LaFleur Provides Updates on Injuries and Development on Day 1 of Minicamp

Here's what Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur told reporters following Day 1 of practice at mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur looks at the sideline during training camp on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Gpg Joint Practice Tuesday 08162022 0031
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur looks at the sideline during training camp on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Gpg Joint Practice Tuesday 08162022 0031 / Samantha Madar/USA TODAY
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The Green Bay Packers entered the final stage of the offseason program Tuesday with the first practice of mandatory minicamp.

More than anything else, coach Matt LaFleur hopes his team evades any injuries during the final two days.

He also wants to take advantage of the final opportunity for the group to practice together as a team before reporting for training camp on July 21.

“I want to make sure we’re healthy," LaFleur said after the first day of practice. "That’s what I want to get out of them. Anytime you have an opportunity to go out there and practice football, that’s something that’s really hard to do when you’re by yourself over the course of the next five weeks."

The Packers have made two steps in the right direction health-wise with tight end Tucker Kraft and offensive tackle Zach Tom making progress in their recovery from pectoral injuries. Kraft was no longer wearing the arm sling that he was seen with during OTAs.

"They’re doing great," LaFleur said. "Tucker was moving around, doing lifts. You just watch Zach Tom move around. I think both of those guys are in a good spot. Certainly, you’d love for them to be out there and working on their craft instead or having to rehab back, but I think those are two dudes that I’m not overly concerned about just in terms of how they approach the game."

Absent from practice, not from injury but with permission granted from LaFleur, were the secondary trio of Xavier McKinney, Jaire Alexander and Keisean Nixon.

“They were excused, because the way I view the minicamp is it’s just an extension of OTAs.," he explained. "Those are three guys that have workout bonuses in their contract, and they fulfilled their requirements and did a really good job and actually exceeded what they could have done. For those guys that did that, we gave them the opportunity.”

The three veterans' absences in the defensive backfield opened some space and opportunities for younger players to make an impression on the staff. Safety Zayne Anderson made the most of the day, snagging three interceptions.

“I think Zayne, he always approaches it the right way and gives great effort," LaFleur said. "He started to gain some confidence as a player last season, especially on we-fense [special teams]. And then to see him get more opportunities on defense and go out there and make plays, I think that’s exciting. It’s a heck of a competition, just with the caliber of players that we have in that room."

Offensively, wide receiver Malik Heath has made the most of his opportunities this offseason, making noticeable strides in his physical and technical development. Heath successfully battled for a roster spot last season as an undrafted free agent and wound-up racking up 15 receptions in 2023. Heath has not let up on the competitive mindset that earned him that roster spot last year.

"I think physically he’s in a much better place. He’s a little bit lighter," LaFleur said. "Obviously, he knows the offense a heck of a lot better, so it allows you to play faster and you can move him around a little bit more. So, we’re really excited to see him and what he can do once we get to the preseason and those game-like situations."

For the rookies, LaFleur has been pleased with the physical tools shown off by multiple players and has emphasized the importance of them seeing as many practice reps as possible to refine their technical and mental abilities, including for first-round offensive tackle Jordan Morgan.

"I think certainly he’s got a long way to go in terms of just mentally," he said. "Physically, he has all the tools that you look for and we’re gonna keep pushing him and he’s got to understand that. I think for rookies, it’s just everybody has a different learning curve in terms of how fast they can acclimate themselves to just how we play at this level, but I think he’s approaching it the right way and we’re going to continue to push him."

Green Bay is scheduled to practice Wednesday and Thursday to finish up the offseason program before reporting for training camp in five weeks, though LaFleur historically has scrapped that final practice in favor of a team-building event.

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Joey Van Zummeren