeing the team invested a third-round pick on him.

That being the case, it might come down to Elliott and McCray battling for the final spot.

Being able to play well on special teams will probably be the overriding factor for anyone on the bubble fighting for a roster spot at linebacker.

A Journey Back to Life Through Stem Cell Therapy: How NFL Greats Are Finding Relief From Injury, Part 1

Jerry Kramer in 2014

A couple of years ago, in one of my many conversations with former Packers great Jerry Kramer, we were talking about golf. Kramer mentioned that his hip was bothering him and it was difficult playing golf at that time.

I asked Jerry what he was doing to cope with the issue. Kramer said that he took two Aleve tablets each day to ease the pain, but that he might end up having his hip replaced. Another option would be getting stem cell treatment.

That conversation stuck in mind.

Last fall, in another one of our talks, Kramer told me that he just received stem cell treatment on his hip and that the hip felt great. No more Aleve either.

The stem cell treatment for Kramer was the second one he had for the hip. The first one had been done in Florida, while the second one took place in Tijuana, Mexico.

Kramer explained.

“In Florida, I got a couple of injections from Dr. Joseph Purita in Boca Raton,” Kramer said. “Shortly after my treatment, I had a golf tournament and all that twisting, turning and grinding of your joints probably mashed the stem cell effect and it really didn’t help. I think the treatment needs more time and rest to be effective. That’s just my opinion.

“But when I had the injection in October and sat on my ass for about three months afterwards, trying to let everything get established, all went well. Two months later, I was able to stop taking Aleve. And I was taking two Aleve a day, everyday, for about five years. I haven’t taken any since then either.”

It’s important to also understand how the stem cell treatments differ in the United States, as opposed to Mexico.

In the U.S., the FDA only approves stem cell treatments from the person’s very own bone marrow.

In Mexico, you can also have embryonic stem cell treatment or in vitro stem cell treatment.

In embryonic stem cell treatment,  the cells are derived from human embryonic stem cells.

In in vitro stem cell treatment, it involves the human embryos that are discarded every day as medical waste from in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics.

In fact, one of the places Kramer visited while he learned more about stem cell research, Harvard University, a group of researchers are calling for the use of in vitro, as the authors believe they represent an ethically acceptable source of stem cells for research.

Kramer received an in vitro stem cell treatment in Mexico.

About a month after Kramer received his stem cell treatment for his hip, the Green Bay Packers were going to be honoring Brett Favre. The Packers were going to unveil his No. 4 on the stadium facade at legendary Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, when the Chicago Bears played the Packers.

The big news for this event was that Bart Starr was going to be there.

Starr, who is 82, was debilitated in September 2014 by two strokes and a heart attack. But after Starr received stem cell treatment (also in Mexico), No. 15 made remarkable progress. Starr was once again able to speak and also to walk, after being confined to a wheelchair due to the effects of the stroke.

That procedure and rehabilitation allowed Starr to travel from Alabama to Wisconsin to honor Favre.

When Starr made his appearance at halftime of the game, it was a very emotional setting, especially knowing what Starr had overcome to just to be in Green Bay.

Kramer talked about that emotion.

“The thing about that setting at Lambeau  on Thanksgiving that made my heart go pitty-pat, was when Bart got out of the cart to say hello to Brett,” Kramer said. “And he said, ‘Hey Mister. How are you doing, Brett?’

“That term Mister, was what Coach Lombardi you to say when he wanted to chew our ass. As in, “Mister, what in the hell are you doing?’ In the last 10 years or so, Bart has adopted that Mister term as a greeting.

“To me, hearing him say that to Brett, told me that not only was his mind working, but his memory was working as well. That really got me pretty emotional.”

Brett and Bart

Speaking of Starr, it appears that his family is definitely considering another stem cell treatment for Bart, perhaps as soon as a week or two, based on the story Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network-Wisconsin put out on Wednesday.

There has been big advancements in helping out people who have had cognitive issues via stem cell treatments. In a study done by Stanford University School of Medicine, it has been determined that people who were disabled by a stroke can be helped.

This was done by injecting modified, human, adult stem cells directly into the brains of chronic stroke patients. That method proved to be not only safe, but effective in restoring motor function, according to the findings of a small clinical trial.

Stem cell treatment for former NFL players like Kramer and Starr have proven to be effective.

There may not be a person in the non-medical world who knows more about the study of stem cell research than Kramer.

No. 64 told me how it all this journey first started for him.

“I was looking at starting a clinic for anti-aging along with my good buddy Art Preston, who is in the oil business,” Kramer said. “We were also joined by Dr. Don Steele, who is a Clinical Neuropsychologist. “That was initially my focus. I didn’t know a lot about this subject, so I decided that we were going to go to five or six universities and their research facilities. To talk to the PHDs and the doctors who were running the facility and see what they thought about aging and also stem cells.

“So we went to the University of Wisconsin and saw saw Dr. James Thomson in his lab. Dr. Thomson was able to take a normal cell  and induce embryonic pluripotency to the cell. Which is setting it back to an embryonic stage. That is pretty phenomenal.

“We spent four hours with him and he told me a wonderful story about how he arrived at that project. He asked me if I ever heard of the human genome project. I said I did. He asked me if I knew how long it took. I said, I wasn’t sure, but was probably eight or nine years.

“Dr. Thomson said, ‘Jerry, it took 13 years. And the cost was $3.1 billion dollars. I now have a machine my basement that can do the same thing in three-and-a-half hours.’

“James took me back and showed me some stem cells on a slide. Then he took me back into another part of the lab and showed me a cage that had little critters scurrying around in it. And James says, “Do you know what those are?’ I told him that they looked like salamanders.

