NFL Wire News

Minicamp analysis: Packers feeling urgency for a fast start


The Sports Xchange

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The spring wasn’t necessarily all systems go for the Green Bay Packers, but a clear tone was set for the key months ahead.

They practiced at a fast tempo, reflective of how they want to come out of the starting gate for the 2015 season.

“You look at the way in which we’ve started the (recent) years out here, (going) 1-2, 2-2, I think it’s important that we start strong,” veteran linebacker Clay Matthews said.

Head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff bid adieu to their players Thursday for what will amount to a 5 1/2-week summer break.

The Packers’ most seasoned guys, including Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, received an early jump on vacation by being excused from Thursday’s final minicamp practice.

Rodgers, however, made it clear he isn’t completely abandoning football until the Packers report for training camp on July 29.

The reigning NFL most valuable player said he plans to throw the football around with a few teammates in Southern California, his offseason home.

That speaks to the urgency the multitude of returning players and coaches have embraced this offseason as the Packers seek atonement for their colossal overtime loss at the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

Green Bay was on the brink of its first Super Bowl appearance since winning the league title in the 2010 season before it coughed up a 12-point lead in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.

“It’s just get ready to play,” Rodgers said of his mindset for the pre-training camp lull. “I’m going to do a little bit different attack of the offseason, this six weeks, than I have in the past, and it’s kind of based off of just how I’m feeling right now, and what I think I need to do to get ready by the end of July.”

Rodgers wouldn’t divulge what his training regimen will entail. Yet, he’s clearly motivated going into his 11th pro season — and eighth as a starter — to steer the Packers back into prime position to contend for NFL supremacy.

Even with Pro-Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson out for most of the spring as he recovered from hip surgery coming off the dismal end to last season, a potent offense picked up where it left off with some reinforcements to boot.

A competitive battle is shaping up with the receiving corps, where the prolific duo of Nelson and Randall Cobb has been supplemented by a budding Davante Adams, the return of Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis from essentially redshirt rookie seasons in 2014.

In addition, versatile third-round draft pick Ty Montgomery from Stanford has been added.

McCarthy singled out Adams, who had big moments down the stretch last winter in his debut NFL season, for his “tremendous” showing this spring.

“And, he’s got more in front of him, too,” McCarthy said. “So, that is what is exciting. He’s been really, really good in practice throughout this deal (the spring workouts).

“If you wanted me to pick an MVP or an all-star, he would definitely be at the top of the list.”

Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defense adjusted to some reconstruction the last few months.

General manager Ted Thompson gutted the middle of the linebacker group by releasing veteran starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones early in the offseason.

Young prospect Sam Barrington stepped in as a starter late in the season, and Thompson selected former Michigan standout Jake Ryan in the fourth round of the draft.

Yet, Matthews could wind up being the centerpiece at the position despite his All-Pro legacy as an outside linebacker.

Innovative coordinator Dom Capers’ decision to move Matthews inside on a part-time basis during the second half of last season paid off as a previously struggling defense found a resurgence in the near-Super Bowl push.

“Despite the (playoff) loss (at Seattle) and those last couple minutes, we finished strong, we were playing our best defense,” Matthews said.

“So, I think it’s important for me to be able to switch around and play both positions, whether it be switching inside, going back outside, rushing the passer.

“I think what you saw last year might be an indication of what you see this year. We always have something up our sleeve.”

And, Matthews was quick to embrace the constant switching of roles throughout the now-concluded spring drills.

“We need to start the season off strong,” Matthews said. “We can’t put ourselves into a hole. And, in doing so, that probably requires me to play a few positions in this defense.”

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business