(How happy are you to have Bryan Bulaga signed?)
I'm very happy to have all of the rookies signed. It's obviously more of a challenge to get your first-round pick done in time, so you would like to acknowledge Bryan and his group and Russ Ball and the job that they did. It is very important for young players to be in camp on time, just the practice time, the meeting time, those are days you just can't get back. You see it time and time again when players miss because of contract negotiations that they fall behind, so we feel very good about the fact that all of our rookies are here and ready to go.
(What happened with Aleric Mullins?)
Mullins, he has decided to move on from football. So he made us aware of that approximately four or five days ago. We wish him the best.
(Where are you with the injured guys?)
Injured guys, we had three players that did not pass their physicals that will start out on PUP in Al Harris, Atari Bigby and James Starks
(Who was the last one?)
James Starks with the hamstring and Atari with his ankle.
(Is Al still kind of on the schedule you thought back in June?)
The doctor is very encouraged with Al, particularly the last three weeks. He has really done a great job of attacking this rehab. So I do not have a timeframe, but he is really coming on strong, and that is a credit to his work ethic and to our medical staff. James Starks, it is the injury that occurred in the spring and it has come back on him, the hamstring. Atari, just seeing him today for the first time, I really can't you a timeframe on that either.
(Are you holding out hope with Al for Week 1?)
That really is a medical decision. He is ahead of schedule. It is amazing how fast some of these players in today's game come back from major knee surgery, and Al is definitely no exception to trying to be one of those types of players. But it was a significant injury and he is making a lot of progress. I would purely be speculating on that.
(But you haven't ruled out Week 1 for him?)
I would not be surprised. If you were to have asked me three or four weeks ago, I would have probably said no, but the report that I was given today by Dr. Pat McKenzie, he has made a lot of progress.
(Did you expect to lose Johnny Jolly for the whole year?)
I think those types of situations, when it does happen, I think you are always surprised because you are not really exposed to all of the information. Obviously we have as much information as you possibly can within the legal system to try to make those types of decisions. It is something that the league has judged on. I'm more concerned for Johnny on a personal note because he has got battle in front of him here with his legal situation.
(What kind of impact will his absence have on this team?)
Johnny Jolly has been a good football player for us. Johnny is definitely a tough guy. He has a tremendous energy, particularly on game day. Anytime a player goes down or is not available, and we always talk about that as a football team, availability and accountability are two building blocks in our foundation of how we approach things as a team. It's an opportunity for other players to step up and we're fortunate enough to have depth at that position. Our young guys will have an opportunity to fill that void.
(Do you expect him to play again for the Packers?)
I would be purely speculating. I hope Johnny definitely plays again, but he has got a personal situation in front of him that he needs to overcome.
(Are all of three guys on active PUP? Do you need to make another move because of Atari or are you at 80)
We are at 80. We released John Russell this morning.
(Every team has high expectations at this point, but do you feel this is a Super Bowl-caliber team?)
I stand up here every year, and maybe you laughed at me in the past four years, I have no idea, but it is no different from my viewpoint. I have every intention and belief that we have the capability of winning the Super Bowl. Every decision that we make toward our football team, toward our program, toward our environment is always trying to improve our football team. Whether it is adding depth, redoing our facilities, anything to try to find a way to keep building toward winning that Super Bowl here in Green Bay. That is definitely our goal. Really my primary focus is on training camp. There is a lot of work. It's nice to sit up here and talk about it, it's nice to have people say nice things about you, but it doesn't help you have a good practice tomorrow and work at your fundamentals and do the things that are important to building and reshaping your football team. Learning from the lessons of last year, creating the identity that you are looking to create for the 2010 team, that is really where our focus is as a team.
(How can you use those expectations to motivate or to keep guys focused?)
I would think everybody does. I just had our team meeting and we talked about winning the Super Bowl. We talked about where it is played at and the relevance of our team meeting room. The only team pictures that are in that room are the team pictures of the world champions of the Green Bay Packers. Everything that we have done throughout the offseason and everything that we'll do starting tomorrow will be taking a step to being the next team up on that wall. That's our goal.
(How do you feel about the conditioning of the team?)
I got a very positive conditioning report. I am happy with the weights of our players. A couple of guys always come in a little high, nothing that you are worried about. Probably a little more in our skill positions, particularly one of our quarterbacks. I think we are a very well-conditioned football team. I think it shows the work that they have done in their five weeks away from here. The run test, the conditioning test was positive.
(How can Aaron Rodgers improve after a season like he had last year?)
