McCarthy, Staff Have Ties to Saints

Coach Mike McCarthy shares a funny story about the first day of his five-year stint as New Orleans' offensive coordinator. That and much, much more from a busy Monday as prep continues for Thursday's showdown against the Saints.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has a funny story about an early lesson learned as the New Orleans Saints' new offensive coordinator in 2000.

"The first day I get the job, I had to do an interview. I think it was WWL down there, I think it was Buddy Dee," McCarthy said after Monday's practice. "So, they introduce you and you're on the radio and I said, ‘I'm real excited about being in New Or-leens and my first opportunity to be a coordinator.' So, they said, ‘We're going to take questions.' A guy gets on, a strong bayou accent, and he says, ‘Hey, I don't know what you're going to do on offense, but you'd better learn to say N'Awlins, because it is not New Or-leens.' So, they were on me right away."

McCarthy is one of several members of the Packers' coaching staff with ties to New Orleans. During his five-year run with the Saints, he coached with tight ends coach Ben McAdoo and Winston Moss. Safeties coach Darren Perry was playing his final NFL season as a safety, running backs coach Jerry Fontenot was the starting center and assistant special teams coach Chad Morton was a rookie running back and kick returner.

"Probably the playoff win in 2000, the first (playoff) victory for the franchise," Fontenot said of his finest memory with New Orleans. "That was a great year for us. It was a year of a new coaching staff, a year of change and we had some good players on that team. It was really a team that stuck together and played together. It was great to do for the city of New Orleans."

McCarthy shared the same New Orleans memory and has watched with interest the city and franchise rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"A lot of good memories and a lot of good people," McCarthy said.

Saints' Smith suspended

The StarCaps saga that's been hanging over Saints defensive end Will Smith for nearly three years finally is over. Smith, an eight-year veteran, will miss Thursday night's game with the Packers and the second game against the Chicago Bears for using a diuretic containing a banned substance.

It could have been worse as Smith was handed a four-game suspension until it was cut in half following a protracted legal battle that was waged against the NFL by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams and former teammate Pat Williams.

It's a big hit to the Saints' defense — and especially the front four — since Smith is the senior member of the group. He has recorded 55 sacks in his first seven seasons and has forced 17 tackles with six fumble recoveries. Turk McBride, with 22 career starts, likely will get the start. He had two sacks in the Lions' December victory over the Packers.

Embarrassment of riches

McAdoo can't hid his smile, not with five tight ends on the final roster. The group is headlined by Jermichael Finley and is rounded out by second-year players Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree and draft picks D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.

"The best thing that we have going for us is that every one of them can get better and every one of them can improve," McAdoo said. "None of them is a finished product. The oldest guy in the room is 25. We have right now in the room, what, five years of NFL experience? That's it. I like ‘em because we have some smart, talented, conscientious guys who like to play football and I like that they're all going to get better, they need to get better, they want to get better. If you ever think about wanting to take a breather, somebody's waiting behind you, wanting to take your rep. That's the good part for me. Letting Spencer (Havner) go wasn't easy. But at the end of the day, it's the best fit for the team. I know one thing: The more big, long, strong, fast athletes you have, the better you're going to be."

Packers injury report

Packers: Out — CB Davon House (ankle); OLB Frank Zombo (shoulder). Limited — TE Jermichael Finley (ankle); DE Mike Neal (knee). Full — TE Ryan Taylor (hip).

Of the players who were limited, Finley is on course to start while Neal's status remains in limbo.

"Practiced pretty much almost the full amount of reps (Sunday)," McCarthy said of Finley. "Today, we just backed him down to things more specific that he needed reps on. Today was our red-zone day, so plays that he needed to run, whether it was a formation or a certain look we wanted to see. We backed off him today and we'll see how he feels (Tuesday)."

Saints injury report

Did not participate: WR Adrian Arrington (knee); K Garrett Hartley (hip); WR Lance Moore (groin). Limited participation: DT Tom Johnson (calf).

Four-point stance

— With only one fullback on the roster, what about nose tackle B.J. Raji getting some short-yardage opportunities, like he did against Atlanta in the playoffs? "If they want to give me the chance, I'm definitely hoping for the opportunity. I think the more you do something, the better you get at it. We'll see what happens."

— Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum expects to treat kickoff returns differently now that the regular season is starting. The Packers, like most teams, brought out kicks from 8 and 9 yards deep in the end zone during the preseason just to practice a return. "You go out and take a knee, you don't see anybody block actively and you don't see the runner run. We're going to get into weather conditions in this league starting in November where you're not going to kick the ball out. You're going to have to cover, you're going to have to return. So, everybody wanted to see that and make evaluations on the players. I think it's hard work. From what I saw, when we took a ball from 8 yards deep and ran 28 yards to the 20, that's a lot of work. That was a good return a year ago. But now, you're at the 20. If you take a knee, you get the ball at the 20 and you don't risk a turnover or an injury or something like that."

— Don't count offensive line coach James Campen as one who is worried about the depth of his group with only three players in reserve. "I think those guys have developed. Marshall (Newhouse has) obviously picked up his game. I think that would be obvious. He had a better camp. He certainly isn't there, but he has improved a lot. And Derek (Sherrod) is improving every week. And Evan (Dietrich-Smith is) a strong kid and knows the system and is able to do a good job if called upon. They're here for a reason."

— There are reports that perhaps 200,000 people will descend on the stadium for Thursday's kickoff celebration. For a rundown of some of the events leading up to the game, CLICK HERE.


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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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