Leaders Embrace Super Chatter

Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews are focused on training camp but are excited about the possibilities for this season. "Our mission is to go get to the Super Bowl, win it and then we'll worry about trying to repeat," Woodson said.

Aaron Rodgers complained about the mosquitoes in the dorms at St. Norbert College.

"And the spiders," he said with a look of bemusement.

No doubt the Green Bay Packers' star quarterback will live with a few bugs now as a trade-off for a shower of confetti about six months from now at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said "this may be the best team" he's coached since his arrival in Green Bay and revealed that he talked Super Bowl with his players earlier in the day.

"That's the great part about it, I don't have to say anything this year," said cornerback Charles Woodson, who talked about the Packers' Super Bowl potential throughout last season. "Everybody else is saying it, so I'll just go out and play now."

Rodgers, Woodson and Clay Matthews III will have a large say in whether the Packers realize those dreams.

Rodgers is the Pro Bowl gunslinger who is coming off a brilliant second season as the starter. Despite horrendous pass protection for the first half of the season, he threw 30 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. At just 26 years old, there's room for improvement. The pass protection will be better with Mark Tauscher in place at right tackle for a full season. With Jermichael Finley ready to explode into a superstar, his talented pass-catching group will be better than ever.

"All 32 teams that go to training camp, they want to end up in Dallas," Rodgers said. "That's the goal. We realize it's a long road, a long journey to get there, there's a lot of things that can happen, that need to happen for us to be even in that position to talk about it. Right now, we're just focused on this training camp, trying to jell as an offense and finding ways to improve from last year."

Woodson is the playmaking sage of the Packers' defense. He intercepted 19 passes in his first three seasons in Green Bay, but that was nothing compared to last year, when Woodson put up an astounding nine interceptions along with four forced fumbles, two sacks and a career-high 81 tackles. Woodson was in fine form during Sunday night's practice, with two interceptions that showed his unparalleled ability to diagnose a play and his superior hands.

"There's only one winner at the end of the season, and for us to come up short, to make a pretty decent run I guess you'd say, is just not good enough," Woodson said. "So close, close doesn't get it. Everybody here is focused on one thing and anything else is really a failure. So our mission is to go get to the Super Bowl, win it and then we'll worry about trying to repeat."

The Rodgers-led offense is plenty good enough to win a Super Bowl. It's the defense that needs to improve. The Packers averaged 40.5 points in their last four games last year yet went just 2-2 — including the 51-45 playoff loss at Arizona in which Kurt Warner had more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four).

"Historically, if you look at the Super Bowl teams, they usually have one of two things: a defense and a quarterback, which we've got," the relentless Matthews said. "As a defense, we did well last year but obviously there's still some things to improve upon and there's a couple of lapses in our game. If we can sure up those and continue to do what we did last year now that we're a little more comfortable (in the scheme), I think the possibilities are endless."

The talk won't help the Packers win any games, obviously. Matthews quickly pointed out the Bears were a chic Super Bowl pick last year while nobody thought much of anything about the Saints.

Nonetheless, the Packers ended last regular season as the hottest team in the NFL. An almost unheard of 21 of 22 starters on offense and defense are back. The chemistry is great and the team is mature. So, it's little wonder that the key figures on this team are embracing the possibilities.

Not to mention smiling at the creepy-crawlies and other inconveniences of camp.

"It's a lot of fun," Rodgers said. "It's fun to be back in a groove with the guys and have us all together and be able to practice and meet and hang out in our off time. It's tough to stay in the dorms, but it's a lot of fun because there's a lot of team activities and good times getting to know your teammates a little better and just kind of picking up where you left off last year. It's exciting. We've got a good team and we're excited about our opportunities this season but we've got to take it one day at a time."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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