Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy during practice in the Don Hutson Center, Friday, January 28, 2011. / File/Press-Gazette
The last thing any coach wants to deal with during Super Bowl week is a Eugene Robinson or Stanley Wilson situation.
So before his players board the plane bound for Dallas Monday afternoon, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy planned to lay out exactly what’s expected of them leading up to Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Oh we’re going to address it,” McCarthy said in an interview over the weekend. “I promise you that.”
Considering the magnitude of the team picture flap last week, that’s probably a good idea.
“They’re going to know exactly what’s going to be expected of them from the time we leave here until the time we come back (next) Monday,” McCarthy said. “So I’ll go through that A through Z.”
McCarthy met last Tuesday with two of the six playoff captains, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and cornerback Charles Woodson, to discuss team rules and curfews. He wouldn’t reveal the exact curfew because he had not yet told the players, but it likely will follow the pattern that Mike Holmgren used in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII, when the Packers escaped without any major incident. Holmgren gave the players a 1 a.m. curfew early in the week that was scaled back to 11 p.m. later in the week.
Given that the Packers were assigned to the early media sessions each day in Dallas – 10 a.m. on Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday – the schedule should force players to turn in early. McCarthy said he will hold a team meeting at 7:45 each morning at their hotel, the Omni Mandalay at Las Colinas.
Upon arrival Monday in Dallas, the team will have what McCarthy called an NFL-mandated security meeting at which more dos and don’ts will be addressed.
McCarthy said he believes in the character of his players and therefore feels confident there won’t be any major trouble like what happened with Robinson or Wilson. Robinson, the former Packers player, was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer on the eve of Super Bowl XXXIII, when he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Wilson went on a cocaine binge the night before he was supposed to play for the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
But with a young team and one that has only three players that have ever been on Super Bowl teams – Woodson with Oakland, Ryan Pickett with St. Louis and John Kuhn as a practice-squad player with Pittsburgh – McCarthy plans to make sure his message is clear.
“Youth is something you need to keep an eye on,” McCarthy said. “They’re human. They need to understand the limits. We’re going to educate them like we always do. I always talk to the youngest guy in the room. The veterans probably get tired of hearing about it, but we’re going to talk to them about the amount of rest they need to get, what they should eat.”
Players won’t be prohibited from going to parties or bars, and McCarthy said he can’t tell players not to drink but would discourage them from doing so, especially near the end of the week.
“I don’t think he’ll have to worry about us,” said Pickett, whose Super Bowl appearance was in New Orleans. “Dallas is a little different than New Orleans. I’m pretty sure he’ll have a curfew later in the week so guys get the proper rest they need for the game, and I don’t think the players will even mind. We’re going down there to play a game. Coach gives us a curfew, and I don’t think you’ll hear any complaining.”
Pickett, who said he rarely drinks anymore, admitted he partied hard with his Rams teammates in New Orleans the week of Super Bowl XXXVI, which the Rams lost 20-17.
“I was a drinker then,” Pickett said. “It was pretty wild. It was crazy. We had curfews, but I think it was pretty loose. We had the normal practice schedule and after that we were pretty much free at night.”
When asked whether he thought his younger teammates might do the same thing, Pickett said: “They know we’ve got a lot of time to party after the Super Bowl if we win, so that hasn’t been a talk of ours. The younger players are going to be in early because we’ve got practice early the next day.”
On a regular road trip, the players must be back at the team hotel by 9 p.m. and in their rooms by 11 p.m. on the eve of a game. That likely will be the same on Saturday night in Dallas. McCarthy said he was still finalizing plans for a guest speaker for the eve of the game.
Families of the players, coaches and team staff members will arrive in Dallas on Thursday but won’t stay at the team hotel. They’ll be at a nearby location.
As for the week, McCarthy would like to keep his schedule as normal as possible but will have to make several adjustments. Practices at Southern Methodist University will be shorter than the usual game-week practices because most of the game plan was installed while the Packers were in Green Bay last week. The team will hold a short session at Cowboys Stadium before the media day festivities on Tuesday.
“We’re going to get out there and throw the ball around a little bit and see where the 40-second clock is just to get used to that environment,” McCarthy said.
He chose to do that on Tuesday rather than on Saturday, which was an option, but didn’t want to make a separate trip to the stadium, which is about 40 minutes away from their hotel.
“Saturday is the one day where I can get them back on the schedule that they’ve been used to for the last five years,” McCarthy said.
As for himself, McCarthy said he won’t partake in many of the Super Bowl week activities. He and his wife, Jessica, normally go out for dinner on Friday nights in Green Bay, but he believes they will have to attend a function with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this Friday night.
“We probably won’t be there long with Jessica being pregnant and me …” McCarthy said without finishing his thought.
But he didn’t have to. It was clear what he meant, that during Super Bowl week, there’s too much for a head coach to worry about.