GREEN BAY — While all the outside conversation centers on playoff scenarios and tiebreakers, the Packers are concentrated on only one thing this week.
Beating the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers have jumped back into the NFC North title hunt with a four-game winning streak, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn’t shifting into neutral after what the team has accomplished over the past month.
The focus is on what the team needs to do over the last two weeks of the regular season to ensure a spot in the playoffs.
“We knew when we were in the tough phase of the season that we needed to stay true to ourselves and our commitment to one another,” McCarthy said. “We pushed through that and now it’s time to do something with it. That’s really our focus. We have team coming in here we have a lot of respect for. This is going to be a knockdown, drag-out game.”
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (calf) and LB Clay Matthews (shoulder) were both full participants during Wednesday’s non-padded practice inside the Don Hutson Center.
McCarthy said that is partially a byproduct of a lighter practice schedule, but it was good for both veterans to get the reps they did after being largely limited a week ago.
LB Nick Perry is expected to practice again during the team’s final run-through on Friday. He missed the past two games with a hand injury, but has been working this week with a club.
“It was good to have quality work from those guys,” McCarthy said. “It’s important for all of your players to practice, particularly for the veterans and really the timing with everybody else.”
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GREEN BAY — The Packers’ coordinators plus defensive assistant coaches met with the media late Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a sampling of some of their key comments:
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook
(on Vikings’ returners Sherels and Patterson)
“Really good returners coming in here this week. It’s every week in the National Football League but these two guys are special. They can change a game. We’ve got to go down and cover. We’ve had a lot of practice the last few weeks with Philadelphia and Seattle.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers
(on Clinton-Dix making the Pro Bowl)
“Ha’s just progressively gotten better. He’s a guy that practices every day, very attentive in meetings. He’s a physical player on the run. Because of his experience, he does a good job of disguising coverage. He understands when he needs to be close to the line of scrimmage, and when he can hang back and bait the quarterback. He made two big plays for us. He’s had an excellent year and it’s well-deserved. I can remember when we started him as a rookie in Seattle, and he’s come a long way since then.”
(on playing Matthews in such a limited capacity)
“Anytime we can get Clay on the field, he’s one of those guys can make one or two plays that might change a game. When Clay says he wants to try it, you’re going to look at him and limit what he does at certain times. I think he’s getting better. I certainly appreciate Clay going out there, understanding the importance of each and every one of these games.”
(on facing Peterson again)
“Anytime there’s a chance of Adrian Peterson being on the field, it’s going to catch your attention. The thing about Adrian Peterson, he can hit a home run at any time. If you make a mistake, with that speed, he can take it to the house. You’re always concerned about that. You want to try to get him before he gets started. That was the best thing we did in the game. That, and we got pretty good pressure on the quarterback.”
“He’s a quick rhythm passer. He hasn’t thrown a lot of interceptions. He gets the ball out quickly and he’s completing a high percentage.”
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett
(on having Rodgers back at practice this week)
“It certainly helps. Obviously, some players can operate and play without taking the entire number of reps and still be ready to go play, but it certainly helps as far as the other guys. That’s what it’s about, the teammates and getting everybody on the same page.”
(on Lang making the Pro Bowl with his full body of work)
“It really is. Overall, the success that he’s had over the years, as well as this year, he’s a tremendous leader for us. He’s a role model and sets the example for our younger players. You love his play style.”
(on Montgomery’s transition)
“You knew he had the toughness. That’s the starting point, the attitude of it. He breaks tackles. He does all the little things. It doesn’t really surprise us.”
Associate head coach/outside linebackers Winston Moss
(on Perry, Matthews playing with one good arm)
“We don’t know if Nick is going to play. Clay has been playing with the shoulder and doing the best that he can. I think we’ve gotten his best, the best that he can do. Based upon Clay’s history and expectations and what he could do, you never know.”
(on Jones getting his first sack vs. Seattle)
“I love what Datone is doing. He just has to keep on going.”
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac
(on the success vs. Peterson the first time)
“One thing with Adrian, when you play against a guy of his skills, it’s everybody staying coordinated along the front, and I thought we did a good job with that. When you have guys on different levels, that’s where he thrives. It looks like he still can do what he needs to do. He’s got a ton of heart and a ton of fight in him.”
(on the stamina of rookies Clark, Lowry)
“Neither of those guys are starters, so they aren’t worn out. They come from programs that have been in bowl games. That’s always a plus because they’re playing into January. We have good vets that show them the way. I don’t really have a concern in that regard.”
Safeties coach Darren Perry
(on Clinton-Dix’s progression to the Pro Bowl)
“He just continues to lead and continues to grow as a player. He’s a young player that’s still learning, but at the same time he’s being a leader and a great influence on the young guys. The way he goes about his business and prepares, it sets a great example. Always been a hard worker. Just keep the same work ethic that he’s displayed since Day 1 when he got here.”
