Each week throughout the season, PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush hooks up with a personality who has connections with the Packers and asks him five Packer-related questions. This week Dan connects with Packers Hall of Famer Jerry Kramer, a fixture at right guard for Green Bay from 1958-68.
1. Just how special is the Bears-Packers rivalry?
Kramer: I always enjoyed the Bears games. Certain games are more intense than others, and our battles with the Bears were always very emotional. It really didn’t matter where you were in the standings, whether it was the first game of the year, or the last game of the year, it was always a supercharged, pumped-up, highly emotional atmosphere, Both George Halas and Vince Lombardi did things to help the rivalry along. There were always things going on. We’d be out on the practice field, and there would be a guy in the distance working on a telephone pole. Lombardi would scream to a staffer: “Go check that guy out! He could be one of Halas’ men!"
2. Is there a particular memory that captures the essence of the rivalry in your mind?
Kramer: There’s one incident that remains crystal clear in my mind dating back to (former Packers QB) Bart Starr’s early years. Starr was not known as a tough guy at all back then. He was awfully quiet, and people around the league just assumed that, because he didn’t yell a lot, that maybe he didn’t have the kind of mettle needed at the pro level. We were playing the Bears in Chicago. Bill George is playing in the middle for the Bears’ defense. Starr fires a long pass down the siodleine, and we are all watching the ball — all of us except George, who hits Starr right in the mouth with a forearm and knocks him back five yards. “That ought to take care of you, Bart Starr, you pussy!!” George yelled. We were all stunned. Bart looked up at George and said, “F----- you, Bill George! We’re coming after you!" It was the ONLY time I ever heard Starr use the “F” word. So there he is, with a cut from his upper lip all the way up to his nose. And there’s this stream of blood just flowing down his jersey. I remember we were wearing white jerseys. So I said, "Bart, maybe you ought to go to the sideline and get yourself sewed up." And he said back to me, "Shut up and get back in the huddle!" I remember saying to myself, "Wow, maybe that Bart Starr has some backbone after all!" But that shows how fired up all of us got for a Bears game.
3. What do you think the keys are for the Packers this Sunday?
Kramer: The quarterbacks will be key. If Aaron (QB Aaron Rodgers) can continue to play like he has, that would be good for Green Bay. But Jay (Bears QB jay Cutler) had a good game last week, too. I see it being a pretty close ball game, with one turnover or mental mistake making the difference.
4. How good was Rodgers in Atlanta?
Kramer: Aaron put on a clinic. He had good protection. He just performed flawlessly. He can be a little off sometimes, but he was just sensational last Saturday night. The Bears have a hellvua defense. It should be something.
5. What do you think about the way the Packers’ offensive line is playing heading into Sunday?
Kramer: It’s doing a pretty good job. They’ve all gotten to know each other better. I haven’t seen too many mental errors lately. There will be an occasional flinch from one of them, which just drives me nuts. But they’ve been OK. The rookie (Bryan) Bulaga has made some mistakes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some help every now and then against (Bears DE Julius) Peppers moving up and down the line.