GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy’s focus is on multiple objectives over the next month.
Find the 53 best players. Get numerous young, developing prospects ready to play. Stay healthy to the best extent possible.
The most important goal, though, may be simply getting his team in sync, into regular-season mode, to hit the ground running in Week 1.
The other items all play into that, of course, but the inability last year to hit certain “targets,” as McCarthy likes to call them, left the head coach feeling dissatisfied with camp in 2012, which likely contributed in some ways to the Packers’ 2-3 mark through five games.
“When I spoke on being erratic (last year), I didn’t feel we had the rhythm and timing as a team coming out of training camp that we had in prior years,” McCarthy said on Thursday, a little less than 24 hours prior to the team’s first practice, slated for 8:20 a.m. Friday.
“We probably have about 6-7 adjustments we’ll discuss with the team tonight on how we approach training camp.”
Starting the season against San Francisco, the same team that began and ended Green Bay’s 2012 season with defeats, only adds to the sense of urgency.
The most notable change is the practice schedule, which features nine of 11 workouts at 8:20 a.m. prior to the first preseason game. The other two are 7 p.m. practices on back-to-back nights, the second being the Family Night scrimmage.
After the first preseason game, the team will shift into a regular-season-like schedule for the remaining three weeks, with practices starting in the 11-11:30 a.m. range. That’s been the normal procedure the past couple of years.
The hope is that the morning workouts early on will help avoid fatigue injuries, such as hamstring and other muscle pulls, that have piled up in camp the last few years. There are no foolproof ways to control injuries, obviously, but given recent history, McCarthy felt it was worth trying something different.
“I’m confident it will help us be a healthier team, which gives you a chance to practice and gain the consistency and conformity that you want,” he said.
McCarthy didn’t have a medical update to share on Thursday, as players were going through physicals and testing in the morning. Administrative meetings were scheduled for the afternoon, followed by a team meeting at night during which McCarthy would give his season-opening address to the players.
He wouldn’t reveal in advance his theme for that, but the following comments to the media probably hinted at some thoughts:
“We need to take another step as a defense.”
“We need to run the ball better. It’s the fact of the matter. Running the football is a collective effort. There needs to be a commitment from the play-caller.”
“If I’m a young player and I’m sitting in that room, he’s got an opportunity to make our team. Our history represents that, and it will be no different this year.”
“We understand it’s about winning the world championship here in Green Bay. Our goal will never change.”
McCarthy also discussed the team’s leadership, which will undergo some transition this year with the departures of longtime veterans Donald Driver and Charles Woodson.
There isn’t a leadership void, so to speak, with Aaron Rodgers still here. McCarthy praised the quarterback’s approach and acknowledged his responsibility “will be greater than ever” this year. But there are opportunities for other, rising players to step forward, and it’s being emphasized that they do so, in the right way.
“Leadership isn’t about giving speeches. It’s more about what you illustrate and how you act and behave and ultimately produce in your performance,” McCarthy said. “You don’t have to wait to be a seven-year veteran to all of a sudden (say), hey, now I’m a leader. I think that’s a total misconception of what true leadership is. It’s something that as a football team we’re continuing to try to improve on.”
McCarthy feels the team’s offseason work was an improvement over last year, the first under the new collective bargaining agreement.
Adjustments are ongoing, which helps keep things from getting stale for McCarthy, now entering his eighth season. He said he’s excited to talk to his team later Thursday and get things rolling. The “targets” are waiting to be hit.
“If it’s (ever not) fresh for me, then I probably need to step aside,” he said. “Every challenge in this business, frankly, is easy to get up for, because you’re challenged every single day. You’re challenged from so many different angles.
“A lot of thought goes into the start of training camp, how you feel about each team, because they are different. The starting point is always different.”