As the Packers concluded one of their more tumultuous weeks in team history, the energy was back up to its usual level at practice on Friday, Mike McCarthy said.
The head coach called that “a good sign as a team,” and it also confirmed something he has believed about his players all along.
“I think our locker room is strong. I think the character in the locker room is very high,” McCarthy said. “Definitely, it was emotional, but when it was time to turn the page, they turned the page. I think that was probably the most important part of it.
“Anytime you go through a challenge and it doesn’t go the way you’d like, letting things linger is just really a waste of time and energy. Yeah, I’m proud of the way our guys handled it.”
Whether that high character in the face of adversity produces a victory over New Orleans will be determined come Sunday. While managing psychological wounds on a short week, the Packers fortunately aren’t dealing with many physical ones.
The team is as healthy as it’s been all season, with six of eight players on the injury report listed as probable. The other two are rookie safety Sean Richardson (hamstring, out) and cornerback Davon House (shoulder, questionable).
House was playing like a potential starter in training camp before going down in the first preseason game, and the injury looked potentially problematic for the defense, but strong starts to the season by corners Sam Shields and rookie Casey Hayward might actually make it difficult for House to get much playing time when he is ready to play.
“Those are good situations to be in,” McCarthy said. “Davon is making progress. I thought he definitely practiced better this week than he did last week, so he’s close. We’re going to play the players that have earned their opportunities and are prepared.”
The Packers have to be prepared for a Saints team that needs a victory just as badly, if not more so, than the Packers do. As crucial as it is for the 1-2 Packers to prevent last Monday’s injustice from undermining their season, the 0-3 Saints could be playing to save theirs following the offseason bounty scandal.
“I think we’re looking in the mirror almost – they’re wounded, we’re wounded,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “They’re coming up here, which is great on our part. We’ll have the home support and the fans behind us.
“But they’ve gone through more adversity than we’ve gone through the whole offseason with everything that’s happened, and starting 0-3. It’s going to be a tough fight for us.”
If the Packers offense is going to bust out of its early-season malaise, this would appear to be the game. The Saints defense is ranked last in the league in yards allowed and tied for second-to-last in points allowed.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke earlier this week about improving production in the red zone and on third down, two areas targeted in the offseason coming off a record-breaking 2011 campaign. Results need to come soon.
“We have to find our identity a little quickly here this week and start to get back to the way we’re used to playing,” Rodgers said.
If that’s without distractions and controversy, all the better. It’s likely the Saints are saying the same thing.
“Everyone’s got different issues that motivate them, I think, and that’s what makes this game kind of interesting,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “Both teams need a win, and I’m glad it’s at Lambeau.” Additional coverage - Sept. 28