GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mike McCarthy is entering his ninth season as the Green Bay Packers coach. He will soon have a street named after him that intersects with Holmgren Way, which intersects with Lombardi Avenue. He has a Super Bowl ring and a contract that pays him $5 million per season.
So McCarthy has it all figured out, right?
Although he stopped short of saying he is junking everything he has done in the past, he did acknowledge that the 2014 season will bring with it a far different method of preparing for games than anything he has used in his first eight seasons.
That was evident in the Packers' training camp schedule, which features a far different run-up to preseason games than in years past. Before the first preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 9, the Packers will hold a practice (one that is closed to fans) on Aug. 8 and will not practice at all on Aug. 7. The team will follow the same type of schedule for the remaining three preseason games and, as McCarthy disclosed on Friday, that will continue into the regular season.
"It's a philosophical change," McCarthy said during his annual pre-training camp news conference.
McCarthy used to hold the belief that it was best to get players off the field -- and off their feet -- 48 hours before kickoff. Now, it appears that for a Sunday regular-season game, the Packers will hold a practice on Saturday but not on Friday. Typically, their on-field preparation had been completed by Friday afternoon.
"This is the first time the schedule is changing in nine years," McCarthy said. "Our in-season schedule, when I came here, I thought was unique and has been very effective for us and is something we've really been looking at for; this is the third year we've talked about it. I decided in spring to take the leap. We really just want to get that right and get our guys ready."
It's also worth noting that for the first time, McCarthy's training schedule does not differentiate between days with padded practices and no pads.
"Your goal is to be in pads every day, so that's the thought," McCarthy said. "But really how the team moves through camp, looking back on our last two camps -- the things that have gone on, the stress points in camp, where injuries occur -- we really haven't started the way we've wanted to the last two years. I think we have to be extremely conscious of that. This is the game of football. The ability to train your team, you need to change, adjust or emphasize each and every year, and that's really just part of that evaluation."
It's no secret that McCarthy is not a fan of the restrictions that went into place when the most recent collective bargaining agreement was approved in 2011, and he has made subtle changes each year since then. But this is the first time he has made such a drastic overhaul to his scheduling plan.
There also will be differences in practice itself, with some drills being moved to earlier in the session and some moved to the end. Some of those changes were enacted during the OTA and minicamp practices.
"If I was going to grade myself as far as hitting targets in the offseason program, since the new CBA, I think this is the first year that I feel like I got it right," McCarthy said.
Always energized at this time of the year, McCarthy, who this offseason said he believes he’s only at halftime of his coaching career, spoke about this season in perhaps even more optimistic tones than usual.
No doubt, the 50-year-old coach will be back to his usual fiery self the minute he sees something he does not like on the practice field. But during a week in which he became emotional at the dedication for the street that will be named for him, McCarthy has shown more than once that he's anything but set in his ways.
"To see Coach McCarthy, actually he is pretty emotional, but he was really moved by it," Packers president Mark Murphy said when asked about McCarthy's reaction to having a street named after him. "I think sometimes you go on in your life and take things for granted."
McCarthy seems intent on making sure that does not happen.
"I feel like I can improve," McCarthy said, "and I think when you stop feeling that way then I think you're lying to yourself."