GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy has traditionally set the third preseason game as his team’s regular-season dress rehearsal, and the Green Bay Packers coach isn’t about to change that now.
While past opponents – the Tennessee Titans for years when the Packers would finish the exhibition season against them; the Kansas City Chiefs last year under now departed Todd Haley – opted for the preseason finale as the game in which they’d play their starters the longest, McCarthy is sticking with what works. He’ll play his starters on both sides of the ball for the first half, then use the second half to evaluate younger players fighting for roster spots.
“Our snaps are set. We have a plan that is pretty similar to what we’ve done in the past so we’ll stick to that,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “Practice has no bearing on that.”
While the first half will be important work for the starters, especially since they’ll only play a little bit – and some not at all – in the Aug. 30 finale against the Chiefs, McCarthy said the second half will also be vital because he and general manager Ted Thompson need that time to look at bubble players in advance of the first roster reduction to 75 players on Friday. As of now, the Packers will have to make 15 roster moves to get down from the 90 players they currently have in camp.
“It’s important for us to grow as a football team. You play to win the game. That’s always the starting point,” said McCarthy, whose team is off to an 0-2 exhibition start for the first time since 2008. “But there’s a lot of conversation going on the last couple days between Ted and I, which is normal for this time of year. We know we’re coming down to our first cut here on Friday for 75. So it’s important for us to continue to gather as much information as we possibly can.”
Thompson, as he often does, downplayed how much this game will factor into his evaluations.
“I don’t know that it’s any more important than the other games. I think they’re all … you’re looking for that spark, you’re looking for that thing that sets that player apart from other players,” Thompson said. “It’s not exact science. We’re hopeful to come out with some good ones.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy said he’ll let players like wide receiver Greg Jennings (concussion), tight end Jermichael Finley (quadriceps) and cornerback Sam Shields (elbow) in some ways dictate how much they will play in their preseason debuts Thursday night.
“I trust them and trust what the position coaches think as far as how they feel going into the game. If we see something during the game then, yes, caution will definitely come to the forefront,” McCarthy said. “But you know I’d like for those guys to go out and play and get a routine. It’s not like they’ll play every single play, too. You’re able to substitute those guys and roll those guys. … It’ll be good for them to get as much work as they can.”
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There are no games scheduled for today.