Packers Must Adapt Without Preseason

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers perhaps enjoyed a bit of scotch (or tequila) upon hearing the news the NFL had eliminated the preseason as part of its path to playing a season amid a pandemic.

A football team is about more than the veteran quarterback, star receiver or standout pass rusher. Losing the preseason was a major blow to many members of the team. It was a blow to the No. 7 receiver on the depth chart. It was a blow to the undrafted free agent fighting for a roster spot. It was a blow to the mid-camp addition to the roster. And it was a blow to general manager Brian Gutekunst, who has been deprived of a key evaluation tool in crafting his 53-man roster.

“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 in his pre-training camp Zoom call on Sunday. “At the same time, we do that every year. I think when you have four preseason games, four markers as we go through the preseason, you have to kind of tailor your practices to get those guys ready for those games, and those are the biggest opportunities. So, as we go through this schedule, we'll just have to create the markers on our own. They’re not automatically there for us.”

That means it will be up to coach Matt LaFleur to create those competitive situations. In a way, that’s easier said than done because it presumes training camp was filled with uncompetitive situations. However, a training camp freed of games means more opportunities to get physical. For instance, last year, the team’s Thursday preseason games were sandwiched between off days on Wednesday and Friday.

Last year, after the first preseason game on Aug. 8, only 12 total training camp practices remained. This year, beginning Aug. 17, the revised CBA will allow up to 14 padded practices.

To make up for the lack of games but to take advantage of the additional practices, Gutekunst said practices might be more physical and feature more one-on-one battles.

“Everything’s pretty fluid right now, but I would say this: We are going to have to implement some more live-scrimmage situations just to try and replicate those scenarios that guys encounter in the game,” LaFleur said. “And then the other thing that we’ve floated around a little bit is having a couple of those situations inside Lambeau. That’s not something we’ve done in the past outside of the Family Night, but we will certainly have a couple practices in Lambeau.”

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