GREEN BAY – Three straight losses and a showdown looming against the team that has overtaken them in the NFC North haven’t caused the slightest inclination toward panic in the Packers’ locker room.
According to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, that’s a reflection of the leadership of Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the understanding there’s no lack of confidence amongst the players, in themselves or in their teammates.
“We stick together, believe in each other, believe in the plan and stay the course,” Rodgers said on Wednesday as the Packers were preparing to hit the practice field for the first time prior to Sunday’s divisional clash in Minnesota.
“Mike (McCarthy) talks about that a lot, about believing in the direction we’re going and not wavering from that.”
Accordingly, Rodgers hasn’t changed his recovery and preparation routines this week or done anything out of the ordinary. The offense needs a jump-start, but Rodgers does not believe it’s going to come from acting out of character.
Recognizing there was a sideline incident involving a few defensive players two weeks ago in Carolina, Rodgers called that “surprising and overblown,” because it’s not the norm with this team, and there have been no lingering effects.
That’s not to say anyone considers the current results acceptable, and Rodgers’ tone was noticeably more subdued in the weekly media session at his locker. The problems on offense last week against Detroit were multiple, and missed throws, dropped passes and mental errors were all cited by the QB as reasons for producing just three points through 3½ quarters.
As for the leader going through a rough stretch, Rodgers agreed with McCarthy’s description that he’s “banged-up,” but he has no overriding health concerns despite being listed on the injury report with a right shoulder injury and being limited in Wednesday’s practice. He disagreed with the idea he’s pressing, and with the notion the offense is too predictable.
“I don’t think you could have predicted we’d throw it 61 times,” he said, referring to last Sunday’s franchise-record-tying pass total. “That’s 13 more than I’ve thrown it in a game before.”
More early passing success will lead to the balance the Packers seek. A Rodgers-led offense has most often thrown the ball to open up running lanes, which then gets the two facets of run and pass playing off one another.
With defenses loading the box and playing man coverage on the outside – Rodgers said Jordy Nelson’s absence has all but eliminated opponents playing two deep safeties anymore – the best way to get running backs James Starks and Eddie Lacy going is to get into a sustained, up-tempo passing rhythm as soon as possible.
“Defenses are dictating us throwing the ball a little bit more, so we need to be efficient throwing it to set up the run,” Rodgers said. “If we can do that, we need James and Eddie to make the right cuts and get yards after contact.”
Lacy missed last week’s game with a groin injury but was back at practice on Wednesday as a full participant. Rookie receiver Ty Montgomery (ankle) also practiced in full, and McCarthy is hoping he gets medical clearance this week to return to game action. With Jared Abbrederis (rib/chest) out several weeks, Montgomery and/or Jeff Janis would be in line for more work, but neither has taken offensive snaps since the bye week, with Janis playing solely on special teams.
“We’ll see,” Janis said about getting more opportunities from scrimmage. “If they call my name, I’ll be ready to go out and make some plays. I just have to keep up with my preparation.”
Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who exited Sunday’s game with a knee injury, practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, but right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) were sitting out. Left guard Josh Sitton (knee) was also limited.
On Monday, McCarthy said some players were trying to do too much, and on Wednesday the players appeared to be taking that message to heart.
“All the coaches are preaching, all the players are preaching, just do what we do,” receiver James Jones said. “Don’t try to be anybody you’re not, try to go out there and make spectacular catches or spectacular throws. Just be yourself, let’s do the routine stuff, and we’ll be fine.”
Now it’s about carrying it over to Sunday.
“Both teams get paid every week,” Rodgers said. “We have to earn our money this week and play better.”
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