Looking for healthier start, McCarthy changing things up for Packers camp


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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Going into his ninth year coaching the Packers, Mike McCarthy isn't averse to changing things up.

After two injury-filled seasons, an alteration is coming to how Green Bay prepares for games.

The practice schedule is changing, with players getting an off day, then running through practice the day before a game. That's the reverse of how things were done last season.

"This is the first time the schedule is changing in nine years," McCarthy said Friday as the Packers reported to camp. "This is the third year we've talked about it. I decided in spring to take the leap. We really just want to get that right and get our guys ready."

McCarthy described it as a philosophical change. It's another noticeable tweak following a 2013 season in which the Packers finished 8-7-1 and won a third straight NFC North title before losing at home in a wild-card game to the San Francisco 49ers.

Last season will also be remembered for the swath of injuries that hit the team, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone and linebacker Clay Matthews' broken right thumb.

This offseason, McCarthy also decided to cut down the playbook a little, particularly on defense, in what he has dubbed a "more personnel, less scheme" plan. The goal there is to have more players available to fill in if necessary, and the potential replacements would have less in the playbook to master.

Now comes this tweak to the schedule, with implementation beginning in training camp. The first practice is Saturday.

"Your goal is to be in pads every day," McCarthy said. "But really how the team moves through camp — looking back on our last two camps, the things that have gone on, the stress points in camp, where injuries occur, we really haven't started the way we've wanted to the last two years."

This year already isn't starting a good note for linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry, who were both placed on the physically unable to perform list Friday afternoon. Their injuries weren't specified, though Perry missed much of last year with a foot injury.

Neal and Perry, however, would be able to take part in practice whenever cleared. Players arrived at camp Friday, when they were to undergo physicals.

Also, defensive linemen Letroy Guion and Jerel Worthy were placed on the non-football injury list, while receiver Jeff Janis was placed on the non-football illness list. Janis was a seventh-round draft pick.

Last season, the Packers were hit by hamstring injuries in camp. One to Casey Hayward hampered the key cornerback all season.

McCarthy also said he was making adjustments to the second part of the camp schedule. He didn't go into much detail, though he said roster decisions would go down to the final preseason game, as usual. This year, that game is Aug. 28 against Kansas City.

The Packers have new workout facilities. McCarthy said he likes how his team emerged from the offseason program and gives a lot of credit to the veterans.

Since the new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, "I think this is the first year that I feel like I got it right," McCarthy said. "There (have) been years prior that I didn't really quite feel like we were, as far as the way you practice and what you can get done and the reality of what you should be doing versus how you do it."

The ultimate goal is to play fast, which is a hallmark especially when the Packers are in the hurry-up offense.

Other highlights from Friday:

BACKUP QB: McCarthy isn't opposed to keeping two backup quarterbacks on the roster behind Rodgers. Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien are seemingly competing for the No. 2 job behind Rodgers. The backup job was a big issue last year following the injury to the normally durable Rodgers.

TIGHT END: McCarthy isn't aware of a deadline on a decision on free agent tight end Jermichael Finley. He suffered a spinal injury that knocked him out in early October. "Jermichael Finley is a Green Bay Packer in my opinion and obviously he's going through a medical situation. First and foremost, you just want him to get healthy," the coach said.


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