Notebook: Footballs Given The Deep Freeze

The Packers didn’t practice outside this week to prepare for Sunday’s predicted frigid weather, but they did get a feel for a cold football. Head Coach Mike McCarthy had the team’s equipment staff put footballs in the freezer before they were used in practice, providing yet another way for McCarthy to emphasize something he’s emphasized all season - ball security. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Giants Game Center


The Green Bay Packers didn't practice outside this week to prepare for Sunday's predicted frigid weather, but they did get a feel for a cold football.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy had the team's equipment staff put footballs in the freezer before they were used in practice, providing yet another way for McCarthy to emphasize something he's emphasized all season - ball security.

"We thought most likely the balls had been outside all day, but they were in the freezer," receiver Donald Driver said. "They were kind of slippery."

The players weren't even told about the frozen footballs but seemed to pass the test of handling them and hanging onto them without too much difficulty. McCarthy said the idea was just an extension of something he's done to prepare for a wet-weather game before, which is to dunk footballs in buckets of water during practice. The Packers had used that tactic before, even when wet weather wasn't necessarily in the forecast.

"We froze the balls, really didn't tell the players about it and just rolled them in there on Wednesday and did it throughout the week," McCarthy said. "Really I was just trying to get them to focus more on catching the football. We had a couple of quarterback-center exchange in the shotgun problems there on Wednesday, but I thought they handled it very well."

Other than that, there's really been no physical preparation for the cold, per se. There's been plenty of talk about whether or not the linemen are going to go sleeveless, as is supposedly the tough-guy tradition in Green Bay, while other position groups such as the receivers don't want sleeves making it more difficult to hang onto the ball.

Tight end Bubba Franks said how a player dresses is really a matter of personal preference, but the net effect any player is after, whether he bundles up more or sticks to his usual garb, is to dress in a way that keeps his mind off the weather.

"It's better to be out there comfortable than to think even one point in the game about the weather," Franks said. "If you don't let it factor in, it's not a problem."

Not letting it factor in is the mental battle all players will face. Quarterback Brett Favre believes that the more the weather conditions negate or limit any differences in athletic talent, the more the mental test of wills decides the game.

"Physically you look across this league, all the guys can run -- they're all strong, fast, quick, whatever," Favre said. "But mentally this measures toughness and discipline I think more so than it would in 70 degrees. Maybe it takes away a little bit of the physical gifts that we were given, but I think it makes up for that with the mental discipline that you have to have."

Either way, it's clear after this long week of hype that all the players are tired of discussing the cold weather and how it might or might not affect the game. The expected cold front blew into Green Bay Thursday night and is expected to stay through the weekend, but the players are glad the questions about the weather will cease until post-game.

"Most people are talking bout the weather other than all the players playing in the game," Franks said. "It's not going to be a factor unless you make it a factor. Both teams are going to be cold, but we're still going to have to play football. They're not going to cancel the game, so just bring it on."

Staying loose

There have been repeated references to the Packers being a very "loose" team this season, and this week really was no different.

The players say that relaxed, yet focused, mindset comes from their head coach, who instills a confidence in them that keeps the players from getting over-anxious.

"He's one of those coaches that he doesn't want to get all uptight about anything," Driver said. "All season long he's telling us we only can beat ourselves, no team can beat us."

Driver said the message filtering through the team this week is the Packers' three losses this season were all due to their own mistakes. But practice time was always devoted immediately to correcting those mistakes, as the focus shifted to the next game.

It's been the same this week, reinforcing some of the issues that cropped up in the cold, blustery conditions in Chicago last month, and applying those corrections to their next opponent.

"Coach McCarthy has done a great job of keeping us on the same routines, keeping us in basically the same structure as Week 2 or 3 or 10 or whatever, and I think that's really been a benefit for us," defensive end Aaron Kampman said.

"I think we realize the fact that there's more at stake. But having said that, you know, we still are the same team."

Time to score

Driver scored just two touchdowns this season, but to his credit, it never affected his attitude or his approach to leading a young receiving corps that's been a huge part of the offense's success this season.

{sportsad300}If any of the Packers receivers gets double-teamed, it's Driver. Even though his touchdown total pales in comparison to Greg Jennings' 14 (12 regular season, 2 playoffs), Driver still led the group in the regular season with 82 receptions for 1,048 yards.

"Donald Driver's always been a team player," McCarthy said. "I think it speaks volumes about the way he approaches his job, the way he helps other receivers based on his experiences when he came through here in Green Bay, his rookie year. Very high-character individual. He knows he's still the primary threat and he's the flanker in our system. That is the No. 1 receiver so his opportunities are there."

It may be time for him to find the end zone again, though. One of Driver's two scores this season came against the Giants back in Week 2, and he followed it up the next week with his second touchdown against the Chargers.

Little did anyone know that would be the last time Driver scored this season, but no one would know from talking to Driver about it either. His peers and the league's coaches certainly recognized his two touchdowns were no indication of a drop-off in performance, voting him to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.

"I think my contribution is just going out there and making plays whenever I've got the opportunity, and every time I've got the opportunity I make the best out of it," Driver said. "I think a lot of people feel like you have to score touchdowns to get the recognition, but I didn't feel like I had to do that this year.

"I think it was a proven fact if you go out there and do your job then everyone around the National Football League understands that."

Injury update

Backup cornerback and punt returner Will Blackmon is the only Packers player whose playing status for Sunday is still in limbo. Blackmon (foot) was a full participant in practice on Friday for the first time this week, but is listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) on the final injury report.

"I thought he progressed through the week," McCarthy said. "Wednesday and Thursday and Friday during special teams work I thought he looked great. The defensive work he improved through the week. We'll see how he feels tomorrow and it'll be a game-time decision."

Linebacker Nick Barnett (hamstring), center Scott Wells (glute), receiver Koren Robinson (knee), cornerback Charles Woodson (knee) and Franks (knee) were all full participants and are listed as probable (virtual certainty to be available for normal duty).

Jennings was moved from the injury report and will play after fully participating in practice the last two days.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content