Coach Mike McCarthy thinks his Green Bay Packers have built a winning foundation this spring. His new offseason plan seems to be a success, and attendance is up over his previous two seasons as coach.
"Our numbers are clearly way ahead of what they were last year," McCarthy said after organized team activities ended on Thursday. "This is the vision of the offseason program that I had prior to coming here, so we feel good about that."
For years, the Packers held a minicamp shortly after the draft and another one later in the summer. The last couple of years, McCarthy held a minicamp after the draft, then started his voluntary OTAs. This year, McCarthy put his stamp on the offseason by starting with a rookie orientation camp, then OTAs, then progressing into a mandatory three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday.
It's an approach his players seem to like.
"I think it's going to make minicamp better," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We're not going to be doing a lot of installing things, because we've been doing that before minicamp. So, we're just going to be able to hit minicamp full stride, getting a lot of work done."
The approach of taking what is learned in the OTAs and applying it to the increased tempo of minicamp makes sense. While McCarthy said the minicamp would be used to clean up some things from the OTAs, linebacker A.J. Hawk hinted the minicamp would act as a crescendo to the team's offseason work.
"I think we're going to game plan a little against the offense and they're gong to game plan against us. It will be more of an in-season type of workout," said Hawk, who noted having five practices in three days would mimic the training camp schedule and test the players once they're fatigued.
When McCarthy began scheduling OTAs during his first season, 2006, attendance wasn't great. It was better last year, and this year, every key player spent at least two of the four weeks in Green Bay.
"Guys want to be here, they want to be accountable," Hawk said. "We have good guys on the team. Our front office does a good job of getting high-character guys who want to be here and want to compete. The guys enjoy being around each other and enjoying playing together."
Hawk said McCarthy's new schedule helped boost attendance, too, saying having the OTAs leading into a minicamp encourages players to stay in Green Bay.
"Talking to buddies in the league, guys will take off with two weeks to go (in OTAs) if they don't have a minicamp coming up," he said.
Pickett had a different reason for the improved attendance.
"Just talking to everybody on the team," he said, "we were so close to getting to our goal, it's like a taste in everyone's mouth that we want to get here, get better, straighten up the things we did bad last year and make a run at it."
Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com