Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 1

Read the transcript of Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s Monday press conference from Lambeau Field. - More Audio | Video | Watch ’The Mike McCarthy Show’ Packers-Vikings Game Center

OK, I'll start with the injuries of significance. Nick Collins had a knee bruise. I look for him to be limited on Wednesday. Al Harris, his back, he'll probably not practice Wednesday and maybe not even Thursday, as we're into his diagnosis so far this week. Charles Woodson, left foot, probably won't go Wednesday. Brandon Jackson, he still has the shin strain. He'll be questionable for Wednesday. And Vernand Morency's knee is a little sore, so he'll probably be limited on Wednesday. With that I'll take your questions.

(Did all the attention on Favre and the record ever become a distraction?)

I don't think it was a distraction at all. I think just by the comments made by the players and the reaction of everybody involved, it was a very good illustration of it. We didn't see it as a distraction. I think the way he handled it and the humility he showed and the focus he kept putting on the team was clearly evident in how everybody viewed that day. It was great for him to get the record, but more importantly for us to win the game.

(Can you talk about the toughness Al Harris displayed playing through so many things?)

He's played through two weeks now when he's obviously injured. We need to try to get him healthy. Friday will be a big day in his medical evaluation on if he goes this week. He's fighting through with a bad back.

(How did he get in such good position to defend some of those deep balls?)

Al's strength is clearly at the line of scrimmage. He's as good as there is, maybe the best, bump-and-run corner in the league, in my opinion. He's so strong at the line of scrimmage, just when we compete against him with our offense. When he gets his hands on you, a very powerful upper body. It clearly starts for him at the line of scrimmage.

(He seems to be able to run with guys at the end of the play with the ball in the air.)

He still has very good speed, and frankly, with his back, you can see he's probably not as physical at the top end that he normally is. He and Charles are a big reason why we play the way we do. They're exceptional players at the line of scrimmage, and our young corners are improving week in and week out. We could not play the defense that we play schematically without bump-and-run corners.

(Can you assess Atari Bigby's play yesterday and thus far in the season?)

Atari Bigby has been very solid for us. I think his run support has been very good. He had one or two in the game there he can improve on, but his big-play ability is the aspect of Atari's game that has always stood out to us. He's bringing that to the table with his big plays he made yesterday, with the caused fumble and the interception. So I'm excited about the big-play ability he has shown. Just need to be more consistent with the communication and the fits in the run defense, because he's a very good tackler and he's been very aggressive, particularly down in the box. I think Atari is off to a very good start.

(Do you have to resign yourself to the fact that Al and Charles are going to get their share of penalties, based on the way they play?)

Well, it's definitely a focus. You could just tell by the opponent's comments and the way they're competing during the game. We need to just continue to compete and teach the technique that we've been teaching. There is a 5-yard contact area, and we're getting some gray-area calls that have gone against us. They're competitive fouls, that's the way we play. We don't play 7-on-7 football, which sometimes you wonder if that's the way they want the game to go. I thought Charles' interception return for a touchdown was a questionable situation. I felt he held his ground and the receiver made contact with him. Those are the type of judgment calls that are going to go you way sometimes, and sometimes they're going to go the other way, and that one obviously went the other way. That's who we are, that's the way we play. That's our scheme, and I know people have identified that and are trying to create or emphasize that we are bumping downfield too often and so forth, but we aren't going to change.

(How far does Bush have to go to do what Al and Charles can do at the line of scrimmage?)

Jarrett's playing good football. He had the one play on the touchdown, and frankly, that's a hell of a play by the receiver. I thought Rice was impressive in the way he elevated and caught the football there. Every defense in America, the third corner is the guy you're going to be testing, and Jarrett is a young and improving player. He's as competitive a football player as we have on our whole football team. You can see that just in special teams, how aggressive he is and the production he has created in special teams. I look for him to continue to grow and be productive as a corner. Also, Will Blackmon, he's doing an excellent job. So we feel like we have some young corners who are really improving. Tramon is getting better. Frank's a very good cover corner. So I really like the depth we have at that position.

