GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers likes to judge the Packers’ collective mood by how much chatter is going on right before a team meeting.
On Monday, as the first rendezvous of 2016 was about to commence, the room was buzzing.
“When Mike (McCarthy) has to kind of quiet guys down, and it’s not just quiet when he walks in, you know there’s good energy in the room, and it’s fun,” Rodgers said after the first official offseason workout.
It’s a sign the Packers are excited to get back at it, even with Week 1 still nearly five full months away.
Monday’s “first day of school” feel is typical around here. Players scatter for three months in the offseason and when they come back to Green Bay, there’s a lot to catch up on.
Defensive lineman Mike Daniels said guys weren’t so quick to rush to the shower after Monday’s first workout, hanging around the locker room and chatting away instead.
“That just goes to show that we miss each other and it’s great to get back, and that’s the type of team that you want,” Daniels said.
Added Rodgers: “This is when the chemistry starts to form.”
There were some new sights to get accustomed to. Daniels said he had to find a new carpool buddy for the short drive across the street to the Hutson Center now that fellow linemate B.J. Raji has stepped away from the game.
Running back Eddie Lacy and his altered physique didn’t escape the players’ notice. Lacy was not made available to the media, but his teammates were asked about him.
“He looked like Eddie, man,” Rodgers said. “He looked good. He’s obviously been doing a lot of P90X.”
“I think Eddie looks good, man,” he said. “We’ll see when the pads come on and everything, but I do think he’s a guy that rises to the occasion. He came under a lot of fire, so I think he’s a guy who got put on the spot and he responded.”
Other health updates were all positive. Rodgers said he’s “feeling great” and having no issues with his knee, which required a surgical procedure right after the season ended. Receiver Jordy Nelson is on track with his rehab. Daniels multiple times mentioned linebacker Sam Barrington, another starter returning from a season-ending injury, getting back into things.
Armed with a new contract and perhaps an even more elevated leadership role in Raji’s absence, Daniels called on the defense to start working now toward the championship-caliber unit McCarthy has talked about building.
For all the strides the defense has made the last two years, the bitter endings of first-possession-of-overtime losses in consecutive Januarys remain tough to swallow.
“It’s a team sport, but at the end of the day it does fall back on the defense,” Daniels said. “They scored on us in overtime two games in a row out west, and the lasting thought is, ‘Man, if only the defense could have did better. Man, if only the defense could have pulled through.’ I’m a man, I have pride, and that makes me angry.
“We’ve got to do better. That’s all there is to it.”
With the schedule coming out last week, Daniels said he’s already had game film of every opponent downloaded to his tablet so he can start studying. It’s a good bet he’s not alone.
The entire offseason program – which consists of strength and conditioning, position workouts, OTAs and a concluding minicamp – lasts about two months before another break prior to training camp.
Before long, the players will be eyeing that next respite. For now, it’s all about the journey getting underway.
“I keep saying I’m looking forward to it and I sound like a broken record, but I am. I am,” Daniels said. “I missed these guys. I’m glad to see them back, and it’s time to get to work together.”