McCarthy Puts Football Family First

Even with a big game looming on Sunday, the Packers had a short workday on Thursday to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Turkey and family, not football and Sunday’s showdown, are what was on Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s mind.

That’s why, even with a huge game looming against the New England Patriots, McCarthy had his team out of its Lambeau Field facilities by about 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

“I think being in the NFL over time, things change,” McCarthy said. “I think priorities get adjusted back to where they should be. I’ve been on both spectrums of how important it is, particularly on days like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve just always felt when you open up the first day in training camp, you talk about philosophy and you talk about the structure and you talk about the culture you want to create, and then you have one of your principles being ‘family first,’ Frankly, to tell your football team that ‘family first’ is a priority and then we’re going to work all day on Thanksgiving, I think that’s obviously a contradiction.”

The team started its workday about an hour early on Thursday, with the usual 11:45 a.m. practice moved up to 10:30. Afternoon meetings were canceled, with those to be made up on Friday.

“With proper time management, trust me, our team will be prepared and we’re detailed and we’re ready to go,” McCarthy said.

The approach is greatly appreciated by the players. Rob Davis helps to ensure that all of the players have a “family” to spend the holiday with. Running back Eddie Lacy said on Wednesday that he’d be spending Thanksgiving with one of the coaches. Cornerback Davon House is hosting a number of his teammates, with House and his wife supplying the turkey and the guests bringing sides.

“Especially with this being such a small city and very few family members out here, we take each other under each other’s wings,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “I know A.J. (Hawk) and his wife have been very gracious when I first got here, and same goes for the rookies coming in nowadays. It’s real fun to get together on these Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because it’s just another reason for us all to get together and spend some time outside of football.”

Added receiver Jordy Nelson: “I remember when we played on Christmas, he let us stay at home on Christmas Eve instead of at the hotel so we could wake up with our families. It’s good. We still came in today – we came in an hour earlier, so we had to sacrifice a little bit there in order to get home earlier. He truly means what he says, and you appreciate that.”

Hawk said there’s plenty to be thankful for.

“It means a lot, especially now that I have my own kids and my own family,” he said. “I think we all have tons of stuff to be thankful for. We’re born in America. We all won the lottery. Hopefully, it gives everybody a day to look back and reflect a little bit of how lucky we are, especially if you’re lucky enough to play pro football. You shouldn’t have any complaints.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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