Emotional Packers Get Back To Work

Coach Mike McCarthy fights back tears when talking about Joe Philbin and how the team has carried on without their popular offensive coordinator. Plus, Greg Jennings on guarantees, injury reports and more from Wednesday.

The Green Bay Packers returned to work on Wednesday, starting on-the-field preparations for Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the New York Giants without offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

Philbin's 21-year-old son, Michael, was found dead in the Fox River on Monday afternoon. Philbin was home in Oshkosh on Wednesday, and while he certainly would be welcomed back by the team, he presumably will not be with the squad this week.

"I think the reality of this just gave everybody a punch in the heart to let you know the reality," coach Mike McCarthy said before going quiet for about 8 seconds, hanging his head and biting his lower lip to regain his composure, "how fortunate to be where we are."

McCarthy was pleased with how the players responded during Wednesday's practice.

"We talked about that as a football team today and frankly the topic was the ability to separate," he said. "It's part of our program. It's nothing we haven't spoken on before. We talked about the importance of having the ability to separate personal challenges and your professional challenges. And it really goes in line with the family-first philosophy. Everybody's feeling it. But professionally, I've been very pleased with what we've been able to accomplish. We had a very productive day Monday with everything going on on Monday. And today just a ton of energy. Clearly from a tempo standpoint, the execution was probably one of our finer Wednesday practices."

Added quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "It's important in this business to separate the personal from the professional, and when you're at work to try and focus on work. But we're human as well. Everybody misses Joe and thinks about him and Diane and the kids, and we know it's a tough time for them right now. We're just trying to, when we're here, to focus on getting ready to play, and obviously we're thinking about him when we're not here." Left guard T.J. Lang also is wrestling with difficult personal circumstances with the death of his father on Thursday.

"It's definitely good to be back here," he said. "It was tough to leave the family but I know this is what my dad would have wanted me to do: come back to work and play as hard as I can. Football for me the past couple of weeks has been a bit of an escape from reality to step in the building for seven, eight hours and you kind of forget about some things. It's tough. It's tough. You can't help but think about what's going and worry about how the family is doing. This is where my dad would have wanted me to be so it's good to be back."

Opening their mouth

After the Giants beat the Falcons on Sunday, receiver Greg Jennings went on Twitter to say the Packers were looking forward to the opportunity to avenge the loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game. "We haven't forgotten," he said.

Jennings was asked by a Giants beat reporter if he feared his statement would fire up the Giants. Jennings turned the question on its ear by bringing up the guarantees of victory from Giants defenders Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle.

"After what we heard? Firing them up? Did we guarantee a win?" Jennings said. "I think they fired themselves up, didn't they? My Tweet, I guarantee they remember that game, they remember coming in here and getting a win. I just voiced that we remember, too. We took the bitter end of that stick."

Packers injury report

Limited: LT Chad Clifton (hamstring/back); WR Randall Cobb (groin); LB Robert Francois (hamstring). Full: RT Bryan Bulaga (knee); WR Greg Jennings (knee); RB James Starks (ankle).

"I'm really jacked up, honestly," Jennings said. "I was jacked up to go to practice today, just to see how my knee would respond. Now that I know how it responded, man, I feel like new money, like I've got a new life, like I was given a life line. I'm as fresh as I can be. I'll probably be the freshest player on the field come Sunday. My body definitely feels great. No aches, no pains, I really don't have anything to complain about, honestly."

Giants injury report

Did not participate: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot/back); LB Mark Herzlich (ankle); RB D.J. Ware (concussion). Limited: CB Aaron Ross (concussion); DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee). Full: RB Da'Rel Scott (knee).

Four-point stance

-- Compared to the 2007 NFC Championship Game, Sunday's forecast of sunny and 20 degrees will be a day at the beach for both teams. "Considering when we went up there in '07, I heard it's going to be balmy," Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters.

Added Rodgers: "I don't know what everybody else is feeling, I'm kind of hoping for 10 or 15 degrees on Sunday. I know we're going to get a lot of snow tonight. But the elements I think can help us out a little bit."

-- At this point, Clifton will start and play at left tackle, with no plans for a rotation with Marshall Newhouse. Until playing 25 snaps against Detroit on Jan. 1, Clifton hadn't played a full game since Oct. 2 against Denver.

-- McCarthy hopes his beleaguered defense will get a spark from the home crowd. "You expect to play your best defense at home. You're on your own turf. You have the crowd behind you. It's really part of the home-field advantage. I anticipate our players on defense will play very well."

-- The Packers went 8-0 at home this season and have won 19 of their last 20 at Lambeau. What makes them so tough at home? "The Packer team makes it real hard," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said during his conference call. "I'm not just jousting back and forth with you. I'm just saying that Lambeau is extremely historic and I was fortunate enough to be there for a couple of years. I think the fans are great, they're football people and interestingly enough they're really respectful of opponents when they come in there. It's loud and everyone gets into it big time and the noise and the volume and the quality of the team and the coaching across the field."


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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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