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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 12

(You're focused on St. Louis, but you could become the first Packers team to win 14 games. Is that something you think about?)

It's something I haven't thought about it. Any time you say the first time in Packers history, that means a lot. I think those are the types of things, when the season is completed, that you look back on and appreciate. But we are focused on St. Louis. That would be an excellent accomplishment.

(Now that you've clinched the division, is there anything that sticks out about how it all came together?)

I've talked about it over and over again as I stand up here week in and week out, our football team finished strong last year. I think a number of things came into place for us late in the season. We carried it into the offseason. I think the players did a great job of utilizing the offseason program. You saw the individual improvement throughout our football team. Add another good draft class. I think our veteran players have been consistent and more productive this year. We came out of training camp relatively healthy and started fast. That's always important. We just stayed focused on winning games and improving. I thought we won some games early that you probably didn't look the way you wanted it to look. But as we won games our confidence grew. We really developed into a very good football team. We need to continue to stay the course.

(Does a team have to learn how to win?)

I think it's like anything, when you don't accomplish something you have to learn how to accomplish it. So to answer your question, I would say yes. Anytime you're not winning and you start winning there is a transformation that occurs.

(What's your plan for that roster spot that's open?)

We've talked about a number of different options. When we do finalize that we'll let you know. We do have a roster spot open.

(In San Francisco, what was it like going through all those quarterbacks?)

It's a challenge. It's the only time that happened to me in my career. When you look at Brett Favre's career, you talk about the different records that he's accomplished. But to play with the same quarterback for 16 years is an incredible accomplishment. For him to be available, the continuity and consistency for your football team speaks volumes. Playing four different quarterbacks in one year was a challenge, especially when they're all young. Tim Rattay was the only quarterback that had experience. Ken Dorsey played very little. Cody Pickett, it was his first start. And Alex Smith who made his first start. On top of playing four different guys, the inexperience was as much of a challenge.

(How much is success in the NFL dictated by some luck and not losing key guys to injury?)

It's definitely a component. A healthy football team is in a better position to play at a high level. I think it's definitely an element that factors into your success. You talk about player safety, it's a continuing conversation throughout the league for the right reasons, is something that we talk a lot about as far as schedule, in training camp. It's something that you want to avoid but you have to make sure that you're pushing it far enough across the table to get competitive work to get the team ready. It's a balance that you're always trying to work through.

(How much can you control and how much do you count on the football gods looking over you?)

If you can control injuries, someone would have figured it out a long time ago and there wouldn't be any injuries in our game. There are a lot of things that you can't control. It is an element to your success.

(The yards after the catch the receivers get, is that the design of the plays or their athletic ability?)

We have players that have that ability. It's something, going back to the draft process when you go through perimeter players, yards after the catch is a priority when you look at receivers, running backs and perimeter positions. Our group has taken it to another level. There are a lot of conversations going on about yards after the catch weekly, as far as game-planning. As far as the scheme it really depends on what they're doing on the other side, the match-up and what route was run. The ability to put your players in that position week in and week out is a basic part of our passing game.

(If you lock up a first-round bye, how will you handle Brett's playing time?)

It's a great question for next week.

(Where do you fall in the philosophy of resting guys versus still playing them?)

There are different mindsets for it. Some people treat it like preseason, only playing them so many quarters. We'll find a common ground when we're in that position. I don't even want to talk about it right now. We should be talking about the St. Louis Rams because getting to 12-2 is the most important thing. We talk schedules all the time, substitutions all the time, play time. Those are things that are adjusted on a weekly basis. I'd like to rest some of our veteran players down the stretch if that's possible, to answer your question.

(Which quarterback do you think you're going to be facing?)

I have no idea. You probably have a better idea than I do.

(Did you coach Bulger?)

When I was in New Orleans we drafted Marc Bulger. He went through training camp and was released following training camp. I think he moved on to St. Louis the following year.

(What did you see in him at that time? Did you see anything to indicate he'd be where he is?)

Of course we did. That's why we drafted him. We were smart enough to draft him but we weren't smart enough to keep him. I'll say this about Mark Bulger, he's a young man I'm very familiar with. We grew up in the same neighborhood back in Pittsburgh. He's clearly one of the most instinctive and accurate passers I've seen come in as a young man. I thought he was extremely smart with the football. The instincts and the accuracy, as far as anticipation on throws, I thought was exceptional.

(What cost him that roster spot then?)

We had a lot of quarterbacks at that time. We had five quarterbacks in training camp that year. Jeff Blake was the starter. Jake Delhomme was a young, unproven guy that we liked. We had Billy Joe Toliver who was the old vet that knew the system. We drafted Mark. Then the second or third week of training camp we traded for Aaron Brooks. So we had more quarterbacks than you could shake a stick at. It was our first year as a staff. That's what happened.

(Special teams have gone from being a weakness to a strength. What do you attribute that to?)

