The Packers were an upbeat bunch after practice Wednesday, eagerly awaiting the NFC Wild Card matchp and rematch with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The health of the team is improving. Safety and special teammer Derrick Martin ws the only player who did not practice because of an ankle sprain but he plans on testing it by Friday and he hopes to play. Nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who's missed two of the last three games and played only sparingly against Pittsburgh with a hamstring pull, proclaimed himself ready to go. Brandon Chillar was a full participant after missing last week's game in Glendale with back spasms. Head coach Mike McCarthy wants to keep this week's routine as normal as possible, right down to the exact same flight departure for Arizona on Saturday. Several players were excited about the opportunity in front of the team, Donald Driver expressed confidence, Cullen Jenkins said there's clearly a different feel about the place this week, knowing you don't have any Mondays to correct film if it doesn't go well. Pickett said it's exciting, knowing everybody's watching.
From the Cardinals camp, we visited with coach Ken Whisenhunt on a conference call Wednesday afternoon and he denied he's upset with Mike McCarthy and the Packers over how Green Bay played Arizona in the pre-season and last week. Back in August, the Packers starters dominated the Cardinals in the third pre-season game. That's the one game where McCarthy spent time game planning and running his blitz package in the still infant 3-4 defensive system. Last week, up 26-0 in the third quarter with Arizona already having run up the white flag, the Packers passed the ball downfield on a drive than ended with Aaron Rodgers hitting Jermichael Finley for the final touchdown. Whisenhunt said he's not upset with the Packers, he was more unhappy with how his team played even under the circumstances of pulling starters after he realized the team could not claim the number two seed. Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Bolden did not practice Wednesday, telling reporters he has a sprained MCL in his knee. His status for Sunday is very uncertain.
Another month, another award for Charles Woodson, named the NFC's defensive player of the month for the third time this season. Woodson won the award in September, November and now December, making him almost a lock for Defensive player of the year. Donald Driver has also received an award, named the winner of the Red Smith Award at the upcoming all-sports banquet in Appleton. The Packers may lose a key member of their personel staff. Green Bay native John Schneider, the co-director of football operations is reportedly one of four finalists for the General Manger job with the Seattle Seahawks. Schneider was with Green Bay after stints in Kansas City in Washington and went with Mike Holmgren to Seattle for a year.
A reminder, I'll be departing for Phoenix on Friday and provide blog updates from Arizona through the weekend, right up to kickoff and a complete post-game report.