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Coach McCarthy restless, returning injured players hungry as Packers return to practice field
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) ' Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have spent weeks coming up with plans to cram a full offseason's worth of preparation into a compressed training camp timeframe without risking injuries by pushing players too hard.
If that wasn't stressful enough, NFL teams are opening training camp amid an intense period of player movement ' and for the Packers, much of that movement involves players leaving Green Bay.
Add the good news that McCarthy and his wife, Jessica, welcomed a baby girl to their family Thursday night, and the result was one fairly tired and slightly emotional coach on Saturday morning.
"Professionally, it's been hectic for everybody in the league, just to have everything come at you so fast has been a challenge. Personally, there's nothing like it. I don't want to start crying up here," McCarthy said, pausing as his voice choked up. "Long night. Need some sleep. Emotional. But it's been awesome."
With a newborn at home and the regular season set to open Sept. 8 against New Orleans, it seems unlikely McCarthy's sleep habits are going to improve any time soon.
He won't spend much time reminiscing about the team's Super Bowl victory last season, and will remind his players that they shouldn't be doing so, either. The Packers might be the defending champions, but McCarthy insists they aren't "defending" anything.
"We don't get any wins and there's nothing really to gain from being the champion last year," McCarthy said. "This is a whole new journey. This is a whole new football team. We're at the bottom of the mountain just like everyone else is right now. We're at the starting line, and we need to do the things that are necessary throughout training camp, build our team, select our football team and start the climb. There's a path out there for us to get to Indianapolis. It's our responsibility, and our focus, commitment to stay on that path."
Wide receiver Donald Driver said he put his Super Bowl ring in a safe, and it's going to stay there a while.
"You've got to take the one that you did win, embrace it, love it, then you've got to put it behind you and try to win another," Driver said.
Tight end Jermichael Finley, whose potential breakout season was cut short by a knee injury last year, said players returning from injured reserve will help keep the team from becoming complacent.
"That's the thing: If four or five guys got complacent, we've got 13 guys off IR that are going to sit them down and get that going again," Finley said. "We've got some hungry guys right now. It's ridiculous."
Running back Ryan Grant, who is returning from a season-ending ankle injury, wants to play a bigger role in another Super Bowl run.
"Guys are so hungry to get back after it because they didn't have the role they wanted to have in it," Grant said. "Me, Jermichael, we're super hungry to get back after it and push these guys. So that complacency, I don't see that being an issue."
Some of last year's injured players are gone. The Packers cut tackle Mark Tauscher, linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga, and defensive lineman Justin Harrell.
"That's the hardest part of the business," McCarthy said. "With my personal situation, I didn't get to say goodbye to those guys in person so I didn't feel good about that. I don't think anybody really liked the way it came down. We really didn't get to appropriately acknowledge the way we would have liked to remember those guys. It's a part of our business."
The Packers also waved goodbye to some free agents, including starting left guard Daryn Colledge, who went to Arizona, and backup running back Brandon Jackson, who went to Cleveland. Free agents Cullen Jenkins and James Jones still have lockers at Lambeau Field, but might be on their way out.
But the team has signed all of its draft picks ' the Packers announced deals for first-round tackle Derek Sherrod, third-round running back Alex Green and fourth-round cornerback Davon House on Saturday ' and a large group of undrafted free agents. Tight end Spencer Havner and wide receiver Brett Swain re-signed. And while the Packers traditionally aren't an active team in free agency, McCarthy isn't ruling out additional moves.
"There's a lot of conversation that will continue," McCarthy said. "There's a lot of activity still going on."
For now, injuries are McCarthy's main concern. Of the players coming off injuries, McCarthy said Finley, defensive end Mike Neal and safety Morgan Burnett will be brought along slowly.
Given the lack of organized team workouts during the offseason, McCarthy doesn't yet have a good grasp on his team's conditioning.
"They look good but that's a whole different level of exercise," McCarthy said. "We'll get a read on guys we may be concerned about. It's about football. There's no conditioning for football."
And no, McCarthy wasn't bothered by his players not following other teams' lead in getting together on their own for unofficial practices in the offseason.
"I'm sure there are teams that thought it was very productive and that's great," McCarthy said. "But based on the length of our season and where we were coming out of that season, I was fine with the way we went about it."
Follow AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins