Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy is bullish on his defense, which is farther along now than in previous years, he said Tuesday.
McCarthy spoke to the media after Tuesdayís mandatory minicamp practice. Here are some highlights:
♦ (Guard) Josh Sitton was excused from todayís practice and meetings.
♦ I really donít have any injury updates for you (on tight end Jermichael Finley). Last time I talked to Jermichael, nothing has really changed from the communication given to me back then.
♦ (Rookie wide receiver) Jeff Janis is a big athlete. Heís everything we thought coming out of the draft. I thought he did a heck of a job in the kickoff return today. Itís a new system for him. Heís a part of a very good classroom.
♦ (Injured linebacker) Clay Matthews is coming along. Heís part of the group that isnít practicing.
♦ (Asked about injured linebacker Nick Perry.) I donít think it helps any player to miss the whole offseason. I talked about it last week with the staff and told the team today. Our coaches took a different approach. You have a season to get ready for. To do it all in a nine-week period and for a player to miss all of it, obviously, thatís not a good situation to be in. I think any of the players who didnít take advantage of this nine-week opportunity, itís something theyíll have to catch up on.
♦ (Tight end) Brandon Bostick needs to be a consistent player on offense. He did some good things on special teams. His body type is a challenge for his opponent. I think he definitely took a step last year and would like to see him do the same. I thought he did some good things blocking. The things that have been our biggest challenge? Availability needs to be at a premium. Thatís something we have to be in tune with. Heís out there every day and gets better.
♦ I think you get excited about your new players. I think thatís a normal process that the coaching staff and personnel department, veterans go through. Youíre able to see the athletic ability, strength, balance. I think thatís the case in the tight end group. Iíve been very pleased with the variations each guy gives us.
♦ (Rookie tight end) Richard Rodgers has had a very good spring. There havenít been too many days where weíve walked off the field and viewed the film. The game is natural to him with the responsibility we have at tight end and moving around. Iíve been very pleased with Richard.
♦ I want (running back) DuJuan Harris to be the best he can be. Heís taken time catching balls after practice on (kickoff) returns. Itís new to him. His size, strength and explosiveness makes him unique.
♦ (Asked about former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who died Friday.) Chuck Noll, his toughness, consistency. Obviously as a young man, everyone looked up to him. He gave direction of the Steelers teams. I want to emulate him. After getting into coaching, I appreciated him that much more. Very consistent, driven champion. Never met him.
♦ (Cornerback) Casey Hayward has made plays all spring. Heís very competitive, instinctive. I think he eased into it the first week of OTAs, but the last couple of weeks heís been making a lot of plays out there.
♦ The second year players weíre talking about are guys who didnít do a lot in year one. (Left tackle) David Bakhtiari and (cornerback) Micah Hyde, weíre excited about production. Now the challenge is opponents know them now. Their biggest challenge is that theyíre now a known commodity.
♦ I feel very good about our defense. Weíve never been this far as far as the mental consistency. I think the volume probably helped. Our defense as far as communication and clearness of getting in and out of personnel groups is as good as Iíve remembered.
♦ (Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers has had probably his best spring if Iím ranking them. Heís in great shape. We changed a lot of things to make things easier for some of the newer players coming in, and I donít think when youíre in year 9 of offense the biggest change was for Aaron, but it was the best thing for the group. He probably had a little more studying to do this year than prior years. His ball efficiency and emphasis has been excellent. I think Aaron is in a great place and had an exceptional spring.
♦ Nobody knows our offense better than Aaron. Frankly, heís driving this machine. Itís not only better for the rest of our offense, itís better for him, too. He welcomed the adjustments.
♦ The most important thing for what we went through at quarterback is we have all of our quarterbacks playing in games. Hopefully, Aaron plays in all the games. To have that many games and snaps with quarterbacks who werenít in the offseason program, thatís difficult. Competition has really heated up the last few practices.
♦ Defense wasnít that big of a change. We have two big issues. Weíre always going to be young and our availability hasnít been very good. Weíre preparing if we have 26 defensive players, all 26 have to be prepared to contribute and we can tailor it better to their abilities. The coaching staff has done a great job. A lot of long nights in February and March. Our players are able to get through all the installation two times. We havenít been able to do that in (practices under terms set by) the new (collective bargaining agreement). Feel good about the amount of work that we got done.