Packers To Host Browns For Joint Practices
According to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Green Bay Packers are planning to host the Cleveland Browns for joint practices during training camp this upcoming season. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur had announced the team had an agreement with a team for this upcoming season, but the Browns, led by first year head coach Kevin Stefanski are reportedly the team that agreed to it.
The Packers powers that be, both LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst were happy with what they were able to do last year with the Houston Texans and wanted to continue this upcoming season. Particularly with a collective bargaining agreement that seems intent on eliminating a preseason game, these joint practices are expected to fill the void.
Coaches typically like them because there is a more controlled environment with many of the drills that reduces the likelihood of injuries. Teams also like them because it makes it far easier to hide players they don't want to get exposure on television, scouted by other teams who then would try to swoop in and claim them if they hit waivers as they intend to hide them on the practice squad. Agents hate this, seeing it as a more difficult path for clients to get on active rosters and get more money than they would otherwise. Some teams have already done this like the New England Patriots where they will exclusively use players they have earmarked for those roles in joint practices, not using them in preseason games.
The flip side of that is that the NFL isn't really overseeing them, so where they could fine or suspend players based on actions in the preseason games, there's virtually no oversight in these joint practices with brawls breaking out that have shortened or abruptly ended them.
Enter the Browns, who under then head coach Freddie Kitchens, were in multiple brawls during joint practices last year including with the Indianapolis Colts that caused the team to shorten practice. There was a belief that Kitchens was encouraging his players to fight, or at least that he wasn't dissuading them from it.
Many believe that lack of accountability and discipline carried over into the regular season where the Browns were one of the most penalized teams in the league and particularly early in the season, on the wrong end or any number of personal fouls or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which resulted in fines as well as simply putting them in a hole that caused them to lose games. Against the Tennessee Titans in week one, the Browns had almost 200 yards in penalties in an embarrassing debut that proved to be foreshadowing for what was to come of the season.
Stefanski's emphasis on work, being smart, tough and accountable, would seem to suggest he will have far less tolerance for that type of behavior, particularly in a joint practice session. They can't work if they can't practice and a brawl would prevent that from happening. As a result, it will be interesting to see the difference in the team between the two coaching staffs.