In order to get his team in the habit of playing a little earlier, Sherman scheduled practices for Wednesday through Friday of this week to begin at 11:40 a.m. Typically, the Packers have position meetings and walkthroughs prior to practice at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11:45 a.m. on Fridays in preparation for a Sunday game. This week, the schedule was flip-flopped with the meetings and walkthroughs following the practices.
Sherman met with the team prior to practice Wednesday and stressed what many of the veteran players know and younger players will soon find out: the tempo of a playoff game is much faster than a regular season game.
"We approach (the game) with the same magnitude but realize that we have to elevate our level," said wide receiver Antonio Freeman. "Our level of play definitely has to rise."
That doesn't mean that the Packers will run faster through each practice, but Sherman has made some subtle changes so his team remains focused on their mission to beat the 49ers. Like stretching before practice.
"This is a different season for us. They recognize that," Sherman said. "That's why I'm big into changing how we stretch today. We didn't stretch today like we normally do. You always try to create somewhat of a new culture so they know things have changed. Our times are different. You want to shock them into realizing that it's not just the 17th game of the season. This is different. That's why we stretch differently today. That's why we met at a different time. That's why the schedule is different because this is a different game.
"I think you have to change things up and be creative to make them realize that this is different. It is different. We're one of six teams that have a chance to be in the Super Bowl, and we're three games away. It starts with the 49ers this weekend."
Twenty-one players on the current Packers roster with with the 1998 playoff team that lost in the Wild Card round to the 49ers at 3Com Park. Only 15 remain from the 1996 Super Bowl Championship team.
"It's a different game," Freeman said about the playoffs. "It's the 21st or 22nd game of the season (including preseason). It's a long season. Sometimes as a young guy you hit the wall. We need those guys have to push one more month for us, give us one more hard month. Then they can hit the wall. It's up to the older guys to have a sense of urgency and make sure the younger guys understand what's at stake."