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Packers clean out their lockers

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GREEN BAY – With carts and bags strewn about, the Packers’ roster cleared out its lockers on Monday morning in preparation for what’s expected to be an eventful offseason.

Whether it was tossing old cleats in bins for charity or the cascade of gloves being tossed into duffle bags, the 2018 season officially came to a close with a somber but hopeful tone permeating through the room.

While many lamented how things played out during a challenging 6-9-1 campaign, the 2018 season saw several new playmakers such as Davante Adams and Kenny Clark emerge as bona fide stars on an up-and-coming roster.

After the organizational decision to part ways with Mike McCarthy earlier this month, it will be on both the Packers’ next head coach and the locker room to make all those young pieces fit in 2019 and beyond.

“Obviously, there is uncertainty with changes that are going to happen,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “Who knows how soon or how late that’s going to happen? I assume fairly quickly they’ll move forward and put a program in place. You just have to approach it the same way you would any offseason regardless of coaching changes or not. At the end of the day, we have a job. It’s get ready to play football.”

Green Bay, seeking its first head coach in 13 years, began its coaching search earlier this month and will continue to evaluate potential candidates for the job in the coming days, including interim head coach Joe Philbin.

Meanwhile, players are free to embark upon their offseason plans following the conclusion of exit meetings this week. Since the team will have a new head coach in place, the Packers are permitted to begin their offseason program on April 1, two weeks earlier than usual.

Disappointed in the outcome of a season that began with such high expectations, several players talked with reporters Monday about how much the sour aftertaste of 2018 will motivate them in their offseason training.

“It makes you go home and work harder,” running back Aaron Jones said. “You don’t know who’s going to be here, you don’t know what they’re going to want of you. So you’ve got to be able to do everything. It’ll be fun and exciting, learning a new offense, learning how they’re going to use us, but you’ve just got to be prepared, be ready to do (anything).”

Those dominoes will begin to fall once a new coach is hired and a new program is put in place. Until then, this offseason will be about getting healthy (the Packers finished with 15 players on injured reserve) and the 2019 NFL Draft in which the Packers have three selections in the top 45 picks and 10 overall.

The key now for those returning from this past season will be to make sure the issues that plagued the Packers in 2018 don’t occur again in the new year.

“Regardless of the coach, guys come with a mentality that what happened this year is unacceptable,” Bulaga said. “Guys need to understand that just because a new coach is coming does not mean that the problems are solved. Hopefully, with the change, guys get a new mentality and a new mindset to get ready to come and work on April 1.”

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