In April 1967, Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry made an astonishing prediction at a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Minn. He predicted that one of the other teams would "displace" the Packers within two years. Landry continued, "They are approaching an age problem, and other teams are improving."
Landry's prediction proved correct, and the Packers were displaced within two years. Green Bay's reign ended in1968 with Super Bowl II. They would not return as world champions until Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
In 1967, the Packers were the oldest team in the NFL. Ten of our players were at their 10th season mark and others close to it. But Lombardi was determined to win an unprecedented third consecutive championship. -- regardless of the fact that teams such as the Cowboys, Rams and Colts now had the talent to compete with the Packers.
At the conclusion of the 1966 season, I had played out my option to become a free agent. The Packers had signed running backs Donny Anderson of Texas Tech and Jim Grabowski of Illinois for a hell of a lot more money than any of the veterans were making. Lombardi insisted that it was a necessary move to keep the AFL from acquiring all the good young players.
I know that Lombardi had asked Paul Hornung to speak to me about this matter at least several times or more, but nothing was going to make me change my mind. There was no way those two guys should have been getting more than the established veteran stars. At the end of the '65 season, I had insisted to Lombardi that he give me a three-year contract at $75,000 per year. Lombardi countered with a one-year contract at $75,000. Throughout the 1966 season, he tried to convince me to sign, but I remained adamant in my stance.
Though we didn't realize at the time, our championship Packers team had begun to break up. Ron Kramer was traded to Detroit , Fuzzy Thurston was out for the year with an injury, and Forrest Gregg had retired and was an assistant coach at Tennessee. It would be the last year that the future Hall of Fame members -- Hornung, Starr, Jordan, Davis, Adderley, Wood, Nitschke and me -- would play together.
It was at this time that Paul was plagued with arm, neck, and back injuries that developed over his years of playing football. He could no longer play the game the way he had earlier in his career. He was in so much pain that he declined to play in the first World Championship Game in Los Angeles. The year 1967 saw the addition of an expansion team in Louisiana called the New Orleans Saints, and rumors began to surface that Lombardi was going to put Hornung on the list for the New Orleans expansion draft.
Some felt that Saints coach Tom Fears would not sign Paul because of his injuries, while others thought that Lombardi would not trade him -- but Coach saw this as a smart business move.
Lombardi was sad and apologetic to Paul when he told him that he had put his name on the list. Hornung was already one step ahead. He had already worked out a deal, in secret, with minority owner Bedford Wynne for $1 million for three years. The most he had ever made with the Packers was about $80,000. When the expansion draft was held, Paul became one of the first New Orleans Saints players.
The second round had yet to be conducted, and Paul was asked about the possibility that I might join him in New Orleans. Hornung knew that I was still very angry with Lombardi regarding the money that Grabowski and Anderson had signed for. I knew that with Paul gone and both backs lacking experience, Lombardi would want me for at least one more year. But it was not to be.
On July 6, after nine seasons with the Packers -- during which I set a club record of 8,207 yards rushing -- I signed with the Saints, and the Packers received a first-round draft choice. I would play the 1967 season in New Orleans -- my final year in professional football.
Signing with the Saints was more ceremonial than anything else. It was the franchise's inaugural year with the NFL and I became one of the biggest draws. Being from Louisiana, it was not only a natural move but a smart one as well. I had played at LSU, was the Louisiana kid who had made it big in the frozen tundra of the north for the world champion Packers, and received more money than Lombardi was willing to pay. Part of the deal was that Hornung and I would tour the state together to drum up interest and sell tickets for the new franchise.
After Paul had signed with the team, Tom Fears told the media, "Hornung has a lot of football left in him. It was worth the risk."
But Tom and Paul were dead wrong. After reviewing Paul's x-rays at Scripps Medical Center in San Diego, a doctor told him that he would have to retire immediately or take the risk of having one hit turn him into a paraplegic.
That was all Paul needed to hear. He told the Saints the reasons behind his decision to retire, then immediately flew out to Hollywood to announce his retirement on the "Johnny Carson Show."
Typical Hornung style.
New Orleans Hornets
David West stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki in the final seconds as the Hornets paid back the Dallas Mavericks 99-97 on Wednesday night at the Arena.
The Hornets (9-1) have the best record in the NBA and their win over Dallas (7-3) was a payback because the Mavericks had handed the Hornets their only loss on Monday night at Dallas.
