GREEN BAY – Less than 36 hours after their season ended once again in such abrupt and crushing fashion, the Packers were left to process yet another combination of drama and heartbreak that suddenly feels like the trademark of this era.
Saturday night’s 26-20 NFC divisional playoff loss at Arizona was the fourth postseason overtime defeat under Head Coach Mike McCarthy and the fifth in seven playoff losses that had the opponent scoring the winning points on the game’s final play.
Every one of them has been tough to swallow, and the disappointment in the desert is no exception.
“You can replay the game a billion times and say shoulda, coulda, woulda, but at the end of the day, as long as you feel like you gave your best effort, that’s pretty much all you can hinge on,” outside linebacker
It’s hard to disagree with that sentiment, and the only battle cry left is to go for it again next year. No one feels this team is that far away.
“I think we have a hell of a team. We have a lot of great guys in this locker room. It’s a matter of putting it together.”
How many of those guys will still be in the locker room come next year is the ultimate uncertainty of every offseason. The Packers have several free agents on both sides of the ball whose futures are up in the air.
One position that will naturally receive a lot of attention is wide receiver.
“I’ve said it before, I would love to finish my career here, but I said that last time,” Jones said. “It’s a crazy business. We’ll see what happens.
“(Jordy will) be ready. He’ll be ready a lot sooner than a lot of people think he’ll be ready. The guy has been in here putting in a lot of work. He sleeps with his ice machine on. He takes all that stuff home and he works hard. He’ll be back, and I’m proud of him.”
Other pending free agents on offense include running backs
The Packers built impressive depth at cornerback by drafting
It may be tough financially to keep the entire group together, though. Hayward plays a premium position that’s always in demand leaguewide, so he’s simply in wait-and-see mode.
“You just never know,” he said. “We’ve got some young guys here. I’m pretty sure they want these young guys to play, regardless if I’m here or not.”
Others who spoke in the locker room expressed their desire to return as well, but the reality of the NFL is that it’s highly unlikely all will be back.
Team-wise, the Packers had an opportunity they didn’t fully seize, but perhaps this year will have hardened and battle-tested them more deeply than their close calls of the past.
An entire season full of up-and-down swings, difficult injuries, plus successful and unsuccessful late-game comebacks, might do that. Next season, everyone will find out for sure.
“I think we faced a lot of adversity, but we had a lot of will, a lot of heart,” Starks said. “We fought through everything we were put through, and I think we made a great statement what we’re about.
“But some things don’t fall in your favor. You just have to learn from those moments and get better from them.”