McCarthy excited with Packers' prospects

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Perhaps the remaining days of organized team activities could temper things, but Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy is pumped about his team.
The Packers held their final offseason workout open to the public and the media on Tuesday. On the same day the organization paid homage to legendary coach Vince Lombardi on the 100th anniversary of his birthday, Green Bay's contemporary field boss spoke in Lombardi-esque terms of endearment.
In McCarthy's assessment after two months of weight training and conditioning, on-field instruction and a combination of well-attended OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, he said, "We're clearly further ahead than we were last year."
McCarthy went into this offseason lamenting a ragged spring last year that spilled over to training camp and left the Packers in surprisingly dire straits at the start of the 2012 season, which they opened 2-3.
The season didn't end any better, despite a big turnaround that resulted in a final regular-season record of 11-5 and a second straight NFC North title. Green Bay crashed hard in the second round of the playoffs, getting run over on the road 45-31 by the San Francisco 49ers.
Not only did McCarthy and his staff have to go back to the drawing board -- and even seek the guidance of brethren from the college ranks -- to try to fix a defense that flopped against running quarterbacks, but changes were made in team protocol.
McCarthy moved up the minicamp from the end of the offseason schedule and scheduled it amid the OTA sessions.
The tone has been set for getting off on the right foot when training camp kicks off July 25.
"I feel that we are having a good offseason program," McCarthy said Tuesday.
How so?
"Quality of work, No. 1," he said. "Less volume, more creativity as far as our scheme. ... (Also) I think the new players have integrated very well. In all of my years here, I think this is clearly one of the better integrations of a young group into the football team.
"And, frankly, I feel this and I've felt it since they came back in April, getting started in the weight room -- this team has a different edge to it. It has a higher sense of urgency than I can recall.
"I don't know how you sit down and measure that and put it on a scale each year. Maybe it's my higher sense of urgency, I don't know. But I feel the leadership of this football team is a very consistent, steady personality as far as the everyday work. We haven't had the big swings (of) highs and lows that are normal during this time of year. I've walked off (the field) pretty much every day feeling there's a lot of quality work that we can apply to the future."
The Packers plan to put in their final installation of the offseason on Wednesday, then use the last two days of the OTAs for review.
"At the end of the day, we're a young team, but this is a young, experienced football team," McCarthy said. "I really like the blend."
Green Bay's rookie class, which includes 11 draft picks, will stay put after Friday for another week of strength and conditioning. The extra time also will be devoted to having Rob Davis, the team's director of player development, go through some administrative stuff with the newcomers, culminating with a symposium at the end of the week.
-- About the only piece of significant news to come out of Tuesday's OTA workout for the Packers was the absence of cornerback Sam Shields. This came on the heels of Shields finally reporting to the team last week and participating in the minicamp after he signed his one-year tender for $2.023 million as a restricted free agent.
Shields had skipped the first two weeks of the voluntary OTAs.
"Sam Shields is not here for personal reasons. He has some things back home he's dealing with," McCarthy said.

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