With Lady Antebellum, Maroon 5 and Kid Rock leading the pregame concert, the NFL is doing its best to provide a party atmosphere for Thursday night's opening game of the 2011 season. But the game itself is no party for the participants -- the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers, who just so happen to be the last two Super Bowl champions.
"There's a reason why we're playing in this game, but really in my mind and my message to the team is that's as far as it goes," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Times-Picayune on Sunday. "I'm not really into being in the limelight. That's just not really my personality, and it's something I expressed to my football team. I'm not saying these guys operate the way I do. It's a big game; we understand that. It will be a great evening at Lambeau, but we're really just focused on the Saints.
"We live in a small town, so it's a big deal. But really, our approach hasn't changed."
Besides, McCarthy has seen Kid Rock before at the Packers' private victory party following the Super Bowl.
"He's an outstanding entertainer," McCarthy said with a smirk. "I could probably hear him from my office. That's probably as close as I'll get to the concert."
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whose team won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season only to be upset in the wild-card round of last season's playoffs, was asked about the difference of going into this season without the burden of being defending champions.
"So many of the questions going into last season were: What have you done about the Super Bowl hangover? How do you defend against that and how do you prepare for a season after being the champs?" he said. "That's a fun thing to be called defending champs, but everybody also tries to make it a stressful thing. In the end, I felt like we handled that situation very well, even though we started off with a 4-3 record, which was not optimal for us, but I felt like we finished playing some of our best football at the end of the season.
"Unfortunately, the playoffs did not go the way we expected. I still felt like we had as good a shot as anybody going into the playoffs, and that's all we wanted. That's all you can ask for in this league. I feel like we learn a lot from every season, whether it goes really well or we fall a little bit short."
"We knew all along the Packers were going to roll through the playoffs. We had it in our (plans) that we had to go to Seattle and win, go to Chicago and win, and then we'll see the Packers in the dome. The Packers upheld their end of the bargain," Brees said, according to the Packers' team website.
Saints defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and rookie defensive end Cameron Jordan both spoke confidently about their hopes of playing Thursday night despite lingering injuries.
"That's the plan. Everything looks like it's on track right now, so I'll be ready to go," Franklin told the Times-Picayune.
Franklin has been out since he sprained a medial collateral ligament in the second preseason game.
Jordan missed the final preseason game with an undisclosed knee injury, but sounded as if he expects to play on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.