Since Denver repeated as champions in 1997 and 1998, only the Patriots have gone back-to-back, with titles following the 2003 and 2004 regular seasons. During that period, the 1999 Broncos, 2002 Patriots, 2003 Buccaneers, 2006 Steelers and 2009 Steelers failed to even get back to the playoffs.
The challenge is obvious in such a physically demanding sport. Twenty of the 32 teams have been off since Jan 2. The bruises are healing. The muscles are recovering. Rehab is well under way from surgeries.
Not so for the Packers, who happily are getting a late start on their offseasons after winning Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6.
Thus, there's a possible silver lining if the players are locked out of team facilities and labor talks drag into August, as many insiders believe. The longer talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement stall and there is no football — whether it's a minicamp, the start of training camp or even into the preseason — the longer the Packers will have to recharge their batteries, mend their bodies and get on an even playing field with teams that didn't make the playoffs or were knocked out in the early rounds.
"If there is a lockout, it could potentially work in our favor so we don't have to really get back so fast," linebacker Desmond Bishop said. "We've been working hard for over a month more than anybody else. I think we would have an advantage over everybody else."
Last season actually began with workouts and individual meetings with coaches in mid-March. With a lockout expected to begin on March 4, those offseason workouts — a staple of coach Mike McCarthy's program — will not be held around the league.
"We have already started conversations with our strength coaches and the communication that they will have with the players," McCarthy said during his season-ending news conference on Wednesday. "This won't be as new as people would think because when players leave here, most of them have a place that they go and train and we're pretty much in tune with those types of places and the people that run those gyms and training centers and so forth.
"I'm not as worried about that as I think the general public probably thinks, ‘Oh my God, they are just going to go away and not be here working out.' That won't be the case, and everybody is in the same situation. You have a lot of players that train together, even if they are from different teams and so forth, but the players are going to get ready to play. We'll communicate the best we can within the realm of what is going on with the CBA. There are just so many unknowns in front of us and we'll just deal with them as they come as far as what your communication can be and what it can't be."
The worry isn't about the veterans. There's no reason to think that players like Aaron Rodgers or Charles Woodson or Donald Driver won't arrive in tip-top shape, whether it's for a minicamp in May or a late start to training camp in early September. What is unknown is how some of the young players will handle it. That concern was voiced by tight ends coach Ben McAdoo during a conversation about rookie tight end Andrew Quarless.
"He's going to have to be a self-starter," McAdoo said last month. "He's going to have to do a lot on his own. He's going to have to put in his own time and get his work in away from here to help himself in all three phases. Because he's not going to have the advantage that these other guys have had. Jermichael (Finley) made that huge jump from Year 1 to Year 2, and from a coaching standpoint, that's the thing we're going to have to sit down and spend some time, he and I, sit down and map out a plan."
And even if everyone is in great shape when training camp begins, the lost practice time for the young players would be a league-wide concern if organized team activities and minicamps are canceled.
"I'm more concerned with the offseason, like I always am at this point," McCarthy said when asked about his general concerns after a championship season. "Typically in the staff meeting after the season concludes, I pretty much a have the whole season laid out for our coaching staff. That's not the case this year. You have to make sure you have the opportunity to develop your team, particularly your young players. The players that go from Year 1 to Year 2, that's their biggest window in my opinion for them to develop. So that maybe, not in jeopardy, but it will be a different course of action to accomplish that this year. We're going to go about it like we always do. We're going to focus on our scheme, focus on our system, how we can make it better, and make sure that when the players do come back that we're ready to go for them."
Even if a new CBA is reached, McCarthy said the offseason workouts wouldn't begin until April, with the starting date pushed back to help the players recover from a grueling season.
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