Packers putting Seattle in the past
As promised, there weren't any "Remember Seattle" banners hanging inside Lambeau Field when the Green Bay Packers reconvened Monday for the start of the team's offseason program.
When Mike McCarthy addressed his team, the Packers' 10th-year head coach kept his message fixed on the future rather than rehashing the agonizing 28-22 overtime loss to the Seahawks in the NFC championship game.
The goal is to chase Super Bowl championships — not to avenge the one that slipped through their grasp three months ago.
"We haven't talked about it. Nobody's really bringing it up," receiver Randall Cobb said. "We're focusing on handling business this season. This is a new season. New beginnings, so this is Day 1 in the process. We have a long way to go and want to build off today and continue to move forward."
McCarthy said in his season-ending news conference that this year's team wouldn't "bear the burden" of how last season ended. He reiterated that last month at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix when he said they won't be creating any "Remember Seattle" slogans to rally behind.
Although the disappointment may not be spoken between teammates, the events that unfolded at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18 are difficult to escape. It's not every Sunday a 12-point lead disappears in the final 4 minutes of regulation.
Everyone has handled the loss differently. Safety Morgan Burnett said he's tried not to think about it. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels has watched the film more times than he'd care to admit. Cobb tried to channel it into motivation during his offseason training.
"For myself, I thought about it in my training these past couple months," Cobb said. "Whenever I reached that point of fatigue or feel like I can't go no more, just having those thoughts in the back of my head and knowing that next rep may be the next rep that's going to excel us past that moment.
"You use it as motivation. You have to. You find ways to fuel yourself in the offseason and that's one of mine."
The Packers say they aren't harping on Seattle, but it's obvious the loss triggered change. Inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones were released. Special-teams coach Shawn Slocum was fired after his units commited two costly blunders against the Seahawks.
One of the culprits, tight end Brandon Bostick, also was given his walking papers after his failed recovery on an onside kick that led to Seattle's go-ahead score.
The departed aren't the only ones to blame, though. Every returning player also has needed to take a look in the mirror. Daniels points to himself and his taunting penalty in the first quarter after a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix interception.
The Packers offense started at the Seattle 19 instead of the 4. The drive stalled at the Seahawks' 1, leading to a Mason Crosby 18-yard field goal.
"I don't know if I'm a sadist or whatever, but I've watched it quite a bit," Daniels said. "You've got to learn from it. I know I can learn myself. I know I had a really stupid penalty and that's something I never plan on doing again. Like I said, amongst other things, you can really learn from it."
The Packers turned the page Monday with the start of voluntary strength and conditioning workouts, the first phase of the offseason program. Most veterans have bonuses worked into their contracts to entice them to attend, while players like Daniels — who still are working on the contracts they signed as rookies — earn only the mandatory stipend of $195 per day.
This isn't about money to Daniels, who spent his offseason working out at the team's facilities. It's an opportunity to get better. It's also a chance to catch up with most of his teammates instead of the 10 or so that stayed in Green Bay through the winter months.
"It's actually kind of creepy," Daniels said of the offseason locker room. "So you want to make sure you work out with somebody and you leave at the same time. I think I almost yelled at (Letroy) Guion for walking out without me. It's very odd.
"So to have the lights on, guys are playing music, guys are over there playing cards, guys in the sauna, wherever, there's a lot of different conversations going on. It's good. It's a good atmosphere."
The development of offseason training facilities has players better conditioned than ever before, but it's during the offseason program that the bond starts to form between teammates. It's where you start to establish an identity.
That's why McCarthy wasn't replaying how last season ended on Monday. Now, it's about starting anew. If the goal is to chase championships, there's no point in looking back.
"New year. Same work. Get better," Daniels said when asked about McCarthy's message. "That really doesn't change from year to year. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and we've been very productive as a football team. We just have to take that next step.
"He knows what we have to do, we know what we have to do, there's not going to be any big, grand message. Hey, let's get to work."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.