Green Bay Packers: Titletown's Top 10 Linebackers of All Time

J FCorrespondent IJune 15, 2011

Green Bay Packers: Titletown's Top 10 Linebackers of All Time

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack against the Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 2011 in Philadelp
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Now that I've gone through all the best offensive players that have ever taken the field in Titletown, it is now time to move onto the defensive side of the ball.

    The Packers have had a plethora of playmakers on defense throughout the years and, as they say, defense wins championships. It should be no surprise that the historic franchise has more than any other in the NFL.

    No matter how good the team's offense was at times in 2010, it was the defense that closed out crucial games, allowing the Pack to advance to Super Bowl XLV.

    Every defense in the league is led by linebackers, including last season's dominant unit in which many men served some time.

    Although there is one linebacker that rises well above the rest in Titletown's history, there were several other greats that followed in his footsteps, and it is time to remember them once again.

Honorable Mentions

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    14 Aug 1993:  Linebacker Brian Noble of the Green Bay Packers celebrates during a pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Saints won the game, 26-17. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Tony Bennett

    Despite only playing four seasons with the Packers, Tony Bennett is currently sixth on the team all time with 36 sacks.

    Roger Zatkoff

    Through four seasons in Green Bay, Roger Zatkoff recorded four interceptions, six fumble recoveries and three Pro Bowl selections.

    Bryce Paup

    Bryce Paup began his stellar career in Green Bay and was selected to the 1994 Pro Bowl. He is seventh in sacks all time in the Packers' record books with 32.5.

    Lee Roy Caffey

    Caffey was a member of three championship teams during his six-year stay in Green Bay. His speed and agility allowed him to return two of his nine career interceptions for touchdowns, and his quickness also made him very dangerous as a pass-rusher.

    Johnny Holland

    Holland recorded over 100 tackles in six consecutive seasons before a neck injury shortened his career in 1992. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame following his seven years of service.

    Brian Noble

    Brian Noble led the Pack in tackles for four seasons of his nine-year tenure in Titletown before retiring in 1993.

10. Dan Currie

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    Currie was the Packers first-round draft choice in 1958, and he went on to play seven seasons with the team.

    Although he may not have been a superstar, Currie was certainly consistent throughout his career. He picked off 11 passes, including one returned for a TD, and recovered six fumbles.

    Dan Currie's contributions earned him a Pro Bowl appearance and a spot in the Packers Hall of Fame.

9. Clay Matthews

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    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Linebacker Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the sideline against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)
    Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

    With two Pro Bowl selections in his first two seasons with the Pack, Clay Matthews is off to an oustanding start in his chase for the top spot on this list. 

    Although he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting to Pittsburgh's Polamalu, his relentless athleticism and playmaking ability culminated in a Super Bowl victory against the Steelers in 2010.

    Matthews already has 23.5 sacks to his name and two defensive touchdowns. If his body can keep up with his ferocious play, there will be no stopping No. 52 in the near future.

8. Nick Barnett

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 12:  Nick Barnett #56 of the Green Bay Packers poses after sacking quarterback Brad Johnson #14 of the Minnesota Vikings as the Packers defeated the Vikings 23-17 on November 12, 2006, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Nick Barnett arrived in Green Bay after being selected late in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft and has started at inside linebacker ever since.

    While he has never reached a Pro Bowl, Barnett has totaled over 100 tackles in all but two of his eight seasons.

    In 2010, Barnett was sent to the IR following an injury in Week 4, and there are now many doubts surrounding his return to the team next season.

    Whether or not he plays another snap in Titletown remains to be seen, but he'll still go down as one of the team's top linebackers of all time with 15.5 sacks, nine interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and 787 total tackles.

7. Tim Harris

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    Tim Harris was a part of the Pack for five years and was one of the team's best defensive playmakers during the 1989 season.

    Harris followed up his 1988 campaign in which he recorded 110 tackles, 13.5 sacks and two safeties, with an even more incredible season.

    In 1989, he grabbed a career high 19.5 sacks which earned him his only trip to the Pro Bowl.

    Harris currently ranks third in career sacks in the team's record books with 55, behind only KGB and the great Reggie White.

6. John Anderson

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    John Anderson was a clear selection for a spot in the Packers Hall of Fame. After 12 seasons with the team, he retired in 1989 as the Packers' all-time leader in tackles with 1,020.

    However, it was his leadership and commitment that made him the team's most valuable player for three consecutive seasons and earned him membership on the 1980s All-Decade Team.

    Anderson is also tied with Ray Nitschke for the most interceptions all-time among Packers linebackers with 25.

5. Dave Robinson

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    Dave Robinson came to Titletown as a defensive end out of Penn State in 1963, but after moving to linebacker upon his arrival, he soon became a star on a team that won three straight titles.

    He was a dominant run defender during his decade-long run in Green Bay, but his ability to defend the pass was just as good or better.

    Robinson picked off 21 balls on his way to three Pro Bowls and inclusion on the 1960s All-Decade Team.

4. Mike Douglass

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    It was Mike Douglass's hard work and relentless play that allowed him to retire with the third most tackles in Packers history and push his way into the team's Hall of Fame.

    He led the team in tackles for three of his eight seasons before ending his career in San Diego.

    Douglass had 13 interceptions during his career, but he was best known for making big plays and bringing down the ball carrier.

3. Fred Carr

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    Often recognized as one of the first linebackers to be faster and taller than ever before, Fred Carr's athleticism allowed him to grab 15 fumbles and eight interceptions during his decade of service to Titletown's team during the 1970s.

    Carr also contributed by blocking three field-goal attempts as well as two extra points in his career.

    Although his special teams skill proved to be spectacular, it was primarily his play at linebacker that took him to three Pro Bowls and the Packers Hall of Fame.

2. Bill Forester

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    Although he only made it as far as a Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee, Bill Forester is a proud member of the Packers Hall of Fame and a four-time Pro Bowler.

    Through 11 seasons, he remained a solid all around linebacker as he recorded 21 picks, 15 fumble recoveries and one safety.

    If Forester had a weakness, it was certainly not the lack of leadership skills. He served as Green Bay's defensive captain under Vince Lombardi and led the Pack to two titles in the early 1960s.

1. Ray Nitschke

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    Not only is Nitschke the best linebacker in Packers history, he could also be considered the greatest overall defensive player.

    Ray Nitschke's game face was enough to cause the opponent to tremble even before they became the recipient of one of his ferocious hits.

    Toughness, talent, dedication, leadership; Nitschke had it all and more. He is often considered the greatest NFL linebacker of all time and is undoubtedly a deserving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    Nitschke was fast to the ball carrier and quick to react to passes. He recovered 23 fumbles and had 25 interceptions after 15 seasons with the Packers.  

    Nitchke's No. 66 is retired with the team, but many long time cheeseheads still don his jersey to home games at Lambeau Field.

    I will be amazed if anyone could ever come close to taking on the man who is, perhaps, the Packers most fierce competitor of all time for the top spot on this list.

    Raymond Ernest Nitschke is not only a legend in Titletown, but in the history of the National Football League as well.