Aaron Rodgers can improve. He can get better every day. He is off to an excellent start in his overall career. This is his third year as a starter. His challenges will come more from the opposing defenses. Now they have two years of film on him. They'll challenge him in different ways. It's important for us as an offensive staff that he has the tools and the opportunities to continue to be successful. That's something that you have to work on every day. He needs to stay strong on his fundamentals. There are new things that you add every year schematically. We have had a chance to install those things in the spring and we'll have an opportunity to really work on those things at a high rate and get some live action on him and get him ready for the regular season.
(Did you say a quarterback was a little heavy?)
Forget it, I shouldn't have said it. Yeah, one of the three. One of the two.
(What lessons learned from last year are the most important?)
I think it is very important to simplify. We take the February and March time to evaluate the team and have an opportunity to really get everything in in the spring. It's just really a credit to our players, our offseason program attendance. There won't be anything new that they will see from a defense or offense or special teams when we start our meetings in the morning. Just the things that we need to work on. We feel we need to be a better tackling football team. That is both on defense and on special teams. We have tackling periods every single day, which we have not done in the past. Just staying after the key fundamentals that we feel will help shape and form our identity. We have the path to look to. We have the blueprint in place for a lot of those things that we have accomplished. We know what it looks like and we'll continue to stay focused on that because you don't just carry anything over from the year before. You can point to it and learn from it, both positive and negative, and those are the types of things that we really have talked about all spring and will be reiterated as we start this training camp process.
(How concerned are you with Bigby considering he missed the entire offseason program and is now starting out on PUP?)
I am concerned. Everybody is concerned. I haven't had an opportunity to talk to Atari. He has had the ankle injury and it is something that has bothered him in the past. Hopefully we can get the answer for that and he can get out there and get ready to go.
(What is that team identity you are searching for?)
Our team identity has been the same since I have been here. You're just always trying to get it to a higher level. We talk about being smart, tough and fundamentally sound. That is the picture we look for every time we take the field as a football team, both in the practice environment and on game day. Everything we do is structured toward creating that identity as a football team.
(So with Bigby, this is the lingering ankle from a year or two ago. How bad is the injury?)
It just really bothered him in the conditioning test, and that was the key to why he did not pass the physical. It's something that we have to get our hands around.
(Do you know if it was monitored outside of the building?)
There was communication with Atari, but we all know what his business situation was. This is really the first opportunity our doctors have had to examine him.
(How do you feel about Burnett and what he has done so far?)
That's what training camp is for. I really like what the young man has done in the underwear practices. He's very smart. I think he's a very good communicator, showed a lot of athletic ability. Those types of things that you can see in the OTAs. Everybody is very pleased. He has an opportunity in front of him, and I think he has gotten off to a good start, good foundation. Really like his work ethic. I'm excited to see him out there.
(Will you have a faster pace this year with installing things?)
Well, I always thought we were pretty fast. We put everything in in nine installations. I can only refer to some of the programs I've coached in before. But most of our information is in before Family Night. It is definitely done by the Tuesday before our first preseason game. I don't know how to get it in any faster than that. But to answer your question, it will be pretty much the same. The last three years we've been able to get it in during that same time period.
(How do you see Ryan Pickett performing at defensive end?)
Really excited to see him out there in pads, work the fundamentals. Ryan, this is the best shape I've seen him in our time here. Very happy with his offseason and the way he's reported. I think people underestimate the guy's foot speed, his quickness and his instincts. I think Ryan will do an excellent job out there.
(What are your expectations for the defense in Year 2 of Dom Capers' scheme?)
We want to be a dominating defense, and it starts with stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. That won't change. It's a defense that has a lot of moving parts. Communication is a critical aspect of it. I think that's an area where we vastly improved as the season went on, and definitely it was reflected in our performances and the productivity that we accomplished in Year 1. I look for that aspect to improve. It's a challenge if you've ever coordinated an offense or defense in the National Football League, you spend that first spring putting in a system, and when you put in a system of offense or system of defense, you obviously have to put everything in, because everything is building off of the first component that you put in. Then you get into Year 2, you have the experience now where you can throw certain things out. You don't have to go back and start over, your volume is tighter, your reps are managed even better. In my experience being a coordinator, that's a very common progression. So with that being the case, with Dom going through that with the defensive staff, I look for us to be a better defense this year.
(Where is Justin Harrell at health-wise?)
Justin is full go. His conditioning is good. I liked his weight and he's full go, no restrictions.
(Is this a make-or-break season for him?)
It's an important camp for Justin. He knows that. We all know that. We're excited that he's finally healthy. That's a frustrating place to be as a player when you have back-to-back injuries and things that keep you out, especially with the expectations of being a first-round pick. I'm just happy for him to be healthy and just want to see him stack some practices together, have some success. It's really been a medical issue for him.
(Last year Raji missed two weeks of camp. Two years ago there was the Favre thing. Do you feel like there aren't any distractions this year?)
