Expectations high once again for Packers
The Green Bay Packers finished 15-1 last season, only to make a hasty exit from the playoffs.
As the players reported to Lambeau Field for the start of training camp Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy said he believes his team can be better this season - without having to duplicate last season's record.
After all, Green Bay won the Super Bowl two years ago after a 10-6 regular season.
The Packers' seventh-year coach even made an alteration to how he spent his summer vacation this year. He didn't leave town, as he was known to do in previous years when he would visit his oldest daughter in Texas.
''I've stayed in Green Bay the whole summer,'' McCarthy said. ''So this is probably the most prepared I've been for a training camp. I feel that way because I haven't left. It's been good. I've had quality time in my office in the early mornings, that it used to be down in Austin, Texas, in 100-degree weather. ... being here in Green Bay the whole summer, you could feel the excitement building.''
McCarthy is anxious as the Packers strive to make amends for what happened at the end of the 2011 season.
The New York Giants came to Lambeau Field on a frigid January night and stunned top-seeded Green Bay 37-20 in the division round on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
''It's the goal to be a better team this year, regardless of the record, and the goal is to win the Super Bowl,'' McCarthy said. ''I think everybody would be happy with 15-1 during the regular season, but as we all know, postseason is what counts.''
Some are predicting a return to NFL supremacy for Green Bay in the upcoming season with reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
''Our expectations are always the same,'' McCarthy said. ''No one's expectations of us can get any higher than our expectations of ourselves. I think we're OK there.''
The Packers have their first preseason practice on Thursday morning. With the rigors of two-a-days a distant memory because of the NFL's new labor agreement, Green Bay has just 20 practices and a team scrimmage Aug. 3 with four preseason games in the next month.
''The first 10 practices (before the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego) are the most important because you're in the installation phase,'' McCarthy said. ''Those are probably the new `dog days' of training camp, frankly. That's the toughest part.''
McCarthy indicated a few players who spent the offseason recovering from injuries weren't going to be ready to practice at the outset.
They include tight end Andrew Quarless and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, both of whom suffered severe leg injuries toward the end of last season.
For the players who are on the field, fundamentals will be one of the keys of this year's camp.
McCarthy has harped on poor tackling techniques as a reason why the Packers had the league's worst-ranked defense last season.
''We'll just do a more in-depth job of detailing the pursuit angles and all of the things that lead to putting yourself in the best position to tackle,'' McCarthy said. ''Our problem isn't tackling a guy to the ground. I'm sure that's something that people may be looking for.''
And protecting the football will be a daily point of emphasis in camp for the Packers' high-scoring offense, which bogged down in the upset loss to the Giants with four turnovers, including three fumbles.
McCarthy noted how last year's camp had energy and a feel of urgency because the rookie players were on the field with the team for the first time following the lengthy NFL lockout.
''I thought it was a key to us having an excellent training camp,'' McCarthy said.
Conversely, this year's newcomers, led by first-round linebacker Nick Perry, went through offseason workouts with the team.
''My concern, frankly, is this rookie class came in here (during the spring) and things were pretty, you know, the feel was `This ain't so hard. Pro ball isn't maybe what I thought it would be,''' McCarthy said. ''And that is something that will not be the case when we hit the field tomorrow. Complacency, relaxing, any type of comfort is really not the element you want to be any part of your training camp. And we'll make sure it doesn't exist.''