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'Highly competitive' training camp on tap for Packers

McCarthy emphasizes energy as 100th season opens


GREEN BAY – The Packers have a number of questions to answer as they open their 2018 training camp.

To name a few, the right side of the offensive line is not settled, the depth charts at receiver, cornerback and outside linebacker are undetermined, and a lot of new blood must be worked into the special-teams equation.

But Head Coach Mike McCarthy likes the chances the 90-man roster that was assembled in the offseason will answer those questions the right way – competitively, and not by default – to set up the Packers to manage the inevitable obstacles that will obstruct their path over the next 5-6 months.

"That's what you want. A competitive environment is clearly one of the most important components of a healthy training camp. It's a necessity," McCarthy said in his season-opening news conference Wednesday morning.

"Training camp is not so much about the first 11 to run out of the tunnel. It's really those 63 players (53 on the active roster, plus 10 on the practice squad). That's the way we've always approached it. I've used the number 77 in reference to the Super Bowl year. It takes that many players to win a championship."

So while the Packers enter their 100th season with an overhauled coaching staff and an attractive mix of veteran players and youth, this training camp will help determine which young players can step to the forefront right away as well as which ones also could be ready to help down the road as the season unfolds.

The Packers spent their top two draft picks this past April on cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson), used three selections on the third day of the draft at receiver (J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown), and have a number of second- and third-year offensive linemen battling for jobs (Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy).

Those are some of the competitions that will unfold beginning with Thursday's first practice. As players were going through physicals and conditioning tests Wednesday morning, McCarthy had no health updates, suggesting he'd provide more information in his media briefing prior to Thursday's workout.

He sounded confident any non-injured players reported to camp physically ready, noting specifically how quarterback Aaron Rodgers concluded the offseason program "in great shape."

The Packers are counting on a healthy Rodgers to lead them back to the postseason after missing it for the first time in nine years in 2017, during which Rodgers was lost for 10 games to a broken collarbone.

"We all should be better for the negative experiences we've encountered in the past, whether it was our record last year, Aaron's health, all those things," McCarthy said. "If I haven't pushed that forward from a leadership position to our football operations, I haven't done a very good job. We're all better for the negative things that have occurred.

"You learn a lot in this business from the mistakes. This is going to be a rough ride to get where we want to go, and when we get there, it's going to take our best to get it done. That's the reality of life in the NFL."

Training camp will begin with the playbook installations before proceeding with an in-season type of schedule to prepare for the preseason games. After those four preseason contests, the 63 players McCarthy referenced will be determined for Week 1.

Changes and adjustments to the roster are guaranteed, and flexibility will be required. Key decisions will be made a little over a month from now, but navigating a season only starts with selecting the opening roster.

From there, the Packers will have to deal with whatever is thrown in their path, and the foundation to deal with it all successfully is built in training camp.

"This is our opportunity, 2018, and that's really all that matters," McCarthy said. "We've been guaranteed 16 regular-season games, and we need to make sure we're doing everything through this training-camp process to get ready for, really, those first four games.

"We can't get to where we want to go without a highly competitive training camp. We have to make sure we have the answers that we need, the players advance their game and we come together as a football team."