Champion Packers can be even better

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Brian Carriveau
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Green Bay Packers just reached the pinnacle of their sport.

It’s difficult to improve upon winning the Super Bowl, right?

As hard as it might be to believe just days after winning the Lombardi Trophy, the Packers are going to be an even better team next season.

Some players may leave, some injuries may occur next season, just like they did this past season, but all the key pieces are back. Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Greg Jennings and many more players are under contract in 2011 and will begin the quest for back-to-back titles.

Coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t given much consideration to the off-season yet, and no one can blame him. It’s only appropriate he takes the necessary time to bask in the glory of Green Bay’s 13th world championship.

“Really haven’t given much thought to the off-season yet,” said McCarthy. “That’s something we’ll do when we get back.

“That’s normal operating procedure for us after a season concludes. But you just have to trust your preparation. The coaches get to go watch the film first, put the game plan together.”

Once McCarthy gets around to planning for next season and beyond, the organization will have some difficult decisions to make regarding personnel.

Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins is the highest-profile free agent the Packers risk losing, but he’s far from the only one. Guys like Daryn Colledge, Brandon Jackson and Mason Crosby, among others—all of whom played significant roles during this Super Bowl season—are scheduled to become free agents when their contracts expire a little less than a month from now.

Of course, the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be critical in how the off-season plays out, but things will go back to normal eventually.

Even if the Packers lose a couple players from this year’s team, they’ll still be in good shape in 2011 and beyond.

With 15 players coming off injured reserve, it’s almost as if the Packers are reloading. They’ll have the services of Jermichael Finley, one of the best tight ends in the league. They’ll get back running back Ryan Grant to rejuvenate the ground game. And they’ll welcome back a host of others, too.

Some teams with aging veterans have a window of opportunity that’s only open a short period of time. The Packers are not that type of team. McCarthy recognizes that and is looking forward to what the future holds.

“It’s going to be exciting,” said McCarthy. “On paper, it’s a lot like this year.

“Coming out of training camp, it was the best football team that I’d stood in front of,’’ he said. “I knew we had an excellent opportunity to win the Super Bowl, and definitely, you look at our returning roster next year, it’s going to be the same type of situation.

“I’ll be very excited to coach these guys. It’s a great core group. Our locker room is better than it’s ever been.

“Winning definitely helps it, no doubt about it. Definitely I’ll be very excited just like the rest of the coaching staff to get started when it comes around.”

Not even acknowledged yet is the talent the Packers will add through the upcoming draft. General manager Ted Thompson has done a fantastic job adding depth in April, and this year should be no exception.

Combine all these factors together, and there’s no reason the Packers shouldn’t be even better in 2011. Expect an improvement upon their 10-6 regular-season record, a greater ability to win close games and the right to host playoff games at Lambeau Field.

Several odds-makers already have made the Packers the favorite to be Super Bowl champs next season at 7-1, a test that McCarthy embraces.

“To me, our tradition and history and our ability to repeat, that’s exciting to us,” said McCarthy. “That’s the next challenge.”

Last updated: 4:22 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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