KANSAS CITY—In the Packers locker room, the switch was already flipped. Head Coach Mike McCarthy has to finish the task of evaluation, but his players have already turned their attention to the game that caught their eye when the schedule was announced last spring.
“It’s a new beginning,” cornerback Tramon Williams said when asked for his thoughts on the next game on the Packers’ schedule, the season opener in San Francisco on Sept. 8. “The first thing that’ll pop up is the game from last year, and rightfully so. We’re a new team. We will be prepared. We know we’re going to give 100 percent effort.”
This team of “a new beginning” completed its preseason with a 30-8 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium. It was a game played almost exclusively by reserves, which means the real Packers didn’t play. McCarthy gave the appearance of being mildly disappointed by the play of his reserves, but mostly he gave the impression of being in a hurry to finish his evaluations so he can flip his switch to the opener in San Francisco.
Is it difficult to do?
“Not at all,” he said. “This is the part you work toward. It’s all about the regular season. Everything since your season ended is about getting ready for the regular season.”
As soon as a month after the Packers’ playoff loss in San Francisco, McCarthy had turned his attention to this year’s season opener, though he didn’t know then that his team would open on the field where the 2012 season ended. At the scouting combine last February, McCarthy talked about the number 579, which is the total number of yards the 49ers gained against the Packers in that playoff game. He talked about how that number would drive his team through its offseason. The offseason ended Thursday.
“I’m excited,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “It’s a great place to start. We have a good chance to right our wrongs.”
There’s no avoiding the issue, and it’ll certainly confront the Packers directly next week when the hype for this game hits full stride. The Packers defense will be asked about those 579 yards and what their plans are for stopping Colin Kaepernick from doing again what he did last January.
The NFL didn’t schedule this game by mistake. The league knew what it was doing. It was creating good theater; make that great theater.
“This team has an edge to it,” Pickett said.
It’s had that edge all through the offseason.
“I like what I see,” Williams said. “I like the physicality we’re playing with. It’s going to be interesting come Week 1.”
McCarthy took a step back from his play-calling chores on Thursday night. He turned the reins over to Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements so McCarthy might observe his team, get a feel for where it is.
“Get a grasp on the individuals,” he said. “We got plenty of film. That was the priority coming in here. We’ll be in position to make the decisions.”
The Packers will reduce their roster to the mandatory 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon. They’ll assemble a practice squad on Sunday after the waivers process is complete. Then, on Monday, McCarthy will officially flip the switch, as his team begins hard preparation for the 49ers.
“Our health is as good as it can be,” he said.
They’re ready. The focus now falls hard on San Francisco. Maybe it was already there. Additional coverage - Aug. 29