Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz(notes) is a six-time Pro Bowler with a serious mean streak (he once broke teammate Fred Miller's jaw in a fight), and you can bet he's not the happiest guy in the world, considering the way Chicago's offensive line is playing these days. Green Bay Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji(notes) is a rookie from Boston College with a great deal of potential, and he's flashed some skill moving around the line in Green Bay's new 3-4 defense. Raji's preparing to play nose tackle against the Bears after playing end or undertackle for much of the season, and he was asked this week about the transition, and how facing Kreutz might complicate things.
"It's nothing physical, it's all technical. I'm stronger than the guy. I mean, that's not really talking (smack); he's just fast. That's not his game, really, strength. He's more trying to out-leverage you, get around you. Once I get the feel of that then the game will come a lot easier.
"It's not going to take me a whole (game) to get used to him moving. Football's football. He's not going to change the way he plays because there's a new nose on him. He's going to play the way he's been playing. So what I watch on film, it's probably going to help me out the most, really."
Innocuous enough, though the "I'm stronger" tag isn't something you'd expect any well-decorated offensive lineman to take in stride, especially from a rookie. Local media dutifully walked Raji's quotes over to Kreutz, who first wanted to know if the press were taking things out of context. When assured they weren't. Kreutz unleashed a few bon mots of his own.
"Is that his expertise after (10) games? That is the great thing about the NFL -- we'll find out on Sunday ... That's the way young players are nowadays, they are all pretty much clowns. After 10 games, he probably thinks he is the strongest guy in the NFL.''
Kreutz cut it short there, because "I'm not going to talk about a rookie. This is too much attention for a rookie right here.''
It's a sure bet that Raji will have all of Kreutz's attention across the line in a game the Bears had better take very seriously if they hope to salvage what could be a lost season very soon. Raji's improvement inside has helped the Packers overcome the injury losses of Aaron Kampman(notes) and Al Harris(notes), and he's a key ingredient in Green Bay's playoff hopes. Raji may win the strength battle at this point, but he might learn a few things about wily veterans, as well. This should be a matchup well worth watching!