What to look for in 2006 training camp

PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh lists five reasons why the 2006 Green Bay Packers training camp will worth attending. With new coach Mike McCarthy at the helm, a young team and the season opener against the Chicago Bears not far away, every practice counts for the Packers, Tevsh says.

The railbirds will soon flock to the chain-link fence that surrounds Clarke Hinkle Field to watch the Packers begin their serious preparation. The anticipation for another NFL season will build with each practice. Packers' training camp is better than any other and draws so much interest that the team even has a web site, www.packerstrainingcamp.com, solely devoted to the summer practices.

The action will officially begin on July 28 with a schedule of 31 practices and four pre-season games through Sept. 1. This year, though, Packers training camp will be even better to watch. Here are the reasons why:

1. A new coaching staff: With a majority of new coaches, most notably the head man Mike McCarthy, there are sure to be new wrinkles to practice. Former head coach Mike Sherman became less and less demanding of his players during training camp, but McCarthy will be sure to expect more. At least half of the practices scheduled will conducted in pads, an indication that more live contact will take place. Several new position coaches will run new drills and with a change in terminology on offense, look for the quarterbacks to spend plenty of time learning on the run, thereby forcing them to be sharper with their throws. McCarthy has already made his mark on training camp, all but doing away with two-a-day practices. Instead, he is instituting a 2-1-2-1 format which should keep players fresher and more alert.

2. Night practices: There is something about a night practice that can be unifying to a young team. It has a college-like feel to it that could be motivational. Players may feel as though they are putting in extra hours as others are completing their work day when the sun goes down. Furthermore, the players will no doubt appreciate working during a cooler part of the day than under the high, blazing summer sun. The late start should attract more local railbirds who otherwise may not be able to see practice because of a 9-to-5 job. After all, is it not all about the fans?

3. Hungry young players: The Packers' roster is one of the youngest in the league, thus many players will have much to prove to show they deserve an opportunity. An astounding 58 players on the training camp roster are either of first- or second-year designation which should add an overall energy to camp not seen in several years. As a result, that should provide for more excitement for onlookers who have become accustomed to more of a monotonous flow to practice over the past decade with many of the same veterans who have done it so many times before. There is more at stake this year.

4. Coming off the first losing season since 1991: For the veterans of the 2006 Packers, this camp will be the first they have ever experienced in Green Bay coming off a losing season. The Packers were 4-12 in 1991 before running off a string of 13 consecutive non-losing seasons. Mike Holmgren took over in 1992, and beginning with training camp that year, the culture of the organization changed dramatically. McCarthy can have that type of influence this training camp. He took more of an inconspicuous approach during the off-season camps, but will be expected to stand out more in the coming months. His approach to preparing his team will be interesting to watch and, in many ways, the highlight of training camp because so much is unknown about him. Veterans on the team also should be looking to rebound from and embarrassing season and become even more important as leaders.

5. The Bears are the first on the schedule: Can it really get any better for Packers' fans than opening the regular season on Sept. 10 at Lambeau Field against the division champion Chicago Bears? Absolutely not. The opener is the top game on the Packers' schedule for so many reasons, not the least of which is because it is the first. It is also historic being McCarthy's first game, potentially Favre's last opener, and oh, yeah, it is the Bears, who appear set for a run of winning seasons. With Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper out of Minnesota and the Bears recent success, Chicago is again becoming the primary rival in the NFC North. The only way the Packers will be able to topple them in Week 1 is with a great training camp and great preparation, something was lacking in recent years with poor starts to the regular season.

Matt Tevsh

Editor's note: Matt Tevsh is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.

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