As they stood in the lines I would look at all their mannerisms, trying to figure out whether they were ready for the opportunity that was waiting for them. Some looked like they were in a zone, preparing themselves to give the utmost effort. Others were acting like themselves, just hanging out with the boys preparing to play sandlot ball or something.
As I watched these guys my thought jumped to the Green Bay Packers and I started wondering if the are ready for what they are going to face this upcoming season. I know the Packers finished 8-8, but really, and I mean really, just how good were they? They ended strong but what does that mean? Did they improve? Yes, they did, but nobody really knows to what degree, do they?
From year to year the teams that you think might be good stink up the joint, and the teams you think won't be good because of their personnel win five games, then win the division the following season, like the New Orleans Saints did last year. All it takes is a key signing to take a team from the outhouse to the penthouse. Usually that signing isn't signing your own player, not that it's bad, but most of the time it's having a new face that helps teams turn the corner. By a new face it usually isn't a rookie in most cases. I know it happens, but if it does it's because they have to be the savior and have no choice in the matter, like when Vince Young was forced to be the man last season. Even Reggie Bush was surrounded with help, but even though Bush and Young had rare skills and delivered can the Packers count on this year's first pick to live up to these guys?
We can wonder who that will be, whether it's a running back, wide receiver or tight end, or even a safety, it doesn't matter. He will have to deliver. Talk about being under pressure! Because of the Packers' lack of movement in free agency, whoever this guy is will be expected to arrive right now. His learning curve just got shortened. Talk about being thrown into the fire!!!!!
As the schedule came out this past week I couldn't help but ask myself if Ted wished he had done things a little different when it came to free agency. This team of babies have just been thrown to the wolves. Like I said earlier, teams change from year to year. They lose players here and there which levels the playing field, but as I look at this team and this schedule I don't think the Packers got any favors.
OK, finally the Packers play Philly at home and maybe the tide will shift because over the past several years the outcomes have always seemed to be devastating for the Packers. Those losses seemed to have a lingering effect. It's like how it was when the Packers and Dallas used to face off. The losses were more than just losses for some reason. Then they have the Chargers, Vikings, Bears and Redskins. Talk about having to have your game face on from the start.
The Packers in the past have been notorious for coming out the gate rather slowly, but that can't happen with this schedule because five out of the first six games are against NFC opponents. Especially when you look at the tail end of the season having four out of six games on the road with one being against the Lions on Thanksgiving when we all know crazy things have happened in Detroit. Then having to play the next game against Dallas in Dallas. Before the Packers get to that showdown in the Motor City, they have to deal with coming out after the bye week and facing the Broncos and Chiefs on the road which, trust me, will be no easy task. These two places might just be the hardest places in the NFL for opposing teams to get a victory. The crowds are loud and understand the value of the 12th man. The they have to face the Vikings and Panthers after that.
As I see it, whoever they pick in the draft will have to be ready to contribute and will have to grow up very fast. Not only that but Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have been selling anyone and everyone that has listened that this team already has the players it needs, and all they need is an opportunity. They believe that this team has a solid foundation of young players that need to stay healthy and they will gain all the experience necessary to win at this level because right now these players are good enough, and that's why they didn't chase any free agents.
Mike McCarthy has his work cut out for him. This team has to hit it right in everything it does. It can't afford to miss on any draft pick. Everyone that the staff is planning on to be ready this year has to be ready. Also, let's hope for the Packers' sake that the injury bug doesn't hit them, because if they lose anyone, especially a playmaker, it will be a long season. For the sake of all the Packer fans I hope they are right, because this team MUST COME OUT THE GATE.
Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.