Notebook: McCarthy Still Keeping Team Grounded

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it in his first talk with the team back in the spring of 2006. "The biggest challenge that we’ll have here is handling success," is the refrain. So far, so good. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Vikings Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 12


Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it in his first talk with the team back in the spring of 2006. He said it again after he lost his first game as a head coach 26-0. And he continues to say it now, with his team leading the NFC North by two games.

"The biggest challenge that we'll have here is handling success," is the familiar refrain.

So far, so good.

Since a 4-8 start to his head coaching career, McCarthy has won 12 of his last 13 games, and with an 8-1 record in 2007, his Packers are tied for the best record in the NFC with the Dallas Cowboys.

But McCarthy's level-headed approach to his job has kept his team grounded, both in bad times and in good. No one was jumping ship in early December last year, and no one is getting too full of themselves at midseason this year either.

"I think it's human nature when people are throwing you flowers and saying a lot of nice things, you can kind of take a step back and have an attitude of trying to smell the roses," McCarthy said during his Monday press conference, a day after beating division rival Minnesota 34-0. "The roses in my opinion don't come until after Glendale, Arizona. And that's been our outlook since day one."

McCarthy's approach isn't to look ahead to Glendale, the site of Super Bowl XLII, but to have that as a target from the beginning and keep it in sight. McCarthy is always honest with his team about its performance, and he said he'd tell the players on Wednesday they "played a hell of a game" on Sunday, and he's been just as honest in some of the uglier victories this season.

The approach seems to be working. Quarterback Brett Favre said after Sunday's victory that he would have expected the team to "lay an egg" by now, having been given every opportunity to let success inflate the players' opinions of themselves. But that hasn't happened.

Even during the rough patches last year, McCarthy believed handling success would be the biggest challenge because he thinks professional football players all have an innate ability to overcome adversity, otherwise they wouldn't have made it this far in their careers.

So how they handle success is the key to keeping the target in the proper perspective, and thus far the Packers, despite their youth, are staying in the right frame of mind.

"Some people have success in college, some people don't," McCarthy said. "So when it's new, everybody handles new situations differently. You can go one way or the other."

Big block

The Vikings thought they had the right blitz called to stop Ryan Grant on the toss play to the right that went for a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter on Sunday, but fullback Korey Hall foiled it.

Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson blitzed on the play and was looking to bring Grant down at the line of scrimmage, if not behind it. But Hall threw his body at Henderson's legs and upended him, allowing Grant to take off through the hole and eventually score.

Grant also got a key downfield block from receiver Koren Robinson near the goal line, but it was Hall's block that made the play.

"There are certain things in practice you get a chance to rep and expose a player to, and certain things you can't," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "That particular blitz, we really hadn't run that play against that blitz, but Korey stayed on his course, stayed on his track, and Henderson showed up in the hole and he did a great job getting him down on the ground. Really, that was the key block that sprung Ryan Grant on that."

{sportsad300}Solid first start

Rookie safety Aaron Rouse graded out fairly well in his first NFL start. Rouse, who replaced Nick Collins (knee) in the starting lineup against the Vikings, was credited with four solo tackles, three of them coming in the fourth quarter.

His most notable tackle was on Minnesota's last play, as he brought down receiver Robert Ferguson after a reception for just a 3-yard gain on fourth-and-7, ending Minnesota's last chance to score at the Green Bay 24-yard line in the game's final minute.

McCarthy said Rouse had a few tackling errors where he needs to wrap up better, but all in all it was a decent outing and "something we can build off of."

Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders concurred.

"He had a couple missed tackles but certainly was in excellent position most of the day," Sanders said. "His communication was good, and we just have to make sure we wrap up. There were a couple situations where we had a guy at 6 or 8 yards and it ended up being a bigger play than we'd like to give up."

Collins could be out three to four weeks, so Rouse will remain in the starting lineup, probably until at least the end of the month.

Injury update

McCarthy said offensive tackle Mark Tauscher (ankle), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (knee) and backup linebacker and special teams standout Tracy White (ankle) all would likely miss some practice time this week. But he didn't indicate any would be in jeopardy of missing Sunday's game.

Quarterback Brett Favre checked out fine after taking a blow to the head in the second half and wasn't even on McCarthy's medical list.

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