The Ruettgers took no one’s back seat

  • Instigator: 2014
  • Intervention: 1985-96
  • Height: 6-6; Weight: 295
  • College: Southern Cal, 1982-84

Ken Ruetgers had one of those superstar careers where good never seemed good enough; However, on the other hand, no matter how much scrutiny he has been subjected to, his play is usually overshadowed by it.

Selected with the seventh overall pick in 1985 after the Packers swing their enlistment day deal to move to a seven-point grab, the Day-one Ruettgers were expected to become a key player in a vital left-handed position for a decade or more; It basically fulfilled those expectations.

But mixed in with multiple knee surgeries, five drawn-out surgeries due to contract disputes, the concern to prevent his run, a lack of post-season recognition, and the shadow cast by “The Incredible Bulk: … The Best Offensive Line Prospect Ever”, After the Packers drafted Tony Mandaresh before Rutgers’ fifth season.

What does one make of all this?

In Ron Wolf’s eyes, from 1987 when he first interviewed The Packers until 1991, when he was named general manager, it was clear that the Ruettgers was more of a major focus than a lightning rod. “One thing I remember very vividly is when I first came here to interview Judge Barnes, he (Rutgers) was the best player on the team,” Wolff said in a 2011 interview. “When I came back five or six years later, the second best player on the Packers – (Sterling) Sharpe was the best. That’s pretty good.”

Rutgers also fared well in the ratings collected by Joel Buchsbaum, a supportive and well-sourced staff assessor first hired by Pro Football Weekly in the 1970s and whose memorial service began after his death in 2002 with a eulogy by Bill Belichick attended by 12 general managers for the NFL and nearly 60 scouts. From 1987 until 1996, before the last season in which injuries shortened for Rutgers, Buchsbaum ranked him in the top 10 tackles in the league four times and among the top 15 tackles four more times.

The Ruettgers was a good athlete, and he wasn’t very good; intelligent, conscientious and technically sound; And yes, a pass blocker is better than a pass blocker. In a running game, he lacked strength and potency. But as Packers Hall of Fame center Larry McCarn once said: “He’s been such an effective pass protector and that’s what[left tackles]are paying him to do. He’s done it well for a long time.”

As a starter, the Ruettgers missed training camp for about a month due to a contract dispute and supported veteran Karl Swanke for most of the season, starting only the first and last games on left tackle.

In the Ruettgers’ second season, he started all 16 and only allowed four sacks, even shutting out future Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor when the latter got a league-record one-season chance for sacks in the final. That year, Buchsbaum gave Ruettgers his highest rating ever, coming in sixth out of 56 base tackles. The Ruettgers started all but one of the games over the next three seasons, 1987-89, and continued to play aggressively, although he had shoulder problems in 1988 and allowed more pressure than usual.

It was the following spring when the Packers took Mandaresh, arguably the most offensive lineman in the history of the draft, with the expectation that he would get the Rutgers job, he kept it for as long as he wanted and then, once he was eligible, his bust was carved for Canton.

As it turns out, Mandarich held out 44 days before his rookie year, never starting once and was soon renamed “The Incredible Bust.” Meanwhile, the Ruettgers kept his left job and played again at a high level.

“A great year as a pass blocker,” said Charlie Davis, the Packers offensive line coach from 1988-1991, before the 1990 season. “A very smart guy. He’s not a blocker of physical domination.”

After that, knee and hamstring injuries missed Rutgers for 17 games in 1990 and 1991.

However, when Wolff began rebuilding the roster in 1992, the Ruettgers loomed large in the coaches’ plans. “I’ve always loved him,” said offensive line coach Tom Lovat in the first year before that season. “He’s a good athlete with good feet. He lacks that big anchor in his running game, but he’s got some surprises. If he plays all cylinders, he definitely can make a Pro Bowl.”

When the Packers began their rise from NFL leftovers to Super Bowl champions over five years, Ruetgers missed one game in four years. Although he was not seen as a particularly physical player, his determination to play through the pain of those years and play well was beyond reproach.

The Ruettgers graduated as the Packers offensive lineman in 1992, played at a similar level the following two years, and still had better success scores in 1995, although his knee problems flared up again that year and his body eventually showed signs of breaking down. . age 33.

After undergoing off-season surgery on his left knee prior to the 1996 season, the Ruettgers played in just four games, started only one and announced his retirement with five regular season games remaining. “It all depends on the fact that he’s set a standard for playing throughout his career, and he’s been very honest with us that if he can’t play to that level, it’s time,” said then coach Mike Holmgren. Rutgers’ decision.

As it turned out, the Packers peaked this season by winning their first Super Bowl in 29 years, and the Ruettgers watched the game from the stands at the New Orleans Superdome. Over the course of 11 seasons, he played 156 matches and participated in 140 matches.

Born August 20, 1962. First name is Kenneth Francis Ruetgers.

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