- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Lining the hallway from the northeast field tunnel at Lambeau Field to the Green Bay Packers‘ locker room are 12 large murals, eight of which depict significant pinnacles of the team’s storied history.

A series of video highlights play on a constant loop throughout the facility, from screens arranged in the main lobby, where players walk in every morning, to the cafeteria in which they eat breakfast and lunch.

The Packers are surrounded by positivity, which is one way they’ve attempted to prevent their two-game slide, and their mediocre second half of the season, from carrying into their first-round playoff game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

“We know our potential,” center Ryan Linsley said. “We’ve seen our potential. We’ve got to display it consistently. I think you’re exactly right: With all the positive messages, with all of the positive attitude around here, I see it. We could be very successful this week.”

Green Bay started the year 6-0, then collapsed after a Week 7 bye. It lost four of its next five games and was trounced in each of the last two weeks, including the de facto NFC North title game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.

A finger can be pointed in nearly any direction. The loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL before the season sapped the Packers of a player who surpassed 1,500 receiving yards and fell just shy of 100 catches a year ago. Running back Eddie Lacy gained 1,100 rushing yards in his first two seasons, but he hasn’t been close to matching that production this year.


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More recently, the loss of left tackle David Bakhtiari to an ankle injury has played a role in quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking a combined 13 sacks in the last two games. On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy even issued a mea culpa for moving left guard Josh Sitton to Bakhtiari’s vacant spot, acknowledging that the tinkering clearly didn’t work.

McCarthy, though, has framed the power of positivity as one way the Packers can stop the bleeding. When big-picture concepts were raised during his chat with reporters, he frequently steered conversation back to the game against the Redskins, swatting away any attempt at some type of greater context.

One question about the Packers‘ level of confidence, which could understandably shaken as they enter the playoffs having been outscored, 58-21, in their last two games, was met with the coach insisting, sternly, that it remains high.

“We have every intention of having a great week of preparation, and it’s my job to make sure that happens,” McCarthy said, resolutely. “We have every intention of going to Washington and winning the game.”

Earlier in the day, fullback John Kuhn told players at a team meeting that they needed to remember the sting of losing to the Seattle Seahawks in overtime in the NFC championship game last year. He also explained the disappointment he felt to those who weren’t around, hoping that they could understand teammates’ pain and then use it as their own form of motivation.

“A lot of us have played together for a long time and we believe in one another,” Kuhn said later, explaining his feelings. “We trust one another. We care for one another. Those are a lot of positives right there that can go a long way in playoff football.”

The last time the Packers failed to win the division yet still made the playoffs was in 2010, when they were the No. 6 seed in the NFC, won three consecutive road games and then defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.

Though few players remain from that team, the institutional know-how is prevalent. The Packers have now qualified for the playoffs in seven consecutive years and have won at least one postseason game in three of their last five appearances. McCarthy called that success has made the coaches and players “products of our experiences.”

“I mean, [the playoffs are] what you live for,” said wide receiver James Jones. “Everybody lives to play in these types of games and get to the Super Bowl, and to do that, you’ve got to play in these games.”

A galvanizing reminder hung in each player’s locker on Wednesday: A dark green shirt with a stylized version of the team’s logo on the chest. On the back, over an illustration of Packers players hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, read a message: There will be haters. There will be doubters. There will be non-believers. And then there will be us proving them wrong.

“It’s the postseason, and it’s a chance to clean up our house and get it ready to showcase who the hell we are,” McCarthy said. “That’s what we’re doing.”


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