'Practice?' The Offense Needs Plenty of That

While there's no reason to hit the panic button with a month to go until the season opener, even Aaron Rodgers senses that it's time to show a little added urgency. The Packers have the talent to "score every time we get the ball," but it's the mental toughness that's a work in progress.

The day after an ugly Monday night practice, Aaron Rodgers channeled his inner Allen Iverson.

"Practice?" Rodgers said, smiling into the TV cameras stationed around his locker. "We're talking about practice? Not talking about the game, talking about practice, right? Uh ... practice?"

A few minutes after flashing his sense of humor, he clearly was aggravated when a reporter opened Rodgers' least favorite can of worms: the lack of player-organized (make that, Rodgers-organized) practices during the lockout.

"No," was Rodgers' one-word response when asked if it was a mistake for the team to not get together.

"No," was Rodgers' one-word response when asked if the lack of workouts has had any impact on the offense's slow start to camp.

Rodgers' decision — and it was mostly his decision, with several veterans telling Packer Report throughout the offseason that they were waiting on their quarterback to make the call — will be proven right or wrong during the course of the season. Whatever the answer, Monday's practice showed just how far away the Packers are — mentally and physically — from performing at a winning level in a game that counts.

Which isn't all that uncommon this time of year, especially on offense, which depends so much on timing and having the ESP necessary to know exactly what the person next to you is thinking. While training camp looks like a day at the beach compared to what Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren put their players through, Mike McCarthy's players are being stressed to the max mentally. A playbook that typically is installed bit by bit in May and June is being thrown at everyone all at once. By the time the players get on the practice field, they've been at the stadium for about 12 hours. It makes for a long day, with McCarthy no doubt hoping that long day after long day will give his players the mental toughness to get through the grind that awaits as defending Super Bowl champions.

Fortunately for them, the regular-season opener against New Orleans on Sept. 8 remains a month away. Still, it would be encouraging to see Rodgers and Co. light up Dom Capers' defense some night rather than just talking about it.

"I think we've got the deadliest offense in the league," said tight end Jermichael Finley, never one to mince words. "We've still got to go on the field and do the work, (but) put it like this, we should score every time we get the ball."

With a healthy Finley and, presumably, a better running game, the Packers' offense certainly has the look of a juggernaut.

"Jermichael is a funny guy," receiver James Jones said when told of what Finley had said moments earlier. "I'm with him, though. We've got a lot of weapons, a great quarterback. We can move the ball down the field on anybody. We expect to score every time we get on the field. Is it going to happen? No, but we expect to score every time we get it. We're a confident bunch. We feel like we've got matchup problems for every defense."

McCarthy acknowledged the talent while voicing his disappointment after Monday's "bouquet"-free practice. Just like the Philadelphia Eagles haven't won a thing by being offseason champions, these Packers won't win anything simply by trotting Rodgers, Finley, Greg Jennings, etc., onto the field.

Winning takes so much more than talent — as these Packers ought to know by plowing through so many injuries and obstacles last season.

To fight through the grind of a long day to perfectly execute a play against Capers' aggressive, talent-laden defense takes mental toughness. The Packers had that mental toughness last season. They haven't shown it yet this season. While there's absolutely no reason to say this team is complacent or fat and happy or resting on last year's laurels, Rodgers knows it's time to start getting things up to a championship standard.

"The physical mistakes, that's going to happen," Rodgers said. "But not lining up in the right spot or false-starting or just not understanding stuff that you can read in a book … to me, this is a self-motivated league. In order to be successful, you have to be willing to put the time in on your own. And part of that is coming into camp in shape. I think you saw last night, we got tired last night and there were a lot of mental mistakes. So, we've got to pick up the urgency, I think."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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