Notebook: Raji's Early Celebration
NT B.J. Raji (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
NT B.J. Raji (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
With the Sports Xchange
Posted Jan 25, 2011


Coach Mike McCarthy jokes that B.J. Raji received "two minuses" for his pivotal play on Sunday; plus injury updates and more from Monday.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji had arguably the play of not only the game but the ongoing season for the Super Bowl-bound Packers.

Still, the coaches weren't entirely thrilled with the 337-pound Raji's 18-yard interception return for a touchdown that proved to be the difference in the 21-14 win at the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

"I loved it live," coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "I wasn't real fired up about it this morning when we watched it on film. I didn't realize he had that ball hanging out there at the 10-yard line. That's not what you're looking for."

McCarthy half-jokingly said Raji received "two minuses" for the play in the coaches' postgame grading — for holding the football in his outstretched right hand as he rumbled to the end zone, at which point Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie knocked it away, and for a mini-hula dance Raji subsequently did in celebration.

The first career interception for Raji, a first-round draft pick in 2009, was born of a new play call by defensive coordinator Dom Capers. He had Raji drop back in a zone blitz, and Raji stepped in front of halfback Matt Forte on a rushed throw by Hanie over the middle.

"I had two goals on that play," Raji said. "If the running back runs to the flat, I don't have him; I'm dropping back looking for a crossing route. If the running back runs in that direction, then I have him, and that's what happened."

The touchdown put the Packers ahead 21-7 in the fourth quarter, and they weathered a late rally by the Bears.

On schedule

McCarthy is giving his players some time to relax and recover from a five-week grind.

The team won't return to practice until Friday, with practices during the weekend before departing for Dallas on Monday. Basically, Friday is being treated as a typical Wednesday, Saturday as a typical Thursday and Sunday as a typical Friday.

"I had a few coaches reach out to me," he said. "So, I'll bounce some ideas off them. I have the schedule in place, preparing to be in this game. So, we're just going to take the first couple of days to give the players and coaches and everybody involved to get all their planning and administrative responsibilities done here Monday/Tuesday."

Once in Dallas, Media Day is Tuesday and it's back to work on Wednesday.

All-Pro Matthews

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was named to The Associated Press All-Pro team Monday.

Matthews led the Packers with 13.5 sacks in the regular season and has a team-best 3.5 sacks in the playoffs.

“It feels good. It’s everything I wanted,” he said about the season on Monday. “When I came here, I didn't want to be just another guy on the team. I wanted to be a playmaker and I wanted to be a leader of this defense. And I think I'm taking the step in the right direction. You guys forget I'm only in my second year, so I think the possibilities are endless. I look to build upon my performance. Obviously, finish this year out the right way with a win, but build upon this performance and continue to climb as a player and as a leader on this defense going into my third year.”

Cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins were selected to the All-Pro second team.

Four-point stance

— QB Aaron Rodgers was said by coach Mike McCarthy on Monday to be "in good shape" a day after he suffered a bloodied lower lip on a helmet-to-helmet hit by defensive end Julius Peppers in the Packers' 21-14 win at the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. Peppers drew a roughing-the-passer penalty for the play early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers had a season-worst passer rating of 55.4 for a full game, going 17-of-30 for 244 yards and two interceptions without a touchdown for only the third time in the season.

— LT Chad Clifton said Monday his neck was feeling sore and stiff. The veteran starter suffered a stinger when he was hit by a knee of diving fullback John Kuhn into the line on a 1-yard touchdown rollout by Rodgers in the game-opening series. Clifton was held out briefly, replaced by T.J. Lang, but returned later in the first half and finished the game. Clifton expects to practice Friday, when the team will reconvene on the field in preparation for Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6.

— OLB Erik Walden was diagnosed with an ankle sprain, an injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game. Walden, who has started five of the past six games on the right side, has been given "a chance" by coach Mike McCarthy to practice Friday.

— OLB Frank Zombo, who was replaced by Erik Walden in the starting lineup, is on the medical watch list for another week. The rookie has missed the last six games because of a knee sprain.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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