Wednesday was officially “turn the page” day for the Packers as they began their on-field preparations for the Saints, and after practice the players said all the right things about moving on from Monday night’s controversy.
The interesting thing, though, is how they’re doing so. They’re not forgetting about what happened, or ignoring it. That’s impossible.
“I don’t even watch SportsCenter or NFL Network, and I’ve heard it everywhere,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “It’s on Fox News, it’s on CNN, it’s everywhere.”
Instead, the approach involves putting an abrupt end to the blame game that was all over the radio shows and Twitter on Tuesday. Now, it’s about adjusting the focus from outward to inward.
Defensive lineman B.J. Raji noted that both Head Coach Mike McCarthy and veteran cornerback Charles Woodson addressed that in the team meeting on Wednesday. They focused on “taking responsibility, looking in the mirror, moving on and being better because of it,” Raji said. Echoes of their words were everywhere.
Hawk mentioned the defense feeling as though it should have had a shutout in the fourth quarter, rendering any drama moot. He’s not far off, considering that other than the Seahawks’ 41-yard TD pass in the second quarter, their longest offensive gain through 3½ periods was 10 yards.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers – who fired one last shot in calling the NFL’s statement about the Hail Mary play “bogus” – talked about the offense playing poorly in the first half in Seattle and not cashing in two red-zone opportunities in the second half.
“As a man, I think it’s more important that you stand up in a situation like this and point your finger at yourself first, and let the opinions fall where they may,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers even mentioned having a conversation about character building with Woodson regarding the “Tuck Rule” play from the 2001 AFC playoffs that cost Woodson’s Raiders a victory in snowy New England.
Woodson wasn’t in the locker room during the media session to talk about what he said in the team meeting, but it’s likely he discussed how the Raiders responded to their national controversy a decade ago. That Oakland team had been to the AFC Championship Game the year before the “Tuck Rule” game, and the Raiders remained a top-tier contender afterward. Oakland bounced back and went to the Super Bowl the following year.
“We’ve been through a lot, we’ve won a lot of games, won a championship,” Raji said of this current Packers team. “The guys with the veteran leadership, this is their time to step up and rally each other to stay together and just keep fighting.”
The leadership starts at the top, of course, with McCarthy, and Hawk complimented the head coach for how he has handled everything. Still, as calm and steadfast as McCarthy has been, he’s not without an edge when he speaks to his players.
“I love emotion,” McCarthy said. “Emotion is the engine that makes this thing go. I’m for any kind of emotion, as long as it’s channeled properly, if you want to talk about chips on your shoulder, whatever it is.
“The only emotion that I don’t care about is self-pity. We’re not the victim.”
Outward to inward.
“As far as my comments and my direction with the team, it’s the same as it always is,” McCarthy said. “They know exactly how I feel about everything that’s happened, and exactly how I feel about the path that we’re taking forward. I feel like we’re all on the same page, and we’re about one thing, and that’s New Orleans.” Additional coverage - Sept. 26