"Today's NFL, man," the Packers' coach told NFL.com as he tried to get his aching team ready on a short week to face their NFC North rivals on Thursday night. "These injury reports around the league are just outrageous. I don't know what the statistics look like. I don't follow all 32 teams. But it seems like every game we've been in this year, pretty much both sides have been like whew."
Lining up for Green Bay on Thursday night at running back will be a combination of an undrafted free agent playing in his first NFL game (Don Jackson), a wide receiver who's chipping in to fill the void in the backfield (Ty Montgomery) and a veteran who's been in town for less than three days (Knile Davis). That's because the Packers placed starter Eddie Lacy on injured reserve, while backup James Starks is out about four weeks following knee surgery. Elsewhere on offense, tight end Jared Cook is still out with an ankle injury.
Football has long been a physical sport, but McCarthy thinks injuries are climbing and he's part of the group that believes the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, with its restrictions on practices and offseason work and its reduction in pay for many rookies, is the reason why.
"I think it's clearly a reflection of the training part of it. People don't want to hear coaches say that, but how can you not be in tune to the fact you have a younger football league than pre-2011 and now you're spending five less weeks with the players?" McCarthy said. "I mean, that's not the best formula. I think it's been proven since then."
McCarthy's comments came on the same day NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at a league meeting in Houston the practice rules will "undoubtedly come up" during the next round of CBA negotiations. Goodell's statement came in response to a question about the quality of play -- specifically offensive line play -- but many coaches argue that issue goes hand-in-hand with player safety. A better prepared player, they say, is one who displays better, and therefore, safer form.
But you'd be hard pressed to find a coach who wouldn't welcome relaxed practice restrictions going forward.
"At any level and in any competitive industry, to increase your education and preparation, to heighten your awareness and instincts, is a big part of the formula to be successful," McCarthy said.
McCarthy also rued the fact the Packers have gone to great lengths in recent years to improve their training facilities and provide more nutritious food for their players, only to have their time with the players slashed.
It's been a complaint of coaches around the league for five years now. With Goodell and owners behind the scenes suggesting it might be affecting the on-field product, the movement to bring back some lost practice and training time might be on the verge of picking up significant momentum.
"If you want to talk pure football, training, performance and sustaining a performance level, compared to what was before that, the numbers were there, look at the video, look at the quality of play," McCarthy said. "Look at it. I mean, come on, who's kidding who here?"