Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 18

(What's your level of concern with Al Harris' shoulder?)

I anticipate Al to play this week. It's just something that's been bothering him since the game Sunday. Pat McKenzie will look at him again in the morning.

(Is it a sprain?)

It's a sprain.

(Do you think Charles Woodson will play safety again this week?)

Charles, he'll work at corner, nickel and safety. He'll be ready to go in those three positions for the week.

(What about Aaron Rouse?)

He's getting work at safety like he always has.

(Where do you think Charles is best?)

His individual position? I would say his natural position is definitely corner, and I think he's an excellent nickel player in sub defenses, because he has the ability to get his hands on the receiver. He's an excellent bump-and-run player, plays a lot of instincts. I think he's definitely built for corner. I think he's played well at safety for us.

(What are you mulling over there? Do you want to get more looks at Rouse?)

Just like the time we talked about it when it first happened. What initiated it was the injury situation at safety and the ability to play Tramon in base. So we're going to still have the flexibility to play Aaron at safety as the starter, and also have Charles ready to go at safety. We're just going to make sure we're covered both ways.

(What do you miss without Bigby?)

I felt Atari Bigby was an impact player for us, particularly the second half of the season, and frankly he hasn't been healthy since the preseason. He really took a turn for the worse in the Detroit game up there with the hamstring injury, and we felt it was best for us to get him healthy. But I definitely felt he was an impact player for our defense last year.

(How much have you missed Kabeer/Cullen at that position?)

Injuries are part of the game. We miss them all, don't get me wrong. Obviously when you have starters on your defense, they're important to you. But that's the National Football League. Injuries are part of the game. You need to overcome that. That's just the way it goes.

(What did you expect from Jones this year? With the injuries he's had, did you get anything close to what you wanted there?)

James Jones, I felt James had an excellent offseason program, just going through the strength and conditioning part of it. He's a gifted receiver as far as his strength levels and so forth, and really was off to a great start in training camp. You want to talk about the Cincinnati game and so forth, we felt that he was one of our most improved young players from Year 1 to Year 2. And he was hurt up in Denver, and frankly has not been right since. He's battled back a couple times, and it was great to see him have some individual success last week, but it's been a tough year for him.

(When you want to improve on a great season, how important is it to have the first-year guys step up a level as second-year guys, and the second-year guys to do the same in their third year?)

I feel the strength of our program has been our ability to improve from within, clearly. I think it's evident in what we've accomplished from Year 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 as far as the development in the offseason, playing with younger players really from our first year here on. Also we're the youngest team in the league, and that will continue to be an emphasis. But when you are this young, the improvement from within is critical to your success.

(Are you pleased with the way the team practiced, given the situation? Any sliding of attention?)

One thing I discussed with the team this morning is the standard of practice ethic that they've established. It has been very good throughout the year. I thought today's work was OK. Wednesday's practices, when you do have certain new wrinkles and things like that, you do have some repeated plays and so forth. But I thought the quality of work today was solid, I would rate it, compared to past Wednesdays.

(You had your best overall performance last time against the Bears. Can you put your finger on anything that's been the difference since then?)

We played at a very high level in just about every area in that game, and that's not true to the games that have followed. We've had a number of areas that we didn't play particularly well, and we've come up short. Every game has been a tight game. It's been competitive. But we're not making the key plays down the stretch to put us over the hump.

(The way you played defense last time against Chicago, is that what you envisioned going in, and what happened since then?)

You have to give your opponent credit. Every opponent attacks you differently and so forth. But at the end of the day, it's always about what you do, and that mindset will never change. We look at the matchups and the scheme adjustments just like any other team, and it comes down to performing, making the proper communications throughout the game, to make sure we're continuing to put the players in the best position to be successful, and at the end of the day the players have to execute. That won't change.

(Did what happened kind of blindside you a little bit? The expectations must have been high after that game.)

Our expectations haven't changed from the first day we kicked off at the beginning of the season. But we've gone through a very rough patch. The reality is there's no moral victories. We're not doing the little things to get out of the foxhole that we've created from the win-loss column. They've all been close games, they've been tight games, but it's really a play here in this particular situation or a play there in that particular situation.

(What's your message to the team this week to end that, and that you're playing a rivalry division game?)

We feel we have a lot of good football left in us, no doubt. This is the Chicago Bears. This is a rival football game. This is a game that when the schedule comes out at the beginning of the season everybody looks at. I know I do. I know our football team does. It's important for us to go down and win this game. We talk about the importance of division games, and this is a big one. That part has not changed. We know they are fired up to play us and trust me, it will be a physical game and we'll be ready to go when we step out there Monday night.

