GREEN BAY, Wis. — As Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy looked at his team’s long list of injuries, many of which are to key players, he knew he needed the right message to share with the rest of the locker room this week. A message that keeps his 43 healthy players focused amidst the absences that are headlined by star outside linebacker Clay Matthews and top receiver Randall Cobb.
McCarthy wasn’t a history major in college, but he was familiar with the old “Keep Calm and Carry On” motto and thought it fit perfectly for the Packers.
“You historians probably appreciate that,” McCarthy said at his Wednesday press conference. “In 1939 (it was) issued by the British government right before World War II in anticipation of the bombing of the major cities. So, that’s what we’re talking about.”
McCarthy sounded a bit rehearsed with his historical callback, though that’s with good reason.
“I practiced it all night,” McCarthy said.
That piece of propaganda has become a popular poster since its original inception and is one that McCarthy’s wife, Jessica, had at their house.
“She has an appreciation for the arts and history,” McCarthy said. “She just told me, ‘Don’t damage the frame.'”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers smiled as he found out that McCarthy had alerted reporters about the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phrase for the week.
“He loves telling you guys his slogans,” Rodgers said. “He showed us that sign that’s in his house. It’s a good message, very good message. Don’t panic. I said it last year before the Houston game, I don’t care what’s going on outside the facility; inside the facility we have to stay focused on the things that we can control.”
McCarthy had football administration coordinator Matt Klein hold the poster as the team was given the speech.
“I think it’s great,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “I think great coaches find ways to motivate your team, and Coach is always finding creative ways for that. When you see a guy like him hold that thing up too, I think we all know how fiery he is and how he doesn’t seem like he wants to be calm very often. So we respect that and we love it.
“I love all of his messages. I eat those things up, man. I love it. It’s true, too. And also I think it has a little undertone of ‘Just don’t ever panic.’ This league is crazy. Things happen week in and week out. You can’t ever panic. You’ve just got to keep doing your thing.”
If the Packers are determined to keep doing their thing, they’ll have to do it without Matthews (thumb surgery) for several more weeks and without Cobb (fractured fibula) for at least eight weeks.
Green Bay will also miss outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot) for a couple weeks. Even the Packers’ other contributing outside linebacker, Mike Neal, missed Wednesday’s practice with a bruised shoulder and probably won’t practice Thursday, either. If Neal misses Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay would have just two healthy outside linebackers: undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba and sixth-round pick Nate Palmer.
“It was not a lot of fun, so something we had to adjust,” McCarthy said of being down to only Mulumba and Palmer. “It’s been a busy 48 hours. Clearly, I know in my time in the league, just as far as the number of people, as far as the roster moves that we’ve had to go through the last two days, it’s a lot of adjustment, a lot of planning for different scenarios and things like that.
“Obviously, personnel groups on both sides of the ball are stressed, and we feel like we have a good plan and we’ll be ready to go.”
Apparently McCarthy is simply keeping calm and carrying on.
Wide receiver James Jones, who injured his knee Sunday in the win at Baltimore, didn’t practice Wednesday. If Jones is out, the Packers’ only healthy starting receiver would be Jordy Nelson, leaving 2012 undrafted receiver Jarrett Boykin and 2013 undrafted receiver Myles White — who was just called up from the practice squad Tuesday — to play significant roles.
“Hopefully Friday will be the day that we’ll find out about James,” McCarthy said. “He’s very positive about where he is, how he feels, but I think he’s gearing up for a possible test in his rehab schedule.”
Running back James Starks — who rushed for 132 yards in Week 2 — has been ruled out for the third straight game with a knee injury. Tight end Ryan Taylor underwent knee surgery Wednesday and will be out a couple weeks.
Starting inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) hasn’t been ruled out for the Cleveland game yet, but he missed last week’s game and didn’t practice Wednesday.
“Brad is getting better,” McCarthy said. “They feel like he made a step in his rehab. As far as his availability, I don’t have a real feel for that yet.”
With all of those injuries to think about, McCarthy certainly found the right message for Green Bay this week. And, at least for now, it’s got the Packers believing.
“Just keep calm,” rookie running back Eddie Lacy said. “A lot of things happen throughout the course of the season, but you can’t let that affect you. You can’t think on it too much. You just have to keep going.”