Pack talking about a Super season
If you ask linebacker Nick Barnett, the vocal leader of the defense, that’s the way he’s looking at the 2010 season. And just to show he’s serious, he’s selling the public a T-shirt that says just that, and he plans to hand them out to his teammates, too.
“I don’t know if we’re the favorites or anything like that,” Barnett said in reference to several preseason prognosticators picking them to win it all. “But I definitely think we have the talent to do it.
“That’s what we say, ‘Super Bowl or die.’ It doesn’t make any sense why we can’t. We’re dead serious about it. You never know how many chances you’ll get in your life.”
There’s no question the Packers are a talented team with the potential to advance in the playoffs. Their crushing overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the first round Jan. 10 stuck in their collective craw all off-season and the only remedy seemed to be the start of the 2010 season.
Now, it’s finally kickoff time: The training camp for what lies ahead. It’s the first time the players have been in pads since the 51-45 overtime thriller against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz.
“That was the hardest loss I’ve ever taken,” running back Ryan Grant said. “It was hard to be a part of that, especially knowing what you could do and then how it ended. Those first seven minutes didn’t represent who we were. How we played the rest of that game did.
“Pretty scary from a performance standpoint. We’re excited about what we can do this season—from the beginning.”
It is one thing for the players to enter the season in a Super Bowl frame of mind, but it’s another for a head coach to bring it up in the first team meeting. It’s not that McCarthy hasn’t talked about the Super Bowl being the ultimate goal before, but never in his previous four seasons was the team so highly regarded outside the building.
While a number of players said it was too early to talk about a game played six months from now, they understood why McCarthy addressed it and the expectations he and general manager Ted Thompson have for this team. Maybe they should embrace Barnett’s newest mantra.
“Our team is good, and we expect to be a contender,” second-year linebacker Brad Jones said. “We expect a lot of ourselves, knowing we have such a good team. I only think it’s right (for McCarthy) to talk about it. It gets guys excited. It’s a stamp of approval that, ‘We know our guys are good; we have a good organization. We can do some great things.’”
The confidence the players have in the talent around the locker room is so high that just about everyone is expecting a big season. Their expectations are matched and probably surpassed by Packers fans, who almost got a taste of the Super Bowl in 2007 and witnessed how dominating the team’s offense was late last season.
The year before the Packers went to the NFC Championship Game in ’07, the team won four straight to end the season. The Packers went on a similar run last year, raising the bar for what is to come this year.
“We feel like we’re a good team, absolutely,” Grant said. “Even though you can’t take everything from last year, momentum-wise you can take a few things. Record-wise, we were the best team in the NFL last year, second half of the season, 7-1. We felt like we were on a roll and hitting our peak performance in that playoff game.
“That’s what made it so hard (losing).”
The development of players such as tight end Jermichael Finley, nose tackle B.J. Raji, linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Morgan Burnett will probably play a big role in determining how far the Packers go. The Packers know what their veterans can do, and they did virtually nothing in free agency to bolster their ranks.
So they’re counting on the younger guys to elevate their play. Most of those players know what’s on the line this year because everyone is talking about it.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Finley said about Super Bowl talk. “If you’ve got the talent to go to the Super Bowl, why not embrace the moment and talk about it a little. At the same time, we’re not there. We still have work to do to get there.”
The one thing all the talk does produce is fodder for the opposition, who would be happy to offer Barnett and his crew the alternative to winning the Super Bowl. If anyone should be chuckling about the Packers’ lofty expectations, it is the rival Minnesota Vikings, who beat them twice last year and made it to the NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings are still the defending NFC North champions and the team the Packers must overcome if they’re to pave a way to the Super Bowl.
“It’s a long way to go to get to that point or even to put yourself in that position,” end Cullen Jenkins said. “We have to focus on getting better. We definitely have talent, but there are also a lot of other good teams out there who have done a lot of good stuff.
“We know we’re high on people’s radar, so it’s going to be up to us to back it up. Now a lot of teams are going to be gunning for us.”
Let the fun begin.