(Two years ago you won four straight to end the season as a springboard. Do you stress that these last two games are important in that respect?)

I'm stressing this game. This is an important game because it's a game we need to win, and that's really our focus. It's a common opponent. It is two teams that know each other very well. They are in year four or five of their program; we're in year three. There won't be a whole lot of secrets, and it will come down to tough, hard-nosed, fundamental football Monday night.

(Assuming Clifton can go, do you go with the same starting five?)

Clifton will be able to go and we'll go with the same starting five.

(Is there anything different you've seen from the Chicago side from last month to now?)

Offensively they are doing a lot of the same things. They are doing a lot of formation variation with their two tight ends that we refer to as 'Tiger' package. You don't see a whole lot of difference. In the Saints game the two pass interference plays were big plays in the game. The aggressiveness as far as pushing the ball vertical is something they may be doing a little more of now than they were earlier in the year. No, I think they are putting a lot more on the quarterback, more stuff at the line of scrimmage. I think they have opened up on offense a little more this year than prior years.

(What are your thoughts on Devin Hester as a receiver?)

He's an explosive player. Obviously everybody knows what he can do when he gets the ball in his hands, and I think he's definitely progressed a lot as far as his route running and so forth. You're seeing him do double moves. I think his menu has definitely increased as far as the routes he is using.

(Do you do any game planning with the weather in mind?)

We're aware of the weather and it is a night game. It won't affect anything that we have in our game plan schematically.

(The initial forecast is for high winds ...)

Oh, as that from your weather man? That's not what my weather man is telling me. I believe yours. I don't think the wind ever does blow off of Lake Michigan.

(Does that factor in?)

It definitely (does). You have to have enough offense to play any game. I'm not going to sit there, no disrespect to a weather man, but I'm not going to sit and do my game plan based on what he is seeing five days out. We'll be ready to go whatever the wind is or how cold it is.

(For that game last year, were you prepared properly? How did the game go from that standpoint?)

Well, we didn't handle the wind in certain spots. You look at the punt. That was a problem. They handled it better than we did, but the game went a different direction for us. You definitely don't want to be in a two-score game behind in that type of wind. I played in a very identical game down there two years prior when I was with the 49ers. It was déjà vu. I have experience going through that, and we did some things in that game that I would never do again. Living in this part of the country, it's really part of playing football here in December.

{sportsad300}(You had said you were unhappy with your team because they didn't handle the elements ...)

Part of it. The final score was the most important. We didn't play very well.

(Do you feel better about that now? Do you send a message that no matter how bad the weather is ...)

I think we responded too. Let's not forget how we came out and played the following week and the week after that. We played two or three weeks later against Seattle out here and played very well. It's one game. The wind is the problem. Everybody wants to talk about the cold. The wind is the factor. That's the thing you have to do a good job with.

(You said Monday you didn't think Rodgers had a confidence problem. How important is it for that not to waver, especially when things aren't going his way, and late in games?)

I think it's important for any football player to have confidence, especially with the position that you're in when you have the football in your hand every play. Aaron has a lot to be confident about it. There are definitely some things that he can do better, and we'll continue to coach him to do better. He's given the opportunities, and that's all you can ask for. He's going to line up, he's going to play strong, and he's going to play hard against the Bears. As a man, that's all he could ask for. He has no reason not to have confidence in his abilities and our confidence in him.

(Do you see his leadership qualities continuing to develop as well?)

Absolutely. I think the process of this football team becoming his team is starting to develop. Aaron Rodgers is a young quarterback that is moving forward. He is young. He is only going to get better. I like the way he is in the locker room. I like his stature with his teammates and I think he'll continue to grow.

(Now that you're out of it, do you like raining on someone else's parade?)

I don't. We're going to beat the Chicago Bears; that's our mindset. We have no control over where they are in the playoff situation and so forth. We're going down there, it's a rival game, it's a division game, and we have a goal of finishing strong with our division record.

(Lovie said he takes his guys outside once a week for practice. What are the pros and cons of that?)

I have the same answer that I have given the last couple of times I have been asked about the weather. We have our situation with our training facility that if we were to go outside we would go out for the team periods, but based on the recommendation of the equipment manager and the field and so forth, it's not in our best interest to be out on that field right now.

(So it's a safety issue then?)


(Are you glad at this stage you're not worried about whether your starting quarterback is coming back next year?)

It's nice to see everybody. Have a nice day.

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