Packers Getting Head-Start to Seattle

Packers coach Mike McCarthy will take his team to Seattle a day early for Sunday's NFC title game. A new schedule and an improved team he hopes will make the difference. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY)

The Packers will get a head start out West to prepare for the NFC title game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Green Bay plans to leave for Seattle on Friday, one day ahead of when the team would usually fly out for Sunday road games.

This is no ordinary road game. The winner goes to the Super Bowl.

Coach Mike McCarthy is hoping this trip to CenturyLink Field has a different outcome than the previous one in September — a 36-16 loss in the league opener to the Seahawks.

"You learn from past experiences," McCarthy said Monday. "We evaluate every schedule, every practice. We're always looking to try to get better."

Just like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom McCarthy said felt well a day after the 26-21 win over Dallas that clinched the Packers' first trip to the NFC championship game since their most recent run to the Super Bowl title after the 2010 season.

Dealing with a lingering left calf injury, Rodgers once again proved Sunday that he's better than most healthy quarterbacks in the league even if he's less than 100 percent. He finished 24 of 35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Rodgers said the calf felt better as the game progressed. A practice plan for Rodgers will be determined on Wednesday.

"I think he feels better at this time this week than he did last week," McCarthy said.

For as good as Rodgers was against the Cowboys with limited mobility, the Packers may need him to be even better against Seattle's rugged defense on the road.

Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 189 yards with a touchdown and interception in the opener against Seattle. Back then, the Packers offense was still trying to find its rhythm. Eddie Lacy got knocked out of that game with a concussion.

Things have changed dramatically. The offensive line has played well all season. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are one of the top receiving tandems in the league, and Lacy has gotten stronger in December and January.

And now, rookies Davante Adams and Richard Rodgers have proven they can produce in the postseason after good games against Dallas. Fullback John Kuhn and tight end Andrew Quarless have also emerged late in the season to help diversify the attack.

"You know, this team from Week 1 has grown a lot, so we're definitely looking forward to it," said Quarless, who had four catches for 31 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. "Just to see the growth and resilience of this team throughout the postseason is a positive."

The tweaks that McCarthy made to the training schedule and conditioning program have also paid off. Not counting Rodgers' lingering injury, the Packers for the most part haven't been hit by long-term or season-ending injuries to key players that seemed to slow them down in recent years.

The move to fly out on Friday fits the pattern of McCarthy trying new things to give his team an edge. The practice schedule will be normal otherwise, given that Friday is usually a day off the field. The team will then run through a practice on Saturday in Washington.

"Just the fact that we're trying to get better at everything we're doing," McCarthy said.

Find Genaro C. Armas on Twitter at twitter.com/GArmasAP.


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