Leaders Confident, Excited For Upcoming Season


General Manager Ted Thompson summed up in two short sentences on Thursday just where the Green Bay Packers are six months removed from an NFC Championship Game appearance and less than six days from the start of the 2008 training camp.

"We're proud of the 2007 season," Thompson said. "We're not satisfied."

Thompson's remarks were part of his football report to the team's annual gathering of shareholders, 9,375 of whom filled several sections of bleachers on the east side of Lambeau Field on a comfortable summer day.

He and Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who also spoke to the shareholders (a new addition to the annual meeting), both expressed confidence that the Packers continue to be an improving and developing team that believes it's in position for another successful run in 2008, and that belief is well-founded in the work and preparation put in over the last four months.

"As we move into training camp, we have one thing - real confidence," McCarthy said. "It's very easy in this business to get caught up in the false confidence, talking about last year. Last year for us is clearly the reference point. It's a blueprint that's in place.

"I can't say enough about the commitment of our football team throughout the offseason."

McCarthy saw that commitment during the period of individual workouts in March and April, as well as during the OTAs and mini-camps in May and June. With increased participation for the second year in a row, McCarthy said the time players spent with their position coaches strengthened solid relationships, and the individual improvement showed up in the tempo and execution of practices.

Now it's time for that offseason work to carry over into training camp, the preseason games, and ultimately the regular season. In three years, the Packers have gone from 4-12 to 8-8 to 13-3 and an overtime period away from a Super Bowl appearance, but the football leaders don't believe the team is done growing.

"We are committed to steady growth. We believe we're building on a very strong foundation," Thompson said. "We always try to stress depth and quality, and again, we try to win up front."

Thompson noted several times, as he has in the past, that the team's foundation lies up front - in its offensive and defensive lines.

In his position-by-position overview of the roster, Thompson noted that while the offensive line is anchored by veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, the competition among younger players and two new draft picks will be intense as everyone continues to improve.

"We've spent some time and draft choices and revenue to try to build this position up, and we feel we're pretty solid with the depth, and obviously a lot of competition," Thompson said.

It's similar on the defensive line, where a mix of veterans and promising young players creates a group that from top to bottom Thompson called "underrated."

"This has always been a group we feel is better as a group than if you try to pick out the individuals," Thompson said. "But certainly guys like Aaron Kampman and Ryan Pickett have shown that they're the elite of the league."

Other position groups, such as linebacker, defensive backfield and running back, were noted for the young talent that lies behind established starters, while the wide receiver group is not only the deepest position on the team but perhaps one of the deepest in the league.

With top draft pick Jordy Nelson being added to a group that already includes Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Ruvell Martin, the receiver spot shows more than any other just how well the roster has been rebuilt and fortified over the past few years.

{sportsad300}"As with most of the positions, because of where we are in our process of building this team, we're going to have good players that are probably not going to make this team," Thompson said.

McCarthy is clearly excited about what he and new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers have to work with at receiver as well.

"You can see the maturation of that group come forward," McCarthy said. "The thing that impresses me most about our football team is the yards after the catch of our perimeter group. Because that tells you something about players being on the same page with the scheme and getting the most out of every play."

As strong as he believes the offense (ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year) will be, McCarthy noted that the special teams was the most improved phase a year ago, and he emphasized that another championship run will start with the defense, which ranked sixth in points allowed last season.

There has been talk this offseason of the defense becoming more aggressive this season, and McCarthy believes he and defensive coordinator Bob Sanders have the scheme and personnel to make that happen.

"We don't try to contain our opponent, we try to choke our opponent," McCarthy said. "It's evident in the way we line up in our fronts, it's evident in how we match up in our coverages, and it's evident in how we pressure our opponent."

All that's left is to refine the execution, in all phases. That's what training camp is for, and judging by the anticipation and enthusiasm in their voices, Thompson and McCarthy can't wait to get started.

"We have quiet confidence," Thompson said. "This team does not talk a lot of trash. We don't try to predict, and we don't try to anticipate what our final record is going to be. We do believe that we have a team that each and every week we play the game will have a chance to win if we play well.

"This is a new year, we're excited for the season, and we like this team."

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