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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s goal crystal clear: Super Bowl 51 in Houston
Mike McCarthy ushered in the 2016 Packers’ training camp Monday with a straightforward, energetic 20-minute news conference that conveyed both confidence and excitement.
“Well, good morning everyone,” McCarthy said. “What tremendous energy in the building. I’m excited about what we’ve accomplished in the offseason. I’m ready to kick it off.”
McCarthy, who is entering his 11th season as the Packers’ head coach, addressed a variety of topics:
Packers using PED?
The NFL is going to interview Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews regarding an Al-Jazeera America report tying the Packers to PED use.
“I have no reason to be concerned based on the conversations that I’ve had,” he said.
I suspect the NFL intends to question Peppers and Matthews, write down their comments and have them sign it. So long as everything they say is truthful it should be the end of it.
McCarthy was asked about potential differences in his practice regimen. He said it was dictated by the league’s collective bargaining agreement since 2011.
“This is a new format, obviously, playing in the Hall of Fame game,” McCarthy said. “The flow will be different – Sunday, Friday, Thursday, Sunday … for everyone here that’s been part of it since 2011.”
The Packers open with 8:15 a.m. practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They will move to a late-morning schedule and also include several night practices.
“We have to get the installs in and get players acclimated to night practice,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of night practices. I think it’s a great atmosphere for the fans with the Nitschke Field facility.”
McCarthy added: “You can only be on the field so much time and I promise you we’ll maximize it.”
Packers Offense Changes
The Packers’ fundamentals – especially on offense – were subpar last season. That has to be corrected if the offense intends to recapture its NFL elite status.
“It’s like anything in life,” McCarthy said. “When it doesn’t hit the standard that you’re accustomed to you need to take a hard look at it. We did that. My natural reaction, more often than not, is to back to basics.
“We need to be much better with the fundamentals. Last year was not good enough and the numbers reflected it. We’ve addressed that. We viewed all the cut-ups, and with the lessons learned through part of the installation phase in camp, we’ll improve in a number of areas fundamentally.”
Greg Jennings retires
Greg Jennings announced his retirement Monday.
“Greg Jennings was an excellent football player and a great Super Bowl champion,” McCarthy said. “He made huge plays for us in that game. His smile could light up a room. He played a lot of good football for us.”
McCarthy wouldn’t comment on Jordy Nelson’s return from a season-ending knee injury or Eddie Lacy’s conditioning and weight entering camp.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of McCarthy’s news conference was his take on the roster’s structure. He divided it into three categories: Veterans (six-plus seasons), the core guys (second- through fifth-year players) and rookies.
“That veteran group, when you look at the experience we have there, and really only two players from another program (tight end Jared Cook and Peppers), the leadership is very, very good,” he said. “It may be the best.”
“That group of two- to five-year players – those guys will play a big part in the success of our football team,” he continued. “The way I train them, the way I instruct them, the way you build and create a culture in the locker room ready to knuckle down. The second-year group, you want to see take a huge step.”
McCarthy also praised the rookies’ work ethic to this point.
“Now I’m excited to see them in a pure, true football environment,” he said. “It’s a roster that has balance to it, and it should be a very competitive hell-of-a-training camp.”
McCarthy said his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, appears to be in excellent shape. He added that Rodgers has had an excellent offseason and he’s excited about the offense.
“It’s about winning the world championship,” he said. “It’s part of our everyday fiber here in Green Bay.”
It all begins Tuesday at 8:15 a.m.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).
Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.