“He said that’s what they were and he asked me what I knew about salamanders. I said that they make good bass bait! And he laughs and says, “What else?’ I told him I didn’t know a lot about them. He told me that a salamander can regenerate an arm, a leg or a tail.

James Thomson

Dr. James Thomson

“Then Dr. Thomson says, ‘We think the the ability of the salamander to regrow an arm, a leg or a tail, is stem cell-based. If we can figure out how the salamander does it, we think we can do the same thing with humans.’

When Jerry told me that story, it really hit home, as I have lived in Florida now for 30-plus years. Any time you go outside in Florida, you are going to see an anole, which is also in the lizard family like the salamander. In my time living in Florida, I’ve also had a few dogs.

When a dog sees an anole, he’s going to chase it and try and catch it. Many times I have seen a dog of mine step on the tail of the anole and detach the tail. Anoles are territorial. They hang around the same areas, whether it’s near your pool or by certain plants or bushes.

So I was able to spot the ones who lost a tail fairly easily. It’s amazing to see a stub grow into a tail again in a matter of weeks.

The meeting with Dr. Thomson gave Kramer a glimpse of where the stem cell science was heading.

After the visit with Dr. Thomson, Kramer, along with Preston and Steele, went to Harvard and received a full-blown tour of their research lab. They spent three or four hours with Dr. David Sinclair, who headed the lab for the study of aging at Harvard.

After the visit to Harvard, Kramer and company then went to MIT, where they met Dr. Leonard Guarente, who headed the lab for the study of aging at that school since 1982.

“MIT was sort of a golden castle on a far away hill to me,” Kramer said. “My father was a half-assed engineer and most of that was self-taught. He built his own radio when he was 14 years old. Dad thought MIT was the greatest spot in the world and he once told me that I might be able to go there some day.

“So to be at MIT and also to have lunch with Dr. Guarente was a big thrill. I kept calling him Dr. Guarente, being as respectful as I could. Finally he says, ‘Call me Lenny. As in Lenny Moore [of the Baltimore Colts]. I loved you guys. I used to watch you all the time.’

“After our visit to MIT, we went to Stanford and Cal and talked to their research people.”

After Kramer told me that, I mentioned to him that he didn’t mess around on his research tour, going to places like Wisconsin, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Cal.

“I wanted the best information I could find, Bobby,” Kramer said. “I wanted to go right to the source at the best places we could go. I mean, if I was going to get involved in that, and also get other people involved in that, I wanted to believe in it.

“That was just an incredible time and a wonderful learning experience. All of the folks were so gracious with their time as well. So all that time investigating this research and learning about it, made me believe that the stem cell research community was going to undergo an incredible change.

“I also checked out web sites at Wake Forest (Dr. Anthony Atala) and at the University of Pittsburgh (Dr. Stephen Badylak), which gave me some more outstanding information.

“Basically, I got myself comfortable regarding stem cell research. That it wasn’t BS or snake oil stuff.”

Kramer also started spreading the word about what he had learned to former teammates.

“About four years ago, a bunch of us from the Super Bowl II team were at an autograph function,” Kramer said. “Somebody asked me what I was doing and I started talking about my stem cell research. Don Horn was standing near me and was listening to everything I said.

“Don didn’t say anything, but you could tell he was listening intently. After that, Don started doing his own research and now he has a big role as a liaison for former NFL players who might be helped by stem cell therapy.”

Horn now works with Kandace Stolz, who is President of the Premier Stem Cell Institute.

Kramer is impressed with PSCI, which is located in Johnstown, Colorado.

“I talked with Kandace on the phone. She is very knowledgeable about current and future stem cell facts. I plan on going there to visit with her before too long.”

That would be yet another educational journey for Kramer, as he continues to expand his knowledge in the stem cell research field.

The 2016 Green Bay Packers: The Depth at Offensive Tackle is Much Better

Jason Spriggs

Jason Spriggs

In looking back at the 2015 Green Bay Packers, one position stood out like a sore thumb in terms of lack of depth. That would be the offensive tackle position.

The situation at offensive tackle reared it’s ugly head when the Packers played the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale two days after Christmas last season.

Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t play due to an ankle injury. Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury. That meant that Don Barclay replaced Bakhtiari at left tackle and Josh Walker took over for Bulaga at right tackle.

Both played like they were swinging gates trying to stop oncoming pass rushers, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit 12 times, sacked eight times and fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns).

The bottom line is that the Packers did not have a true swing tackle on the offensive line last season. Yes, Barclay had started 18 games at right tackle in 2012 and 2013, but that was before he tore his ACL in 2014.

Even before that injury, Barclay showed that he didn’t have the quick feet necessary to stop edge rushers. That is what the Packers realized when they first signed Barclay as an undrafted rookie out of West Virginia in 2012.

The Packers immediately moved Barclay inside to guard, as he was a better than average run blocker. It wasn’t until the Packers had injuries at the tackle position that Barclay moved outside to tackle, as he had played the position in college.

General manager Ted Thompson certainly addressed the shortcomings at offensive tackle in the 2016 NFL draft.

In the second round, the Packers traded up and selected offensive tackle Jason Spriggs of Indiana with pick No. 48. NFL scout Chris Landry had Spriggs ranked 32nd of his horizontal draft board, just one spot behind Taylor Decker of Ohio State.

Spriggs was a four-year starter at Indiana and he started 47 times in 48 games at left tackle for the Hoosiers.

