GREEN BAY, Wis. – Already under a time crunch, Matt LaFleur is trying to walk the fine line of preparing his Green Bay Packers for a season that’s coming quickly while listening to his players and lending his voice to the social-justice talks happening around the country.
The Packers will play at the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 13; that’s 17 days from now. Before that, the team must trim its roster from 80 players to 53 by Sept. 5; that’s nine days from now. Those facts aren’t going to change, regardless of the larger issues enveloping the country and the team’s desire to help bring change.
How does LaFleur, who canceled Thursday’s practice so his players and staff could talk about potential responses to the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police, balance one against the other?
“I think that’s a tough question,” LaFleur said. “That’s certainly something that we’re trying to navigate through right now. We know at the end of the day, we’re going to play football, but the stuff that’s going on is much greater than the game of football. I think our guys want to play. But, at the same time, they want to focus some of their efforts on making society a better place. This is a humanity issue more than anything else.”
LaFleur was noncommittal about practicing on Friday and said “we’ll see what the future holds” when asked how he’d make up for 2 lost hours of practice time.
A potential fork in the road will come on Sept. 6 or 7. That’s when the Packers will get out of training-camp mode and turn their full attention to the Vikings. From a viral video released on June 4 after the death of George Floyd to Thursday’s canceled practice to all the behind-the-scenes conversation, the Packers have expended a lot of time and energy in their earnest approach to combating racism.
What happens once the season starts and meaningful games are played and championships are being contested?
LaFleur will cross that bridge when he gets there.
“We’re just planning it day by day,” he said. “It’s not something that you necessarily prepare for; it’s just what feels right in the moment. Right now, we’ve got a lot of guys in our locker room that are upset about a lot of different things that they see in the world and that they’ve experienced. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’ve said it before. I don’t know what our players have gone through. I’m a white guy that hasn’t been put in certain situations, but I continue to try to listen and I’m going to do whatever I can in my power to help support equal rights.”