(When Brett's carrying wide receivers around after TD passes, how much does the team feed off of that?)

It's very positive. Very few people can celebrate a touchdown the way Brett does. I just think it shows the bond that he has with his teammates, and particularly the receiver group. We've talked over and over again in here that he spends a lot of extra time with the receivers. We had a Saturday night post-team-meeting meeting with just the quarterbacks and receivers. So there's a strong relationship between each of the perimeter players and Brett, and more importantly as a group, that's getting stronger and stronger as we move forward.

(With your run-pass mix, does that show how much the young receivers have stepped up?)

I think our perimeter group, particularly in the passing game, has performed at a high level. We need to continue to do so. We had a couple drops in this game, but the last two weeks I think we've been exceptional there. Our quarterback is making excellent decisions, spreading the ball around to 10 different receivers yesterday. That's what you're looking for. And they're all competing for the football, and that's what you want. You have a lot of happy people in your perimeter group when the ball is thrown, and that just makes them work a little extra to get open. We're doing a lot of positive things in the passing game.

(What has James Jones done for you?)

James is getting better. There are still things he needs to improve on. His yards after the catch, I'd like to see him a little more physical at the finish of the run. He's a strong young man. He does a good job playing with his strength, but he needs to learn to do it all the time. What's exciting about James Jones is he's only going to get better. And he's been productive.

(Will you be able to practice Jennings at all this week?)

No, I'm not practicing him. He's practicing Friday. I've made the mistake last week of practicing him on Wednesday, and his hamstring fatigued. I'll run out and tell him, because I don't want you guys to be the first to know, but he's not practicing Wednesday or Thursday. He will practice Friday. We need to get off this every week. He has a legitimate hamstring injury, and we need to give it the time to heal properly.

(Do you have to guard against the team getting smug as the talk of the league?)

Well, there's two ways you can look at it. You go in there and eat lunch and you see the Packers on ESPN all the time, so they think they're pretty good. Or they can read your articles, and you guys do a great job of keeping us in check. So I appreciate that. Continue to do so. It's a daily education. I'm not going to deny it. We're very young. We had a situation happen with a player that thought he was inactive, so he didn't come to the plane at the right time. So to me that's a perfect example of my responsibility as a head coach, that you have to make sure you address every little thing. And I think that just shows you segments of our football team. I think we're a young, good football team that's getting better week in and week out, and we'll continue to work, and I'm talking about on the field, off the field. It's a daily message, and I'll just keep hammering away at it.

(How did Peterson and Taylor get to the back end of the defense?)

We had the two explosive gains. The one was just a bad C gap run support, and the other was not staying square. The thing with our defense, I thought our defense for the most part of the day - now, I made a joke of it last week in here that they all count, all those runs count - but we need to do it all the time, because we have the ability to shut down an offense, to choke an offense. I think Peterson is an exceptional young back. That's the first time I've seen him in live action. He was impressive. We need to do it, run defense is more about discipline and attitude, and we just have to do it all the time. Because other than those two runs, I thought we played very well in the run game, but both of those runs combined for 80-plus yards, and you can't let that happen.

(On Peterson's big play, did he just make a great play or was there a defensive breakdown?)

It depends on what press conference you're at. It's a good read by the back. They're in a double-tight-end formation. To use Joe Philbin's terminology, Football 101, anytime you put two tight ends on the line of scrimmage, you take a defensive front and you stretch it from seven gaps to eight gaps, so with that, when you're in a two-shell coverage, you have to make sure that at some level there has to be a support element in place, for the cutback or the front side, however you decide to do it. Just do the math. You've got eight gaps, you've got four down linemen, three linebackers, that's seven people. We had a bad C gap situation and he did a nice job. That's where he cut it back to, he cut it back to the C gap, and our support element wasn't in place.

(With his success early, were you surprised he only got two carries after halftime?)

