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McCarthy says Packers-Bears zinger ‘all in fun’

GREEN BAY, Wis. — You’d be hard pressed to find a player in the Green Bay Packers locker room who wouldn’t say the team has a championship-caliber roster.

But did they really need coach Mike McCarthy saying publicly that the Packers were going to “kick Chicago’s ass” in the season opener Sunday at Soldier Field?

Talk about bulletin board material.

“He didn’t say anything,” guard Josh Sitton said, downplaying the comments. “Things happen. Not a big deal.”

Considering Sitton got an earful in 2013 when he called Detroit coach Jim Schwartz and his defensive line “scumbags” for what he characterized as dirty play, he could have cried foul. His outburst came a few days before a Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field and the Packers wound up getting pounded, 40-10.

McCarthy didn’t intend for his comments to become public. He was speaking at an annual Chamber of Commerce Welcome Back Packers luncheon held at the Lambeau Field Atrium last Wednesday.

It’s the same place a few years ago where a group of Packers, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wore Cowboy hats and bolo ties signifying their intention of playing in the Super Bowl in Dallas. That made news as well, but the Packers backed it up with a Super Bowl XLV title.

In an age when just about anything can wind up on YouTube, McCarthy’s speech was video recorded and posted online. All of his players were in attendance along with a partisan group of fans who got to hear about the upcoming season from the head coach.

Considering he devotes a good portion of time lecturing his players on not saying anything that would reflect poorly on the organization, McCarthy seemed to be breaking his own rule. Rather than back off it, he explained at his Monday news conference that he just let his emotions get the best of him.

“It was all in fun, but I think it’s really just an example of why you shouldn’t say things like that in public,” McCarthy said. “The reality of it is it is really the way the game is looked upon. It’s a great rivalry. I’m sure a lot worse is said in private about the opposing teams and so forth, but it is with great respect.

“It’s the oldest rivalry in the National Football League. In my opinion, I think it’s the best rivalry game that I’ve played in. So playing down there opening day, it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a big challenge.”

The Packers are 6 1/2-point favorites playing in a stadium where they have won 17 of their last 21 games.

When told of McCarthy’s comments, Bears coach John Fox was gracious, saying, according to the Chicago Tribune, “I looked at the tape. They should be confident.”