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Notebook: Veterans Aware Of Urgency That Playoffs Bring

As the Packers stood at 4-4 at the midway point of the season, they knew that there would be little margin for error in the final eight games if their playoff aspirations were going to stay alive. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Jan. 6

As the Packers stood at 4-4 at the midway point of the season, they knew that there would be little margin for error in the final eight games if their playoff aspirations were going to stay alive.

Now that the goal of advancing to the postseason has been reached through a 7-1 record in the second half of the season, Green Bay's players, especially the veterans, are aware the sense of urgency will need to be there once again starting this Sunday at Arizona.

"We know exactly what we can be and how far we can go," said wide receiver Donald Driver, who brings eight games of playoff experience. "So it's just us taking care of business. I think if you look at the games that we lost this year earlier in the year, we beat ourselves.

"Now it starts all over again. You get one chance at it, and it doesn't come around often."

Sixth-year defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who has been to the playoffs twice before with the Packers, said that "one-and-done" mentality is something that he and other more experienced players have tried to pass along to the younger players on the roster entering their first postseason game.

"The whole season is on the line now," Jenkins said. "There is no come in on Monday and correct the mistakes after a loss. If you lose, you're done, so you've got to go into the game making sure that you don't come out with any regrets.

"I'd say the biggest importance you can take out of playoff experience is not taking it for granted, because guys that have been in the playoffs before know how hard it is to get there. You just have to leave everything on the line because if you have been there and you haven't won it all, then you know what it is like to lose and have to go home and have that regret."

Of the 53 players on the Packers' roster, 30 have played in the playoffs before, including 28 who appeared in at least one of the two '07 postseason contests in Green Bay. After a win over Seattle in the Divisional playoff, the Packers fell to the N.Y. Giants 23-20 in overtime at home in the NFC Championship.

"I think that is going to be big for us because we don't want to go through that again," Jenkins said. "We know how that was, we know how that felt."

The Packers will be returning to Arizona for the second straight week after beating the Cardinals 33-7 last Sunday in the season finale. Several players acknowledged that it will be a much different atmosphere this weekend with so much more at stake, but the team has some experience this season playing in nationally televised games that drew plenty of attention.

"I look at the course that we've taken through the season, we've played in some big games," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You can definitely look at our home opener against Chicago, on Monday Night Football, or Sunday Night Football, that's a big-time game. The two Minnesota games were as well-covered or viewed in the history of television.

"So we've had a lot of big games, and those are experiences we can definitely draw from, and I think we have. I think we've had the opportunity to take our experiences from the season into our preparation. I think just playing there last week helps us, because we know exactly the type of environment we're going back into."

Veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who is tied with Driver for No. 2 on the roster with eight games of playoff experience behind only cornerback Charles Woodson's nine, said Green Bay's younger players will realize quickly enough how much different the postseason is.

"It's like going from preseason to regular season and then regular season to playoffs," Pickett said. "The intensity is much greater. It's win or go home, so there are no re-dos or things like that.

"Teams are going to lay it all out on the line, so you've got to be ready for that. A lot of young players haven't seen it yet, but they'll see it as soon as the kickoff starts."

Back to work

After not practicing at all the past two weeks because of a hamstring injury he sustained in Week 13 vs. Baltimore, Pickett returned to the practice field on Wednesday. He was listed as a limited participant, and said he "felt great" after practice.

"It was good to have him back," McCarthy said. "He's been out for a couple weeks, but I thought he had a solid day's work, without seeing the film."

Pickett hadn't practiced since Dec. 18, two days before the Pittsburgh game, and played just a handful of snaps in that game. He was inactive for three of the final four games.

"I like practicing," Pickett said. "I like getting my work in and working on my technique, so I don't think you benefit from not playing. I have been playing for so long, so I don't think I am going to fall off too much.

"But you would like to play every snap and get better and better. I missed out a little bit, so I am trying to pick it up now and go extra hard at practice to get it back."

No issue

Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt shot down the notion that he was upset with McCarthy for playing Green Bay's starters for a good portion of the Packers' 33-7 win at Arizona last Sunday.

