With one fewer day to prepare for their trip out west, the Green Bay Packers are trying to get their travel arrangements in order as quickly as possible.
The Packers will travel to the Arizona Cardinals for their NFC divisional playoff game Saturday night. With only six days between games, coach Mike McCarthy said the most important thing before then is allowing his players to rest and heal their bodies.
The team will stay off the practice field Tuesday before returning with “abbreviated” practices Wednesday and Thursday. Their Friday practice will be a normal length, and they’ll push up their Saturday walkthrough to Friday.
“Health of your football team,” McCarthy said, “is the highest, or definitely one of the highest, priorities each and every week. Obviously, in the playoffs, it's very important.”
Even though the Packers won’t be on the practice field until Wednesday, McCarthy said the team will begin its preparation immediately. Players will be in the weight room Tuesday morning for strength and conditioning. They’ll meet at noon and install parts of their game plan (down-and-distance as well as third down) in the afternoon.
McCarthy said his goal was to arrive in Arizona on Thursday, but he expects his team won’t be able to leave Green Bay until Friday. It would mimic a normal week. The Packers usually arrive in town one day before their road games, but he has traveled two days early on rare occasions when they’ve flown west.
“There’s moving parts,” McCarthy said. “There’s other things going on in the city, so it’s not about just going out there and just grabbing a couple hotel rooms. There’s a lot more to it, and the training and how we prepare for a game. There’s just a lot of thought that goes into that. We’re going to do what’s best for our football team.”
The Packers first traveled two days early for last season’s NFC title game in Seattle. They traveled two days early twice this season, coinciding with their two games in the Bay Area: against the San Francisco 49ers in October, and Oakland Raiders in December.
The Packers are 2-1 in those games, so history would seem to suggest traveling two days early can be beneficial. However, the Packers moved their Saturday walkthrough on the road two other times this season: at the Denver Broncos in November, and in Arizona two weeks ago. The Packers lost those two games by a combined score of 67-18, their two worst losses of the season.
In Denver, the Packers practiced on a high school football field. McCarthy said it was a “stressful” arrangement. The Packers had a better setup in Arizona, where they practiced at Scottsdale Community College, but their half-hour bus rides were less than ideal.
So McCarthy could have multiple factors to consider when putting together his plan for the week. And that’s before considering the Packers must fit a full week of preparation into six days.