I think it's a number of things. It's a priority. What Ted is doing with the roster is definitely special teams friendly. We're drafting 10, 11, 12 players a year. You're able to develop your younger players. I look at the younger players that played last year: Charlie Peprah, Jarrett Bush and Jason Hunter. How they played last year and how they're playing this year is night and day. The ability to keep competitive, Mike Stock and Shawn Slocum have done an excellent job, again going back to the offseason program. It's a priority as far as time and commitment -- offense, defense and special teams. I think those are all key elements to our improvement.

(Is this the week you finally get Bubba back?)

I hope so. He practiced today.

(What have been your interactions with Lee Remmel?)

Lee Remmel is a classic. I've never been around anybody like Lee. I think I spent more time with him in '99 because of where our office was located. It was a common stop for him when he came through the hall. He must have told me a story about Art Rooney and the Steelers about 20 times just in the year I was here. People like Lee are so special because they have lived through so many decades and generations of this sport, especially with the history of the Green Bay Packers. He is someone special to this organization. A very unique individual.

(Have you ever met anyone so gifted with numbers and statistics?)

No doubt about it. My brother is like that as far as numbers. He can tell you how many points you scored in a summer league game back in '84. Lee is incredible when he starts talking about games and Lombardi. He's a special man.

{sportsad300}(Do you remember the questions in the offseason about who's going to score for this offense, and did they bother you?)

I can remember the criticisms of the red zone and all those fun questions. It didn't bother me. That's someone else's opinion. We're here every day. We have the opportunity to work with the players that play. I just think our offense is on the same page, we're in sync and doing the little things right consistently. That's the big difference between when things go right or don't go right. To sit here and say I told you so, to me that's irrelevant. I'm just happy with the progress we've made. More importantly, we've set a standard of how to play and the productivity that we're achieving with this style of play. That's our challenge every week.

(The improvement in the run game, how much is the line play and how much is Ryan Grant?)

It's a combination of both. When we went through the cut-ups in the bye week we felt bad for Brandon Jackson because Brandon Jackson didn't have many opportunities because we didn't play very well up front. We're very much improved in the run-blocking unit as a whole. As far as the executions, we've made some adjustments schematically that have helped our players. That has improved. Really the runner is a part of any successful running game. You can never deny that. Ryan Grant is a big part of our success running the football. He's smart with the football. He's tough with the football. He's shown to be a very good runner when he gets to the second level.

(Was it risky in your mind to have only two running backs active last week?)

It was risky but John Kuhn is someone who's had one-back experience. He's played in one-back sets. Technically he was the third halfback last week. It's something that we won't make a living doing, I can promise you that.

(Did you see this coming, honestly, that you'd be quite this good?)

First of all I would never say something like that if I didn't mean it. I've been saying that since the day I walked through that door. I'd be a very poor salesman if I had to sell a product that I didn't believe in. I believed in it from Day 1. There's a process to building a program. I think we've accomplished that to some level. We're positioning our football team to be a good football team year in and year out. That's what it takes to line up and try to win world championships. We haven't done that yet. We are on path to do that. I've always felt that without a doubt, with the resources, the environment, and everything in place in Green Bay, that we'd have a great opportunity to do that.

(Brett talked about the doubt that creeped in during the offseason. What did you say to him during those times?)

Pretty much the same thing I've always talked about. You can only control what you're in charge of. I think that's a common problem. You see it every year. You see people acquire players in the off-season and you say they're going to be good next year. We do it as coaches but they're on paper. They haven't played together yet. You have to mesh. Every team has to rejuvenate itself every year. You have to go through that process. I just believed in our approach. I believed in our players. I always felt their ability. He acknowledged it. He felt there was a lot of talent since last year. He said it in the first training camp when we were all here together. You have to trust the process. We all did and we're 11-2 right now.

(Last week you told the team the Raiders were a lot like the Packers last year. What's your message for this week against the Rams?)

Just turn on the film. The St. Louis Rams are playing to win. You talk about blitz. You talk about pressure. Their numbers are like I've never seen in this league. They're not playing like we're an injured team and we're going to play it close to the vest and win the game 10-9. They're trying to create big-play opportunities on defense. They're playing aggressive on offense. This is the National Football League. I know they've had a lot of injuries. There are no excuses in this game. I believe that if I was on the other side of that. We expect to walk in there, in a dome, against a team that was built for a dome. This will be an aggressive game. I have a lot of respect for Jim Haslett as a coach. I worked for him for five years. He's going to come after us, in my opinion, just as he has the last four or five games. This will not be a throw-your-helmet-on-the-field win. That doesn't happen in this league. We need to line up and play well to win this game.

(The competition at the nickel and dime spots, when would you like to make a decision who to go with?)

I think time will answer that. We have a number of players that are pretty close as far as the way they're playing. Some haven't had the opportunity that the others have. I think that will clear itself up as we move forward. We're not having tryouts. We're putting guys in there and they have to play, and play well. The standard is set. To answer your question, we're not putting a time frame on it.

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