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10 things learned at the Combine (from Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson)

Posted Feb 25, 2016

A smorgasbord of Packers talk, from Eddie Lacy to Julius Peppers to the Hall of Fame Game

INDIANAPOLIS – Innumerable Packers subjects were broached on Thursday at the Scouting Combine as Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson met with the media.

Both spoke at a podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium, and then both addressed more questions later, with McCarthy doing an extensive, off-camera sitdown with reporters at a local restaurant.

In addition to the topics of philosophy and the wide receivers written about separately, here are 10 other things learned from the Packers’ top brass:

1. There’s a ton of confidence within the organization that Eddie Lacy will get back on track.

McCarthy confirmed Lacy is involved in the P90X workout program (or something similar), and his new position coach Ben Sirmans as well as strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Lovat are in regular contact with him. Nutritionist Adam Korzun has provided input as well.

“The numbers that have been out there about his weight have been inaccurate,” McCarthy said. “The Green Bay Packers have never, ever asked him to lose 30 pounds.

“Eddie will take care of business. I have great confidence that he will. I think we’ll see definitely a different guy in April, and more importantly in July.”

2. There’s no reason to think the Packers are changing kickers.

Kicker Mason Crosby is a pending free agent, but Thompson gave no indication he’s interesting in starting over at the position. He drafted Crosby in 2007, and while he may not have predicted he’d become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, it was a long-term investment from the start.

“Yes, I expected him to be here for a long time,” Thompson said. “He’s a good kicker, a good guy to have on the team, and we’d like to have him back, just like we would most of our free agents.”

If necessary, the franchise tag is available to keep Crosby, but the Packers haven’t used that for six years (Ryan Pickett in 2010).

3. Aaron Rodgers’ knee surgery was not a shock, but he’s good to go now.

“I’ll just say I was aware of it,” McCarthy said of Rodgers’ knee troubles in 2015 that required an offseason clean-out procedure. It led to an adjustment here or there in game-planning and/or play-calling. “But he never complained about it. It didn’t surprise me that he needed to get surgery. He’s played a lot of football.”

As for 2016, “the way he’s hitting the golf ball, I think he would be ready to go,” McCarthy said.

4. The additional Hall of Fame preseason game and week of training camp will be used primarily for the development of young players.

The annual preseason opener in Canton, Ohio, is a first for McCarthy, but he’s not going to expose his veteran players to any greater risk of injury over the long summer month.

“I look at it as an opportunity to develop the youth of your team with that extra week,” he said. “An opportunity to play your young players more, I look at it as an advantage.”

That said, McCarthy added he’d be in favor of shrinking the preseason to just three games and having two full weeks between the final preseason game and the regular-season opener. He believes that would improve the quality of play across the league in the early weeks of the season because teams would have more time to get acclimated to practicing with just a 53-man roster.

“Think about it, you’re coaching the team, you’ve got 90 guys here. Then it goes to 75, then all of a sudden you go to 53, you go down to practice it’s almost like, ‘Wow, where did everybody go?’” McCarthy said. “It changes the way you train. If you could have that for two weeks or 10 days, I think it’s better practice, better preparation, better performance.”

5. The microphone under Randall Cobb’s jersey in the playoff game at Arizona was a factor, but not the factor, in his game-ending injury.

Cobb left the Cardinals game after making a spectacular, diving one-handed catch on a deep ball that ultimately didn’t count due to offsetting penalties. Cobb went to the sideline spitting up blood, didn’t return and spent a night in an Arizona hospital due to a lung injury.

Earlier this offseason, Cobb suggested being miked for the game might have been the reason for his troubles, but the Packers’ medical staff doesn’t think so.

“I think it’s something that’s opened up a lot of conversation, and it should,” McCarthy said of NFL Films’ microphones. “From what Pat McKenzie told me, it did not cause the injury, but there was definitely a bruise from it.”

6. The Packers won’t cry if Calvin Johnson retires.

The Lions’ Megatron has enjoyed his share of big games against Green Bay, and if he is indeed done playing after nine seasons, his absence will change the game-planning dynamics within the NFC North.

“He’s still a very good player,” Thompson said before cracking a joke. “Part of me wants to make sure he gets my note that I think he should retire, but that’s his business. From afar, he’s one of the most impressive professional athletes there is, the way he conducts himself.”

7. The catch rule is no clearer in Green Bay than anywhere else.

McCarthy considered it a “no-brainer” to challenge Larry Fitzgerald’s sideline catch in the NFC divisional playoff at Arizona, because it looked to him like a near-carbon copy of the Dez Bryant catch that was overturned in the playoffs the previous year. Then, Fitzgerald’s catch was upheld and McCarthy was told he established himself as a runner before going to the ground and bobbling the ball, an explanation he said “totally threw me off.”

“When are you utilizing the slow motion into the decision, or is it real-time and all that?” McCarthy asked. “I think we really have to get that buttoned down.”

8. This draft is deep in defensive linemen, and the Packers aren’t giving up hope on keeping B.J. Raji.

Nearly every coach and general manager who has stepped to a podium the last two days and been asked about the defensive linemen in this draft has raved about the deep class of big men on D.

“Great, I hope we get two of them,” McCarthy said. “I think you need big men. There’s only so many. We need to get bigger. We’ve been getting bigger, and we need to continue to get bigger.”

The Packers already re-signed Letroy Guion, but that doesn’t preclude also bringing back Raji, even with the deep draft at the position.

“He’s one of our guys,” McCarthy said. “I’m hopeful we get B.J. signed.”

9. The Packers are planning on Julius Peppers playing a 15th NFL season.

The veteran was non-committal on his future immediately after the season ended, but the Packers expect him to come back. “I have no reason to think he won’t,” McCarthy said.

10. Regaining the NFC North crown might be harder now than winning it like the Packers did four years in a row.

For the first time in a few years, the division has no new coaches starting over and implementing their schemes. The Vikings’ Mike Zimmer, the Bears’ John Fox and the Lions’ Jim Caldwell are all successful, accomplished head coaches with division titles on their resumes, with Zimmer the only one still striving for a first Super Bowl appearance.

“I think our division is as tough as ever,” McCarthy said. “This year could be our toughest.”

 
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