‘The Foundation’ Has Been Laid as Packers Take Vacation

The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their minicamp a day early. With the “foundation” laid and key messages delivered, the team will not practice again until July 22.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is shown during organized team activities for the Green Bay Packers Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is shown during organized team activities for the Green Bay Packers Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – That’s all, folks.

Had coach Matt LaFleur desired, he could have had his team on the practice field for one more day on Thursday. Instead, the Green Bay Packers wrapped up their minicamp on Wednesday. It was their final practice until the first practice of training camp on July 22 – a span of 40 days.

Usually, the offseason program concludes with a three-day minicamp that includes practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and a team-building event on Thursday. This year, LaFleur bumped the team-building event – bowling – into last week’s OTAs and scrapped the final day of minicamp altogether.

“With coming back a little bit earlier this year [for the start of training camp], thought it was in everybody’s best interests,” he said.

Knocking on the wooden podium, LaFleur continued: “We came out pretty healthy for the most part, so we’re giving them off tomorrow.”

Comparing it to “the last day of school,” LaFleur wasn’t thrilled about the relative lack of focus and sloppy play.

“There’s a little bit of human nature,” LaFleur said. In the post-practice huddle, he encouraged the players to keep their focus for a couple more meetings before it was the football version of class dismissed. 

The vibe this time of year frequently is overhyped and meaningless. There are limitless amounts of hope for every team in the NFL. As Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they’ve been punched in the face. So far, with every team in the league undefeated, those plans look great and those faces are filled with smiles.

However, it does seem different this year in Green Bay given the late-season performance by the offense and the optimism brought about by the coordinator change on defense.

“It’s like you don’t want to stop doing it,” defensive end Rashan Gary said of practicing. “We’ve been loving this new defense. We’ve been getting better day in and day out. I love going against the offense because of the swagger they have coming into this year. I’m in a flow where I want to go another week, but we’ve got to go away, handle our body, come back and handle business, so I got some time to get after 10 [Jordan Love] and the rest of the offensive line.”

Indeed, it is time to get away. To take a mental and physical break. To perhaps travel and see family. But above all else, to get ready for what could be a 202-day grind spanning the start of training camp to the Super Bowl.

Even LaFleur plans to get away to some extent.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m sure some guys don’t maybe, but the guys I know usually try to decompress a little bit and get ready for the grind that is the NFL season. It's a long season and certainly there’s a lot of hours that go into that, so you’ve kind of got to recharge the batteries, so to speak [before you] say your goodbyes to your family and, hopefully, have some nice moments along the way. But we’ll be ready to roll once we come back July 17.

July 17 is when the rookies, quarterbacks and select other players will report for training camp. The rest of the team will convene on July 21 before practicing for the first time a day later.

“I like to bring our young guys back in a little bit earlier and have more like Phase 2-type days, kind of half-days for like four days,” LaFleur said. “I think that’s good for us as coaches, as well, to get back in the building. But most of the (coaches), everybody’s on their own. What they’re doing on a daily basis is kind of up to them at that point. But I think most the guys, this is what we do and we love it and you’re always constantly thinking about different ways to do things and different ways to get better.”

Before the mass exodus from Green Bay, LaFleur, Gary and other team leaders delivered a critical message. A physical break is critical but the players need to return in even better shape. A mental break is important, too, but the players – especially the rookies – need to stay immersed in the playbook so the practice-field gains from the past four weeks aren’t wasted.

“I think we’ve laid a good foundation,” LaFleur said. “The things that we stressed to these guys in terms of our communication, how close the connection can get, I think it’s a good start.

“But it really doesn’t matter once we come back to training camp. (Then) it’s about what we do moving forward. Again, it’s just the foundation. So, I feel really good about the group in there and, hopefully, throughout the course of these five weeks is you cannot come back the same player. You’ve got to come back better. You’ve got to come back in better shape, and you’ve got to come back better mentally.”

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Bill Huber

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: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL 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 PackerReport.com. 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.