A little bit, but I don't really get caught up in that part of it. I can't control it. But he was definitely a focus of ours going into the game, and he was a focus that was strongly reiterated at halftime. When we go into a football game and put a target on somebody, we need to make sure we take that target out, and we did not do that with Peterson. He had a good day for them. He probably did not get as many touches as he probably would have liked, but as far as his participation in the second half, I have no control over that.

(Given the time Jennings has missed, how is he still able to make these big plays the last two weeks?)

Greg's a very instinctive football player. He has what you like to refer to as 'it.' He sees the big picture. He understands. Just after he caught the touchdown, something we had talked about during the course of the week, and actually we revisited it as a perimeter group the night before, when he hit the touchdown he came right over and said, hey, it's exactly like we talked about as far as the hole and the angle of the route and so forth. He understands spacing and route-running. Some guys are more track-oriented, you know, narrow vision. But he sees the big picture. He has a clear understanding of flat angles and so forth. That part of it, a lot of it is instinct and natural. It concerns me a young player like that not practicing, don't get me wrong. But when he's available, we're better. So we need to give him every chance to be available. That's why the medical part of it we will handle like I've already stated, he won't practice until Friday.

(When you see good young players come into the division like Peterson, do you find yourself saying 'Look what we have to face for the next 7-8 years'?)

He's one that, he's going to be a challenge, but every team has those type of players. That's the beauty of the NFL. Every football team has prominent football players. He's a guy that's exciting. I'm sure they're excited that he's there. I just look at it as it's going to be fun to play against him. But we need to do a better job containing him. They've got him back there on kickoffs, and he was productive on his two kickoff returns too. That's the beauty of competing on Sundays.

(Who was late to the plane? Is that a fineable offense?)

Team rules. We'll keep that in-house. That's something that has been dealt with, and we'll kept it in the locker room.

(Did you have to hold up the plane for him?)

Oh, no. We had a weather delay coming out. But he was fine.

(Do active and inactive players board at different times?)

No, it was a young player, he thought he may be inactive, so he just figured, well, I guess I don't have to go. It's just an example I'm using of the youth of our football team. It's not a story, OK? It's just an example. I need to do a better job communicating in every little aspect of our program. That's the only point I'm trying to make.

{sportsad300}(How do you walk the fine line between building confidence and having a little swagger without getting big heads? How do you do that as a coach?)

Direct communication. I feel like our football team has a very good understanding of where they are as far as the progression of being a great football team, a championship football team. It's something that we talk about all the time. I think we're a good, young football team that will continue to improve, and we just talk about it. I'm not a psychology major. I'm not into false confidence, just trying to build them up real high one week. I just tell them the truth. I tell them what I see on film, I tell them what I see at practice. And if a guy is running last-minute to a meeting, I confront him and question him on where's your focus. That's the only way I know how to do it, and will continue to do so. It's just a very up-front, direct approach, and just keeping your eye on the target. I'll say this, you could tell just by the mode of the locker room yesterday, I know when I walked in the locker room, I even made a joke to a number of them, we won the game. But there's a number of players that were disappointed in the way they played, and now watching the film, I see why. There are segments of the game that we didn't play very good football. We made enough plays to overcome some of the situations we were in, but I think I'm just being a broken record here. We need to improve. And it's important to improve at this time of year, because as you get into November and December, you can't be going down there for 2 hour, 45 minute practices. Your individual steps back, because now the health of your football team is a concern. You're more in a maintenance mode. We have a number of players that need to continue to improve in the technical and fundamentals of football, and it's an urgency and an emphasis to get it done now.

(Did you honestly envision this team being 4-0?)

I can honestly say I have never walked into a contest that I did not think we could win. I think there's a path to success every time you take the football field. Everybody asks you what your record is. We're trying to win them all, and the approach is we're focused on winning against Chicago. And that's my approach. There are teams that have strengths, and teams that have weaknesses. So do we. We're going to continue to improve on the things that we haven't done very well to this point, and we'll play to our strengths. That is our path for success, and we will not change.

(With all the talk of a fast start, do you break it up into quarters and say you want to be 3-1, or something like that?)