The 6-foot-51/2, 305-pound Spriggs impressed Landry at the Senior Bowl. Landry put out this report on Spriggs after his impressive week in Mobile, Alabama:

OT Jason Spriggs of Indiana, consistently stood out as one of the most effective pass protectors at the Senior Bowl. The former tight end is big and strong, yet agile and light-footed enough to seal off the edge on opposing pass rushers.

Kyle Murphy

Kyle Murphy   Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the sixth round, with the 200th selection in the draft, the Packers picked offensive tackle Kyle Murphy of Stanford.

The 6’6″, 305-pound Murphy started at both left and right tackle for the Cardinal. He was named first team All-Pac-12 in 2015 at left tackle and second team All-Pac-12 in 2014 at right tackle.

Landry had Murphy ranked at No. 97 on his horizontal draft board, but the former Stanford star lasted until pick No. 200. That’s what I call excellent value. This is what Landry said about Murphy in his scouting report:

A former five-star recruit, Murphy was named to the All- Pac-12 first team in 2015. He was a third-team All American. He is a solid football player who does everything very well. He had 34 career starts at Stanford, including all 27 his junior and senior seasons. He can get off the ball quickly, has explosiveness on contact, gets movement with run blocks and gets and keeps good position in pass protection. He plays with a natural bend and can anchor. Murphy is athletic enough to pull and play in space. He just needs to get a little bigger and stronger.

In training camp so far and through the first two preseason games, neither Spriggs or Murphy have disappointed, although both have had their ups and downs.

Spriggs has played a ton a snaps in both preseason games and looked very solid in the game versus the Cleveland Browns at left tackle. Against the Oakland Raiders and defensive end Khalil Mack in the second quarter, Spriggs had some issues.

Mack is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. Perhaps only J.J. Watt is better. Spriggs allowed Mack to have four hurries and one sack. After Mack left the game, Spriggs still struggled at times, but he never stopped competing and had some nice moments as well.

Murphy didn’t play against Cleveland in the first preseason game due to a concussion issue, but he stood out with his fine play at right tackle against the Raiders.

Murphy was matched most of the second quarter matched against Bruce Irvin, the former Seahawk, who had 25 sacks in four seasons in Seattle.  While Spriggs was struggling against Mack, Murphy handled Irvin with relative ease.

Like Spriggs, Murphy received plenty of snaps as well. Both rookies are getting some nice experience this preseason. More importantly, it also looks like both of them have the capability to come in at a moment’s notice to play at a solid level if either Bakhtiari or Bulaga go out with an injury.

There is some even better news on the offensive line front. Barclay is playing very solidly at both guard and center. A lot of people were shocked that the Packers re-signed Barclay to a one-year deal when he was an unrestricted free agent. This was after giving up nine sacks in just five starts at tackle last season.

I tried to explain why the Packers did that in an article I wrote about Barclay in April. The main reason I thought Green Bay brought him back was to move him back inside to guard.

<> at Ford Field on November 28, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Don Barclay

The Packers did do just that, plus gave him several snaps at center backing up JC Tretter, as starting center Corey Linsley has been out with a hamstring injury. Barclay had been given limited reps at center earlier in his career in Green Bay, so playing center wasn’t foreign to him.

It looks like Barclay has resurrected his career this training camp, as he is moving around much better two years removed from his ACL injury.

Tretter has also been exceptional as the starting center while Linsley has been out.

If the Packers keep just nine offensive linemen this season, I believe that the nine linemen will be Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Linsley, T.J. Lang, Bulaga, Tretter, Spriggs, Murphy and Barclay. If they keep 10 linemen, Lane Taylor would probably be the next guy in.

If it comes down to one job between Barclay and Taylor, Barclay has played much better this preseason, plus can play multiple positions, while Taylor is strictly a guard.

The bottom line is that the Packers have the offensive weapons to be really special this year in terms of being productive and putting up points.

But as Landry has reminded me a number of times, the offensive line has to it’s job.

Back in July, Landry had this take on the offensive line, when I asked him how productive Aaron Rodgers will be in 2016.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

So far, there has been some definite headway with the offensive line this preseason. The depth on the line is definitely a work in progress, but the Packers have to be thrilled with the overall play of  Spriggs, Murphy, Barclay and Tretter. That all adds up to holding down the fort effectively if injuries do occur with the starters.

How Joe Montana Came Very Close to Becoming a Green Bay Packer

Joe Montana

I had another opportunity to talk with Zeke Bratkowski, who played backup quarterback behind Bart Starr when both played with the Green Bay Packers. Bratkowski was considered the best backup in the NFL at the time.

I talked about that dynamic in a couple of stories recently. Bratkowski brought the Packers back from a 10-0 deficit in the 1965 NFL Western Conference Championship Game after Starr was injured on the first play from scrimmage.

The Packers ended up winning 13-10 in overtime, as Bratkowski first led a game-tying drive late in the game and then the winning drive in overtime.

Bratkowski and Starr spent a lot of time together watching film and also in the quarterback meetings with head coach Vince Lombardi.

After their playing days were over, Bratkowski was an assistant coach under Starr in Green Bay for seven years.

When I read Starr’s autobiography called My Life in Football, something really caught my eye. In one of the chapters, Starr admitted he made a big error when he didn’t select quarterback Joe Montana of Notre Dame in the third round of the 1979 draft, when he was head coach and general manager of the Packers.

Starr said, “There is no question that I made a terrible mistake in passing on Joe Montana in 1979. He could play, and I knew it, and I blew it.”

When I talked to Bratkowski, I asked him if he had personally scouted Montana for Starr and if he endorsed the selection of the former Fighting Irish star to the Packers.

