GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers sees it, Mike McCarthy believes it, and the rest of the Packers are following the lead.
Sure, the past month hasn’t played out the way the Packers wanted and nobody in the locker room ever anticipated being 4-6 through the first 10 games of the regular season.
Yet, the preseason swagger hasn’t worn off. If anything, the belief in what the 2016 Green Bay Packers can do is as strong as it’s ever been inside the locker room.
“I feel like we can run the table, I really do,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “The offense is starting to click a little bit more. We just have to put together a game where we’re consistent from the first snap to the last. We’ve been getting closer to that. We’ve really been clicking at times the last few games. It’s going to be important that we get going early.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy conveyed a similar message of confidence during both the team meeting on Wednesday morning and his afternoon news conference with reporters.
Based on what he’s seen, McCarthy believes the team’s preparation and approach has been where it needs to be. While it hasn’t translated to wins, the team’s work hasn’t been in vain.
There were no shortage of areas the Packers must improve on the heels of a 42-24 loss to Washington, but what gives McCarthy and the roster reason for optimism is how the locker room has stayed together through the team’s recent adversity.
Nobody is pointing fingers or panicking. The offense wants to start faster and set the tone early, and it appears to have found its identity through a pass-centric approach.
After sitting 29th in total offense and passing offense at the Week 4 bye, the Packers have jumped to 13th in total yards and 10th in passing, their highest ranking since Week 17 of the 2014 campaign.
“I know I said this during the good times, I said this during training camp – we have the right kind of men here,” McCarthy said. “This group of men, we’re going to get to where we want to go. I’m fully confident in that. The process, the approach, the preparation, we’re going to get this the way it needs to be.
“You just can’t keep doing things right and the result is going to stay the same. I truly believe in that. This locker room is awesome. We have to win. We get that. It’s about results, but everything leading up to that I’m very pleased with. We’re just going to keep stoking that fire and do everything we need to do this week to beat Philadelphia in Philadelphia.”
The Packers’ defense was among the NFL’s best before injuries mounted over the past month. Although McCarthy confirmed cornerback Sam Shields won’t return this season, help could be on the way for the secondary with Damarious Randall (groin) returning to practice in a limited capacity.
Linebacker Jake Ryan (ankle) was out of town for personal reasons on Wednesday but likely will practice when he returns on Friday.
Defensive back Micah Hyde walked into Wednesday morning’s team meeting uncertain about what McCarthy would say in his first address since the loss in Washington.
His message was more than just positivity. It was motivation.
“It was uplifting and he has been like that,” Hyde said. “Usually when you lose, especially back-to-back like this, the environment is down with all the negativity that’s being shined on us. You try not to listen but this day in age … with the social media that we have, it’s hard to stay away from.
“Coach McCarthy coming in and just being as positive as ever, that’s very uplifting. We went to special-team meetings, we went to offense, defense meetings on a positive note.”
Receiver Jordy Nelson expected nothing less from his quarterback or head coach on Wednesday. When asked about Rodgers’ comments, he said simply: “I think everyone in here probably believes that to be honest with you.”
After all, the Packers and their leadership have fought through adversity before. What matters to Nelson is the same man who guided the Packers from an 8-6 record to the franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy in 2010 was the same individual standing in front of the team on Wednesday.
“It’s huge when you get in a slump like this. A lot of people can get down and it doesn’t do any good,” Nelson said. “Obviously no one is walking in here happy-go-lucky with the situation we’re in, but you still have to stay upbeat. … I think Mike stepping up and being positive, and understanding that we still have opportunity in front of us – we need to play better and execute better.”
The Packers have a tall task Monday night against Philadelphia in facing an Eagles team that’s 4-0 at home this season. The remaining schedule after that includes five teams with a cumulative 27-22-1 record.
“My time in the NFL you’re going to face different adversities,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “You have to keep an even-keeled mindset and I think Coach has been doing a great job with that and it’s been spreading through the locker room. The guys really care and guys are going to get the job done, but it’s not like guys are panicking, getting nervous or hanging their heads.
“Guys are still confident in themselves and we’re still confident as a team. Now it’s just all about going out and getting the job done.”
Coincidentally, Rodgers has played some of his best football during the Packers’ four-game skid in completing 111-of-173 passes (64.2 percent) for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, though one came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half in Tennessee.
The Packers won’t get Eddie Lacy (ankle) back this season, but tight end Jared Cook and James Starks have provided sparks after their recent returns.
If the offense sticks together, the two-time NFL MVP quarterback believes the pieces are still in place for this year’s team to be special.
“I need to be sharper from the start, and I will be,” Rodgers said. “I’m confident if we can get this thing started off a little better each week that we can get on that roll and be tough to stop.
“Now, we have to go out there and do it. It’s just idle words right now, but I’m confident in our guys and confident we’ll respond on Monday.”