McCarthy still evolving heading into ninth year as Packers coach

Mike McCarthy has made some changes to the Packers' practice schedule during training camp.

Charles Rex Arbogast/Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated

GREEN BAY, Wis. —  As Mike McCarthy gets set to begin his ninth season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, he’s not settling on what he’s done in the past.

Yes, the Packers have had success under McCarthy, winning one Super Bowl and four NFC North titles. But after exiting the playoffs early the last three seasons, McCarthy isn’t letting his tenure get in the way of evolving as a coach.

"I feel like I can improve, and I think when you stop feeling that way then I think you’re lying to yourself," McCarthy said at his press conference to start training camp.

Only three current NFL coaches have held their post longer than McCarthy: Bill Belichick in New England, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati and Tom Coughlin with the New York Giants. At age 50, though, McCarthy plans to remain with Green Bay for a lot longer.

"I love what I’m doing," McCarthy said. "I love where I work and I even love more the people I work with. But we all understand what this business is about. It’s about winning. That’s what I’m focused on.  I had a great summer; got a little too much sun. But I feel I’m ready to go."

Earlier this offseason, McCarthy stated that he was at "halftime" of his coaching career. He dismissed that previous thought a bit Friday, saying, "I have no idea. I mean, who knows?" However, McCarthy is in it for the long haul with the Packers.

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McCarthy isn’t done evolving, either. After doing offseason analysis, McCarthy has made a few changes to the team’s scheduling. Rather than practicing two days before a game and then giving the players 48 hours off like he has in the past, McCarthy is not holding a practice two days before a game but is having a practice the day before kickoff. He described it as a "philosophical change," which is a first for McCarthy as it relates to scheduling.

"We really haven’t started the way we’ve wanted to the last two years," McCarthy said. "I think we have to be extremely conscious of that."

Green Bay has started each of the past two seasons with a 1-2 record before beginning to pile up wins.

Not that McCarthy doesn’t often have a similar sentiment about his team before each year, but he’s confident that the Packers shouldn’t start slow again this season.

"We really like our roster," McCarthy said. "I think it’s a group that we can do some special things."

It will take a while before McCarthy can feel really good about his positive statement. With training camp beginning this weekend, Green Bay won’t have its first padded practice until July 28. Then it will take some time to evaluate the 89 players currently on the Packers roster.

"There’s always a point, and frankly, I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous about it," McCarthy said. "You got 21 practices. You look at the numbers from when we started here, 35 (practices) to 29 now down to 21.

"There are always points in training camp, and it usually comes after that second week, once they’ve been stressed a little bit and you get up there around that Family Night timeframe. You usually have a pretty good indication. Like every level of football, until the new players get out there and play under the lights in Tennessee (the first preseason game), you don’t really ever know until then."

McCarthy knows what he’ll get from players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson if all three are healthy. But with rookies like safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and wide receiver Davante Adams, plus several young players at key positions who are returning from injury such as cornerback Casey Hayward, running back DuJuan Harris and right tackle Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay’s roster will be filled with plenty of question marks for McCarthy to figure out.

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