About a year ago, I reviewed Instant Replay, the incredible book by Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap. The book was a daily diary of Kramer’s 1967 season in which the Packers won Super Bowl II. If you are a football fan, it is an incredible glimpse into the life of a player and the book holds up incredibly well to this day. You won’t regret spending $10 on Amazon.
Kramer’s biggest foil in the book was legendary Lions tackle Alex Karras, who passed away this morning. When Green Bay played Detroit, Karras would occupy Kramer’s entire consciousness. Here are the passages:
Before a Week 1 match-up:
As far as I’m concerned, the two toughest tackles in the league are Alex Karras and Merlin Olsen of the Rams, and I never, never say that either one is better than the other, because I don’t want to get either of them angry. Playing against Karras is like playing a chess game. If you try to pop him, he’ll beat you like a stepchild. You’ve got to be thinking all the time. You’ve got to be thinking about the move he beat you with two years ago. You’ve got to remember that everything with him is a countermove. I thought about him for 100 miles [on tonight's drive].
Obviously, I spend a lot of time thinking about defensive tackles. Football is a team game, but especially for the linemen and the receivers, there’s a dramatic, and important, individual game within the game. To help your team succeed as a team, you have to succeed as an individual; you have to win your own match-ups. In my position, sooner or later I’ve got to block almost every man on the opposing team–every lineman and every back. But seventy-five percent of the time I’ve got to block the defensive left tackle. Naturally, he dominates my thoughts and consumes most of my energy.
Alex Karras is spending a lot of time with me this week. He eats breakfast with me, goes to the john with me, brushes my teeth with me. I’m thinking about him every minute, how difficult he is to cut off on the inside, how he likes the outside on a pass rush, how he just loves to hit the quarterback.
Alex has half a dozen different, effective moves–it took him three or four years as a pro to develop them–and he uses all of them. One of his moves is a little hop and a skip to the outside.. He actually hops, and it looks funny, but it works. He charges to the outside maybe 90 percent of the time, but you can’t overadjust because he likes to change up and come to the inside with a real strong move, doubly hard to stop because you don’t expect it.
During the 17-17 Tie
Alex started beating me to the outside, and one time I knew he had me and I was so frustrated I reached out and grabbed a big handful of his jersey and just pulled him to the ground. Nobody saw it, and Alex got up calling me every name he could think of. I’m sure he’s been held by about 90 percent of the guys he plays against, but he didn’t expect it from me. I was desperate.
I got home after lunch, just starting to feel a little better, and I saw the story in the newspaper: The Associated Press had named Alex Karras the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week for his outstanding performance against Green Bay. Beautiful! I’m temped to say some things about Karras, but we’re always the good guys, always the people who don’t say bad things about anybody, always the nice guys. I’m tired of that nice-guy stuff, but I guess I really shouldn’t say anything about that nearsighted hippopotamus.
Before a Week 4 Rematch
There’s been a lot of stuff in the papers about Alex Karras and how great he is. I guess it’s been awhile since the writers could find anything to zing Green Bay, and Alex’s been giving them a mouthful. I’d like to give him a mouthful–of my shoe.
Everybody is on me about Alex Karras, the newspapers, my coaches, my teammates. Lee Roy Caffey offered me a few subtle hints today, and Willie Davis came over and sat by my locker and chatted with me, and Henry Jordan told me what he’d do to handle Alex. Coach Lombardi drove me extra hard, trying to be helpful, and Tommy McCormick, our backfield coach, who hadn’t said two words to me all year, came over and told me about the letters he’s been getting with advice for me. I wish everyone would leave me alone.
I think about Alex all the time, morning, noon, and night, even when I’m watching television. I think about the way he’s built, stocky, like a bowling ball, and I think about his strength. He’s been a wrestler and a weightlifter, so he’s got tremendous power in his arms and his upper body. But most of my thoughts are vicious. A Milwaukee sportswriter, who’s a complete ass, had an article this morning in which Alex was talking about how he plays better against a good team and about how much he’s looking forward to playing the Green Bay Packers again. I’m looking forward to killing him.
During the 27-17 Green Bay Victory
I don’t think Karras got through me to the quarterback once all day. I’d like to say this was because I had a great day, but I’d be lying. I had a good day. But, actually, from a sheer technical standpoint, I didn’t play much better than I’d played against Alex in Green Bay. I was ready today, mentally and physically. I was more agressive. I had help from Bowman on the inside, so I concentrated on stopping Alex’s outside charge. But the big difference between this game and the first one wasn’t me. The difference was partly our game plan and mostly Zeke.
The sportswriters all think I demolished Alex today, and I’m not about to correct them. He got the credit last time; I’ll take it today.