Early Thursday morning they will come. Fans in green, fans in gold, some with lawn chairs, others with cheesehead hats, and all with one special feeling in common. Hope.
That's what the beginning of NFL training camp brings with it. Hope for a winning season, hope for a playoff season, hope for a championship season.
Packers fans have better reason than most to believe. The NFL is a quarterback driven league and Aaron Rodgers is one of the best to ever play the position. However, it will take more, than just Aaron - the destroyer of worlds - Rodgers, to get the job done.
This Packers team is young and that is why camp will be so important. 33 of the 90 players that will be on hand for day one are rookies. Despite their inexperience the Packers coaching staff is expecting them to be ready.
"If we have a player when we get together tonight and start talking about install number one and he doesn't know his assignments already, he's in trouble." -said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy at his season opening press conference Wednesday.
Unlike a number of franchises who "win the offseason" by spending large sums of money on free agent acquisitions to fill holes, the Packers do it through the draft as well as with undraffted free agents. That method also means that a number of those first year players will be on the field come the regular season.
"These young guys now contribute. It's one thing to run around in underwear and helmets and feel good about there athletic ability. They belong and we're glad they're here but we have to get these guys ready for these padded practices. Get the offense, defense, special teams installed, and get ready to play games." -said McCarthy.
It is going to take the entire season to know just how good, these young players, and in turn this Packers team, really can be. But hopeful fans don't like waiting. They want to hear what their friends think, what the prognosticators think, what coach McCarthy himself thinks. You'll be hard pressed to get an answer on that last one though. When asked "what about this team going into camp do you really like?" The head man just moved right past it..
"In my younger years I would come in here and I would answer those questions and the problem is I actually thought about them. Now I don't even think about [them] because it's not what I do think about. I thought about it because i wanted to give you a good answer, now I've just got comfortable with not giving you a good answer." -said McCarthy.
It may sound dismissive but this is probably the way it should be. The fans are the ones who should be hopeful, gleeful, and excited the night before camp. The coaches, the players, they are focused on football and getting better.
"Training your team smarter is the way the last decade or so in this league is presented because of the advancements so you have to be in tune with that and just trying to find a balance of training your team the right way. Being smart but also just getting ready to win a championship." -said McCarthy
The NFL regular season is still more than a month away. The Packers won't face their week 1 opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, until September 10th. The team won't even put on the pads until Saturday, but none of that matters, because even in it's most embryonic stages fans are ready to have the game back in their lives. Thursday morning it will be.