By Peter Schwartz
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On Wednesday, the Packers and Steelers practiced for the first time since arriving in North Texas, and both teams took their practices indoors because of the inclement weather here in the Dallas area.
The Packers worked out at Highland Park High School’s indoor facility because the SMU field was not playable and will be back there on Thursday and Friday. Jim Trotter from Sports Illustrated was the designated NFL pool reporter and caught up with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after practice.
“The players rolled their eyes at first when I told them where we were going to work,” coach Mike McCarthy said afterward. “I said, ‘Now, just hold on. This is Texas football.’ My daughter went to Lake Travis High School (in Austin), and their facilities are similar to this. I don’t think anybody was disappointed when they walked through the doors.”
PHOTOS: Peter Schwartz at the Super Bowl
“The guys are fresh, they’re ready,” McCarthy said afterward. “I want to keep the risk for injury low leading up to the game, which is why we shortened some things today. But it was good to get back in pads. The guys were flying around; they were banging pretty good. I feel very good about the quality of work, particularly up front. I did not put the pads on them last week because we were coming off a situation where we had played five must-win games in a row, and our linemen were beat up. I wanted to make sure I gave them a chance to get back, and it definitely paid off today.”
The Packers reported that tackle Chad Clifton (knees), guard Jason Spitz (calf), and linebacker Erik Walden (ankle) were all limited. Trotter asked McCarthy about Walden’s status for the Super Bowl.
“How Erik responds to this practice will be big,” McCarthy said. “He practiced and took reps in every team drill. That was the high end of what we were going to try to give him today. It’ll be great if he feels good tomorrow.
While the rest of the team was at the indoor high school facility, kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay ventured off to Cowboys Stadium to work out and may do that again this week.
After practice, I caught up with former Jets defensive lineman Howard Green who landed on his feet nicely with the Packers and is looking forward to playing in the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile at Steelers practice at TCU’s indoor facility, center Maurkice Pouncey did not practice because of a high ankle sprain. The AFC champions went through a one hour and fifty-eight minute workout. Defensive end Aaron Smith was limited because of a torn triceps.
Peter King from Sports Illustrated is the designated AFC pool reporter and spoke with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin after practice. The first questions was about Pouncey.
“He’s a center who’s got a high ankle sprain,’’ said Tomlin, minutes after dismissing his team for the afternoon. “If he played a skill position, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But he’s an interior lineman. Whether he practices [by Friday] depends how he responds to treatment.’’
King also spoke with Tomlin about the conditions that forced the Steelers indoors.
“One thing we’re used to is weather,’’ said Tomlin. “We’re not going to fight elements. We’re used to adjusting as we have to, and we got all our work in. It was a good day.’’
While the focus should be on the Packers and Steelers, you can’t get away from the labor situation. I attended a news conference with NFL Executive Vice-President Jeffrey Pash who updated the CBA negotiations. Pash made a number of points during his briefing with reporters.
*If the two sides don’t reach an agreement by March 4th (when the current CBA expires), then both sides will have failed to honor their commitment to the fans.
*Pash said that “the time has come for a shared commitment to devote all energy towards intensive serious ongoing negotiating.”
*The league wants a deal that is fair for both sides.
*The NFLPA has full rights to financial information about the league.
*Since 2006, the players have received 70 cents of every dollar of increased revenue.
*An 18 game regular season could be part of a new business model.
*There is more common ground between the two sides than people realize but they do have to agree on a fundamental economic structure.
*A lockout is certainly an option for the league if there is not a deal in place by March 4th, but if both sides are engaged in good faith negotiating, Pash did not rule out “stopping the clock” meaning there’s a possibility that a work stoppage would not occur.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap for Thursday…
The Packers and Steelers will practice again and the players will meet the media for the final time. The two head coaches will hold their final news conference on Friday.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will hold a news conference to give the union’s side of the labor situation.
A press conference will be held for the Super Bowl halftime show as “The Black Eyed Peas” will speak to the media.
There’s sure to be some more news and notes from here in Dallas so check back for more!
When the dust settles on Super Sunday, who will come out on top? Make your predictions below!