Packers Prefer Dance Party to M*A*S*H Unit

Seven years of league-wide injury data shows why coach Mike McCarthy wants to be singing a different tune about injuries. Despite their consistent success and 2010 championship, the Packers have been hammered by injuries more than just about any team.

Mike McCarthy said his iPod is outdated.

Maybe it's got Simon & Garfunkel's "Feelin' Groovy" on it.

The Green Bay Packers haven't quite been the "King of Pain" during McCarthy's tenure as coach, but it's been too close for comfort.

Over the last seven seasons, according to data compiled yearly by Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin, the Packers have lost an average of 50.6 games per season from their preferred starting lineup. Only eight teams have lost more games than Green Bay, and its rate is actually skewed a bit after it lost the second-fewest games to injuries during McCarthy's first season in 2006.

McCarthy and the Packers "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" this season, not after league-worst injury totals in 2010 and 2012.

"We have building blocks in our program and one of them is availability and accountability, and we have not hit the target on availability two out of the last three years," McCarthy said. "It's definitely a point of emphasis. Most of it is really just the way it goes. Some injuries can't be avoided. Sometimes you have good years and sometimes not so good years, so we're doing everything we can. Trust me, we've looked at everything involved in our program. You'll see some things on our practice field tomorrow morning that will show that we've made some adjustments and we're doing everything we can to address it."

The most publicized and most obvious adjustment is the addition of "TV timeouts" at practice. Three times — each coming during the most intense periods of the day — the team takes two-minute breaks. Players put wet towels over their heads to cool off and take a drink, with music blaring over the loud speakers to simulate a real game.

"It's all part of a couple things," McCarthy said. "It's something we looked at from a medical standpoint, the ability to lower the heart rate of the players within the practice. It's also really trying to train the way you play. TV timeouts are part of the game and it's part of that curve that the athletes' bodies go through on gameday. So, that's one of the adjustments that we've made to try and be a healthier team."

Over the past seven seasons, the league average is 44.6 games lost by preferred starters. Taken individually, the Packers have lost more games than the league average in 2012 (83, vs. the average of 45.8), 2011 (51, vs. the league average of 47.9), 2010 (91, vs. the league average of 42.3) and 2008 (44, vs. the league average of 45.0).

McCarthy said the team is looking "at everything" to get a handle on the numbers. He has virtually eliminated night practices, choosing instead to "get your heavy lifting done in the morning" in hopes of avoiding fatigue-based injuries coming from players practicing at the end of a long day. Changes also are being with nutrition and workouts.

"We're going to do some things with them on their off days that we haven't done as far as helping them get their bodies back," McCarthy said. "So, we've looked at every possible angle of our program in helping these players get healthy."

For as much as the team has analyzed the torrent of injuries, some of it comes down to luck. For whatever reason, teams that are healthy one season typically are hit by injuries the next, or vice-versa. Last season, 20 teams had at least a 20-game difference compared to 2011 in games lost by their starters. That yo-yo effect isn't unusual — 14 teams had a 20-game gap between 2011 and 2010 and 15 teams had a 20-game gap between 2010 and 2009.

It's too early to return a verdict on this year's changes. McCarthy, obviously, is optimistic that he and his players will be singing, "I Feel Good" while in "New York, New York" at season's end.

"I have all the confidence that we will do a better job being healthier," he said. "There's certain stress points in the camp, particularly how many days you practice in a row and what you do in those particular days. I'm confident it will help us be a healthier team, which gives you a chance to practice and gain the consistency and conformity that you want coming out of training camp."


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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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