“Yes,” Bratkowski said. “They sent me out there because we had not looked at him at first because he eventually got drafted in the third round. Usually we were looking at the top quarterbacks in the first round.

“Bart told me to fly out there and work him out. We filmed him. Bart wanted me to check out his arm for throwing long passes. When you really check out deep pass plays like a go-route or a fly-route, the best catching area is about 43 yards downfield.

“We didn’t have anyone to catch passes from Joe except me. The film guy was doing his job and Joe was throwing the ball to me. Every pass was a perfect spiral, even on the deep throws. In my report, I said Joe was very accurate, that he has a great ball and he’s a great person.

Zeke and Bart

“Joe didn’t know where he was going to end up. And there he was still available in the third round. Red Cochran, who was the area scout in that area, absolutely loved Joe. Back then, when we were thinking of taking a quarterback, the quarterbacks coach would come in the draft room and answer questions. Bart told me to go back and look at that film that we took of Joe.

“I watched the film and then came back and I still had the same feeling about Joe and told them that. I said that we had to give a lot of thought about taking him. When we took the nose tackle [Charles Johnson] instead, Red Cochran almost committed suicide.”

Just imagine if the Packers had indeed selected Montana. Yes, the Packers still had Lynn Dickey, but he was still rehabbing from a horrific broken leg which caused him to miss over two full seasons.

Both Montana and Dickey were very accurate, but Montana had the big edge in mobility. And as we know now, Montana turned out to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, as he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl wins and was the game MVP in three of those games.

Would Montana have had the same success with the Packers? That’s very hard to say. The 49ers and the Packers had about the same type of team in 1979. Both were still in the rebuilding stage.

Montana had a excellent offensive mind to learn from in San Francisco with Bill Walsh, but he also would have learned a lot from both Starr and Bratkowski in Green Bay.

So who knows what would have happened. One thing is for sure. The selection of Montana would have certainly changed some of the history of the Packers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Starr might have been retained as head coach and could have attained the glory he had as a player with Montana leading his club.

Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre may never have been part of the organization of the Packers.

But all of this speculation became a moot point when Starr decided to select nose tackle Charles Johnson of Maryland instead of Montana of Notre Dame.

Johnson played in just 45 games with the Packers and his career in Green Bay was over after the 1983 season, just like it was with Starr, who fired after an 8-8 campaign that year.

Bottom line, this is a classic example of how the wrong decision in the NFL draft will have terrible implications for that particular franchise for the foreseeable future, as the Pack was 19 games under .500 in the 1980s and only had one playoff appearance.

On the other hand, things were 180 degrees different for the 49ers once they selected Montana, as they won four Super Bowls in that same decade.

Jerry Kramer Talks About the Book ‘Instant Replay’

instant replay

I do it every summer around training camp. I get out the book Instant Replay and read it. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. It’s been a ritual for me. Why? The book is that good.

In 1967, when Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers was 31 years old, he kept a diary of the season. Kramer would recite his thoughts into a tape recorder and then submit those words to Dick Schaap, who edited the words into the final version of Instant Replay.

Little did Kramer know that the 1967 season would be one of the most remarkable in the history of the NFL, culminating with the NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, better known as the “Ice Bowl.” No. 64 played a key role in the outcome of that game as well, as the Packers won 21-17 in the final seconds of that classic contest.

From training camp, through the Ice Bowl victory, then the win in Super Bowl II, Kramer provides a fascinating perspective about the viciousness of the NFL back then, when the game was truly a mixture of blood, sweat and tears.

Kramer also offers an insightful view of the team’s legendary leader, head coach Vince Lombardi. The 1967 season was Lombardi’s last year as head coach of the Packers as well.

Vincen And Jerry III

In one of my many conversations with Kramer, he gave me his perspective about the book and how it came to be. Kramer told me how he first got to know Schaap, who co-wrote the book with him:

“Dick was doing a story on [Paul] Hornung, and he walked by the room I shared with Jimmy Taylor. Our door was open and I was reading some poetry to Jimmy. Dick walked by the door and then stopped. Then he walked back and looked in to see if he had really seen that.

“About five or six years later, Dick called about doing the book. Apparently, the episode about me reading the poetry stuck in his mind.”

The first conversation between Schaap and Kramer about doing this undertaking was interesting:

“Dick asked me if I wanted to write a book. I said, ‘What the hell do I know about writing a book?’ He says, ‘Well, you talk into a tape recorder and record your observations, activities, impressions, thoughts and your life. Then you send it to me and I’ll transcribe it and I’ll organize it into a book.’

“I had one more question for him. And I said, ‘Who gets final say?’ And Dick said, ‘You do.’ And I said, ‘Let’s talk.’ We went to New York and talked to the publisher. But I was still new to all this. I asked Dick how may books would we need to sell to do well. Dick said, ‘If we sell between 15,000 and 20,000 books, we did good.’ We ended up selling over 400,000 hard-cover books.”

Kramer had to contemplate as to what approach he would use to write the book:

“I was thinking about being an ‘author’ and how flowery my language should be. And that I would have to use some big words. I was worried about how I would be perceived. Finally, I said that it is what it is and I am who I am. You aren’t going to change that.

“So I decided to just write it from the perspective of being as honest as I could be and straight forward. Tell it like it is. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it.”

Kramer got a critique from one of his teammates, Forrest Gregg, the following training camp after the book was published in August 1968.

Gregg and his roommate, Gale Gillingham, were visiting Kramer in his room. They began talking about the book, when Gregg offered up an observation as retold by Kramer.

