Q&A With Ken Ruettgers

This weekend's honorary captain for the game against the Detroit Lions, Ken Ruettgers, took some time to answer questions about his career and current left tackle Chad Clifton.

In case you haven't seen it yet, check out my weekly column on the Green Bay Packers. This week's piece focuses on former offensive tackle Ken Ruettgers.

The similarities between what the Packers are going through in 2010 with Chad Clifton at left tackle and what they went through the last time they won the Super Bowl in 1996 with Ruettgers are almost uncanny.

There was a ton of material that never made the column. Here's a sampling...

Q: Take me back to retirement decision.

Ken Ruettgers: I had a routine scope on that knee, which was probably my fourth or fifth scope on that knee in the offseason and had a tough time getting back to full speed. And so I let Mike Holmgren and Ron Wolf know at the beginning of the season that I don't think that I can make it. And the they said, 'Let's put you on the Physically Unable to Perform List and we'd love to have you.'

And I said, 'Well, I'd love to too, but I just want to be honest with you and say this thing's killing.'

They went in originally to work on the outside, the lateral side. When I got out of surgery it was the medial side that was bugging me. So I went in and had another scope to see if they could find that. And I got about 85% of the way back. It was very painful just to walk around, climb stairs, just to get through pre-game warm-up. So I played a little bit here and there, and I feel like I managed that. But then starting against Dallas on Monday Night, I needed crutches just to get off the field at the end, it was just hurting so bad. And I still couldn't crest back over that 85% and with more more pounding, more abuse, it was even going the other way. It was getting worse. At that point, it was like, it ain't gonna happen. It's not going to happen, so instead of wasting people's time, energy and money, it was time to go.

I would have liked to have played another two or three years had I been healthy enough to do so.

Q: Any remorse that you could have played in that Super Bowl?

K.R.: No. And that's what made it … it really wasn't even the decision. It was kind of like the writing's on the wall. Read it and own it, and save everybody else … the writing was on the wall.

If that was the decision, it would have been easier to say, 'Yeah.' But just from a performance and the trend and the way it was going, it wasn't going to happen.

Q: Would you have considered backing up John Michels if you were healthy?

K.R.: Yeah, but I was a team player. I always wanted to start every game I could. Those decisions aren't … that's a coach's decision. I've always tried to be a  coachable player, even when I didn't agree that wasn't my position to make that decision. So yeah, I would have.

One of the reasons why I hated … It's hard for a first-year, especially left tackle, but a first-year player of any position to play of the experience level of a guy that's been around for 10 years.

I guess that I felt that I left John a little bit in the lurch on that as well as the team, but again, when you're hurt you're hurt. If you can't go, you can't go.

Eventually after I retired I went in and got another scope after the season and had trouble with that one. I almost had to have a knee replacement. I had the scope like in the spring of '96 and I had swelling, which ended up they drained drained it and there was a lot of blood in there. And so the doctor said, how many injections have you had? I said, 'Well, I've had a few.' He goes, 'Well, you probably already have your limit.' I said, 'Well, look, I'm 35-years old. If it's between getting another injection and getting a knee replacement, give me an injection.' And that was able to do the trick, at least to get around.

So it was pretty bad. I don't know what Clifton's extent of his injury … I don't know if it's a chronic thing or it's a recoverable thing or what.

Q: Is there any sort of swallowing your pride when it comes to giving way to somebody younger?

Oh yeah, absolutely … I would guess he'd want to keep playing, otherwise he wouldn't be out there. I mean, if he's had other issues and stuff, those would be like … Well, I had some other issues too over the years, but those weren't the things that were keeping me from playing.

A lot of times, I talk to players and it's like that one little spot. I think one of the hardest things it's that one little spot. You're like, 'I feel good everywhere else except that one quarter-size spot on this one body part and it just doesn't make sense that I've overcome everything else and I can't overcome this.'

Because part of a career that Clifton's enjoying right now, over the years he's been able to overcome that. So I think part of it is, any player: 'I've worked hard, I've overcome in rhe past, I've always figured out a way to get it done, and there's got to be a way to get this done.' And you work hard to figure out that way to get it done until you can't get it done.

Q: Is there any credence to Clifton giving it one last shot? Giving it is all for one last opportunity to win Super Bowl?

K.R.: Oh yeah. I mean, I hated to be faced with the situation I was in because I knew in my heart we were going and winning the Super Bowl that year. You can just feel it, you know?

What we used to say, I'm sure it's the same attitude today, is play as long as you can and make them rip the jersey off your back.

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Comments (2)

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dgtalmn's picture

October 01, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Anyone know if the Packers gave him a ring?

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Brian Carriveau's picture

October 01, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Yes, Ruettgers has a ring.

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