Notebook: Packers Head Indoors For Practice

DALLAS - When asked at his morning press conference about his team’s unusual practice location on Wednesday afternoon, Head Coach Mike McCarthy smiled and said high schools in Texas, where football reigns supreme, are a little different than normal high schools.

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Due to snow and ice and continuing cold temperatures in the area this week, the Packers shifted practice from the outdoor stadium at Southern Methodist University to the indoor facility at Highland Park High School in Dallas.

"The players rolled their eyes at first when I told them where we were going to work," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy to pool reporter Jim Trotter following practice. "I said, 'Now, just hold on. This is Texas football.' My daughter went to Lake Travis High School (in Austin), and their facilities are similar to this. I don't think anybody was disappointed when they walked through the doors."

Green Bay's practice was roughly 25 minutes shorter than a usual Wednesday session because the team did its walk-through at the team hotel before busing to SMU, where the players changed into their practice gear for the short trip to Highland Park.

"The guys are fresh, they're ready," McCarthy said afterward. "I want to keep the risk for injury low leading up to the game, which is why we shortened some things today. But it was good to get back in pads. The guys were flying around; they were banging pretty good.

"I feel very good about the quality of work, particularly up front. I did not put the pads on them last week because we were coming off a situation where we had played five must-win games in a row, and our linemen were beat up. I wanted to make sure I gave them a chance to get back, and it definitely paid off today."

Kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay worked out at Cowboys Stadium beforehand and may do so again this week. The team will return to Highland Park High for practices on Thursday and Friday.

The Steelers also practiced indoors on Wednesday because of the weather, conducting their session at Baugh Indoor Practice Facility at TCU in Fort Worth.

Rodgers honoredQuarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year on Wednesday at a press conference in North Texas, site of Super Bowl XLV.

It is the eighth year the award has been given by FedEx, and Rodgers won the honor over New England's Tom Brady and San Diego's Philip Rivers. The award is based on fan voting on NFL.com.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year. In honor of the winners' outstanding play, FedEx is donating $25,000 to the Safe Kids USA coalitions in Green Bay and Kansas City, the local organizations in each player's market. 

Rodgers finished in the top 10 in nearly every major passing category this season, with 3,922 passing yards (No. 7), 28 touchdowns (tied for No. 6), a 65.7 completion percentage (No. 6), 40 passes of 25-plus yards (No. 2) and a 101.2 passer rating (No. 3).

Rodgers is the third Packer to win one of the honors since they were first awarded by FedEx in 2003. Running back Ahman Green won the Ground award in 2003 while quarterback Brett Favre took home the Air honors in 2007.

One upBy advancing to the Super Bowl in just his second year in the league, linebacker Clay Matthews will be playing in a game that his father, Clay Jr., never had a chance to in his 19 years in the NFL.

Matthews' dad played in a staggering 278 regular-season games during his career with Cleveland (1978-93) and Atlanta (1994-96), but just four playoff contests over that span. Three of those came with the Browns while the other was with Atlanta, a Wild Card contest at Lambeau Field against the Packers on Dec. 31, 1995.

When he appears in Super Bowl XLV, it will be the fifth career playoff contest for Matthews III as he tops his father's career postseason-game total. Surpassing his dad's career length? That's another story for a player who battled hamstring and shin injuries throughout the year.

"Growing up and having people admire the fact that he played 19 years – to me, he was just my father, so I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Matthews said. "But, here I am in Year 2 and barely held together, just ready to make it through one more game.

"He made a joke and said that money wasn't that good back in the day so he had to play (that long) to support five kids. It is truly remarkable, especially with football at those times just being so rough with him playing at a position where it is so physical and brutal, to make it that long and not have too serious of injuries. I'll make it out of Year 2 all right – fingers crossed – and then worry about Year 3. Maybe a couple years down the road, we can talk about getting into double digits and upwards."

Despite his father's limited playoff experience, Matthews was able to list a favorite postseason memory from Cleveland's 34-30 win over Buffalo in an AFC Divisional game on Jan. 6, 1990.

"I think where he picked off Jim Kelly in the end zone (at Cleveland's 1-yard line with three seconds remaining) to seal a playoff victory," Matthews said. "He has some impressive highlights on YouTube that I have checked out. It's fun to hear, especially during the recruiting process when I was coming out, some of the coaches and past players talk about him and what he was able to accomplish and the type of player that he was. If I can have half the career that he did, I think I'll be in good company."

Green Bay connectionSteelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is in his 52nd season in the NFL, with 14 of those coming as a player and 38 as a coach.

Four of those seasons as a coach came in Green Bay when LeBeau tutored the defensive backs from 1976-79 on Bart Starr's staff. It was his second job in the league after entering the NFL coaching ranks as a special teams coach with Philadelphia from 1972-75.

"(Green Bay is) a great city," LeBeau said. "Good people, really good people. Honest, hard-working people. A great town. It's still a small-town atmosphere and they support the team tremendously there.

"Really, the only negative about the whole city or franchise was the weather. For a golfer, you couldn't play until August."

LeBeau, a three-time Pro Bowl selection as a defensive back, played all 14 seasons (1959-72) with the Detroit Lions, with the majority of his meetings with Green Bay coming against Vince Lombardi-led teams.

"They were always very well coached," LeBeau said. "They were prepared. They were never going to beat themselves. You had to beat them. They were very good at what they did."

Injury/participation updateLinebacker Erik Walden was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, his first on-field work since injuring his ankle in the third quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Chicago.

"How Erik responds to this practice will be big," McCarthy said. "He practiced and took reps in every team drill. That was the high end of what we were going to try to give him today. It'll be great if he feels good tomorrow."

Linebacker Frank Zombo, who hasn't played since getting hurt at Detroit in Week 14, was a full participant.

"Frank looks good," McCarthy said. "I wanted to get him as much padded work as possible. It seems like Dec. 12 is the last time he's been in pads. We even got him a bunch of reps on special teams, too."

The only other players listed on Green Bay's injury report were tackle Chad Clifton (knees) and guard/center Jason Spitz. Both were full participants on Wednesday.

For Pittsburgh, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), who sustained his injury on the opening drive of the AFC Championship contest vs. the N.Y. Jets, did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Pouncey was inside the TCU training room while the team practiced and would not predict if he might be able to even practice by Friday.

"He's a center who's got a high ankle sprain," Tomlin told pool reporter Peter King. "If he played a skill position, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But he's an interior lineman. Whether he practices (by Friday) depends on how he responds to treatment."

Defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) was a limited participant. Smith hasn't played since Week 7 at Miami.

When asked by King if he had any realistic hope that Smith could return on Sunday, Tomlin said, "I do, but it's fading."

Additional coverage - Feb. 2 

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