“That damn book. Everywhere I go, people want to know about that book”, Gregg said. “I’m getting sick and tired of that damn book. But I’ll tell you one thing Jerry, you were dead-honest.”

Kramer said that was probably the nicest compliment he ever had about the book. Coming from someone like Gregg made it extra special. Gregg was right there with Kramer during the legendary ’67 season.

The book came at a perfect time. Sort of like a perfect storm, according to Kramer:

“It was very fortunate timing.”

Jerry on a knee

It was also fortunate timing that Kramer helped to create. Jerry was named All-Pro that season at right guard along with getting named to the Pro Bowl.

Kramer and his teammates overcame a lot during that season. Hornung and Taylor were gone. There were multiple injuries on the team. Quarterback Bart Starr missed a couple of games due to injuries. Both starting running backs, Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski, were lost for the season with injuries in the eighth week of the season.

Despite all of that adversity, the Packers still finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1967 with players like Donny Anderson, Travis Williams, Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filling the void.

The team also lost a couple of heartbreaking games (including one to the Los Angeles Rams) in the last minute during the course of the season.

A couple of weeks after that loss to the Rams, Green Bay whipped Los Angeles 28-7 at Milwaukee County Stadium in the Western Conference Championship Game.

The week after that came the “Ice Bowl” at Lambeau Field. The Packers were down 17-14 to the Cowboys with just 4:50 remaining in the game. It was extremely cold, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero. The offense of the Packers had to trudge 68 yards across a truly frozen tundra to win the game.

It came down to this: just 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. Starr called a 31 Wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, after conferring with Lombardi, Starr decided to keep the ball because of the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line.

Starr followed Kramer’s block on Jethro Pugh, and he found a hole behind No. 64 to get into the end zone with the winning touchdown.

Jerry's block on Jethro

Kramer talked about that block with me in one of our discussions:

“Jethro was high, and I actually suggested that play on Thursday when we were studying short-yardage films. I said we could wedge Pugh if we had to. And Coach Lombardi said, ‘What?’ And I said that we can wedge Pugh if we have to. So we ran the film back three or four times, and coach says, ‘That’s right. Put in a wedge on Pugh.’

“On the play, Pugh is up high, like I expected, and I got off the ball really well. I got a great start, and Jethro was up where I expected him to be. I kept my head up and my eyes open and I put my face in his chest, and at that point it’s over. I had control of Jethro, and he’s up in the air and he’s just dead. As soon as he comes up, and I get into him, I had the power of position on him.

“There was no way in hell he was going to do anything but slide. Now Kenny [Bowman] was there, and he was part of it [the block], there is no question about that, but I have always felt that the thing was over as soon as I got into Jethro.”

That block propelled the Packers into Super Bowl II, where the Packers beat the Oakland Raiders 33-14. A couple weeks later, Lombardi resigned as head coach and stayed on with the Packers as a general manager only for the 1968 season.

The Packers have won 13 NFL titles. No team has won more. All of those championship teams were special. But the 1967 championship team will always be my favorite.

It was the last Green Bay team that Vince Lombardi coached, and his last squad overcame all sorts of adversity to win the team’s third NFL title in a row. No team in the modern NFL has ever accomplished that incredible feat.

The ’67 team also won Green Bay’s fifth NFL championship in seven years.

Besides all of that, Jerry Kramer opened a door for all of us to see how that epic 1967 season unfolded with his co-authoring of Instant Replay.

The book is truly a masterpiece, just like the 1967 season was for the Packers.

A Scout’s Take on Linebacker Blake Martinez of the Green Bay Packers

Blake Martinez

Photo: Mark Hoffman

Although it’s still fairly early in training camp for the Green Bay Packers, no rookie has exhibited himself better than inside linebacker Blake Martinez.

As it stands right now, Martinez has shown the defensive coaching staff enough to be on the field at all times. So when the Packers play their base defense, or are in their nickel or dime looks, expect to see No. 50 on the field.

The nickel and dime looks constitute about 75% of the defenses that the Packers play in a given game.

Not bad for a compensatory pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, which was announced by former Packers great Jerry Kramer.

The 6’2″, 237-pound Martinez had been a two-year starter for the Stanford Cardinal. In those two years, Martinez had 243 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 12 passes defended and had five picks.

In 2014, Martinez was named honorable mention in the Pac-12 at linebacker, while in 2015 was named first-team All-Pac-12.

Martinez ran a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash as the NFL Scouting Combine, but he improved that mark to 4.67 at his pro day.

The former Cardinal star has impressed the Packers since his arrival in Green Bay.

Just ask head coach Mike McCarthy.

“He looks very comfortable,” McCarthy said back in the middle of June. “I think he’s done a really nice job transitioning from the base defense to the sub defense, his command, the echoing of the calls. He’s very bright. Quick. And he definitely is a very instinctive player. He’s off to a very good start.”

Once training camp started in late July, Martinez continued to impress, as he practiced with the starters in the base, nickel and dime.

Martinez showed that he could play the dime scheme that the Packers utilize at Stanford, and that has continued in training camp thus far.

“Right now base and nickel, mainly, and then I’ve been running with the 1s in the dime package and stuff like that,” Martinez said. “I’ve been working on it and doing what they need me to do, as long as I can get the job done.”

And No. 50 is getting the job done, at least to the satisfaction of the coaching staff.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers talked about how studious Martinez is when he talked with the media on Wednesday.

“He’s [Martinez] an attention to detail guy,” Capers said. “If he doesn’t know it, he’s going to ask. There’s going to be errors, because this is the first time he has seen a lot of these things. He normally doesn’t make the same error twice.”

