Are you ready for some football? The Green Bay Packers are definitely ready for their Monday night preseason party against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field.
"It's going to be great," said Conrad Bolston, one of the defensive tackles hoping to take advantage of injuries to some front-line players. "Preseason games are always fun, especially after seeing the same faces all the time. You get to go out on the field and hit people that you don't care about because you're not going to see them the next day."
Here's what they were saying in the locker room in the days leading to Monday's game.
Nowhere to run, but plenty to hide
Coach Mike McCarthy has entrusted the success or failure of this year's team to the defense. With a number of players entering the primes of their careers, this unit should be ready to join the league's elite.
Based on practice, the defense will be much more aggressive than in Bob Sanders' first two years as coordinator. That probably won't be evident on Monday, though. Why give away schemes 27 days before the first regular-season game?
"You probably won't see too much of it during the preseason, but we've got some packages together that, once this thing finally gets going, we'll have some weapons in our artillery," middle linebacker Nick Barnett said. "It depends on when we'll pull them out. I look forward to it."
Barnett seemed ready to play on Saturday. On one play, he tipped a pass while about 15 yards deep in coverage. Later, he broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage, and was furious he didn't come up with the interception.
"I'll tell you what: You get a lot more motivated to hit somebody else after you've hit the same guys over and over and over," Barnett said. "So, it's definitely exciting that we'll finally get to hit somebody else and get under the lights. It'll be fun."
The Packers' top two draft picks, receiver Jordy Nelson and quarterback Brian Brohm, got their first taste of Lambeau Field during last week's Family Night Scrimmage. Monday night will be the next progression in their Packers careers.
"I'll be really excited," Brohm said. "That's one thing for me is I try to stay calm. That first preseason game, I'm sure we'll be pretty excited. I'll probably have to calm down."
Nelson and Brohm certainly would like to have standout performances, but both are keeping the focus on simpler goals.
"Just go out there and play," Nelson said. "Obviously, everyone's going to want to go out there and make plays and do the best you can. Hopefully, be assignment-sound and don't make any mistakes, and make the plays when you get the opportunity. Don't try to force anything."
Brohm also was taking a playbook-based approach.
"Just to go out there and execute what we've done in practice," he said. "The execution part of it is the biggest part. Go through the mechanics, go through the protection checks, get us into the right calls in the run game. Those are the things that I'm looking for when I go out there. If I go out there and make the right call and do everything the right way, then I'll watch the film the next day and be happy.
Monday's game doesn't count, and it's not as if Nelson is fighting for a roster spot. Nevertheless, he admits he'll feel a few butterflies fluttering around his stomach as he plays in front of 70,000-plus fans.
"I think I will. I think I'd be crazy to say no," Nelson said. "Family Night helped out a lot, being out on the field and seeing it full like that. ... It's our first opportunity to go on the field and play some NFL games. Hopefully, we can go out there and play well."
Daryn Colledge has 28 starts in his first two regular seasons. But, he's in a fight to retain his job at left guard with feisty Allen Barbre, who barely played as a rookie. Neither player has taken control of the position, so these preseason games are especially important.
"I've just got to keep progressing," the studious Colledge said. "I've got to go out and compete against Cincinnati and show some nasty and show that I've improved every single time and show them what a third-year offensive lineman should look like. It takes a while for an offensive lineman to develop, but I'm in my third year, and I better be the offensive lineman that I hope to be by now, or they're going to be looking in a different direction."
Colledge played left tackle at Boise State, and that versatility is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because it makes him so valuable. It's a curse in that he hasn't been able to focus on the position because he's needed to take so many reps at left tackle during standout starter Chad Clifton's days off.
"I'd love to go out and dominate, but we've got a lot of starters that are not going to be taking a lot of reps, we've got a couple starters out, we've got guys that are in competition that aren't going to make it," Colledge said. "It's always different in the preseason. Not everybody's going to get a ton of reps, (but) I'm probably going to get more reps than I really want. But, when Minnesota rolls around and the starting lineup's announcement, after the smoke clears and we can go, you're the starting guy or you're not, you're in the mix or you're not."