GREEN BAY—They weren’t soft today.
An offseason of having to live with the number “579” and criticism for being “soft” in their playoff loss to the 49ers came to a head in Sunday morning’s first full-pads practice of training camp. The Packers were physical to a fault.
“The effort and energy were excellent. Adrenaline was very high and discipline was very low. They definitely reacted with an edge, but we have too many extracurricular activities,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
McCarthy was referring to several post-play scuffles that punctuated Sunday’s practice. Energy levels were at a fever pitch and they resulted in several plays finishing with bodies on the ground.
“You don’t want players on the ground. It increases the risk for injury,” McCarthy said.
On this day, bodies on the ground and post-play scuffles were symbolic of an intention to set a more physical tone for not only training camp, but for the season. It was McCarthy who said at the scouting combine in February: “Five seventy-nine is a number that’ll stick in our focus.”
The Packers allowed 579 yards of offense in that loss in San Francisco and that spurred a sharp focus on being a more physical defense in 2013.
“San Francisco beat us twice and they’ll definitely be the focus of our offseason,” McCarthy said back in February.
Sunday’s practice also included a session in which Graham Harrell quarterbacked the scout team in a half-speed read-option scheme against the Packers defense.
Most of all, Sunday’s practice was about heightened intensity.
“Our guys came out on the high side of playing with an edge, and that’s what we want,” McCarthy said. “I’m sure it had something to do with the head coach’s speech the other night.”
Execution wasn’t crisp, but that was also a compromise McCarthy was willing to accept.
“I didn’t expect a great practice. We started our climb to where we needed to go,” he said.
The Packers will be going back to San Francisco five weeks from now. Sunday’s practice was clearly with that trip in mind. Additional coverage - July 28