Thanks to everyone for participating in Tuesday afternoon's SportsNation chat, which took place via a hotel internet connection that produced what I call the "pinwheel of death" on my Mac every time I submitted a response. Things might have been more slow-going than usual, but we plowed through.
And in many ways, that sentence describes my thoughts on the topic Nathan of Washington D.C. raised:
McCarthy was railing on the Packer's offense for being sloppy in practice yesterday. Did they hurt themselves by not having player workouts, or is this just tough love from their coach?
Kevin Seifert (2:03 PM)
I'm thinking the latter. I've seen sloppy practices from teams that did do a lot of offseason work.
I figured it was a matter of time before someone made the connection between the Packers' training camp/preseason/September performance and the fact that players didn't organize large-scale workouts together during the lockout. Monday night, Packers coach Mike McCarthy flipped a question about his team's offensive firepower into a relatively rare rebuke of the Packers' practice performance of late.
After a practice that included three fumbles and multiple sacks during team drills, McCarthy said: "I don't want to disrespect any of my players here, but we look great on paper. There's no doubt about it. But we're not close to where we need to be as a football team. We realize that. We have a lot of work to do. So I'm not going to throw out any bouquets tonight.
"Yes, we're very talented; we have players that have done a lot here in the past. It's exciting when you can put that many skill position players on the field. I agree with all that. But the reality is if you don't take care of the football, if you don't take the football away, if you don't tackle, if you don't make blocks, you don't get off blocks, you don't handle the adjustments that a defense gives you ... it doesn't make for very fundamental football. We need to step it up in the area of fundamentals."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers applied humor to McCarthy's response Tuesday, mimicking NBA star Allen Iverson by saying (via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com): "Practice? We're talking about practice? Not talking about the game, talking about practice, right? Uh ... practice?"
For the record, I think it's very possible the Packers would have had a sloppy practice even if Rodgers and cornerback Charles Woodson had organized some kind of mass workout this spring. McCarthy was completely on board with their decision not to, so I don't think that's what he was upset about.
The episode brought to mind my last night at Packers camp (Aug. 1). McCarthy was a bit antsy about his team's uneven performance over the first three days of camp and was expecting a different level of performance when it returned two days later from a day off.
"We don't have a whole lot of time to waste on drama and distraction," McCarthy said at the time. "I've squeezed them pretty good these first few days and they know that after [the day off] it's going to a different level ... in terms of demand."
In other words, McCarthy gave players what amounted to a three-day grace period to shake off the rust of the offseason and gear up massive amounts of installation and fine-tuning. Exactly a week later, players still hadn't leveled off their performance. Hence his reaction.
My amateur observation is that every NFL team hits a rocky stretch during training camp. Those days will be more pronounced after the lockout, and it's only natural for a coach to worry about it. And McCarthy has the added level of post-Super Bowl angst to consider as well.
Rodgers said Tuesday that some players got tired at the end of practice, implying they hadn't all returned from the lockout in tip-top physical condition. "So we've got to pick up the urgency, I think," he said.
Is this episode illustrative of a team that is already experiencing post-Super Bowl malaise? Or was it simply a bad practice that frustrated a coach who was forced to sit on his hands all offseason? Having not been there, it's hard to draw any conclusions. But it was, after all, just a practice. Let's not sound the alarm quite yet.