GREEN BAY (AP) — Coach Mike McCarthy burst through the door of the Packers media room like a fullback bulldozing through the line of scrimmage, eager to get training camp started in Green Bay.
The eighth-year head coach is making a few tweaks this summer following the sting of back-to-back, second-round playoff losses — which for the perennial Super Bowl contender counts as a big disappointment.
“Our goal never changes. It’s always the same,” McCarthy said. “We have a theme and it’s obviously an illustration of how I see this football team and the path that we’re going to take.”
He didn’t get into specifics. The players got that speech first Thursday night in a team meeting.
But the expectations don’t change, not for a franchise that’s won four Super Bowl titles and 13 NFL championships overall. There’s a reason they call this place Titletown, after all, and not just for the two straight NFC North crowns.
So it’s up bright and early Friday for a first day of practice that starts at 8:20 a.m. The earlier start is typical for the regular season but not as much for camp.
The Packers last year finished 11-5 after overcoming a 2-3 start. They beat the Vikings in the playoffs before falling to the 49ers.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receivers filled up the highlight reels, but a subpar running game was one of the Packers’ biggest problems after finishing 11th in the NFC in rushing (106.4 yards per game). General manager Ted Thompson replenished the backfield in the draft with Alabama’s Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Alex Green, DuJuan Harris and James Starks are also back.
Maybe one of those backs will be Green Bay’s first single-game, 100-yard rusher in almost three years.
“Big letters — that’s adamant, OK? Hey, we need to run the ball better. That’s fact of the matter,” McCarthy said. “We put a lot of points on the board. It falls in line with our goal each and every week, and each and every day ... We’re about winning and quality of play.”
Of course, it helps to have one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Rodgers and a receiving corps led by Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones that is seemingly strong enough to withstand the departure of veteran Greg Jennings (Vikings) and retirement of Donald Driver.
But it’s awfully helpful to have a consistent running game.
“Running the football is a collective effort. There has to be commitment from the play-caller,” said McCarthy, referring to himself. “It’s something we need to do a better job of and I’m confident that we will.”
The Packers signed top draft pick defensive end Datone Jones and safety Ryan McMahon on Thursday.
The 6-foot-4 Jones was selected 26th overall in April out of UCLA, where he made a career-high 62 tackles (45 solo), including 19 tackles for loss, and a career-best 6½ sacks in 2012. He has said the defense run by the Packers is similar to what he played in at UCLA.
McMahon, of Sacramento State, tried out at the Packers’ rookie orientation camp in May and then was invited to training camp. He had 183 tackles (97 solo), including seven for a loss, a sack, 11 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and an interception for the Hornets. McMahon transferred to Sacramento State after playing 2008-10 at Southern California.
The Packers have waived quarterback Matt Brown. a 6-foot-3, 225-pound rookie from Illinois State.