Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy cut Monday’s practice 25 minutes short, as he readies his team for a short-week, preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers sat out Monday’s practice as a precautionary measure as he deals with a foot strain. McCarthy said Rodgers’ foot “flared up on him this morning,” but he did not rule Rodgers out of playing on Thursday. Under McCarthy, the starters have generally played no more than one or two series in the final preseason game.
“Just being cautious,” McCarthy said of why he held Rodgers out of practice. “If it was up to him, he would have practiced today. I’m just being smart with him.”
When a pair of rookies, tight end Ryan Taylor (hip flexor) and receiver Randall Cobb (knee), bowed out midway through practice on Monday, McCarthy decided the smart play was to cancel the final two periods of the workout. The practice ended up lasting only one hour and 35 minutes, the only full-pads workout in camp that hasn’t approached or surpassed two hours.
“I’m really concerned about where we are just physically as a team,” McCarthy said. “I think our team is beat up right now.”
At the skill positions on offense, that’s definitely true. In addition to Taylor and Cobb, the offense also was without receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and James Jones (knee) and tight end Jermichael Finley (ankle). McCarthy said Jones’ knee trouble is a recurrence of the issue he had in 2008 that had him in and out of the lineup all season, missing six games total.
“These are not major injuries,” McCarthy added. “I don’t see any of these players being out for an extended period of time.”
That said, McCarthy took into consideration the fact that the team is on a short, six-day week to get ready for Kansas City, with the regular-season opener against New Orleans just seven days after that.
That’s a quick turnaround as the team makes its final roster decisions this weekend and begins final preparations for the Saints, so McCarthy saw no point in pushing the players physically in what was the final full-pads practice of camp. The players will practice in helmets on Tuesday.
“We don’t have the extra couple days to get guys ready for our opening game,” McCarthy said. “You just have to trust your instincts. I think we’ve kind of hit the wall, and we have a game to play here. It’s an important game for a lot of young players in our locker room, and I want to make sure that I give them every chance to get ready for that contest to win a job on our football team.”
The good news on the injury front was that defensive end C.J. Wilson returned to practice on Monday from the concussion that had sidelined him since the Arizona game on Aug. 19. Safety Nick Collins (back) and cornerback Josh Gordy (shoulder) returned to practice on Monday after missing just one day.
Also, rookie cornerback Davon House looked as close to being back to full strength from his earlier hamstring injury as he has since returning to practice last week. He broke up a deep pass to the end zone intended for Greg Jennings and got a deflection on a slant route that resulted in an interception for rookie defensive end Eli Joseph. Jennings got a little revenge, though, beating House deep later in practice for a long reception.
To help prepare all the young players for their final preseason showing, McCarthy changed things up in practice a bit as well. Rather than have the starting units work against scout-team looks, he had the starters running scout-team looks against the second and third units on both sides of the ball.
Safety Morgan Burnett was especially active, ripping a reception away from rookie tight end D.J. Williams for an interception and snagging another pick on an overthrown ball intended for tight end Tom Crabtree. Earlier, Burnett almost had another interception when he jumped a short hook route.
Burnett’s starting job doesn’t appear in jeopardy, but he did make a costly error in Indianapolis last Friday when he charged ahead to guard the wrong receiver as cornerback Sam Shields was passing off receiver Reggie Wayne to him. Wayne caught a 57-yard touchdown pass all alone down the sideline.
“If it’s going to happen, you want those types of plays to happen in the preseason,” McCarthy said. “The safeties all can learn from that particular play.”
That was one of two big plays the defense allowed in an otherwise solid effort against the Colts, while the offense produced a lot of yardage but was bogged down by sacks and left some points on the field.
Eliminating those occasional hiccups is what McCarthy is focused on as camp concludes and the opener rapidly approaches.
“You don’t get to throw out two plays on defense, and you can’t throw out the negative plays on offense and one or two plays on special teams,” McCarthy said. “That’s the gap that we need to close before the regular season gets here.”