(on his leadership)
“He has a positive mentality throughout, and I think that’s contagious. The way he’s trying to be uplifting to all the guys out there, young or old, that’s just what he is, and I think the guys feed off of that.”
(on where he’s improved the most)
“His tackling. His first year, he was in double digits I think in missed tackles. The fundamentals and consistency part of it, that’s important. The interceptions will come.”
Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr.
(on the fourth-quarter struggles in Chicago)
“We didn’t play great in the fourth quarter. You can’t hide from that. If we’re going to be a championship type team, we can’t have those things happen. The great thing is we won the game. We had a great third quarter. But to be the team we want to be, we have to shore that up, and we have the guys to do that. We understand the issues, and we’re going to take care of them.”
(on Hyde making the goal-line play and avoiding Guion running onto the field)
“I’m glad he made the play. Micah is the type of guy who’s never up or down. He’s level. He’s not going to panic. He’s always going to be the same way.”
Assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley
(on Joe Thomas)
“I like what he’s done. I like how he’s progressed. We’ve had different situations where he’s had to become the signal-caller, the decision-maker, to do those kinds of things. He’s had to take on both spots that we play in there. He’s really developed. He plays a tough, aggressive game that I respect a lot.”
(on the health of the inside group)
“Hopefully we haven’t had any setbacks and we’re back to where we can get all three of them rolling.”
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GREEN BAY — The Packers have felt for several years now that they had a Pro Bowl-caliber guard in T.J. Lang.
Now, the eighth-year veteran finally has the title to go along with the admiration of his teammates and coaches.
Lang and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time, the NFL announced on Tuesday night. They’re joined on the NFC team by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who was selected for the sixth time in his nine seasons as Green Bay’s starting quarterback.
The Packers also had two players – WR Jordy Nelson and T David Bakhtiari – named first alternates. DT Mike Daniels, WR Davante Adams and FB Aaron Ripkowski also were selected as alternates.
“About time,” said Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy of Lang’s selection. “I think we all felt that way for T.J. The general excitement for TJ and Ha Ha says a lot about those two men and our locker room. Aaron’s excitement for those two men. You like to see guys be rewarded and recognized for their seasons, but also the guys who were also alternates in Jordy, Bakhtiari and Mike Daniels. Bryan Bulaga is having a great year. There’s a lot of guys that we feel were worthy of the recognition.”
Clinton-Dix has enjoyed a breakthrough season in his third NFL campaign, currently tied for the league lead in interceptions by a safety this season with five. He was named NFC defensive player of the week on Wednesday following his two-interception performance in Sunday’s 30-27 win over the Chicago Bears.
The former first-round pick has played all but one defensive snap this season.
“If you watch Ha Ha work every day, you have a greater appreciation for him because he does all the little things,” McCarthy said. “He’s a fun guy to work with. I would think his teammates would definitely echo that he’s a lot more fun to compete with on Sundays. Ha, I was very happy for him.”
McCarthy added that linebacker Nick Perry is making progress with the hand injury that’s sidelined him for the Packers’ last two games. Perry, who leads the defense with eight sacks, has been working with the training staff to get comfortable with wearing a cast over his hand.
“We’re going to try to do some things today,” McCarthy said. “It’s a process. We’re working through it.”
The Packers will conduct their first practice of the week on Wednesday afternoon.
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GREEN BAY — It’s been three full months since the Packers and Vikings first met this season, and the rematch isn’t likely to be all that similar on Saturday at Lambeau Field.
For starters, the Packers have a completely new offensive backfield while the Vikings have a new offensive coordinator, as Pat Shurmur replaced Norv Turner midseason.
“They’re different and we’re different. Every team in the league is different from Week 2,” McCarthy said on Tuesday. “Both teams have endured a lot of injuries and have different moving parts there. They’re still very good on defense. Offensively they made a shift there with the coordinators. They’ve established a different trend of how they’re going to play, and I think they’re still very good on special teams.”
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson was injured in the third quarter of these teams’ first meeting, and he returned last week for the Vikings against Indianapolis.
“He didn’t play a whole lot,” McCarthy said of Peterson, who had six carries for 22 yards, with a fumble. “But he’s Adrian Peterson. That’s our approach with it.”
On the injury front for the Packers, McCarthy said LB Clay Matthews continues to get better while playing through his shoulder injury, and LB Nick Perry (hand) has a chance to get on the practice field on Wednesday, but it’s still wait and see with him.
The workout schedule is light this week due to the shortened time frame and the fact that the Packers had both their bye week and Thursday night game early this season. The team will practice in shells (not full pads) late on Wednesday, and then the final practice of the week will be on Friday.
“For the whole team, it’s a low workload,” McCarthy said, and that includes QB Aaron Rodgers with his calf injury. “We have to give these guys a chance to get their bodies back.”
Packers.com will have more following locker room interviews.
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