So, I know I’ve been a little, um, delayed in getting these posts up. I’m sorry – I really am.
I’m going to make it up to you this week, though, as we will finish our all-time roster.
(I’m Chris Lempesis and I approve this message.)
Anyways, I know that cornerback was supposed to be the next position on our list. However, I’ve decided to switch things up and go with the safeties for part six. We like to keep you on your toes here at OBOD.
Any more that needs to be said? Nope – let’s tee this thing up.
Starter: LeRoy Butler (1990-2001) – The great safeties of today do it all. They cover. They stop the run. They blitz and hit like a ton of freakin’ bricks. Of course, it wasn’t always that way.
‘Til a badass cat named LeRoy came on the scene.
In my mind, Butler was a chief pioneer of the mentality that safeties could be multi-faceted threats. Look at what he did during his career: fourth in team history in total tackles, unassisted tackles and interceptions. He’s 12th in sacks with 20.5 (imagine if he played today). He went to four Pro Bowls for his efforts, a number that would have been higher had he not been forced to retire at the age of 34 because of a shoulder injury.
He was the soul of those great defenses in the mid-to-late 1990s (Reggie White was the heart and, as a reader pointed out last summer, Wayne Simmons was indeed the fire. Can you believe the “heart” and “fire” are both no longer with us?). Plus, there’s that little “Lambeau Leap” thing that Butler invented back in 1993. That doesn’t hurt his case, either.
Starter: Willie Wood (1960-1971) – Before we get into the numbers, let’s talk about who Willie Wood was, as a player. He was tough. Really tough. Played in 166 straight games (only behind Brett Favre and Forrest Gregg on the team’s all-time list).
He could tackle. In fact, Vince Lombardi called him the surest tackler the Packers had, quite an honor if guys named Davis and Nitschke play on the same unit. And he didn’t even play safety at USC, but rather quarterback.
Okay, now let’s talk numbers: Second on the team’s all-time list in picks (48). Led the team in interceptions five times. Still holds the career mark for interceptions returned for touchdowns (seven). Named All-Pro six times. A 1989 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Need I say more?
Backup: Bobby Dillon (1952-1959) – For almost any other team, Dillon would be a surefire starter. The fact that he’s a backup on this team has less to do with his play than it does the franchise’s amazing history at the position.
After all, Dillon was a monster talent, even if he only could see out of one eye.
In seven seasons, guess how many times he led the team in interceptions? Yep, you guessed it – seven. His 52 career picks are still good enough to put him at the top of the team’s all-time list. He returned five of those picks for scores, putting him in a tie with a guy you’ll hear more about in a minute for second on the team’s all-time list. He was a five-time All-Pro, as well.
He’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and, to me, that’s always been sort of a mystery.
Backup: Darren Sharper (1997-2004) – Many people forget this now, but Sharper was originally drafted as a cornerback/safety out of William & Mary in 1997. He was quickly converted to free safety – he wasn’t really fast enough to play corner, I’ve always felt – and there, he made a huge mark.
In eight seasons, Sharper – known for his intelligence and great closing speed - picked off 36 passes, returning five of them for scores. He also had six sacks and six forced fumbles. He led the league with nine interceptions in 2000 and his career mark was good enough for fifth on the team’s all-time list.
His play earned him two Pro Bowl spots. He was released after 2004 in a salary cap move and has since gone on to success with both Minnesota and his current team, New Orleans. He’s been to a total of five Pro Bowls.
That’s all for our look at the safeties. Check back Wednesday as we (finally) list off the cornerbacks on our roster.