GREEN BAY – This will be Mike McCarthy’s third offseason under the current rules set forth in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
As much as McCarthy disliked the setup from the get-go, it’s possible the ninth-year Green Bay Packers head coach hates it even more now.
And he’s not alone. But you won’t hear him publicly complaining about it.
Having voiced in the past his displeasure with the way the new rules allow for very little actual football work – McCarthy’s baby, his “quarterback school,” has been shortened significantly from what it was pre-CBA, for example – McCarthy did his best not to bemoan the rules during last month’s NFL Meetings.
“We’re in a different era right now …” he said at one point.
“I think the new CBA and the new limitations …” he said at another, his voice trailing off each time.
And when asked about his team’s offseason schedule – the post-draft rookie orientation camp, the organized team activity practices and the mandatory minicamp – McCarthy took the blame upon himself for his teams not handling the truncated offseason program as well as he would have liked.
“Let's be honest, the CBA comes out (before the 2011 season),” McCarthy said. “I was talking to another coach about this (while) we were going through the coaches' (meetings). You’ve got to grade yourself on, did you hit the target of training your football team right through this new CBA schedule? And you look at injuries, you look at your outcome, I feel like I haven't hit the target that I want to hit (in 2012 and 2013).
“So with that, I'll continue to change and adjust and emphasize the things I feel we need to do. … The offseason program is going to be different than it was the last two years and training camp will be also.”
McCarthy wouldn’t divulge just how the offseason program and training camp would change, but he hinted that there would be more classroom work and that the team would utilize the new CRIC training facility inside Lambeau Field – including a quasi-practice field where walkthroughs and jogthroughs can easily be conducted – more and do less traditional practice work at the Clarke Hinkle and Ray Nitschke practice fields and the Don Hutson Center.
“Our new facility is really I think really helps us with the changing landscape with the way the league is laid out now,” McCarthy said, before explaining that he wanted the weight room and the indoor on-field learning area to be close together in the CRIC to improve efficency. “When they asked me how I wanted it … that was all part of coming off this new CBA.”
For the Packers, players were scheduled to travel on Monday, even though teams are permitted to begin their workouts then. Instead, McCarthy didn’t want his players to have to travel on Easter Sunday, so he made Monday the travel day and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week’s work days.
To review, the 2011 CBA reduced the number of offseason practices, pushed back the start of the offseason program and mandated that the nine-week offseason program be broken up into three phases. From the CBA:
Phase One consists of the first two weeks of the program with activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.
Phase Two consists of the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice conducted on a "separates" basis. No live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted.
Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or "OTAs". No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.
Clubs may hold one mandatory minicamp for veteran players. This minicamp must occur during Phase Three of the offseason program.
For many coaches, while this setup might reduce players’ workloads, it has a negative impact on the development of young players – especially since players who have been in facilities voluntarily are banned from talking football with their coaches or going through the playbooks with them, even though the players all have copies of the playbook.
“The management council and the [NFL] Players Association have got to get together and help us as organizations and coaches help our young players develop as people and players,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL Meetings last month. "I mean, come on. You hold us responsible and want us to be a factor in their lives like the mentoring program and things like that. Give us a chance.
“This is not the NCAA. This is not recruiting. These are our guys. We want what’s best for our players. That’s what’s good for the league. That’s what good for these young men. And that’s what they want.
“Young guys want a chance to compete in the National Football League for a job. They want to go see their position coach. They want to learn football. It’s their craft. And we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t do it.’ Why? Because of the collective bargaining agreement that makes no sense? Because somebody wanted to get their little win here vs. their little win over there? Get together and do what’s best for these players, and it’s about time that somebody stepped to the plate and realized that and [took] the politics out of it.”
The Packers’ OTA practices will be held May 28, 29 and 30; June 3, 4 and 5; and June 10, 11, 12 13. The team’s mandatory minicamp in June 17-19. The Packers will also have their annual post-draft rookie orientation camp the weekend after the May 8-10 NFL Draft.
But first, the players will report to Lambeau Field on Tuesday.
“We'll have our medical [evaluations] and our meetings and functional movement screenings Tuesday. Then we'll do meetings and workouts on Wednesday,” McCarthy said. “We're going to work ‘em Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday that week.”
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.