GREEN BAY – As Matt LaFleur brought his team together following the first walkthrough of training camp on Saturday, the Packers’ second-year head coach looked at a much different post-workout huddle than he’s accustomed to seeing.
“You don’t want to bring everybody up,” said LaFleur in a video conference call with Green Bay media on Sunday. “We’re used to always coming up in a tight circle and breaking down. It was definitely much looser.”
Such is life coaching football in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily testing is underway and Lambeau Field has been outfitted with Plexiglas and sanitation stations to keep players, coaches and personnel as safe as possible in the facility.
It’s been a challenging offseason to develop, and evaluate, the Packers’ 90-man roster but also one LaFleur, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and their respective staffs welcome.
The changes began this spring with the shift from a physical to virtual offseason program. With the pandemic still looming over the country, the NFL and NFLPA recently agreed to cancel the traditional four-game preseason, and keep the collective focus on safely acclimating players back into training camps with the hope of an on-time start to the regular season.
The elimination of the preseason presents an obstacle for both the coaches working with incoming rookies and young players, and the personnel department responsible for evaluating not only its roster but also the other 31 NFL teams over the next month.
The Packers have been mapping out potential alternatives to preseason action, including the possibility of running live-scrimmage situations and practicing inside Lambeau Field more often than just Family Night.
“I think there will be different opportunities through practice and things that our coaching staff may do to allow us to put those guys in situations where they’ve got to make decisions and they’ve got to play at a different kind of tempo,” Gutekunst said.
“We’ll just have to create the (preseason) markers on our own and the players will understand that particular practices, they may be a little more physical, there may be a little more team or 1-on-1 type situations. But we’ll have to create those.”