Packers, Vikes Differ on Team-Building Paths

Second-year Vikings coach Mike Zimmer couldn't find time to take his team on a team-building event. Packers coach Mike McCarthy, on the other hand, gave his team a fun day on Wednesday and excused the veterans on Thursday.

Photo by Benny Sieu/USA TODAY

Rather than practicing on Wednesday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy took the team skeet-shooting.

These kind of team-building events are practically a minicamp tradition under McCarthy.

So, too, are the pot shots from the Packers’ division rivals.

Talking to reporters at the completion of Minnesota’s minicamp on Thursday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said: “The thing that I like about this team, not only do they work, but they have fun out there. I talked to them about we can have team-building day and we can go play ping-pong and stuff like that. We need to work and we need to get better. Team build by winning.”

McCarthy, with his dominance of the NFC North in his rear-view mirror and a nice vacation to look forward to with the team’s final offseason practice in the books, used humor as part of his rebuttal rather than getting into a war of words with the coach of an up-and-coming team. And it wasn’t like Zimmer was being critical of Green Bay’s approach. He’s in Year 2 of his program while McCarthy is in Year 10. The Packers have built a winner; Zimmer is trying to get there.

“It doesn’t bug me. That’s your opinion,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think a football team would get better at team-building playing ping-pong. I agree with that. I mean, hell, only four guys can play. Football players, maybe only two. Hey, everybody goes about building their program and culturally doing things. Our program, we’re in Year 10, so we’ve had a chance to do some things that we feel worked, and we’ve done some things that we wouldn’t do again. I think that’s part of growing your culture and growing your program.”

In 2012, then-Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw a verbal jab at McCarthy after another skeet-shooting event.

“We had no sporting clays today or no amusement parks or water parks. Work day of minicamp,” Schwartz said. “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, and we have very few opportunities to practice this offseason. Ten OTAs, one minicamp and every one was crucial and couldn’t afford to waste any of them. And that’s our point as a team.”

Not only did the Packers not practice on Wednesday, but players with seven-plus years of experience didn’t practice on Thursday. That meant no Aaron Rodgers, Mason Crosby, John Kuhn, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Brett Goode, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, Jordy Nelson, B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion. For those players in attendance, they also got a bit of a reprieve with a 20-minute jog-through of plays eliminated from the end of practice.

"They were here for meetings and strength and conditioning aspect of it," McCarthy said of the veterans. "It was two-fold. A, I felt like we got the work out of that particular group that we needed and to give the young guys as many reps as we possibly could today. That’s why we went a bunch of different situations and things like that. Today was really to highlight the younger players."

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