McCarthy says Packers' defense has to improve
Coach Mike McCarthy says the Green Bay Packers must play better defense in big games. That means containing Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, and stopping San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick from racking up rushing yards.
At the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, McCarthy said the Packers had "two black eyes" in 2012. They were Peterson, who ran for 409 yards in two regular season games, and the San Francisco playoff loss in which Kaepernick scrambled past Green Bay's defenders for 181 rushing yards.
Among other things, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was dispatched to Texas A&M where he talked with the Aggies' coaches about the read-option offense that Kaepernick employed. The offense is expected to become more prevalent in the NFL this fall.
McCarthy said the entire defensive coaching staff benefited from the experience of having Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin go over the fine points of the read-option. The Packers will see it plenty of it this season when they play San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia.
Two running backs will be featured
Coach McCarthy plans to go with two featured running backs this season.
He'll give DuJuan Harris every chance to become the starter. The 5-8 Harris is considered too small to play on every down. But after being signed in mid-season last year, Harris showed a lot of promise from December on.
He averaged 4.6 yards a carry, the most among Green Bay running backs in the regular season. He scampered for a 26-yard touchdown on an NBC Sunday Night game against Detroit. And Harris ran for 100 yards in the Packers' two playoff games, with 28 carries and two scores.
At the NFL's owners meetings in Phoenix this week, McCarthy said he wanted a one-two punch out of the backfield, but he doesn't want a running back by committee approach.
The Packers used five backs last season at various times. James Starks has been injury-prone and Alex Green was still coming off knee surgery from 2011. Cedric Benson was hurt early and Ryan Grant didn't sign until December. Both Benson and Grant remain unsigned for 2013.
Jones isn't gone yet
It's not a given that Green Bay linebacker Brad Jones is on the way out. The free agent met with Packers officials Wednesday, presumably to discuss a possible new contract. Jones did not comment afterward, and his agent did not indicate whether an offer was made.
He met with the Tennessee Titans earlier. Brad Jones had a break-out year in 2012 after playing mostly on special teams in his first two seasons. He became a starter about a month into last season, after Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith went out with season-ending injuries.
Jones played all but seven possible snaps in the Packers' final 12 games. He had two sacks, four pass break-ups and 77 tackles.
Bears release Urlacher
The Packers won't have to worry about Brian Urlacher when they play the Bears twice next season. Chicago announced Wednesday that it released the 13-year veteran linebacker after the two sides failed to agree on a contract.
Urlacher said he has no hard feelings against the Bears, and he wants to play at least one more season in the NFL. The eight-time Pro Bowler was the league's defensive player of the year in 2005. He originally wanted a two-year contract worth $11.5 million.
ESPN said the Bears only offered a one-year deal for $2 million. Urlacher called that more of an ultimatum than an offer. He countered with a one-year proposal for $3.5 million with possible incentives, but that went nowhere.
Urlacher has had injury problems in recent years. He missed the final four games of last season with a bad hamstring. He has also had knee problems, and he missed 15 games in 2009 with a wrist injury suffered against the Packers in that year's opener.