Mike McCarthy has a message to deliver, particularly to his rookie class, before the first practice of training camp on Thursday morning.
McCarthy said on Wednesday at the conclusion of a 20-minute press conference that there’s a “different feel” to training camp this year, and he doesn’t like it. He recalled the rookie class of a year ago being “on pins and needles” for the start of camp, having been locked out of any offseason work, and the “enthusiasm and urgency” those rookies brought to training camp contributed to its overall success.
He’s not sensing those same elements from this year’s rookies – at least not yet – but he’s going to demand them, despite any progress they may have made during offseason workouts.
“My concern frankly is this rookie class came in here and … when we hit the field, (they felt) ‘This ain’t so hard. Pro ball isn’t maybe what I thought it was going to be,’” McCarthy said.
“That’s something that will not be the case when we hit the field tomorrow. Complacency, relaxing, any type of comfort … we’ll make sure that doesn’t exist.”
McCarthy needs that message to get through because this year’s rookies, particularly a defense-heavy draft class headed by linebacker Nick Perry and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, is expected to contribute right away. The Packers are looking to boost their 32nd-ranked defense and continue to improve their special teams while keeping their offense among the league’s best.
“It’s exciting to get in pads and get going,” McCarthy said. “The real excitement will come with the first preseason game in San Diego. To me, when the lights come on is when you really find out about your new guys.”
The pads won’t actually come on until the third practice, on Saturday morning, and the wait will be even longer for some players.
McCarthy said tight end Andrew Quarless and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, both of whom sustained major injuries last December, have not passed their physicals and will not practice right away. He also hinted there’s some uncertainty whether fullback John Kuhn, safety Charlie Peprah and running back Alex Green would be cleared to practice, as not all of the physicals and conditioning tests had been completed prior to the press conference.
McCarthy did refer to Sherrod and Green, two 2011 draft picks, as “getting close.”
McCarthy admitted to being “anxious” for the start of camp, having stayed in Green Bay throughout the summer and feeling the anticipation build. He’s pleased with a schedule that has the Packers playing four straight Thursday preseason games, which gives the team a better opportunity to get into the weekly regular-season routine as camp concludes.
With no more two-a-days, McCarthy said the first 10 practices are the new “dog days” of camp, as they focus on installing the schemes and drilling the fundamentals.
“Your team is built and created in training camp,” McCarthy said. “That’s really the foundation of who you are as a team.”
Many believe the Packers are one of the league’s best teams, and will use last year’s playoff disappointment as fuel for another run similar to the 15-1 regular-season mark posted a year ago.
McCarthy’s message is clear: that run begins now.
“Our expectations are always the same,” he said. “No one’s expectations of us can get any higher than our expectations of ourselves.”