I had an opportunity last week to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about Martinez.

I told Landry that Martinez was getting the starter’s reps in all the defensive schemes, including the dime.

“Well, Blake is very instinctive,” Landry said. “He plays the run well and he understands his landmarks in coverage. He makes good checks, which is one of the reasons why they [the Packers] liked him. He can be a three-down guy.”

The Packers won’t know for sure how good Martinez can be until they actually see him play on the field in game situations. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame game versus the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

But on Friday night, the Packers will get a chance to see Martinez and a lot of the younger players when they take on the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

If Martinez continues to play like he has at OTAs and in training camp, he looks to be a definite starter at one of the inside linebacker positions and to be on the field with the defense at all times.

Second-year  linebacker Jake Ryan has been playing next to Martinez  on the inside in the OTAs and in training camp, but now will be pushed by the return of Sam Barrington, who just came off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list on Tuesday night.

Barrington started seven games in 2014 at inside linebacker for the Packers and started in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears in 2015, before suffering an ankle injury which put him out for the entire season.

Ryan started five games at inside linebacker as a rookie in 2015 and played in 14 games overall.

So while the battle to become one of the starters at inside linebacker between Ryan and Barrington looks to be very interesting, Martinez has so far proven that he can be trusted to be a three-down player at the other inside linebacker position.

Martinez gets to show that the proof is in the pudding, starting on Friday night against the Browns in Green Bay.

A Scout’s Take on the Offensive Weapons of the Green Bay Packers

IMAG0318

It looks like the Green Bay Packers will be adding a couple more weapons this week to their offensive repertoire. At least according to what quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Packers told Charles Woodson and the rest of the ESPN Countdown crew after the Hall of Fame game between the Packers and Indianapolis Colts was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

Rodgers told Woodson and company that he expected both wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Jared Cook back this week. Both players began training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.

Nelson suffered an ACL tear in the 2015 preseason and missed all of last season. Plus, he suffered what he called a hiccup to his other knee recently which put him on the PUP list. Cook was recovering from minor foot surgery which was done in early June.

I was in Green Bay on Thursday and I saw Nelson riding a bike to practice, which to me was a positive sign. The comments by Rodgers on Sunday night proved my beliefs to be correct.

On Wednesday of last week, I was able to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about a few topics regarding the Packers.

Speaking of Landry, I am pleased to say that I’m a contributing writer to his fine site.

When I talked with Landry, I mentioned the situation with Nelson’s other knee, as well as the great training camp third-year wide receiver Jared Abbrederis was having and that he may have some fantasy football value.

“They are just being cautious with Jordy,” Landry said. “Talking with the coaches there, they don’t feel like it’s an issue, but like you said, you never know.

“I always think their receivers there are good with their fantasy value. Look, with Aaron Rodgers, they are going to catch a lot of balls. It’s just who is healthy.

“With Nelson and [Randall] Cobb. [Davante] Adams to me has to pick it up and be more consistent. But they have some weapons, there is no question about it. It’s going to be interesting to watch the tight ends too, with Richard Rodgers and see what Jared Cook can do for them.

“Plus there’s the weight of Eddie Lacy. So all those things will be intriguing to watch.”

Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis

Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis

Although Landry didn’t mention Abbrederis by name, No. 84 has been outstanding so far this summer.

Plus there is the always dangerous Jeff Janis, who needs to be more consistent in practice, but his size and speed make him a threat any time he runs downfield.

Just ask the Arizona Cardinals. Janis caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns versus the Cards in the 2015 NFC Divisional playoff game. There is one aspect of Janis’ game which is very consistent. It’s his ability on special teams to be an outstanding gunner.

Rookie wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis from Cal has also opened some eyes in camp.

Second-year receiver Ty Montgomery remains on the PUP list with an ankle injury and there is not a timetable for his return.

But it does look like Nelson and Cook will be returning and that will only add more firepower to the weaponry that Rodgers will have at his disposal as he drops back to pass.

If Lacy can return to the form of how he played in 2013 and 2014 in the running game, with some help from James Starks, the offense of the Packers can be special in 2016.

That being said, as Landry told me in an earlier story from a few weeks ago, the success of the offense will really be contingent on how well the offensive line plays.

Time will tell how that scenario will play out.

But with both Nelson and Cook possibly being back this week, the receiving part of the equation will get much better for the Packers.

Being in the Quarterback’s Meeting Room with Vince Lombardi

Vincen And Jerry III

Vince Lombardi will always have a great legacy in NFL annals. The winner of the Super Bowl gets a trophy with his name inscribed on it. That’s what happens when one has the success Lombardi had in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

From 1959 through 1967, Lombardi and his Packers were 89-24-4 in the regular season, plus won six Western Conference titles in the NFL.

But it was the postseason that the Packers really stood out under Lombardi. The team was 9-1 and won five NFL championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls. That included winning three straight NFL titles from 1965-67. No team in the modern era of the NFL has ever duplicated that.

Based on his track record in Green Bay, it’s pretty obvious the Lombardi was a great coach. But Lombardi was also an excellent teacher. In one of my many conversations with Jerry Kramer, he talked about that dynamic.

“Coach Lombardi read ancient Greek and Latin, plus taught chemistry and algebra,” Kramer said. “He was a very bright man. In a lot of ways, he was more like a teacher, as opposed to a coach. He believed that he was a teacher, first and foremost. For him, teaching and coaching were one in the same.”

