If the Green Bay Packers fail to repeat as the Super Bowl champion this season, complacency will not be the reason.
The idea that a reigning title holder loses its edge is one of the biggest myths in sports and is propagated by a media starved for story lines.
One of the most commonly asked questions in the Packers’ locker room during training camp was, “Is this team still hungry after winning the Super Bowl?”
The old saying that there’s no such thing as a stupid question doesn’t apply in this case.
Of course the Packers are still hungry. Of course they want to win a Super Bowl title just as much as they did a year ago.
These are highly trained, ultra competitive, supremely motivated professional athletes. They sacrifice their bodies nearly 12 months a year, not just for team goals but for their individual well being and career aspirations.
It would be preposterous to think a Packers player would entertain this thought for even a second: “Now that I have a Super Bowl ring, I’m going to kick back and take it easy.”
Any player with that attitude wouldn’t last long in the NFL, let alone in Green Bay, where a sense of urgency, not complacency, starts at the top of the organization.
Less than two days after the Packers’ Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in February, General Manager Ted Thompson was back at the office preparing for the NFL draft. Thompson refuses to rest on his laurels and will leave no stone unturned in his effort to upgrade the roster.
“You just turn the page and keep going,” said Thompson. “After the Super Bowl we had our celebration and stuff but we went into pre-combine meetings right away. So you just kind of get caught up with the next thing.”
If Thompson won’t stand pat, neither will the people who work for him. Last season is a nice but distant memory and the Packers have turned the page.
“It’s a new year, that’s what’s great about this,” said linebacker Clay Matthews. “We’re always continuing to improve, both individually and as a team. That’s what we have to do.”
Try telling Matthews he isn’t as hungry as New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Or attempt to convince Packers receiver Greg Jennings he doesn’t want to win as badly as Saints wideout Marques Colston. Chances are you’ll get laughed out of the Packers locker room.
“I definitely think we’re a hungry team,” said Jennings. “We’re still a young team, kind of naďve to everything that’s taken place. Definitely, I don’t think anyone has taken what we accomplished last year for granted.”
If anyone did that, it’s likely they have been ushered out of town. A total of 16 players made this year’s team that weren’t on the Packers’ 53-man Super Bowl roster just seven months ago.
Coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week there was no time for complacency during a busy post-lockout training camp.
But that hasn’t stopped some well-worn conspiracy theorists from searching for proof that the Packers, basking in their Super Bowl glory, are taking shortcuts.
The primary piece of evidence, allegedly, is that the Packers failed to conduct offseason workouts during the NFL lockout. Contrast that to the Saints, the Packers’ season-opening opponent Thursday night, who conducted players-only practices for six weeks during the summer. If the Saints beat the Packers, you can bet this information will be used to explain the result.
There’s a problem with this cockeyed notion, beyond placing too much importance on players running around in shorts and T-shirts.
The theory fails to acknowledge that during their march to the Super Bowl, the Packers practiced four weeks longer than the Saints, who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. That means the Packers received an extra month of tutelage under the watchful eyes of their coaches.
The point is, offseason workouts will have no impact on Thursday’s game. And neither will the misguided perception that the Packers have become fat and sassy champions.
— mvandermause@greenbaypress|gazette.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.