West scored 17 points and Chris Paul netted 20 and 11 assists while leading the Hornets' comeback from a double-digit deficit in the second half. Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Marco Belinelli scored 17 and Trevor Ariza made 12.
Nowitzki scored a game-high 29 points and shot well.
"I was just trying to crowd him and felt like I wasn't going to give him (Nowitzki) any space," said West, "If he was going to make a shot, he was going to have to shoot a tough turnaround jump shot."
West made one of two free free throws with 1.9 seconds left for the final margin.
The Hornets have held every opponent under 100 points this season.
"They really came out and put it to us to start the game, so we had to come out and be more aggressive in the third quarter,: said Paul. "That's my responsibility. I can't let us come out flat, and I did that tonight."
Hornets guard Marcus Thornton was inactive a third straight game and has not played in four straight. He doesn't have enough defensive skills to play.
Former Hornets center Tyson Chandler is the Mavericks center and was asked how it was to play against his friend Chris Paul.
"We're both competitors," said Chandler. "When we're on the same team, we wee competitors night in and night out. Now, we're going against each other, we're competitors. So whatever it takes for our teams to win, we're both trying to accomplish that. I was glad my team won on Monday night.
"The funny thing is our wives were sitting together and they both were saying how awkward it was sitting next to each other."
SOME HITHER, others yon: Chris Paul in leading in the race for NBA MVP so far, and Monty Williams is the leading candidate for league coach of the year. John Wall gets more steals, Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists and Steve Neal has two MVP trophies, but CP3 has the Hornets leading the league with a 9-1 record. He's still the most complete point guard in the game. Paul also is rated as the fourth-best defensive player. The Hornets have the second stingiest defense in the NBA and Paul's ability to harass the opponent's point guard is a big reason why. After missing the playoffs a season ago, the Hornets were the last team in the league to take an L this time around. Paul makes everything go for the Hornets, but Williams has them playing suffocating defense. Former Hornets coach Byron Scott of the Cavaliers is the third choice for the top coach...
THE TMZ REPORT could be a game changer in the Cam Newton investigation. TMZ (which broke the Tiger Woods story) did not say there was a connection between dog track owner Milton McGrego rand Newton Specifically: "It's unclear what, if any, direct connection McGregor has to Newton. Back in 2008, McGregor did donate a million bucks toward construction of a new arena at Auburn." The report said the FBI was asking people in the Newton investigation if they were familiar with the fact that McGregor was one of 10 persons arrested last month in a bribery scandal. Through his attorney McGregor denied any contact, direct or indirect, with Cam Newton and Cecil Newton. We need more information...I wondered why the ball was getting bigger. Then it hit me in the face.,
LSU’S PETERSON A FINALIST FOR NAGURSKI TROPHY
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson has been named as one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Charlotte Touchdown Club announced on Wednesday.
Established in 1993, the Nagurski Trophy is given annually to the national defensive player of the year in college football by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America. Former LSU standout Glenn Dorsey won the Nagurski Trophy in 2007.
Peterson is joined on the list of finalist by Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston, and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 6 and presented the Bronko Nagurski Trophy at a gala banquet at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.
The FWAA's National Defensive Player of the Year Award is named after Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at the University of Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29. He could have been an All-American at any position, playing 60 minutes as the best player wherever he lined up.
Peterson, a junior from Pompano Beach, Fla., leads an LSU defense that is ranked first in the Southeastern Conference in total yards allowed (273.6) and passing defense (148.6). The Tigers are second in the league in scoring defense (14.6) and pass efficiency defense (104.3 rating). LSU ranks in the top 10 in the nation in all four categories.
In 10 games this year, Peterson has registered 28 tackles (21 solo) to go with three interceptions, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and blocked field goal.
Peterson ranks as one of the nation’s top return specialists, ranking second in the SEC and fifth in the nation in punt returns with a 17.6 average. Peterson also rates No. 2 in the league and 21st in the nation in kickoff returns with a 27.0 average. Peterson has returned two punts for touchdowns.
Peterson has been named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week twice this year as well as being selected as the Jim Thorpe Award National Defensive Back of the Week for his performance against Mississippi State.
Peterson has also made the list of semifinalists for the Thorpe Award (top defensive back) and the Bednarik Award (outstanding defensive player).
Peterson and the Tigers return to action on Saturday, hosting Ole Miss at 2:30 p.m. in the home finale for LSU.