|Packers LT Chad Clifton stays quiet, focused on Giants, NFC championship game|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 18 January 2008 00:43|
The Packers' large left tackle has shunned the spotlight in his eight-year career, and he likes it that way, staying almost anonymous despite his vital role protecting Brett Favre's blindside.
``To be pretty blunt, I just don't go looking to make headlines every day or get in the paper every day,'' Clifton said during a podium appearance Thursday, an oddity for a guy who never seems to visit the locker room during the week.
While Clifton prepares for the NFC championship game Sunday against the New York Giants, his goal for his opponent, mainly defensive end Osi Umenyiora, is to follow his example, staying quiet and away from Favre.
``I think that's with any offensive lineman, the opposing defender, if you don't hear their name very much I think that's a pretty good indicator that the offensive lineman has done a pretty good job,'' Clifton said.
``Everybody knows Brett Favre. He's probably the most recognizable face, I would say, in the NFL and you know, you never want to be the guy that lets the quarterback get hit, get touched, get injured, so every offensive lineman takes a lot of pride in keeping their quarterback clean.''
While most offensive linemen play alternating roles of ``aw, shucks'' and playing up the fact that they're faceless warriors in the trenches, Clifton, who grew up in tiny Martin, Tenn., and enjoys bass fishing, prefers to stay intensely private and consistent.
He's made 79 of 80 starts since returning from the pelvic injury off Warren Sapp's hit in 2002 that drew national attention. Even though Clifton has been nicked up the past few seasons, the lone start he missed was due to food poisoning the night before a game last season in Miami.
Clifton, just 12 credit hours from a psychology major before the season started, has no idea how he's remained so durable, like the quarterback he protects.
``I wish I knew, man. There's really no secret,'' he said. ``It's definitely a pride thing. You want to be able to go out and you want to be able to play for your team each and every Sunday.''
Packers coach Mike McCarthy says Clifton is a leader by performance, and he's one of the Packers' most trusted elements in their offensive scheme. He is most often left alone to face up with the best pass rushers in the league, and he has excelled, allowing 3 1/2 sacks this season.
``If you ever had to play without a left tackle that is not very good at pass protection, you appreciate Chad Clifton,'' McCarthy said. ``Chad Clifton makes my job as a play-caller very easy.''
Said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin: ``We don't even think about him a lot because he just takes care of business for us and that's huge.''
Of course, the coaching staff's comments didn't take Clifton by surprise.
``(I'm) not a big rah-rah guy by any means but (I) just go out and do my job,'' he said.
Opposite of Clifton on the line is right tackle Mark Tauscher, who jokes with the media, has his own TV show and openly picks on the younger linemen. Philbin said the two are very similar in how they approach practice.
``From a comfort standpoint for your quarterback, for your coaching staff, they provide a real solid foundation for your pass protection,'' Philbin said. ``They've done an outstanding job throughout the course of their career.''
Clifton acknowledges the tackles who both were picked in 2000 and started their rookie year take pride in not needing a lot of help with blocking assignments.
``It's not like we never get any help whatsoever, but it's minimal and we both go out there, we trust our technique, we work hard in practice and that's why we've had success,'' Clifton said.
And the Packers' offense has been very successful, too, despite early struggles with the running game before Ryan Grant emerged.
``In a way we took it personally,'' Clifton said. ``I think each and every player just kind of looked within themselves, kind of looked at themselves to see what they could do better and as the weeks went on that's something we improved on.''
If only Clifton could be that confident in interviews. He said his podium appearance didn't bother him at all, but he wondered if his linemates just might rib him for the performance.
``Are they going to watch this? Yeah, Tauscher maybe,'' he said. ``I would hope they have a lot better things to do.''