McCarthy Wants Strong First Step At Minicamp

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Thus far in the offseason, the progress made by the Green Bay Packers has focused on individuals. This weekend at the mandatory minicamp, that focus on progress changes to the team as a whole.

With all but a handful of players participating in the team's strength and conditioning program since March 19, Head Coach Mike McCarthy believes the individual gains players have made will be evident this weekend, whether it be the addition of muscle mass, improved speed and quickness, or just an overall better body shape.

Now, over the next three days in the first four practices in preparation for 2007, McCarthy wants to see those individual improvements translate into team progress in the form of sharper execution and an overall work ethic on the practice field.

"The practice environment gives you the opportunity to make progress toward playing at the highest level of productivity, when it's for real," McCarthy said.

"I clearly believe we're making progress on an individual and position basis. I've seen that since March 19. I now need to see it as a football team, so that's what I'm looking for."

McCarthy expects to see it, even in these early team workouts, because a vast majority of the players already know about and have gone over the changes to the offensive and defensive schemes from 2006 being installed this weekend.

The rookies got their introduction two weeks ago during a three-day rookie orientation that was designed to get them up to speed sooner and in position to begin competing with veterans on the practice field right away.

Meanwhile most of the veterans have spent time individually with their position coaches studying the concepts during the offseason program, making this minicamp in part a chance to reinforce on the field what's already been learned off it.

"We only have a handful of guys who haven't been here for the offseason program, so outside of those four to five individuals, you have 90 percent of your football team that's already had everything in this mini-camp, in detail," McCarthy said. "And the few that haven't been in here have a lot of experience, and the adjustments to them will be minimal.

"Anytime you have an opportunity to repeat concepts from a scheme standpoint, repeat the techniques they're asked to do, repeat the group work,...you'll see the timing improve. The education of our football team is further along."

The minicamp is mandatory and all players are expected to report. Several players have medical issues, such as quarterback Brett Favre, who had ankle surgery in the offseason, and they will be evaluated on Friday morning to determine their availability for practice.

Friday morning also will feature one new concept - a complete review of the 2006 season. McCarthy said he's never structured a minicamp this way before, always choosing to maximize on the practice time on the field.

{sportsad300}But this year, instead of having five practices, there will be four, with Friday morning devoted to meetings reviewing 2006 first as a team, then broken down by offense, defense and special teams, and then broken down further by position group. That review also will highlight the areas that need improvement and how the scheme changes will address those needs.

"I feel it's a very common-sense approach," McCarthy said. "It puts a finality to 2006, gives them a clear picture of what we did accomplish, what we need to improve on, and how we're going to build this thing for the upcoming year."

On the field, the coaching staff will be watching the rookies closely to see how they react to being thrown in with the veterans and to the increased tempo of practices.

It will also be interesting to watch the competitions begin at certain positions, particularly at running back and wide receiver, where there are large numbers of young candidates for roster spots and significant playing time.

"The one thing that's constant about those particular groups is they have youth, they have talent and they have incredible work ethic," McCarthy said. "Those two groups are going to be fun to watch. It's going to be highly competitive."

McCarthy doesn't want things to be so competitive as to create any unnecessary injury risk, but many of the players certainly will want to put their work in the offseason program to use on the field when they can.

There will be an even more concerted effort at doing so come training camp, but for now the coaches will settle for a sneak peek.

"The coaching staff is very excited about their groups, they see them getting better, and this camp is the first time for us to take the field as a football team and start preparing for training camp," McCarthy said. "This is our first step."

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