Lombardi taught all of his players, whether it was during team meetings or when Lombardi would meet with the offense and go over film study of the past opponent and the upcoming team that the Packers would be playing.

In those meetings with the offense, Lombardi would sometimes run a play 20 to 30 times to go over the mistakes that were made by his players or to point out flaws of the upcoming defensive opponent.

But before he met with the offense or the team in general, Lombardi always met with the quarterbacks for one hour each day. I wanted to get a feel for those meetings, so I asked both Zeke Bratkowski and Don Horn about what was said during the meetings.

In 1967, both Bratkowski and Horn (then a rookie), along with Bart Starr, all got together with Lombardi to discuss the upcoming opponent.

Zeke in Super Bowl II

“We had to be there at 8:00 am to meet with Coach Lombardi,” Bratkowski said. “Then, we didn’t have quarterback coaches. But back then, the quarterback meetings were with Coach Lombardi. It was all him.

“He always started the meetings with the defensive frequencies of the upcoming team we would be facing. We would take notes on the fronts that they ran and also how they would cover.

“Coach was an excellent teacher. He was a great coach, but he was even a better teacher. He was obviously a great motivator, but he also explained how and why certain plays would work.”

Bratkowski talked about one of Lombardi’s techniques for teaching.

“All of his information was on cards,” Bratkowski said. “He didn’t show the cards to us, but he talked about what was on the card. We took notes. That is what we did consistently. Every game we had a notebook, that we ourselves had made.

“We had perforated notebooks where you could take that sheet and use it for the next time you played an opponent. Like Detroit for instance. Then we could see if our information matched up the second time or if they had changed their tendencies.”

In the Green Bay offense, it was also very important that the quarterback could recognize what the defense would be doing on a certain play.

“It was very important for us to call the defense at the line of scrimmage,” Bratkowski said. “Because the team was coached so well, if you called the correct defense, we knew we would be able to call the right play or run an audible that might work. Consequently, everyone was on the same page.

“The information Coach Lombardi gave us was very detailed. We did this week in and week out. Every week, the same procedure. We would talk about the defense and then the offensive game plan.

“He would start with the running game. He would gives our copy of it which we could take notes on. It had all the plays we would run. Then we would look at the passing game.

“One thing about Coach Lombardi, he did not like us wasting plays. Or wasting time outs either. Billy Casper said it best, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ That’s basically what the Packers were. It was a simplified, complex offense. There was a lot of repetition. That was the approach.

“The other thing Coach would do was to recommend reels of film to look at. So we would do that. Then we when we watch films with the entire offense, Coach would stop the film and say, ‘Make this note.’ And we did. In our notebook, if Coach mentioned something once we made sure it was noted. If he said it twice, it was underlined.”

Horn recounted the meetings as well.

“The meetings were pretty much business-like,” Horn said. “Although Coach Lombardi would tell a joke once in awhile. And you better laugh. Plus you would get to hear his great laugh. But for the most part it was serious and very productive from a learning standpoint.”

Horn then talked about how the meetings would set the stage for the upcoming game as he and Bratkowski would watch Starr run the offense.

“We could stand on the sidelines and probably three out of five times we could call the same play that Bart would call,” Horn said. “That’s how programmed we were in terms of our game plan.”

At the quarterback meetings in 1967, seeing as he was just a rookie, Horn didn’t chime in too much in terms of play suggestions.

Don Horn with Coach Lombardi in Super Bowl II

“At that point, I hadn’t earned my stripes yet,” Horn said. “I didn’t play that much until later on in that season. Bart and Zeke might have some suggestions, but I never executed that privilege so to speak.

“I was just a young buck. I was trying to take in as much as I could at the time. I mean, I had come from a college program [San Diego State] under Coach Don Coryell which had a wide-open passing attack. The offensive system under Coach Lombardi was completely different in terms of playing the percentages and using the calculated running game more often than not.”

Starr and Bratkowski did suggest plays during the meetings, however.

“We would suggest things that we liked to do,” Bratkowski said. “You might like certain passes. Or talk about using plays from a different formation. Or think about this play in this situation.

“I remember one meeting when Bart and I were there, and unbeknownst to us, Coach Lombardi had gone into the sauna and was listening to us talk about why this play would work against this particular team.

You could tell that Coach was pleased to see and hear us confer with one another about that aspect of our game preparation. To me, that was the ultimate compliment.”

Bart in Super Bowl II

Bottom line, the quarterbacks and the offense of the Packers were always prepared under the coaching and teaching of Coach Lombardi. The championship record of the Packers under Lombardi amplifies that.

“It truly was a work of art,” Bratkowski said. “Everyone was in concert with one another. This was all built on repetition. Every new training camp, it was like learning the ABC’s again.

“I always looked forward to Coach Lombardi’s dissertation of the sweep. He was like a maestro with that play. You could tell he really enjoyed discussing that play.

“But the whole experience was a great memory to me because it was a great time with him. He orchestrated everything beautifully.”

Zeke Bratkowski Talks About the 1965 Western Conference Championship Game

Zeke vs. the Colts

This upcoming Sunday, on August 7, the Green Bay Packers will take on the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game.

The Packers and Colts have a history that dates back to 1953, when the Colts were still in Baltimore and had first joined the NFL. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

The two teams have met 42 times in the regular season, with the Colts holding a 21-20-1 edge. When the team was the Baltimore Colts, the Packers led the series 17-16-1.

In their preseason history, the Colts hold a 5-4 edge over the Packers.

The two teams have only met once in the postseason. It was after the 1965 season, when the Colts, who were then in the NFL’s Western Conference, played the Packers at Lambeau Field in the Western Conference Championship Game on December 26.

