GREEN BAY — Max McCaffrey doesn’t mind entering the 2017 season as the so-called other McCaffrey. He also doesn’t mind how he faces a more challenging path to a spot on the Green Bay Packers’ roster than his more famous, first-round pick younger brother Christian does with the Carolina Panthers.
The long shot in Green Bay is too proud of his baby brother to be jealous of him.
“(It is) completely different for him,” Max said during the Packers’ offseason program. “It was cool to see him (be a first-round pick). He worked his (butt) off and put himself in a position where he deserved that, so I was really excited for him. There was all the preparation and media hype around him, and I think he handled that really well, and I think he’s in a great position now. I’m excited to watch him.”
Max would have been even more excited if Christian, as some early mock drafts predicted, had gone to the Packers with the 29th overall pick. That dream dissipated quickly, as the Panthers pounced on Christian at No. 8. The two played together at Valor Christian High School outside Denver, where their father, Ed, spent nine of his 13 NFL seasons, but went their separate ways in college with Max going to Duke and Christian to Stanford.
“I would’ve loved that,” Max said of his brother landing in Green Bay. “I love playing with Christian, but he’s in a good spot. I’m sure he’s not upset about it, either, but playing with him would’ve been awesome.”
Max, 23, is the oldest of four football-playing McCaffrey boys — Christian is 21; Dylan, 18, will be a freshman quarterback at Michigan this fall; and Luke, 16, will be a junior at Valor Christian this fall and is also a heavily-recruited quarterback. Max has been in Colorado throughout the offseason and spent the winter doing Christian’s pre-draft workout regimen with him while also working out with his dad.
“I did speed and acceleration work with him twice a week,” Max said. “Then I worked out with my dad twice a week for receiver stuff, lifted five days a week and did some other receiver drills.”
Now Max’s focus is on making the Packers’ roster — despite a crowded wide receiver depth chart — after making a cameo appearance on the 53 at the end of last season. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders and caught on with the Packers’ practice squad on Dec. 20.
When injuries left the team uncertain whether wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison would be cleared for the Jan. 22 NFC Championship Game at Atlanta, Max was promoted to the active roster, then was a game-day inactive when Nelson, Adams and Allison all played against the Falcons.
Since then, Max has impressed coaches with his football IQ and understanding of the offense. Still, he faces an uphill climb for a roster spot, as the Packers took two wide receivers in the draft (Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey in the fifth round, LSU’s Malachi Dupre in the seventh) and have Nelson, Randall Cobb, Adams, Allison and Jeff Janis in the top five spots on their depth chart.
“He’s done a great job,” wide receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “Max, from the day he got here last (year), he worked really hard at learning the offense. He had a great start (to the offseason) because he’s learned it even though he was practice squad and all that good stuff.
“He saw how coach (Mike McCarthy) ended up putting him on the roster for the last game in case we needed him, (and) that’s the mentality that he has and the approach that he has — he was ready to play. He’s really ahead mentally, especially when you compare him to these young rookies, he’s much further ahead.”
And as Max battles the odds in Green Bay, he has one ardent supporter cheering him on from Charlotte.
“Max is my best friend in the whole world,” Christian said in an interview at the NFL’s annual pre-draft scouting combine. “Growing up, we were very competitive with each other, we were constantly playing one-on-one basketball, or playing football, tearing up the yard. Doing everything together. All his best friends were my best friends. Even still today (we) go at it a bit.
“He’s been such an amazing influence in my life and I’m extremely happy that I can call him my older brother.”