Packers notes: Coach Mike McCarthy defends locker-room unity
GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the media storm that unfolded after Ty Montgomery’s ill-advised decision to return a kickoff Sunday “nonsense” and declined to address any possible rifts in the locker room.
After the gut-wrenching 29-27 loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams at the Memorial Coliseum, several players and a coach questioned anonymously via NFL.com why Montgomery went against the coaches’ wishes to down the ball in the end zone, including one who thought the veteran returner might have done so in reaction to being pulled a few minutes earlier in the game.
McCarthy said he had not read the story, but it’s hard to imagine he hadn’t heard all the details about it when he spoke to reporters late Monday afternoon.
“As far as the drama and the nonsense about it, I have nothing to say,” McCarthy said. “You want to know if it was emotional in that locker room? You’re damn right it was. And it should have been and I want it to be, because that’s a reflection of how much these guys care.
“It’s a reflection on how much they want to win. And it clearly directly reflects we had every intention of going out there to beat that team.”
The anonymous criticism hurt Montgomery and rubbed at least one veteran member of the team the wrong way.
Cornerback Tramon Williams, one of the team’s leaders, said the players who spoke out shouldn’t have hid behind anonymity and were wrong to question Montgomery’s motivations. Williams made it clear that he supported Montgomery even if others didn’t.
“They were anonymous,” Williams said. “We’ll never know (who) and we’re not going to worry about it. We’re going to continue building as a team and feel like we’re getting better as a team and the only thing we can do now is move on to New England.
“That’s going to be a tough task by itself, so we can’t worry about it.”
That may be easier said than done. This is the fourth incident in which a player has expressed dissatisfaction publicly and it might only get worse if the team falls apart in the remaining portion of a brutal five-game stretch.
The other three were quarterback Aaron Rodgers creating waves when he back-handedly criticized McCarthy for his play calling, safety Josh Jones complaining that he wasn’t playing enough and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix declaring he wouldn’t be with the team next season based on how little interest it has shown in extending his contract.
Now is not the best time for the locker room to splinter and McCarthy could have a problem if he doesn’t address the latest in-house kerfuffle. But his take is that the locker room is fine.
“I’ve always been so impressed with how much an NFL football player, regardless of the teams I’ve been, how much they care about not disappointing their teammate,” McCarthy said. “That’s a tremendous characteristic that I’ve always felt is very evident, and it’s clearly evident in our locker room.”
McCarthy said that he thought the offense had a chance for a big play when it was backed up on the 1-yard line with just under 3 minutes left in the first half.
Instead of going with power back Jamaal Williams, he went with his home run back, Aaron Jones, and called for a run up the middle. He said Rodgers had completed a pass earlier on a similar play and he thought Jones might break a big run out of the same run-pass option look.
The blocking got screwed up and Jones got tackled in the end zone for a safety.
“If you watch it, we’ve got a chance to crease it,” McCarthy said. “Especially with Aaron (Jones). He had a chance to be one-on-one with the safety there. That’s really what football is.
“It’s about execution, it’s about decisions and making plays. They made the play there.”
Returning from hamstring injuries, receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison both saw a limited amount of snaps against the Rams.
McCarthy made it appears their injuries were part of the reason, but the play of rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown had something to do with it as well.
“As a group, I felt really good about the wide receivers’ performance and execution and the ability to play that many guys,” McCarthy said.” I think the biggest challenge, really, is we had the ball 52 plays, so the opportunities weren’t probably as high as you’d like, but I thought the way the reps were distributed really kind of reflected the flow of the way the game went.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst has until Tuesday at 3 p.m. to make any trades.
Clinton-Dix said Monday he was still waiting to hear whether he would be dealt to another team. He has been the subject of trade rumors since this past weekend. His contract expires after this season and any team that makes a trade for him might only get him for half a season.