In fact, McCarthy told the assembled media at his pre-training camp press conference on Friday afternoon that he spoke to the players in the first team meeting earlier in the day about targeting the ultimate prize. That’s the case every year, but for a team coming off a 7-1 second half to 2009 and an all-too-close playoff loss, McCarthy sees no reason to aim any lower.
“We talked about winning the Super Bowl,” McCarthy said, believing his team is certainly capable. “We talked about where it is played at and the relevance of our team meeting room.
“The only team pictures that are in that room are the team pictures of the world champions of the Green Bay Packers. Everything that we have done throughout the offseason and everything that we’ll do starting tomorrow will be taking a step to being the next team up on that wall. That’s our goal.”
That said, McCarthy also emphasized how much work is to be done beginning with Saturday afternoon’s first practice. When the players hit Ray Nitschke Field at 2 p.m., all the Super Bowl talk will cease and the focus will be on the next block, tackle, run or throw.
McCarthy constantly harps on fundamentals as the part of the game that never changes. He acknowledged throughout the offseason and again on Friday that:
--His team needs to tackle better on defense and on special teams, and there will be daily practice periods devoted to tackling fundamentals, a new part of the schedule.
--Penalties must be reduced, in all three phases, and the officiating in practice will reflect that.
--The punting needs to improve, and the competition that could last all of training camp is intended to accomplish that.
--Same goes for the pass protection, and McCarthy said the added depth and competition in camp on the offensive line should produce better results.
Those are just a few of the areas getting specific attention, and the message is clear. The highly rated offense and defense from a year ago have given the Packers a blueprint to follow, but a repeat of the successes isn’t guaranteed. Success must be rebuilt at the same time shortcomings are improved.
“There is a lot of work,” McCarthy said. “It’s nice to sit up here and talk about it, it’s nice to have people say nice things about you, but it doesn’t help you have a good practice tomorrow and work at your fundamentals and do the things that are important to building and reshaping your football team.”
The most exciting part to McCarthy is that he’ll be reshaping a foundation stronger than any he’s had at this stage of a season.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is entering his third year as a starter with one Pro Bowl season already under his belt. The 3-4 defense under coordinator Dom Capers will be in its second year and bringing back the league’s reigning player of the year on that side of the ball in cornerback Charles Woodson. The offseason program once again was productive and will allow the team to hit the ground running on Saturday.
“There is nothing new this year,” McCarthy said. “We’re not putting in a new defense. We don’t have a new quarterback. We don’t have a new special teams coach. We have an opportunity to build off of some continuity and some success in the past.
“We have a clear understanding of how we want to play. We have a tough schedule like everybody in the league does, but I just clearly think this is a mature football team that is ready to take the next step.”
How mature will be revealed in time. McCarthy feels this is the most mature team he’s had in Green Bay, knowing that much of the roster has been through all the ups and downs of the past two seasons.
The five-game losing streak two years ago, and the seven total losses by four points or less, that produced a 6-10 disappointment in 2008. The sluggish start last year, and the second-half turnaround that had the team riding high into the ’09 playoffs, only to experience how abruptly and agonizingly it can end.
That’s all part of where the Packers are in 2010, and it’s time to move forward once again.
“I’m excited about coaching this group,” McCarthy said. “I’m excited about starting tomorrow. On paper this may be the best team that we have assembled in my time here, but the reality is it doesn’t mean anything until you take advantage and build it the right way, and that starts in training camp practice No. 1.”