Originally created 12/31/98

Butler ready for postseason



GREEN BAY, Wis. -- LeRoy Butler is in fine playoff form, and we're not talking only about his play.

We're also talking about his, well, talk.

Green Bay's superstar strong safety and ebullient, unofficial team spokesman, who was at times quiet this year when he wasn't getting to blitz with abandon, announced Wednesday that any topic was fair game.

You want to discuss the Packers' dominance of the San Francisco 49ers, their opponent in a wild-card playoff game on Sunday? Get the bulletin board ready.

Or how about the chances of Steve Mariucci and Mike Holmgren switching teams next season.

We'll bite on that one.

"No, I don't want to get into that," Butler said with a little laugh and a lot of second thoughts.

But he boasted about everything else, including the Packers' faith that they can turn their topsy-turvy season into something special after all.

"I think a lot of people the way we've been playing the last three weeks really think that we really don't have a good team," Butler said. "Not to mention that we're underdogs and they have to feel like they have a really, really good chance. And I'm here to say that's not going to be true.

"Everything we've done in the regular season does not affect the playoffs," Butler said. "The playoffs is a new season. This is when the great players separate from the average players, this is when the cream comes to the top and the crop goes down. This is when teams that are fresher, are hotter and experienced win these kinds of games.

"That's the type of team we have."

After losing to the Packers 23-10 in last year's NFC championship, San Francisco shored up its defensive secondary and offensive line and Jerry Rice and Garrison Hearst returned to health.

But the Packers' exposed many of the same problems in their latest victory over the 49ers, a 36-22 win on Nov. 1 at Lambeau Field when Young was sacked nine times, the most he has been sacked in any game in his career and Brett Favre burned San Francisco's secondary for three big plays -- an 80-yard touchdown to Antonio Freeman on the game's first play followed by a 30-yarder to Robert Brooks and a back-breaking 62-yarder to Freeman again to nail it.

And while the 49ers had high hopes for their three-receiver formation of Rice, Stokes and Terrell Owens, the longest completion of the day to a San Francisco wide receiver went for just 12 yards.

"It just seems like when we play these guys we play our best ball," Butler said.

And Butler admitted the Packers have had good fortune on their side.

"We get a lot of luck, too, because of the one situation where the snapper snapped it over the punter's head, we got an extra two points. That's probably luck and we've been very lucky," he said.

"And we've been lucky to have all of our troops when we've played them and they haven't had their players," Butler said. "So this particular game, everybody has their players and that's not going to be an excuse. We just outhit them, special teams, too, and that's just a big key in a lot of games, especially the championship game last year, that was a big key."

Packers coach Mike Holmgren said tight ends Mark Chmura (calf) and Tyrone Davis (hamstring) and receivers Robert Brooks (hamstring) and Corey Bradford (hamstring) returned to a closed practice Wednesday along with defensive end Vonnie Holliday (ankle) and cornerback Craig Newsome (knee).

The only one who didn't participate was tight end Jeff Thomason (calf).