Packers, Jaguars Plenty Motivated To Get A Win


With the Packers on the brink of playoff elimination and the Jaguars already out of the running, phrases like "playing out the string" or "playing for pride" are easily tossed about by fans heading into this weekend's matchup in Jacksonville.

But both head coaches, Green Bay's Mike McCarthy and Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, insist there'll be no lack of motivation from their squads to get a victory come Sunday.

"It's time to fight, and I'm not talking about when a guy is blocking late after the whistle," McCarthy said. "It's time to fight our way out of this hole that we created. We're in this position for a reason, and it's time to fight in every aspect of our play."

McCarthy's Packers have lost three straight games and five of their last six since the bye week, falling to 5-8. While winning the NFC North is still mathematically possible - the Packers would have to win their final three games, the 8-5 Vikings would have to lose their final three, and the Bears would have to lose to either the Saints this week or the Texans in Week 17 - it's not realistic to expect players to be motivated by remote playoff possibilities at this stage.

So it comes down to the work ethic of being a professional, both for the players and the coaches.

Del Rio's Jaguars are in a similar situation, having lost six of seven games since their bye week to fall to 4-9. Much like the Packers, the Jaguars are a long way from the playoff team of a year ago that made a run at the conference title and was expected to contend for all 16 games this season.

Their year has been fraught with injuries and close losses as well, but that hasn't hastened Del Rio's desire to see the season finish up.

"There are a lot of challenges out there in the coaching world -- this is the kind I don't want to see very often," Del Rio said. "But certainly we're professionals. We look forward to the opportunity to compete. We work so hard year round at this job, the offseason will get here soon enough."

It's at times like these that a team's leaders can be looked even moreso to set the example for their team and keep them motivated. Both team's quarterbacks take that job seriously and know they have to keep their team believing it can win, the same way they did when postseason aspirations were still in play.

"For me, I just think whenever I have a chance to compete, I'm always going to be out there 110 percent doing my job," Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard said. "I hate to be embarrassed. I would hate to be embarrassed on the field, not being prepared or not being motivated."

Losses that stack up are embarrassing enough to professional players, even when they're hard-fought, down-to-the-wire games.

"As a man and a football player, you have a lot of pride in what you do," Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "You get paid to play, so there's not even a question in my mind about the kind of approach the guys are going to take to this game, and the following two games after that.

"So we're going to play, play hard, and hopefully string together some wins."

Listening to several Packers players discuss the state of the team in the locker room on Wednesday, it feels as though one win would lift a tremendous burden off their shoulders. That burden is compounded by the fact that four of the Packers' losses in the last six weeks have been by four points or less.

"Losing, it stinks," center Scott Wells said. "There's no nice way to put it. There's no moral victories. It doesn't matter how hard you fought. You lose, that's what you'll be judged on is whether you won or lost. It's definitely frustrating, and the only way to relieve that frustration is to get a win."

Added offensive linemate Daryn Colledge: "It's always been about getting a win. This team expects to win games, and right now we haven't been getting that done. We've lost a lot of close games, and that's 100 percent our fault. You can't blame anybody else. We put ourselves in this position, so we plan on digging ourselves out of it."

If they're successful in doing that and can climb back to 8-8 by season's end, they would at least avoid just the second losing season in the last 17 years in Green Bay. But even then, receiver Greg Jennings said this team will still have underachieved, and that's what the players will have to live with in the offseason.

But that's no excuse for coasting through the final games. In the end, it would be even tougher to look back during the offseason and question whether full effort was given, and the Packers promise that won't be an issue.

{sportsad300}"It's tough when you have a lack of success, or more failure than you do have success, it's tough to get over that," Jennings said. "But we have to dig deep and we have to fight.

"It's always about trying to get the winning feeling back. Anytime you lose that feeling, you want to get that feeling back, because it builds your team morale. Obviously we know how it feels to win, but we've felt losing a little too much this year."

That's all the more reason to want to feel something different, even if the season is ending in three weeks and not extending into January.

"It's not even about the postseason, it's about us trying to get back," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "It's important to be a Green Bay Packer and to get ourselves back on the winning track, just for ourselves and for our team.

"Just the way we've had losses this year obviously has been tough, but the good thing is we have a chance to change that on Sunday, and we'll keep fighting as long as they let us keep playing."

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