The NFL created a made-for-TV matchup with the NFC’s two best regular-season teams from last year, the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, opening the season at Lambeau Field.
Still, despite the link between Week 1 success and qualifying for the playoffs, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he’s not putting a greater emphasis on this game, even though it’s attracting a greater spotlight.
“Personally, no, but I do recognize the importance of your first game,” McCarthy said after Monday’s practice on Clarke Hinkle Field. “It is your first step into the season. I fully recognize our opponent and the success our opponent has had last year, the quality of team that they bring into Lambeau. (It’s) really trusting the film study, having the whole offseason to study them, just as I’m sure they did us. It is the first game. It’s the most important game because it’s the next game. But it is one game. We’re playing on national TV, we’re playing at home. To me, that always brings an added juice to it.
“I feel strongly both teams will be highly motivated. I know we will be. I don’t believe in building up one game bigger than the next because you have to go about them the same way. If you don’t, that's when you get your ass beat.”
Motivation won’t be a problem. Just like 2011 (Saints), 2010 (Eagles), 2009 (Bears), 2008 (Vikings), 2007 (Eagles) and 2006 (Bears), the Packers under McCarthy are leading off with a big game. New Orleans was a playoff team in 2010 — not to mention Super Bowl champion in 2009. Philadelphia tied for the NFC East title in 2009. Chicago finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs in 2008 but had added Jay Cutler. Philadelphia won the NFC East in 2006. Chicago won the NFC North in 2005. Only the 2008 opener against Minnesota (8-8) featured an opponent that didn’t have a winning record the previous season, but every game against the Vikings is a big game.
“It’s good,” Jordy Nelson said about leading off the season with a powerhouse opponent. “We do have the preseason, so that’s kind of like our (college version of a cupcake from) I-AA and time to experiment. We’ve been on the field working on some things. Now it’s time to get into the big games. It’s good to have a game like this up front. It gets your focus right. There’s no better way to get momentum going than beating a really good team.”
— The Packers rounded out their eight-man practice squad by signing Chris Scott, a 2010 fifth-round draft choice out of Tennessee by Pittsburgh. Scott (6-5, 332) appeared in two games last season but didn’t make the team this summer. Scott, a three-year starter at left tackle for the Vols, played mostly guard with the Steelers but has played every position. We’ll have more on Scott later today.
— McCarthy didn’t have to release an injury report, so he didn’t. Out were safety Sean Richardson (hamstring), cornerback Davon House (shoulder), running back James Starks (turf toe), linebacker Robert Francois (hamstring), linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle). Richardson said his injury was a “tweak” and expected to practice on Wednesday. Rookie Andrew Datko, who was signed to the practice squad, returned from a concussion after missing a couple of weeks.
— Tight end Tom Crabtree returned to practice after getting knocked out of the third preseason game at Cincinnati with a sprained A/C joint. He said this morning was the first time he woke up free of pain and stiffness. “It feels great. Obviously, we weren’t in pads today, but when I got up on a linebacker I was able to give him a shove and just test it out a little bit.”
— House tested his partially dislocated left shoulder by doing some press-coverage techniques on a sled in the Don Hutson Center. He was encouraged but knows he’ll have to practice this week to play on Sunday. “The pain’s gone down a lot. Every day it feels a lot better. From how I felt Friday to today is day and night. Friday, I was kind of worried about my shoulder, but today, I’m like, ‘Man, Sunday’s a possibility.’”
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.