The Green Bay Packers are 7-0 and are clearly the best team in the NFL, but following their bye week head coach Mike McCarthy is not taking anything for granted -- he has ordered an extra practice with pads this week.
“It sends a message to your ballclub, letting us know that ‘vacation is over now. It’s time to get back to work,’” wide receiver James Jones said.
According to The Associated Press, under the league's new collective bargaining agreement a team can hold a total of 14 padded practices throughout the season. Eleven of those sessions must occur during the first 11 weeks, so with the bye week, there will always be one week where two such practices are held. For the Packers, that was this week, catching some players by surprise.
“Everybody thought we were going to be in shells,” tight end Jermichael Finley said. “Then we heard that full pads, and it changed everybody’s mindset. No doubt (McCarthy) is trying to send a message. He didn’t want anybody coming in, being lazy, flat-footed. He put those pads on us ASAP and woke us up at the beginning of the week."
McCarthy said Monday's practice focused on "fundamentals," which you'd think the team already has covered considering its undefeated start.
“It’s nice when people say nice things about your football team. It definitely beats the alternative,” McCarthy said after the 90-minute practice. “But as we talked about as a team today, we’re getting ready to hit the halfway point in our season. We like where we are, but we’re really focused on getting better. We have more to offer as a football team."
The Packers are entering a difficult part of their schedule. When they face the Chargers on Sunday, it will be their first opponent that has a winning record coming into the game.
“We feel strongly, with a lot of confidence, that if we go out week in and week out and play our best football that things will take care of itself," McCarthy said. "We’re just really focused on making sure that when Sunday rolls around, that we go out and give our best performance to get to 8-0.”