Packers Offseason Report Card: Injuries

Our fourth offseason report card focuses on the team’s health, with the Green Bay Packers making a big change at strength and conditioning coordinator but getting mixed early results.
Green Bays Packers strength and conditioning coach Aaron Hill is shown during the team’s minicamp on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Green Bays Packers strength and conditioning coach Aaron Hill is shown during the team’s minicamp on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Defensive coordinator wasn’t the only big change made this offseason by the Green Bay Packers. At strength and conditioning coordinator, coach Matt LaFleur replaced Chris Gizzi with Aaron Hill.

The offseason promptly started with three key members of the organization suffering torn pectorals while working on the bench press: right tackle Zach Tom, tight end Tucker Kraft and LaFleur himself.

LaFleur called it a “coincidence” while in the same breath saying changes were made.

“There were some things we definitely adjusted,” LaFleur said after Day 1 of minicamp. “Injuries are going to happen on the field. You never want them to happen off the field. So, when things like that happen, I do think this was more coincidence than anything else but, yeah, certainly, you will adjust certain things in order to try and mitigate as much risk as you possibly can.

“At the end of the day, activity’s activity and whether you’re in the weight room, whether you’re out there running on the grass or by yourself in an 11-on-11 drill, it can happen. And it happens all the time in our sport, whether it’s our sport or other sports, it’s just the nature of the beast, unfortunately. But I think you always try and mitigate the risk as much as possible.”

Hill spent the previous five seasons as an assistant under Dustin Perry with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s worth noting that 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey, who played in a total of 10 games during his final two full seasons with the Carolina Panthers, missed only one game for the 49ers last year, when he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league in rushing yards, total yards, total touchdowns and total touches.

“Aaron’s tremendous. Real happy for Aaron,” 49ers GM John Lynch said at the Scouting Combine. “Dustin Perry is a big part of the foundation of who we are as a team. He’s very integral in everything we do, the way we plan our practices, the way we try to organize our week so we can be most efficient, have our players ready.

“Dustin Perry’s our lead guy; Aaron’s been a guy working under Dustin for years. We knew we were going to lose him at some point. Aaron got a great opportunity for a great organization. I’m happy for Aaron, for his family. He’ll be a tremendous asset to that organization.”

The one obvious change Hill made was to the prepractice routine, which is much more extensive than under Gizzi in terms of time and intensity and has an almost entirely new set of drills. Only time will tell if it will impact the number of soft-tissue injuries that have afflicted the team in past seasons, but the team got out of the offseason in relatively good shape from that perspective.

Critically, there is cautious optimism that the team has turned a corner with the hamstring injuries that have plagued receiver Christian Watson and cornerback Eric Stokes. Two of the team’s fastest players, getting them on the field for the full season could be a season-changing development.

“The things that Aaron got us doing in there is tremendous to where we’re focused on a lot of different things – hamstring-wise, especially, because we had a lot of soft-tissue issues last year,” Stokes said. “The way we switch up how we worked out and some of the things we do before practice and after practice, it’s completely night and day.”

Final Grade: C

According to Athlete Games Lost, the Packers were the ninth-most-injured team in the NFL last season. David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones, Watson and Stokes were among the players who missed large chunks of the season.

In many cases, a team that’s relatively healthy one season tends to be relatively injured the next. Such was the case with the Packers, who were the third-healthiest team in 2022. There’s an element of good fortune, it seems. After all, if there was a “right” way to train players, every team would be doing it.

However, change can be good – there seemed to be some going-through-the-motions in doing the same warmup routine again and again and again – and the 49ers’ good fortune with McCaffrey and All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams shouldn’t be ignored.

“I think our guys have seen a lot of growth physically, and they’re bringing a lot of energy not only to practice, but in the weight room, everything they do,” LaFleur said. “I think there’s definitely a youthfulness with the group and I think they’re able to connect and relate to our players pretty well.”

With that said, the pectoral injuries are enough to at least raise eyebrows. Three is a huge number; according to a study, only 63 players in the entire NFL suffered a torn pectoral between 2010 and 2018. That’s two per team over a span of nearly a decade. The Packers had three (if you count LaFleur) in a matter of months.

Tom and Kraft are iffy for the start of training camp. Both are vitally important players. Especially Tom, who last year emerged as one of the top right tackles in the NFL. The season will start with games against the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished first in sack percentage in 2022, and the Indianapolis Colts, who were eighth in 2023.

“I think both of those guys are in a good spot,” LaFleur said. “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. They’re still very young players but they’ve gotten a lot of play time and can’t wait to get them back in camp.”

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.