Continuity may make Pack immune to lockout fallout

Asked after the Green Bay Packers’ preseason victory over

Arizona if his team is progressing as expected, Mike McCarthy

didn’t really know what to say.

McCarthy doesn’t have any frame of reference for what a Super

Bowl-winning team is supposed to look like after the NFL lockout

erased team-organized workouts and instruction sessions. Nobody

else in the league knows, either.

”I have nothing to compare it to,” McCarthy said. ”I mean,

this is a different training camp for everybody in the league.

Would I like to be farther down the road in some areas? Absolutely.

But we’re here for a reason. So I think it’s important to stay in

tune with the reality of what your team looks like.”

The NFL’s disjointed offseason can’t be considered a plus for

anybody getting players ready for the regular season, but the

Packers seem better positioned than most teams to succeed.

First off, the Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh meant the

Packers practiced and played deeper into last season than any NFC

rivals. The Packers are relying on few rookies – and, in typical

fashion for general manager Ted Thompson, no major free agent

acquisitions – to take on significant roles early in the season.

And they have near-complete continuity in their coaching staff.

No, the Packers didn’t follow the lead of their Week 1

opponents, the New Orleans Saints, and hold teamwide

player-organized workouts in the offseason. McCarthy said he’s fine

with players working out on their own, and Packers players are

laughing off suggestions they should have held some sort of

makeshift minicamp.

”I’m not too worried because everybody’s kind of in the same

boat,” safety Charlie Peprah said. ”Yeah, the Saints got together

as a group, but talking to a few guys in the offseason that went to

those player-organized workouts, a lot of them didn’t really think

they got anything out of it, to be honest. They were like, ‘It was

kind of a waste of time.’ I feel we’re professionals, and we can

adapt to any situations. I think we’ll be fine.”

Aaron Rodgers seemed to think the only real value in

player-organized workouts was good public relations.

”Those glorified offseason workouts probably get too much press

at this point,” Rodgers said. ”I think we’re past that. It

doesn’t factor in anymore.”

Rodgers believes the Packers are in good position to fend off

the sense of complacency that might infect some Super Bowl

champions. Rodgers said players who are coming back from

season-ending injuries, such as tight end Jermichael Finley and

running back Ryan Grant, have enough hunger to help drive the team

forward after watching last season’s Super Bowl run from the

sidelines.

”I think it’s the attitude that they have coming back,”

Rodgers said.”A lot of them don’t feel like they contributed to

the Super Bowl run, and they want to be a part of something

special. They were a part of it, but not directly impacting every

play on the field. Although they mean a lot to our team and our

offense, obviously, but bringing back Ryan and bringing back

Jermichael, those guys are hungry to be difference-makers on a team

that can go deep in the playoffs.”

Still, the Packers have problems to solve.

Already thin on the defensive line after Cullen Jenkins signed

with Philadelphia as a free agent, Mike Neal (knee) and C.J. Wilson

(concussion) have missed time.

All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews’ hamstring is bothering him in

training camp again, but that certainly hasn’t held him back in the

past.

”We know what Clay can do,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers

said. ”It would be foolish to put him in there if it’s tight. One

thing about Clay, he practices hard and he knows (when he’s not

healthy). Those kind of guys, you want to make sure you don’t take

any chances.”

The Packers also are looking for an outside linebacker to start

opposite Matthews. Erik Walden and Brad Jones are in the mix but

another candidate, Frank Zombo, is out indefinitely with a broken

left shoulder blade. And after cutting veterans Nick Barnett and

Brandon Chillar before camp, the Packers appear to be thin at

inside linebacker behind starters A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop.

The biggest concern on offense is at left guard. First-round

pick Derek Sherrod got the first crack at the job despite playing

tackle at Mississippi State, but veteran T.J. Lang is expected to

claim it.

Rodgers said it will be difficult to replace Daryn Colledge, who

signed with Arizona as a free agent.

”It’s tough,” Rodgers said. ”You try and replace a guy who

started 80 games. Say what you want to say about Daryn and his

ability, he was a big impact for us on offense and a guy who you

could count on to be there every week. For whatever reason, they

decided to make a change and the job’s up for grabs. I’m very

confident in the four we’ve got coming back, and I’m confident that

one of the two or three guys that are working that left guard spot

are going to separate themselves by the time the season

starts.”

Beyond that, Rodgers has a wealth of options at running back and

wide receiver. And the reintroduction of Finley, who is pushing for

a new contract, should be a huge boost to the offense.

”I’ll say this: This is the beginning,” Finley said.

”Everybody will see as it progresses. You’ll see Week 1 how the

offense (does) against a great caliber defense.”

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