Mike McCarthy will never forget his emotions for the start of training camp 2011, and it wasn’t all for being the head coach of the reigning Super Bowl champions. The tear of joy McCarthy fought back on Saturday morning was for the birth of his daughter, Isabella.
“I need some sleep; too emotional,” McCarthy said as he concluded a Saturday morning press conference that kicked off a day that’ll conclude with the Packers’ first practice of training camp.
A proud new father, McCarthy turns his attention today to pursuit of Super Bowl XLVI, and the Packers’ head coach spoke directly of that goal.
“We’re competing for a championship. That’ll be the message today. There’s nothing to be gained from being the champions last year. There’s a path to get to Indianapolis. It’s our responsibility to stay on that path,” McCarthy told reporters.
The path begins with a 7 p.m., camp-opening practice at Ray Nitschke Field. The Packers will be in shells for the first two practices of training camp and McCarthy talked about being smart in designing the regimen for those practices. Following a nearly five-month-long lockout, conditioning is the buzz word around the league.
“It’s about being smart. I don’t want to be standing up here tomorrow talking about an injury list with 10 guys on it,” McCarthy said.
Six players are candidates not to participate in practice on Saturday: That list is headed by tight end Jermichael Finley, who is in a comeback from a knee injury that cost him most of last season. Also on that list are safety Morgan Burnett (ACL) and defensive lineman Mike Neal (shoulder), rookies in 2010 that were lost early to injury. Tight end Andrew Quarless, linebacker Diyral Briggs and undrafted free agent defensive end Eli Joseph are also nursing injuries.
“Conditioning is something that’ll be answered over the next few days,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking for quality work coming out of the gate. We do not do conditioning drills. Our conditioning is part of our practice.
“The challenge is to get the 100 mph practice day in and day out, that prepares your football team. It’s about being a healthier football team coming out of training camp.”
A schedule that’s heavy with evening practices will see the Packers make corrections from the previous night’s practice the following morning, install new material in the afternoons and then practice that new material that night. The Packers will work in the weight room every other day.
“We’ll go on the field one time a day,” McCarthy said.
Can he create competition in a training camp that doesn’t include two-a-days?
“I think our roster takes care of that. We’re a young team. That’s our structure. I think this year’s training camp will challenge last year’s,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ personnel philosophy promotes competition.
“Keeping a roster that’s fluid, that develops from the bottom up. There’s nothing that’s happened in the past couple of months that’s going to change the way we go about our business,” the coach added.
The Packers’ roster was at 84 when McCarthy spoke to the media on Saturday. That means the Packers can sign six more players, and that raises the possibility, of course, that General Manager Ted Thompson has a player or two targeted in free agency.
Inside linebacker would be a likely place for an addition.
“That’s a fair question,” McCarthy said when asked about the lack of depth inside. “The days ahead will answer your question.”
His roster will be shaped over the next month, which will lead to the Sept. 8 season opener against the New Orleans Saints. McCarthy was adamant about this being a new season.
“This is a totally different year. It’s a new team, a new situation. There’s no one that’s comfortable right now because we know we’ll have fewer times on the field,” he said. “It’s about the next challenge. It’s about Super Bowl XLVI. That’s what we’re chasing.”
How will he keep his team hungry to win another championship?
“If you don’t have that, you’re going to get thrown to the wayside. This league isn’t about survival, it’s about climbing,” McCarthy said.
The climb begins now.