The Green Bay Packers reportedly released left tackle Chad Clifton after he failed to pass a team physical Monday April 23. Clifton suffered numerous injuries in 2011 as he was only able to play in six games. He was drafted by the Packers in the second round of the 2000 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee and has started all 12 seasons in Green Bay.
#5 First Career Start
Clifton made his first career start halfway through his rookie season in 2000. He became the starting left tackle and never relinquished his job as he started 159 games over 12 years. He quickly became known as one of the best blindside blockers in the NFL, but still did not get much recognition for his unbelievable play.
#4 Warren Sapp
Clifton continued his success into the 2002 season until a horrific injury sidelined him. After quarterback Brett Favre threw an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Clifton was running down the middle of the field away from the play when Warren Sapp blindsided him with an illegal hit to his knee. Sapp was already regarded as a dirty player but the visual evidence proved it. Sapp and Mike Sherman, who was the head coach of the Packers at the time, got into a heated argument following the game which was caught on camera.
Clifton was hospitalized for a week and was unable to walk on his own for five additional weeks. The injury cost him the rest of the season and nearly his career. The NFL Competition Committee agreed to make the “unnecessary roughness” rule stricter and outlawed such aggressiveness to protect innocent players who are nowhere near the play.
#3 Pro Bowls
In 2008, fresh off a loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, Clifton’s spectacular play finally got recognized as he was selected to replace Seattle Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones in the Pro Bowl. Clifton joined teammates Aaron Kampman, Al Harris, Donald Driver and Favre, as well as head coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Packers coaching staff. Clifton was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 2010 after one of the best seasons of his career.
#2 Packers Franchise Record
Following his season-ending injury in 2002, Clifton put together one of the greatest seasons in franchise history the very next year. He started all 16 games and played all 1,031 offensive snaps. Clifton also contributed to setting a Packer franchise record for fewest sacks allowed in a season with 19. It was one of the best offensive lines during Favre’s tenure in Green Bay and Clifton was a huge part of that. The Packers rode a magical season all the way to the Divisional playoff round where they were defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles.
#1 2010 Season and Super Bowl XLV
Clifton continued to amaze fans, players and NFL analysts with his dominate play throughout the 2010 season. He reached the 150-game milestone, making him the sixth offensive lineman to do so in franchise history. He also started all 16 regular season games (first time since 2007) and four postseason games as he played with the energy of a player 10 years younger. As I already stated, Clifton had one of the best seasons of his career and was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2010, as his appearance in 2008 was due to another player’s injury.
He did not participate in the Pro Bowl as the Packers were set to play in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in franchise history. Clifton was in charge of blocking Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers. He held Harrison to just one tackle and never allowed him to get near quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Harrison did record one sack but that was not charged to Clifton. His excellent performance helped propel the Packers to victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.