GREEN BAY ? Facing what quite possibly is the most uncertain offseason in NFL history, Mike McCarthy took solace in the simple things Wednesday. The Green Bay Packers coach may have led his team to the Super Bowl XLV title, but he seemed dedicated to remaining the same guy, regardless of what happens over the next few months.
?I don?t want to be naïve. I?m a family man, and I?m a football coach. I live in a town, the town of Green Bay I feel respects that, and I hope it doesn?t change. I?m very comfortable here,? McCarthy said during his annual end-of-the-season press conference Wednesday, three days after his team?s 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.
?I still go to Starbucks every morning. Got a cup with ?Congratulations!? on it today ? that was nice. But other than that, they still charged me. So everything?s staying the same.?
Whether the NFL stays the same is another question entirely. With the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the NFL Players Association set to expire on March 4, no one really knows what will happen in labor negotiations and what the offseason will look like if and when an accord is reached. If an agreement doesn?t get done before March 4, free agency will be delayed, offseason programs will be thrown into question, and the set-up of organized team activity practices, mandatory minicamp and training camp could change dramatically, especially if a new CBA includes the 18-game regular season the owners are seeking.
?Typically in the staff meeting after the season concludes, I pretty much a have the whole season laid out for our coaching staff,? McCarthy said. ?That?s not the case this year.?
As a result, McCarthy said he and the staff have taken what he called a ?prepare for the known? approach to the offseason. Since the annual NFL Scouting Combine is being held as scheduled in Indianapolis in two weeks, and the 2011 NFL Draft is set for April 23-25, the staff is focusing on those set-in-stone events. McCarthy said the assistant coaches are off until Feb. 21, then will have some more time off after the scouting combine. They?ll then return to work to do their scheme evaluation work the first two weeks of March, another annual offseason ritual.
If there is a CBA in place by March 4, McCarthy said the Packers would have pushed back the start of their offseason strength and conditioning program and quarterback school anyway because the season went a month longer than normal. This past year?s offseason program kicked off March 16; the next offseason program wouldn?t start until sometime in April, McCarthy said.
?We?re fortunate where we played another month, so we would be starting later in the spring even if it was a normal year,? McCarthy said. ?So I don?t feel like we have to make a bunch of scheduling decisions immediately. But there?s work to be done, just like there is every year, just like every team is going through right now. We?re going to probably go about it the same way ? just the priorities are going to move around.?
Meanwhile, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson were right back at work Wednesday. While the personnel staff was prepping for the Combine, McCarthy was doing evaluations with his coordinators ? defensive coordinator Dom Capers on Wednesday morning, special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum on Wednesday afternoon and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin on Thursday ? before taking a few days off himself.
?The new season has begun,? McCarthy said. ?Ted is already into the second day of his pre-Indy draft meetings, and we?re getting back to business.
?Just trying to transition into the new season, but it?s been a special week.?
As is customary, McCarthy addressed a myriad of subjects during his 31-minute Q&A with reporters. Among the topics he discussed:
On injuries to wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver and cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields: McCarthy said Nelson was on crutches at Tuesday?s ?Return to Titletown? celebration because of a bursa sac injury to his knee. The bursa sac is a fluid-filled sac in the knee that provides cushioning in the joint. The inflammation caused swelling in Nelson?s knee but McCarthy said the injury was not serious.
?Obviously it looked bad,? McCarthy said. ?It was a pretty significant injury that he fought through the fourth quarter and played with. Played very well, but played injured. A lot of credit should go to Jordy Nelson for fighting through that.?
McCarthy said Woodson, who fractured his collarbone, will not require surgery. Neither he nor Driver, who suffered a high ankle sprain, would have been able to play if the Packers had another game this week, McCarthy said. McCarthy said cornerback Sam Shields? sprained shoulder was undergoing more tests.
In addition, McCarthy said inside linebacker A.J. Hawk will need arthroscopic surgery on a chronic wrist injury, while left tackle Chad Clifton?s troublesome knees will not need offseason surgery.
On any potential staff changes: McCarthy wouldn?t address whether any teams had asked for or received permission to talk to his assistant coaches for other jobs. An NFL source confirmed an Arizona Republic report that the Arizona Cardinals had asked for permission to interview inside linebackers coach/assistant head coach Winston Moss for their defensive coordinator job, but it wasn?t clear whether McCarthy granted the Cardinals permission before they hired Ray Horton on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Nashville ABC affiliate WKRN-TV reported that new Tennessee Titans Mike Munchak wants to interview Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements for the team?s vacant offensive coordinator position. Clements spent two years as the Buffalo Bills? offensive coordinator before being hired by the Packers. McCarthy blocked Clements from interviewing for the same position with the Chicago Bears last offseason.
?If we have anything to report from our end, we?ll do that. But I have nothing to report about any of our coaches today,? McCarthy said. Asked if he was ruling out any staff changes from his end, McCarthy replied, ?I?ll go through all of the evaluations just like we normally do, but I am just starting that. We?ll see how that goes.?
McCarthy intimated that he will look to sign Capers to a contract extension and may do so with the other coordinators as well.
?The CBA factors into everything. You can?t deny that it?s there,? McCarthy said. ?I?ll visit with (vice presidents) Russ Ball (and) Jason Wied and Ted Thompson. There will be an evaluation process that goes on through there. ? Definitely, we feel we have an excellent staff. Continuity is important, but change happens in this business throughout. Time will answer those questions.?
Asked if he has talked with Thompson about a contract extension of his own, McCarthy replied, ?Time will answer those questions. That?s something possibly in the future we?ll have some answers for you, but I don?t have anything for you today.?
On the possibility of an 18-game season next year: While he acknowledged that owners are pushing for the extended regular season, McCarthy did a good job of expressing his concerns about the idea, especially since it would likely come with diminished offseason work.
?Am I in favor? I know what the company line is, but you are talking to a guy that just barely made it through 16. You can figure that one out for yourself,? McCarthy said. ?I had a new training camp schedule that I was going to implement last year, but I didn?t do it because of the timing. But it?s something that I may look to do this year. But the offseason will play into that. I am always looking for ways to try to lessen the risk of injury, but also I have to make sure that the team is ready to compete and win football games. That is something I wrestle with a lot.
?I spend a lot of time on scheduling, I spend a lot of time crunching numbers, padded practice, non-padded practices, situational offense and defense. We?re looking at it all of the time. Our training camp schedule may be totally different this year, and we have a great training camp schedule. Our players love our training camp schedule and we have always come out of training camp I have always felt very prepared. But we need to look at things, especially if it goes to 18 (games), there is no doubt about it. If we go to 18 games, my training camp schedule definitely will change.?