For Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, this is one of the most challenging times of the year.
Two roster cuts, one practice and one preseason game in a five-day stretch mean a lot of difficult decisions for McCarthy and the rest of the football staff.
“This is a very difficult game to play with the 75 cut the Tuesday before the game, and that’s why it takes so long,” McCarthy said before Tuesday’s practice and about four hours before the first roster cut to 75 players. “I can’t tell you how many different conversations we’ve had. That’s why things are still moving, and that’s why you really want to be prepared if, unfortunately, something happens at today’s practice. The fact of the matter is there’s more than 75 players that we would like to line up and play on Thursday, and that’s our challenge to get down to 75. This is tough. These seven days, Sunday to Sunday, is the hardest part for everybody – personnel department, coaching staff and myself.”
It’s not just the roster decisions that must be made. McCarthy also has to figure out who plays in Thursday night’s preseason finale against New Orleans. Normally, those decisions are fairly easy. For instance, quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played a snap in the final preseason game since throwing two passes in 2012. However, Rodgers didn’t play in Saturday night’s third preseason game. That game is typically Rodgers’ heaviest workload. So will McCarthy want to give the No. 1 offense at least some playing time against the Saints? Or will he take the conservative route and hope that the full body of work this summer – including an extensive first quarter of work in the opener against New England — will be enough to get that unit ready?
McCarthy said playing time wouldn’t be discussed until a meeting with his staff on Wednesday. However, Tuesday’s practice shed ample light on what he’s thinking. Rodgers got a lot of action — albeit all running the scout team. It appears the entire No. 1 offense will not play vs. the Saints.
With Rodgers’ lack of playing time in the games, injuries sidelining three (and then four) starting offensive linemen on Saturday and Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL, it’s fair to wonder if the team will be positioned to start the season fast – which was McCarthy’s stated goal after opening 1-2 in 2014, 1-2 in 2013 and 2-3 in 2012.
“You’d obviously like to build momentum through the installation phase and the preseason phase as you go into the regular season,” McCarthy said. “But, nah, I’m not concerned about it. The fact that you came through some things you can’t control and you just keep working and keep working through different variables and setting a plan and we’ll have a good plan come Monday.”
McCarthy said he didn’t have “any” injury updates, including on Randall Cobb. McCarthy only said Cobb is “doing good” and “making progress.” Cobb said he was optimistic about playing in the Week 1 game at Chicago. … McCarthy wouldn’t even touch a question about concerns that his starting offensive line would be ready for the Week 1 game at Chicago. Starters T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and David Bakhtiari didn’t play on Saturday and Bryan Bulaga was injured in the first quarter. All but Lang, however, practiced on Tuesday. ... Rajion Neal was the No. 1 kickoff returner with Ty Montgomery sidelined. ... Clay Matthews worked with the scout kickoff team. ... Matthews worked with Sam Barrington along with Jake Ryan, Joe Thomas and Carl Bradford in a mix-and-match at inside linebacker. ... Cornerback Damarious Randall made a leaping, one-handed interception against Rodgers, though the defense was offside. ... Rodgers made two brilliant touchdown throws. On one, he spun away from pressure and hit tight end Harold Spears against tight coverage by Ryan. On the other, he lobbed a pass over Bradford to Richard Rodgers. ... Camp ended with applause from the fans who sweated through practice and the players exchanging high-fives as they walked along the bleachers.
Old injuries: WR Randall Cobb (shoulder), DB Micah Hyde (neck), CB Demetri Goodson (unknown), G T.J. Lang (concussion), DE Datone Jones (knee).
New injuries: WR Ty Montgomery (hamstring).
Montgomery tried to practice — he made it to the practice field with his football pants on — but was denied by the training staff. He said he was dealing with a hamstring issue before Saturday’s preseason game but played anyway.
Returned: RB Alonzo Harris (hand), LT David Bakhtiari (knee), G Josh Sitton (ankle), OT Bryan Bulaga (ankle), WR Jared Abbrederis (concussion).
Sitton said he could have played against the Eagles had it been a regular-season game. Harris is wearing an enormous cast to protect what must be a broken hand.
McCARTHY SAID …
On how much chemistry factors in who makes the final roster: “It all factors. Being a good teammate is important. Some teams may weigh that differently, I don’t know, but it’s important here. History will teach you these kinds of lessons. You don’t want to go through a whole spring with a player, then go through a whole training camp with a player, and then he makes the team, and then you see a different guy on that first Monday in Week 1. That’s bothersome. It may have happened in the past. Those are the kind of things you look for when it comes down to the dynamics of your locker room.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.