Coming off a devastating loss in the NFC Championship Game, the Green Bay Packers have been installed as the favorites to win Super Bowl 50, according to bookmakers such as Bovada.
That’s nice, coach Mike McCarthy said during Wednesday’s training camp-opening news conference, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to treat his team any differently than if it was pegged to go 8-8.
“If I did treat it any different, I would just be one super-hypocrite,” McCarthy said. “It’s something that I know I’ve talked about since the first day in front of the team. The vision’s clear, we have a plan, we’ll work that plan, our players believe in that plan. I love the leadership of our veterans. I feel strongly that this group can be the strongest group of leaders that we’ve had in our locker room as far as the number of them — even some of our young guys who are stepping up in Year 3 and Year 4 and so forth. So that’s what you start with. That’s what you buy into. That’s what you push. I know we kid around about your articles and so forth, that’s all great. That’s nice that people like your team and think you’re going to win the Super Bowl. Hell, I agree with them. I think we’re going to win it, too. If I don’t believe that, then someone else would be standing up here.”
It’s little wonder why the Packers are held in such high regard. Two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback and, with the re-signing of Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga, he’s surrounded by the same players that helped Green Bay lead the NFL in scoring. The only big free-agent loss was cornerback Tramon Williams.
The question is, will the loss to Seattle linger and result in a fourth consecutive slow start to the season? Only time will tell, but McCarthy said he won’t use that loss as a motivator and won’t deviate from his fundamentals-based focus.
“I really don’t operate that way and never have,” he said. “I think it’s clear. I think when you set goals, you put it right out there. We’re about winning the world championship here. That’s never changed. Never will (change). Don’t need to sit here and be part of predictions and all that other nonsense. We understand the opportunity that we’re given here and everything we do applies to pushing us towards that goal. Last year really doesn’t count for anything. ...
“But you have to go back to camp and start over again. Just because you tackled last year doesn’t mean you’re going to tackle this year. Just because you broke tackles last year doesn’t mean you’re going to break them this year. You’ve got to work at it, and we will never get far away from the fundamentals.”
Last season was last season. This season begins Thursday morning at Ray Nitschke Field, with the focus on the season-opening game at Chicago in about six-and-a-half weeks.
“I'm confident that through the grinds of training camp that we'll formulate an excellent football team,” McCarthy said.
”Disappointed” in Quarless: It wasn’t the best of offseasons for the Packers with the arrests of Letroy Guion (three-game suspension), Datone Jones (one-game suspension) and Andrew Quarless (possible suspension pending).
“We had a long conversation after his incident down there in Florida,” McCarthy said of Quarless. “It’s in the legal process right now. So, he made a mistake. Frankly, I’m disappointed. He’s disappointed. But all of our players know that our program is about protecting the brand, the tradition and the history of the Green Bay Packers. Those were the first things that came out of his mouth in the phone call. He made a mistake, so we’re working through it.”
Medical “update”: The update is ... there is no update, because McCarthy wasn’t going to get a medical briefing until late in the afternoon. McCarthy said conditioning tests were being held as he spoke and physicals were conducted earlier in the morning. Among the key players who missed all or most of the offseason were cornerback Casey Hayward, outside linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry and receiver Jordy Nelson.
Ask specifically about cornerback Hayward, who sat almost all of the offseason work because of an injured ankle, McCarthy said: “All indications are he looks good, but I don't have anything official.”
“Hit it and get it”: McCarthy said he wasn’t going to share the theme to the season until later in the week. With Wednesday dedicated to physicals and physical testing, administrative duties and a league meeting, McCarthy said the focus for the rest of the day would be football in anticipation of Thursday’s practice.
Camp schedule: The team will practice at 8:20 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The team will have its first padded practice on Saturday. Sunday will be the first day off of camp.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.