There's distractions out there. They haven't come down the road yet. That's just life in the National Football League. Hopefully not some as big as others in the past. That is a part of our business. I think that's really the part that I'm looking forward to. I think this is clearly the most mature football team that I have stood in front of in my time here. I'm excited about coaching this group. It's a group that understands the schedule, how we do things. They've put in the extra time this spring. It gives us the ability to be smart in training camp, to have the hard tough long practices, but to have the Wednesday where we can give their legs a rest and stay away from the fatigue injuries. I'm excited about starting tomorrow. On paper this may be the best team that we have assembled in my time here, but the reality is it doesn't mean anything until you take advantage and build it the right way, and that starts in training camp practice No. 1.
(What else excites you about this team?)
Just where we are. There is nothing new this year. We're not putting in a new defense. We don't have a new quarterback. We don' t have a new special teams coach. We have an opportunity to build off of some continuity and some success in the past. We have a clear understanding of how we want to play. We have a tough schedule like everybody in the league does. But I just clearly think this is a mature football team that is ready to take the next step.
(How does Spencer Havner look with the shoulder and his conditioning?)
It took a while for it to heal, and he's full go, all positive, the feedback from Mark Lovat and Dr. McKenzie. He'll be full go starting tomorrow.
(How is T.J. Lang?)
He will have a brace on his wrist, but he is a full participant.
(How confident are you that you will be able to create more of a pass rush with scheme or some other guys?)
I'm confident. There's going to be some players that are going to have some more opportunities that may not have been there in the past. Just with our young defensive linemen that we drafted, Brad Jones, and Brady is a year better in this defense. Our inside linebacker group, the depth that we have there, we look to get some more production out of those guys. Nick Barnett was a very effective blitzer last year when we used him. Cullen Jenkins had an excellent year in the pass rush. I definitely feel that we have the numbers. We just have to make sure we have the versatility and the flexibility to be able to go through a 16-game season into the playoffs. That's what you spend the offseason for, because it's a long year. Things happen. You have obstacles that you have to overcome, and you don't just get pass rush from lining up four all the time and generate it that way. That's not the way we're built.
(You talked about you were going to do a couple of different things during practice to cut down on penalties…)
Our biggest issue with penalties on special teams is frankly our fundamentals. When you have that many holding calls, you have to take a look at who they are, the individuals. Why is it happening? When is it happening? That's all been addressed. If you observe the OTA practices, there have been some drill-specific additions to adhere to those issues. We will be better at fundamentals on special teams. We have increased our practice time for that. I think problem-solving is very clear. When you have an issue, we're not looking for excuses. We're just looking for answers. The answer to that is we're going to spend more time on it. It's definitely an area that was an extreme negative for us as a football team. Our penalties the last two years on special teams is unacceptable, and that's something that we will correct this year.
(Whether or not Favre comes back, how badly does this team want another crack at the Vikings?)
We just feel very blessed that we get to play them twice a year. It's a great rivalry. It's a very good football team, the success they had last year. We know where they are on the schedule, and there's a lot of football to be played before that game, but I'm sure it will be two more exciting games this year.
(Who are the rookies that you are really looking forward to seeing in pads tomorrow?)
Really, all of them, because it's really different. It's so different when you go to the OTAs, and it's easy to get higher on a player in the spring and maybe not as high in training camp. The real football, the closest that you get to the actual games is the way we practice. Particularly our night practices and those afternoon practices. Those are physically taxing practices by design. I want to see them all in pads. Those are when the true answers will come to the forefront.
(How long do you anticipate the punting battle to go?)
I'm not in a hurry. The last two years, it's been a negative, there's no doubt about that, and I think it's important to give both Chris and Tim the opportunity to punt in games. If things go right, they won't be punting a whole lot, so that will make it even tougher. I say that sarcastically. But it's important for us to evaluate those players in games. We have to make sure that we give them a fair opportunity to show themselves. I think their offseason work has been very good. The competition to this point has been very good. I think they both definitely have the potential and talent to punt in the National Football League. I don't question that at all. But we need to see them in gameday activity. Because obviously the penalties, the fundamentals of our special teams last year, and the punting performance, is something that we definitely need to improve on.
(What about a timeline on the offensive line as far as getting things set?)
I haven't really given it much thought because that is such a tough group to sort out. We've had so many different combinations of players playing. Training camp will answer that. I don't … I'm not going to sit here and say I want to play with the starters in the Indianapolis game. It would be nice. But we'll see how that happens. This is the most depth that we've had there. There's going to be more competition than we've had in the prior four years there. So I think it's important to make sure we give all those guys a chance.
(Nothing has changed in your thought process as far as keeping Bulaga at left tackle and Lang on the right side?)
Correct. That's all the same.