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NEVER RULE OUT AN OLD CHAMP
Tex Maule
October 28, 1968
The Green Bay Packers are off to a dreary start with three losses and a tie in their first six games and the powerful Dallas Cowboys coming up this Monday, but it would be a mistake to consider them dead
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October 28, 1968

Never Rule Out An Old Champ

The Green Bay Packers are off to a dreary start with three losses and a tie in their first six games and the powerful Dallas Cowboys coming up this Monday, but it would be a mistake to consider them dead

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Lombardi, while avoiding pep talks, did talk to the team briefly before the season, but his subject had more to do with manner than morale. Some players had come to camp in Nehru jackets, long hair and sideburns, and Lombardi took them to task. "We have spent 10 years building your image as a professional on the same level as a doctor or a lawyer," he said. "I can't tell you to cut your hair or trim your sideburns or wear conventional clothes. But you don't look like Packers in that getup."

Most of the players complied. Willie Davis, however, retained his sideburns until just before the Los Angeles game.

" Coach Lombardi told me that if I grew sideburns, it would take the strength from the scalp on top of my head and I would get a bald spot," Willie said, laughing. "But that's not why I cut off the sideburns. I want everything to be as near as possible the way it was when we were winning."

Davis and the rest of the Packer veterans have a slow fuse. It is understandable in a team that has had as much success as this one over as long a period; without the goad of a Lombardi, it is difficult for them to arouse themselves for a regular-season game.

"We have played so many big games in the last few years," Gregg said before the Detroit game Sunday. "We get up for the big ones. But if we don't start winning soon, all of the games will be big." They shook off their apathy against the Rams, albeit in a losing cause. This was a traditional Packer game, replete with thundering blocks and tackles. There was no trace of complacency. They came within a couple of minutes and that doubtful penalty call of beating a club which had won 12 straight league games going into this one. When it was over, they were angry but not disheartened.

"We can't kid ourselves anymore." Davis said afterward. "We've got to win the next game. Some games challenge your existence more than others. The Ram game was like that. So is our next game with Detroit and the Dallas game after that."

Despite Davis' declaration, the Packers did not win the Sunday game with the Lions—but they didn't lose it, either. They gave up two quick touchdowns in the first quarter, both on passes to Earl McCullouch, Detroit's brilliant rookie end, then settled down to three quarters of typical tough Green Bay football. Bratkowski threw sparingly but well. After the Lions fumbled a punt in the third period, Bratkowski hit Carroll Dale for a 14-yard touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter the Packers drove to the Detroit three, where Bratkowski was hit hard and temporarily stunned. Bart Starr came in to replace him.

The Lions, knowing Starr's arm was still hurt, closed in to shut off the run. and Starr, ignoring the pain, passed to a wide-open Boyd Dowler for the touchdown. The Green Bay defense, playing with its old agility and fire, forced another Detroit fumble and the Packers drove once more. However, young Claudis James fumbled deep in Detroit territory to kill that drive with only a minute left.

The Lions prudently settled for the tie, running out the clock while the fans booed. The Packers were not happy with the tie, but they should have been. Even though Kramer injured a knee early in the game and was replaced by rookie Bill Lueck, the Packers demonstrated that accustomed efficiency. When Lueck was unable to contain Alex Karras, the violent Detroit tackle, the flexible Packers moved Gregg from tackle to guard and solved that problem.

For most of this game, especially in the second half, the Packers looked like the old Packers. That may be bad news for the rest of the league.

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