Both teams had finished the 1965 with identical 10-3-1 records. A playoff game would be needed to see who would play the Cleveland Browns in the 1965 NFL title game. The Browns were the defending NFL champs as well.

The 1965 season was a very interesting season for both the Packers and right guard Jerry Kramer. No. 64 talked with me about that season back in November of 2015.

The Colts came into the game with big issues at the quarterback position, as both starter Johnny Unitas (knee) and backup Gary Cuozzo (dislocated shoulder) were unable to play due to injuries. That meant that halfback Tom Matte would have to play at quarterback.

Matte had played quarterback at Ohio State in college, but was more of a running quarterback, as opposed to utilizing the passing game a lot.

Coming into the game, the Packers looked to have a big advantage at quarterback, as Matte would be up against Bart Starr, who had already won two NFL passing titles at that time, plus had led the Packers to two NFL titles.

But that advantage was soon wiped away on the very first scrimmage play of the game, when linebacker Don Shinnick recovered a Bill Anderson fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Starr tried to make a tackle near the end zone on the play and hurt his ribs in the process. No. 15 was forced to leave the game due to the injury, although he still came into the game to hold on extra points and field goals.

Bart being helped off the field by Jerry

I had an opportunity recently to talk to the man who came into the game in relief of Starr at quarterback. That would be Zeke Bratkowski. No. 12 knew he would be going up against an outstanding defense.

The Colts were ranked 4th in the NFL in total defense in 1965. Baltimore’s offense had it’s hands full too, as Green Bay was ranked No. 1 in total defense in the NFL.

“The Colts had a great defense,” Bratkowski said. “That was their calling card in many ways. I was just putting my warmup jacket on when Bart was injured. I just got my helmet and didn’t throw a pass to warm up before I entered the game.

“I did complete a pass on my first throw. The game was a great memory for me. In fact, somebody called me from Green Bay for a radio show and he told me that the drive I had in overtime against the Colts was just as big as Bart’s drive against the Cowboys in the “Ice Bowl” game. That it was in the same magnitude. I thought that was a nice compliment.”

The Packers put up 362 yards of total offense in the playoff game versus the Colts, with 248 yards coming via the air from Bratkowski, the former Georgia Bulldog star.

Meanwhile, the Colts were held to just 175 total yards behind Matte at quarterback. In fact, Matte only threw for 40 yards passing.

Still, the game was a struggle for the Packers. Green Bay was down 10-0 at halftime. The Packers certainly weren’t helped by the turnover margin in the game, that’s for sure. Green Bay turned the ball over four times, as opposed to just once for Baltimore.

But Bratkowski and the Packers scrapped back. In the third quarter, Bratkowski hit wide receiver Carroll Dale with a 33-yard reception that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Paul Hornung. That made the score 10-7.

Earlier in the game, the Packers were stopped near the goal line on four downs in a similar situation, so the touchdown by No. 5 was huge.

The Packers were still down 10-7 late in the game when Bratkowski led the Packers from their own 28 to the Baltimore 15, before kicker Don Chandler attempted a 22-yard field goal. The referees said the kick was good, tying the game, while the Colts were complaining to anyone who would listen that the kick was no good and wide right.

That kick led the NFL to raise the height of the goal posts the following season.

There has been quite a debate on whether that kick was good or not, but one person was sure that it was good. That would be Bratkowski.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski said. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

In overtime, the Colts had a chance to win, but Lou Michaels missed a 47-yard field goal that was hampered by a bad snap.

Taking over at their own 20, the Packers were led down the field by Bratkowski, who completed key passes to both Anderson (19 yards) and Dale (18 yards). The Packers got as far as the Baltimore 18, before Chandler lined up for his 25-yard field goal attempt. This time, there was absolutely no doubt about the field goal, as the kick was good and the Packers were 13-10 overtime winners.

Don Chandler game-winner

“Carroll [Dale] made a few key catches in the game,” Bratkowski said. “That included one in the game-winning drive in overtime which took us into field goal range.”

Dale ended up with three receptions for 63 yards, while the tight end Anderson led the way with eight catches for 78 yards.

Bratkowski reflected on his passing performance in that game, as the running game of the Packers only produced 112 yards rushing.

“We were throwing that ball a lot,” Bratkowski said. “You know, the biggest problem that I had, was that I had to be well aware of the situation. I mean, I’m not going in there to lose this game.

“I knew I had to go in there to win the game. You tend to play a little conservative when you don’t want to lose the game. But as the game wore on, we took advantage in some situations with big passing plays.”

Bratkowski talked about the 1965 Packers. A team which would win the first of three consecutive NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls), a feat that has never been matched in the modern history of the NFL.

“Coach Lombardi always used to tell us that we may not have the best players, but we have the best team,” Bratkowski said. “And it was true. I don’t know about the best players, but we had a lot of good athletes. People who could do a lot of different things and who believed in the team concept.”

In my many conversations with Kramer, he often would tell me that there wasn’t a big difference between Starr and Bratkowski when they played quarterback. Both were successful because both were well prepared to do their job.

No. 12 did his job well too. During his career with the Packers, Bratkowski completed 220 of 416 passes for 3,147 yards and 21 TDs.

When I told Bratkowski about Kramer’s comments about his quarterbacking skills compared to Starr’s, the former Chicago Bear and Los Angeles Ram was honored.

“I appreciate you saying that,” Bratkowski said. “A lot of the guys would get on me and tease me about that a little bit, but it was a teasing compliment. I really appreciated that. I never gloated about that situation, because it was really a team effort.”