Practice makes perfect? Let's hope not

Coach Mike McCarthy's training camp schedule makes little sense with such a young team, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

This is a training camp Thurston and Lovey Howell of "Gilligan's Island" fame could love. You know, a bunch of rich people doing nothing.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy last week announced he's changing up his training camp in order to get the Packers off to a stronger start. His solution for a team that hasn't been ready to play the last four seasons? Practicing less, of course.

The Packers started 1-4 in 2006, 0-4 in 2005, 1-4 in 2004 and 1-2 in 2003. Last year's team was the youngest in the NFL, which means this year's team will be one of the youngest, as well. Now, one would think an inexperienced team could use more work, but not McCarthy. Of the first 12 days of training camp, McCarthy is giving his players three days off and only three days of two-a-day practices.

"We need to start fast. It's been a problem here of late, particularly last year," McCarthy said. "Starting fast is very important, and we'll be fresh coming out of training camp especially with us playing at Tennessee on a Thursday night (in the final preseason game), so no excuses."

Well, there could be excuses. And plenty of blame falling on McCarthy if the Packers stumble through a five-game opening stretch of games against Philadelphia, the New York Giants, San Diego, Minnesota and Chicago.

McCarthy's team will enter the season with a completely new starting backfield, perhaps two new starters on the defensive line and perhaps a rookie starting at safety. At fullback, running back, defensive tackle and safety, there are wide-open competitions to be the starters. With all of those days off, that's a lot fewer reps to get everything figured out.

Maybe McCarthy has found a solution to a problem that's plagued this team since the Mike Sherman era. Let's hope so, because this team has developed a bad habit of starting each regular season like it's another round of minicamp.

Personally, I chalk it up to a lack of leadership among the players, with no Reggie Whites or LeRoy Butlers around to stress the importance of every game. Without a true locker room leader — and no, Brett Favre's not a leader — the players only get their collective butt in gear when it's apparent their season is slipping away in September and October.

Will McCarthy's practice schedule address that? Nope. Nor will it prevent the frequent breakdowns that plagued this for the first three months of last season.

Vince Lombardi would hate this practice schedule, which is fine. The NFL is a 12-months-a-year profession, and beating up your players with day after day of two-a-days is a sure way to wear out your team by midseason. Besides, today's players — especially without Cletidus Hunt around — don't need half of training camp just to get into shape.

Still, the old adage of practice making perfect remains true. If this team was filled with proven, veteran starters, then McCarthy's practice regimen would make sense. This team, however, is laden with young starters. They need as much practice as they can get.

If this team stumbles out of the gate again, there will be only one person to blame. McCarthy. It probably won't cost him his job, but it surely will put his butt a lot closer to the fire.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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