GREEN BAY, Wis. – Coach Mike McCarthy burst through the door of the Packers media room Thursday like a fullback bulldozing through the line of scrimmage, eager to get training camp started in Green Bay.
The 8th-year head coach is making a few tweaks this summer after back-to-back, second-round playoff losses – which for the perennial Super Bowl contender counts as a big disappointment.
“Our goal never changes. It’s always the same,” McCarthy said. “We have a theme, and it’s obviously an illustration of how I see this football team and the path that we’re going to take.”
First, it’s up bright and early this morning for a first day of practice that starts at 8:20. The earlier start is typical for the regular season, but not as much for camp.
“One of the strengths, I’ve always felt, particularly when you’re dealing with group dynamics, is get ’em up early. Get your heavy lifting done in the morning. And so we were always doing that in-season,” McCarthy said.
The Packers finished 11-5 last season after overcoming a 2-3 start. They beat the Vikings in the playoffs before falling to the 49ers.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receivers filled up the highlight reels, but a subpar running game was one of the Packers’ biggest problems after finishing 11th in the NFC in rushing (106.4 yards per game). General manager Ted Thompson replenished the backfield in the draft with Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and James Starks are also back.
“Big letters – that’s adamant, OK? Hey, we need to run the ball better. That’s fact of the matter,” McCarthy said.
It helps to have a premier quarterback in Rodgers and a receiving corps led by Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones that seems strong enough to withstand the departure of Greg Jennings and retirement of Donald Driver.
The opening day for the veterans was all about player testing, introductory meetings and getting settled in.