Packers Have Quiet Confidence

Clay pigeons notwithstanding, it was all business this offseason for the Packers, who were taken down a notch in their playoff loss to the Giants.

Perhaps it's a good thing the Packers won't see the Detroit Lions for the first time next season until Week 11 of the league schedule, which falls on the third weekend of November.

What's become a chippy rivalry between the longtime division foes added a new layer for potentially fueling more friction. Lions coach Jim Schwartz took a shot at counterpart Mike McCarthy's approach to the end of the Packers' offseason program.

McCarthy canceled practice on the second day of a three-day minicamp in mid-June to take the team to a range outside Green Bay for clay shooting.

Schwartz took issue with the likes of the Packers and other teams in the league that sacrificed a couple hours of work on the football field for a team-building exercise.

"We had no sporting clays today or no amusement parks or water parks. (It was a) work day of minicamp," Schwartz said as the Lions wrapped up their offseason workouts. "We take a lot of pride in the fact that we play for a blue-collar town, and we try to reflect that kind of work ethic."

Meanwhile, those associated with the Packers haven't uttered so much as a peep about the preponderance of off-the-field trouble met by Lions players the last several weeks.

A low-key disposition has been the Green Bay way since the team gathered in April.

In some ways humbled by how last season abruptly ended -- a 37-20 home loss as the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs against the New York Giants after going 15-1 in the regular season -- the Packers refrained from doing anything bold this offseason.

About the only attention given to Green Bay players was veteran receiver Donald Driver for winning the latest season of the "Dancing with the Stars" reality TV show and defensive end Anthony Hargrove, a team newcomer, for denouncing the NFL for the eight-game suspension he received for his alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scheme.

When the Packers reconvene July 25 for training camp and take to the field the next morning for the first practice, a quiet confidence will course through them.

Green Bay has quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP who recently received validation as best player in the league by a vote of his peers.

What's more, the team is driven to make up for the January disappointment and return to the Super Bowl after winning it in the 2010 season.

Whether the Packers are able to fulfill the tag of "favorite" that is again assigned to them likely will hinge considerably on a defense that proved to be Green Bay's undoing at the end of last season.

Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson withheld predictions on whether the unit can bounce back in a big way after general manager Ted Thompson looked to address its shortcomings with a defensive-minded approach in the spring. Thompson made moderate free-agent signings with Hargrove, tackle Daniel Muir and end Phillip Merling and used the team's first six draft picks on defensive players, led by end-turned-linebacker Nick Perry in Round 1.

"I know just looking at the film I've seen some good things. I know the coaches have seen some good things," said Woodson, who missed most of the offseason workouts. "But, you really never know until the season gets here and you start playing games.

"But, I'm excited," he added. "I think we've got some good young guys in here with good energy, some high-motor guys that can hopefully help us get to the quarterback and get back to playing an aggressive style of football that we like to play."

The Packers had all of their installations in by the minicamp and then used those two practice days as a review.

McCarthy is hopeful the spirited nature of the time spent on the field in the offseason will carry over to the start of training camp and percolate throughout the preseason. The battle for roster spots will be tougher than ever, whether it's on a juggernaut offense that piled up the second-most points in NFL history, or on a defense that got a transfusion of talent.

"The most important thing for those young guys (on the team) to understand, whether they're drafted or undrafted, is they can make this football team on special teams," Rodgers said. "They're going to get an opportunity in training camp. They're going to get an opportunity in preseason. And, if they prove that they're excellent special-teams players and can make the most of their reps on offense or defense, they're probably going to make the team."


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