With a four-game winning streak, the Green Bay Packers have plenty to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
Coach Mike McCarthy had the players spending less time at practice and in meetings because of the holiday, and he kicked the coaches and staff out of the facility early, even with a huge game on Sunday at Atlanta.
“I know how it feels to be the young coach, or the quality control coach that has to do more than the other guys, and if you would take that opportunity to go and have a real Thanksgiving like maybe some of the other people on that staff did, you would get further behind, so you’d be the one in your office,” McCarthy said. “That’s something I’m very cognizant of. I’ve done all those jobs. I know what it’s like to come up the ladder the right way. That’s why we addressed it as a staff last week, and even with the trainers. I know certain players need more treatment than others, but it’s not fair for our trainers to be here too. Everybody in football operations will be out of the building by 1:30.”
To get a jump on the game plan, the coaches did a little work on the Falcons on Friday and Saturday of last week. On Thursday, McCarthy cut 20 minutes out of practice – mostly out of the opening jog-through, with three full periods with crowd noise in anticipation of another dome game. On top of that, he started practice about a half-hour early so players could spend more time with family and friends. The players will spend extra time in meetings on Friday to catch up mentally.
Thanksgiving, of course, is about family, which is important for McCarthy. Ryan and Jennifer Pickett, for instance, were hosting Cullen Jenkins, Howard Green and C.J. Wilson. A 30-pound turkey was on the menu.
“Everybody has somewhere to go,” he said. “Some players are going to a couple different places. Everybody’s opened up their door. You can’t just be a family at work. It is Thanksgiving. We all are very blessed. We’ve acknowledged that, and we make sure everybody has a place to go today.”
Grant rehabs, watches
You can’t walk, as the saying goes, until you can run.
For Ryan Grant, the walking part can take place on Dec. 13.
“It feels great,” Grant said of his surgically repaired ankle, injured during the second quarter of the season opener at Philadelphia. “I know for a fact that I can walk. But they will not let me walk. They tell me, ‘Listen, you’re on IR, there’s no reason to rush.’ They said I can walk out of surgery when I get the screws out.”
Grant has been rehabbing furiously in the low-impact setting of a swimming pool.
“I’m running around in the pool on it, jumping in the pool,” he said. “If you saw me in the pool, you’d be like, ‘This guy’s getting ready for a game.’”
After the surgery, it was possible that Grant could have returned to action late in the season, but team doctors said it was in Grant’s long-term best interests to sit out the entire season. In retrospect, Grant feels like he could have played. He said he hasn’t felt any pain since a couple days after the surgery. Recently, he accidentally put weight on the ankle when he slipped in his home. He didn’t feel any pain then, either.
“It’s hard (to watch his teammates),” he said. “Especially when it’s getting down now to the playoff push. The guys are doing great, and I think similar to last year, they’re going to go on a run here at this thing. Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard, and it’s even harder knowing what I bring to the table on and off the field in this locker room. But I’m so proud of these dudes, man, the way they’ve been fighting and stepping up and not feeling sorry for themselves, not making excuses.”
Packers injury report
Out: S Atari Bigby (hamstring). Did not participate: S Anthony Smith (ankle). Limited participation: DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); C Scott Wells (arch); CB Charles Woodson (toe). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knee); WR Donald Driver (quad).
Pickett was added to the injury report after getting “jammed up in a pile-up” on Wednesday, McCarthy said. He didn’t see it as a setback from an injury originally suffered in Week 5 at Washington.
Falcons injury report
Did not participate: RB Antone Smith (hamstring). Limited participation: DE John Abraham (groin); S Shann Schillinger (head); WR Roddy White (knee). Full participation: LB Curtis Lofton (knee); DT Corey Peters (rib); WR Eric Reems (pectoral).
White, who leads the NFL with catches and 1,017 receiving yards, and Abraham, who is tied for sixth with eight sacks, were upgraded after not participating on Wednesday.
-- Last year, the Packers played at Detroit on Thanksgiving. That Thursday game means a mini-bye week for the following week. McCarthy, however, said he prefers a Sunday-to-Sunday schedule because of the continuity.
-- Detroit and Dallas traditionally host Thanksgiving games. A couple years ago, a third Thanksgiving game was added for NFL Network, in prime time. “I think it would be great to have a Thanksgiving game here at Lambeau, especially at night,” McCarthy said.
-- Green Bay, New England and Philadelphia are the tri-favorites to win the Super Bowl at 7-1, according to Bodog.com. Atlanta is 8-1.
-- The Packers have allowed 10 points in their last three games, their best stretch since 1974 and the best run in the NFL since New England in 2005 .
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.