Gillingham and All-NFL Jerry Kramer are set at guard, with Lueck available to back them. Veteran Offensive Tackles Bob Skoronski and Forrest Gregg will get welcome relief from Peay. Fuzzy Thurston has retired to a thriving restaurant business, but he spent most of last year behind Gillingham. As usual, the Packer offensive line is good.
The defensive line is no different. Henry Jordan and Willie Davis, the All-NFL defensive tackle and end, are growing older, but, as Davis says, they both seem to gain a step with age instead of losing one. Davis has a master's degree in marketing and a doctorate in dumping quarterbacks. Lionel Aldridge, the other end, is younger and bigger than Willie and is on his way to being as smart. Ron Kostelnik plays beside Henry Jordan at tackle and has for several years, long enough to add wisdom to his size and speed. If any of this formidable foursome should falter, Bengtson can call on 6'7" Jim Weatherwax at tackle or massive Bob Brown at defensive end, although Brown broke his arm in practice and will miss some of the early games.
The Packer backers, led by big, balding Ray Nitschke, still rank as the best trio in pro football. Nitschke is flanked by Dave Robinson and Lee Roy Caffey, mighty good company. Behind this trio there is Phil Vandersea, who well might be a starter if he were on any team except Green Bay, and Jim Flanigan, the Pack's second draft choice in 1967. Vandersea has returned after a year with the Saints.
In the defensive backfield, three of the starters have been on one or another All-NFL team in recent years. They are Cornerbacks Adderley and Jeter and Safety Willie Wood. The fourth regular is Tom Brown, only a cut below the others, and the fifth man is Doug Hart, who was a starter until Bob Jeter beat him out.
If there is any weakness on this club, it could be a lack of depth in the offensive line and among the receivers, but this is only a relative weakness. Most teams would be glad to trade offensive line or receiver strength with Green Bay.
Don Chandler, who gave the team good punting and placekicking, has retired. Last year Donny Anderson did most of the punting. He wasn't long, but his towering boots were seldom run back, and this year he has added length to height. To replace him, the Packers experimented with Fernando Souza, a Brazilian soccer player, but Souza, though he got length to his kicks, was unable to get the ball up fast enough to be a field-goal kicker. This means the Packers will probably fall back on Jerry Kramer, who once won a championship for Green Bay by kicking three field goals, a league record. The other possibility is Chuck Mercein.
The big question, of course, is how much difference the loss of Lombardi will make. "I haven't had as many ice breaks as this in years," Pitts said at one practice, sucking on a mouthful of chopped ice. "But we work just as hard."
They will miss Lombardi, no doubt. But not enough to make any difference on the field.
Jim Dooley has replaced George Halas as coach of the Chicago Bears and this could be the most exciting team in football to watch this season, if not the best. Not that the. Halas-coached Bears were dull; they were not. But Dooley is one of the brightest and most inventive of the new crop of coaches, and his plans for a total offense for the Chicago club should give the Bears the most varied attacking stances in the league.