McCarthy surprises with full-pads practice
McCarthy had a surprise waiting for his players Monday when they returned from their six days off: an in-pads practice outside in seasonably cool mid-40s temperatures.
With a challenging schedule ahead during the second half of the season, McCarthy wanted to make it clear the NFL’s lone remaining unbeaten team can’t afford to rest on its first-half accomplishments, even if the Packers are viewed by many as the clear-cut best team in the league right now.
“It’s nice when people say nice things about your football team. It definitely beats the alternative,” McCarthy said after the team’s 90-minute practice. “But as we talked about as a team today, we’re getting ready to hit the halfway point in our season. We like where we are, but we’re really focused on getting better. We have more to offer as a football team.
“We feel strongly, with a lot of confidence, that if we go out week in and week out and play our best football that things will take care of itself. We’re just really focused on making sure that when Sunday rolls around, that we go out and give our best performance to get to 8-0.”
McCarthy chose to use this as the one week in which he is allowed to put his team in pads for practice twice, in accordance with the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association. During the regular season, coaches are allowed a total of 14 padded practices, and 11 of those sessions must be held in the first 11 weeks of the season.
“It sends a message to your ballclub, letting us know that ’vacation is over now. It’s time to get back to work,’” wide receiver James Jones said of the padded practice.
McCarthy said the practice focused on “fundamentals,” and that he had scheduled the team to be in pads on Monday before the season began. Still, it came as a surprise to his players, who weren’t aware of his plans until Monday morning’s team meeting.
“Everybody thought we were going to be in shells,” tight end Jermichael Finley admitted. “Then we heard that full pads, and it changed everybody’s mindset. No doubt (McCarthy) is trying to send a message. He didn’t want anybody coming in, being lazy, flat-footed. He put those pads on us ASAP and woke us up at the beginning of the week.
“Teams usually play slow coming off the bye. We don’t want to be in that category. We don’t want to start off slow. We got the extra day (of practice) in today and got the extra work in.”
While the Packers are riding a franchise-record 13-game winning streak (dating back to last season and including the playoffs) and are 11-4 in their last 15 post-bye games—including 4-1 under McCarthy—the schedule doesn’t get any easier.
San Diego will be the first team the Packers will face that owns a winning record entering the game. The Packers’ first seven opponent are currently a combined 20-32.
“It’s going to take all of us to go out there and put together a complete game, which we haven’t done all season,” Jones said.
“We know we left a lot of plays go out there (in the first seven games). A lot of penalties, a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of things that we know we have to clean up.”
-- The only three players who did not practice were linebacker Clay Matthews (quadriceps), left tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and defensive end Mike Neal (knee).
-- The team promoted rookie running back Brandon Saine from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to take the spot of running back Alex Green, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee suffered Oct. 23 at Minnesota.
Safety Anthony Levine and center/guard Paul Fenaroli were also added to practice squad, replacing Saine and Cam Newton’s older brother Cecil Newton, who was released.