All the Green Bay Packers were missing Wednesday was 1980s rock band Foreigner blaring from the locker room loudspeakers.
Magnetic signs around the facility reminded players about Urgency. (Mentioning such signs is generally verboten by team rules, but coach Mike McCarthy brought the signs up himself.) And when a reporter asked a question about whether the team’s sense of urgency was high this week in advance of Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, McCarthy was so anxious to answer the question that he didn’t even let the guy finish.
“Hell yeah,” McCarthy replied. (And with that, longtime Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates got just what he was looking for). “It’s all over the locker room. You guys see the signs. Against this group that we’re playing [Sunday], there’s always a sense of urgency. They’re next door, there’s a lot that goes into this game. We know exactly where we are on the season. I’m not big into playoff picture. I think it’s a waste of time. You really have to stay focused on what you’re doing. That’s really a message to our football team. We have more to give and we all need to give it.”
The message about urgency is getting through. The message about not thinking about the playoff picture? Maybe not so much.
At 5-5 and having lost three straight since quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the team’s Nov. 4 game against the Chicago Bears, the Packers’ once-promising season is in peril. After winning four straight with Rodgers to get to 5-2, and with a seemingly soft schedule ahead, they appeared to be on the verge of a long winning streak that might net them not only the NFC North division title but a top-2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
Now, another loss and they would have to win out just to get to 10-6 and have a reasonable chance at a playoff berth
“It’s a playoff-type atmosphere right now. We’re 5-5. We can’t afford to give any more away,” veteran guard Josh Sitton said. “You say that you don’t think about the playoffs and blah, blah, blah, but you do. You’re 5-5. You give one more away, especially in the NFC, you might not be in. Urgency’s up, for sure.
“We know the situation we’re in. We’re 5-5 and we need to win. This is as close to must-win as possible. There’s a higher sense of urgency this week for sure.”
With Rodgers out, former third-stringer Scott Tolzien is set to make his second straight start. In the locker room, Tolzien has his teammates believing they can win with him at quarterback despite losing to the Philadelphia Eagles when Tolzien took over for an injured Seneca Wallace after one series and losing to the New York Giants on Sunday, in Tolzien’s first NFL start.
“I do, I honestly do,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson replied when asked if he thought the Packers could make the playoffs without Rodgers. “I think it's hurt that we've lost three in a row in games that we could have won if we would have played better, but it's a situation we've put ourselves in. We need to get this one, and I think if we go out and play well that will happen.”
As he did on Monday during a television appearance on Packers Live with Larry McCarren, and as he did on Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, Rodgers declined to give a timeline for when he expects to return. But if there’s anyone feeling urgency right now, it’s the quarterback.
“There’s been urgency since I was in the locker room trying to get my pads back on to go back out against Chicago,” Rodgers said at his locker Wednesday. “It’s a tough injury to deal with because it’s not like you can tough through this or gut it out which I’ve done with various other injuries throughout my career. It is difficult, but you just have to trust the process and hope it heals quicker than some people think.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.