NFC North: Herb Adderly
"I knew who I played against," Robinson said recently, "and almost every tight end in the Hall of Fame, I played against and had good games against. I played with or against a lot of people in the Hall of Fame, and I thought I could compare my career with them. I know how others played, and I knew in my heart. These guys were Hall of Famers -- the Mike Ditkas, the John Mackeys, the Jackie Smiths -- and I knew I was in the same league."
Robinson said he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds when he left Penn State in 1963. His speed helped him intercept 27 passes in his career, a total bettered by only eight AFL/NFL linebackers since 1960.
But as fast as he was, Robinson's strategy for defending tight ends had nothing to do with running. Be it in the 1960s or the 2010s, Robinson believes, the only way to stop a good pass-catching tight end is to hit him at the line of scrimmage.
"I loved to contact the tight ends," he said. "You don't have to knock him down, but if you can jam him, it throws the route off something terrible. I'm frustrated when I see third-and-6, third-and-8, and these tight ends get of the line because no one contacts them. One problem is that these linebackers are 6 yards off. I would ease up to the line of scrimmage and jam them at 4 or 5 yards. Make their life [tough]. If they do that, maybe the tight ends wouldn't be leading receivers."
Jamming the tight end was no more of a glory job in the 1960s than it is now. But here's how fellow Packers Hall of Famer Herb Adderley, who played cornerback between 1961-69, described it:
"He was one of the few linebackers in the league that could hold up the tight ends at the line of scrimmage, great tight ends like Mike Ditka and John Mackey. What people don’t realize is that Dave holding up the tight end gave [safety] Tom Brown more time to diagnose the play and to cover the tight end. It helped the defensive linemen to get in and rush the quarterback, because it would throw the timing off and the quarterback would have to hold the ball longer. It also helped me when I was covering the split end."
On Sunday, Robinson finally will receive the recognition for the otherwise unnoticed contributions he made to the Packers' glory years.
Robinson will be enshrined as part of the 2013 class thanks to the Hall's senior committee, which nominated him and Curley Culp (a Detroit Lions defensive lineman in 1980-81) last summer. As we discussed earlier in the week, a nomination from the seniors committee generally is viewed as an attempt to right a previous wrong, and 25 of the past 30 nominees have been elected by the larger selection committee.
Robinson was one of the first linebackers with the speed and athleticism to cover the emerging tight end position. He had 21 interceptions in 10 seasons with the Packers, including 12 during the period from 1965-67, an NFL high for linebackers. In Packers history, the only linebackers with more interceptions are John Anderson and Ray Nitschke.
By my count, Robinson played with 10 other Packers who ultimately made the Hall of Fame and was coached by an 11th, Vince Lombardi. That's just an incredible number. At various times during his career, he played alongside Nitschke, cornerback Herb Adderly, defensive end Willie Davis, safety Willie Wood and defensive tackle Henry Jordan. Can you imagine a defense with seven Hall of Famers? Wow.
Overall, Robinson is the 22nd member of the Packers organization to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Congratulations on an honor that was no doubt worth the wait.
You'll find a bit of interesting news embedded in this story from Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune: Brett Favre is willing to undergo a relatively minor procedure on his partially torn right biceps tendon.
During the surgery, believed to be a tenotomy, surgeons would complete the partial tear Favre suffered last year. Once fully torn, the injury will no longer cause pain, irritation or inflammation. It also isn't likely to have much impact on his ability to throw and will allow him to recover long before training camp would begin in July.
Vikings coach Brad Childress reportedly was en route to a meeting Wednesday with Favre. With the question of a possible surgery already solved, the pair could make a quick agreement for Favre to join the Vikings, according to the Star Tribune.
We'll keep you updated. For now, let's take a spin around the division:
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday that signing Favre would be "a wonderful little salt to rub in the eyes of some of our Green Bay Packer friends," according to the Associated Press. Must have been a slow day in government.
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette notes other instances in which a Packers legend has moved on to other teams. Among them: Herb Adderly and Forrest Gregg.
- Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo addresses his reputation for being conservative in a Q&A with Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun Times. Angelo: "[W]hat you don't want to do is miss big. So we have a very pragmatic approach to making decisions. We don't do things knee-jerk; we don't do things based on perception. We do things based on how it's going to impact us now and going forward. Nothing great probably looked good early."
- Free-agent tight end Michael Gaines, released this spring by Detroit, has a visit scheduled Thursday with the Bears. Dave Hutchinson of the Newark Star-Ledger has details.
- Lions coach Jim Schwartz showed off his love of heavy-metal music during an in-studio radio appearance Wednesday. John Niyo of the Detroit News brings details, The Scorpions, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath were all part of the conversation. Nice.
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press is uncharacteristically ga-ga over the Lions' decision to sign linebacker Larry Foote.