GREEN BAY – The key word from Aaron Rodgers was focus. From Davante Adams, it was hunger.
That's how two of the Packers' leaders and most important players described the vibe of their team heading into the Week 1 matchup with the Saints in Jacksonville.
Back-to-back 13-3 seasons and NFC runner-up finishes have this team thinking and believing big in 2021. There's an intensity to the enthusiasm to move beyond the recent disappointments, but it's grounded in the reality that it'll take a long, determined grind to get there.
"This is probably the hungriest team that I've ever been around, honestly, just because we have been so close a number of times now," Adams said Wednesday. "I feel like everybody in the back of their mind, they know how reachable it is and realistic we are to getting to that final step."
One challenge as the long season unfolds will be preventing those big-picture thoughts from feeling overwhelming, particularly when the inevitable adversity strikes.
Both Rodgers and Adams talked about conversations that have taken place with the younger players on the team, and how important it is to keep the right frame of mind around everything from the day-to-day business to the competitive emotions.
"The feel that I get with the energy in the locker room is not pressure, it's focus," Rodgers said. "I think it's the right perspective and the right type of focus. We know we have a talented team, we know what the expectations are. We're just focusing on accountability and holding each other accountable."
But add to that the backdrop of all the future uncertainty with Rodgers, Adams, and other players with contract situations looming, and a now-or-never mentality could become more detrimental than helpful.
The leaders' approach has been to look at it like any other singular season in a year-to-year league. This is the 2021 Packers, a team that is not the same as last year's and won't be the same as next year's, as rosters constantly churn in the NFL. So live in the now and don't get distracted by what the future might or might not hold.
"It's a good reminder for all of us, the challenges that we all face, whether we're a first-year player or 17th-year player and staying in the moment, staying present, staying positive, staying focused on what you have to do, not making the moment bigger than it actually is," Rodgers said. "That's what I really like about this team."
As much as the front office worked to keep last year's team together despite a shrinking salary cap, plenty of changes exist.
On defense and special teams, new coordinators will look to put their stamp on those respective phases and improve on where the Packers stood.
It'll be difficult to do much better on offense after leading the league in scoring a year ago, and the Packers will be trying to maintain that status with two rookies – second-round center Josh Myers and fourth-round guard Royce Newman – starting up front on the offensive line.
It's not lost on them what's at stake. The message from the veterans has gotten through.
"The goal at the end of the day is to win the whole thing," Myers said. "That's why we're here. That's why we're playing this game is to win the whole shooting match.
"From Day 1, they haven't been quiet about that. It's not a secret that's our goal and it's an attainable goal. That's really been the vibe. There's no waiting around for it to happen. We've got to go take it."
The Packers were the top-scoring team in the league last year in part because of their situational prowess, ranking first in red-zone efficiency and second on third downs. Opposing defenses now have taken a whole offseason to study how the Packers were so effective in those areas, so Green Bay will need its own counterpunches.
Two of those could be the addition of slot receivers Randall Cobb and rookie third-round pick Amari Rodgers, whom LaFleur, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and QB coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy can incorporate with perhaps some new looks.
"There's a lot of onus on the guys who are making the bulk of that plan to keep coming with some great ideas," said Rodgers, explaining that Hackett is primarily responsible for the red zone while Getsy handles a lot of third-down work.
"I thought they did a really nice job last year of mixing the simple with the schematically creative. It's a matter of execution, too."
Having a pair of double-digit TD producers in Adams (18) and tight end Robert Tonyan (11) always helps when figuring out how to finish drives, but keeping things fresh was a goal as well during training camp, which indicated Marquez Valdes-Scantling could be the next perimeter weapon headed for a career year.
However it shakes out, and however long this gang remains together, its collective eyes are trained on what lies immediately ahead. These Packers are hungry, focused, and by all accounts, ready to make another run. And hopefully finish this one.
"The way we look at is just this is the team we have right now, so we have to go out there and take care of it," Adams said. "There's really no excuse because we've got a lot of the same guys from last year, and we just added on and I feel like got better than we were the past couple years.
"There's no excuse but to go take care of business now."