I look at the first quarter of your season as the start of your season. I clearly feel that we've accomplished goal No. 1 of a fast start. We're 4-0, and that's what I would classify as a fast start, so we feel good about that. We feel good about winning our first division game. We're in tune with, we've won eight games in a row. We're doing a lot of positive things the last eight times this football team has taken the field, and we'll continue to build off of that. But we're not blind to the things we need to work on, and I think that's just part of keeping the focus of the football team. And now, after yesterday's experience, I thought that was very revealing of our football players. Our football players knew they won a game in a tough environment, they felt good about that, but you could just tell by the mode in the locker room yesterday that we did not play our best game.

(Have you ever been coaching a team that passed this much?)

No, this is the most I've ever thrown it.

(How do you feel about that? You were able to control the ball a bit yesterday.)

Well, we're doing it pretty good the last three weeks, and they know we're going to do it. I think that's a credit to the pass protection and the perimeter, and particularly the quarterback. The quarterback is making very good decisions, and he's extremely accurate with the football right now. He had a couple of just big-time throws in that game yesterday, I was very impressed when I saw them on the film this morning. But that's not the interest. I'm not interested in throwing the ball 45 times. I had a coordinator once tell me it's a lot more fun to throw the ball. It is, but that's not the best answer over the course of the year. We'll continue to work on the run game, we'll continue to work on the passing game, because we have to try to stay one step ahead of the team we're playing, based on what we anticipate their reaction or how they're going to play us in the passing game.

(I don't remember seeing the three-receiver, two-tight end set much in training camp. Is that just one of the adjustments you make during the season?)

We refer to it as leopard personnel. It's part of our base install. It wasn't a primary personnel through training camp. But once again, when your system of football is installed, everything is done by concept, whether it's the run-blocking or the pass protection or even the pass concepts. All the things we've been doing to this point are all the things we ran in training camp and the OTAs.

(You did a good job protecting the ball in the first three games, but you had a lot of fumbles yesterday. Do you do something to stress that?)

Sore point with me today. We had the ball on the ground five times. That's unacceptable. I think it's vital for your football team to illustrate on game day what you practice. You guys are all at practice during the week, training camp, OTAs. Ball security drills, we do them every single day. Actually we do them Wednesdays and Fridays. We'll do them Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week, because that's just carelessness. We had a couple instances where guys just didn't have the ball high and tight, and we're not happy about it. You can't play like that. We had the ball on the ground five times and lost two of them, so we need to get back on the track that we were in prior weeks.

(On the one by the goal line with Donald Lee, did he not have that covered up?)

It was a pretty good play by Smith. Donald had both hands on the ball, and based on the way he was leveraged, he has to go with the leverage of the player. He was trying to fight. You have to watch yourself. Because we've made so many yards after the catch, but the flip side of it is guys are fighting for extra yards after the first guy comes in. That's when you're exposed and your highest rate of a possible turnover occurs. So we're conscious of it, it's being taught. But we need to protect the ball, especially when we're stretching for extra yardage, and that's what really happened with Donald Lee. But he actually had both hands on the ball.

(Was it a communication error on the fumbled handoff, or strictly a physical mistake?)

It looked technical. Even on the film, it looks like the back didn't make a big enough pocket, because the ball never got to his body. I would think the TV copy would probably be a better copy of it, because on the coaches' film you couldn't see it clearly. But I'm going to say it must have caught the lower half of his arm, so that would tell me there wasn't a big enough pocket as we call it.

(On Morency's fumble, that's a guy who hasn't had a lot of contact ...)

Yeah, that's no excuse though. Mo is better than that. When he first played last year, he was a little loose with the ball, and just the emphasis. I thought he did a great job of protecting the football through the three-quarters of the season as he got more playing time. He had the ball low, and that's unacceptable.

(How did you feel he played? How do you see his role?)

I thought he did some good things. The third down play, he runs an excellent route, beats Chad Greenway across the formation for a big third down. He had some nice pickups. Mo is an instinctive player, has a good feel on the checkdowns. He graded out good. He had a solid performance, but he didn't have a lot of opportunities.

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