Whisenhunt began to pull starters in the first quarter, including quarterback Kurt Warner, who played just two series, whereas McCarthy played many of his starters three quarters after talking throughout the week about the importance of continuing to build momentum as the team headed into the playoffs.

"No, I didn't think so," Whisenhunt said when asked if he thought the Packers ran up the score. "I think (McCarthy) actually ran the ball quite a bit in the second half, trying to take time off the clock. I didn't think anything out of the ordinary with that. He was I'm sure working on things for his game plan or his preparation for this week.

{sportsad300}"There is not a lot to complain about from his perspective I wouldn't think about what they did. They accomplished what they wanted to get done and they played well. I think it certainly speaks a lot to their season and how well they have played, especially in the second half."

Whisenhunt said his only disappointment about Sunday's game was with how his own team performed.

"It was obvious to me that Green Bay was more physical than us, and that's what was very disappointing to me," Whisenhunt said. "I could see where he would think that I was irritated, and I was, but it certainly wasn't at Coach McCarthy or the Packers. It was more about how we performed."

Awards keep coming

For the third time this season, Woodson was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Woodson is the only player to win the NFC Defensive Player of the Month Award multiple times in a season, and he joins Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt as the only players to win a Player of the Month Award three times in a season.

Woodson posted 20 tackles, two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and seven passes defensed in December/January.

On Wednesday, Woodson was also one of 10 NFL players voted by former players as NFL Alumni 2009 Player of the Year honorees.

Woodson was selected as the league's top defensive back by a panel of former pros who vote only for the position they once played themselves. He tied for the NFL lead with a career-high nine interceptions and also tied for the league lead with a career-best three interception returns for touchdowns.

Woodson will be honored along with the other players selected at a dinner on Friday, Feb. 5, in Hollywood, Fla.

Injury/participation update

Safety Derrick Martin (ankle) was Green Bay's only injured player who didn't participate in Wednesday's practice. Martin was inactive for the season finale at Arizona last week, but McCarthy said the team was "hoping" to have him available this Sunday.

"We're going to take the week," McCarthy said. "He is treating around the clock. Dr. McKenzie is encouraged. Last week he would have probably told you no. This week he thinks he definitely has a chance, so he's made a lot of progress."

Pickett, tackle Chad Clifton (knee), defensive ends Johnny Jolly (foot) and Michael Montgomery (ankle) and cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) were all limited.

Woodson left the game on Sunday in the second quarter after jamming his shoulder on a tackle attempt, an injury he has battled throughout the year, and McCarthy said Woodson's practice schedule this week would be similar to how it has been throughout the season. He added that he didn't anticipate Woodson's injury being an issue for Sunday.

Linebacker Brandon Chillar (back) and fullback Korey Hall (elbow), who both were sidelined for last Sunday's finale, returned to practice as full participants.

For Arizona, two key players that sustained injuries in last Sunday's game did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who finished second on the team this season with 84 catches for 1,024 yards, sat out with an ankle injury.

Whisenhunt referenced Boldin playing through an ankle injury in the Cardinals' Week 7 win at the New York Giants as an example of him still being effective at less than 100 percent. After being listed as questionable with the injury, Boldin started and caught three passes for 75 yards, including a game-long 44-yarder right before halftime that set up a field goal.

"We all know how tough Anquan is," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think we are ever in a position to write him off, to see some of the things that he has done. The thing I do feel a little better about is we do have a little bit of depth at that position, at the receiver corps. The guys that would be filling in have played in playoff games before, so that does help if Anquan is not able to go.

"But we all know that we are a better offense when Anquan is healthy or when Anquan is able to go."

Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who bruised his knee making a tackle on the opening drive last week, also did not participate because of his knee as well as a toe injury. Whisenhunt said he "hoped" to have Rodgers-Cromartie available for Sunday.

Starting free safety Antrel Rolle (thigh) also didn't participate in Wednesday's practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (thumb), guard Deuce Lutui (back), tight end Ben Patrick (head) and quarterback Brian St. Pierre (back) were limited participants.

Running back Tim Hightower (knee), defensive end Kenny Iwebema (head), fullback Dan Kreider (neck), wide receiver Sean Morey (head) and kicker Neil Rackers (right groin) participated fully.

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