With no time to waste, voluntary offseason workouts officially begin for the Packers on Monday.
The new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players moved the start of team-sanctioned offseason workouts from mid-March to mid-April, giving coaching staffs a month’s less time to work with players prior to training camp.
“Now you really have to be efficient in your training cycles and you have to hit the ground running more than you have in the past,” Packers Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Mark Lovat said. “That’s been the case, really, for the last few years. The CBA didn’t really change that much. Football is a year-round sport now so you have to be in shape year-round.”
The Packers will begin on Monday with two weeks of strictly strength and conditioning, as players will work with Lovat and his two assistants, Thadeus Jackson and Zac Woodfin. That will be followed by three weeks of strength and conditioning coupled with individual position work with assistant coaches.
After those five weeks, with draft picks and other rookies joining the veterans for the fifth week in mid-May, the team moves into its OTA schedule.
That’s not a lot of time, though any time is more than last year when the entire offseason was wiped out by the lockout during CBA negotiations. Last year’s rookie class got no offseason program at all, and the team’s 2010 rookies didn’t begin until after the draft that year, so they haven’t gone through a full offseason program, either.
That makes this a crucial three-month period for a draft-and-develop team such as the Packers, and maximizing on the condensed schedule will be the key, according to Lovat.
“We’re not going to waste their time or ours,” he said. “We’re going to choose protocols that get the most bang for your buck. Your face time with players is always a commodity. We’re constantly thinking about being efficient with our choices and what we’re asking them to do. This CBA forces that even more.”
As usual, the players’ workouts will be conducted both in the team weight room in the lower level of Lambeau Field, and in the Don Hutson Center across the street.
Lovat said he doesn’t anticipate any issues with players taking advantage of the extra month of “down time” and not getting themselves ready to go. That wasn’t a problem after the long lockout last year, either.
“Our whole message to our guys is to be pros,” he said. “Our guys understand that working out is part of their job, and they do it and take care of business.”
Lovat certainly knows his business. Earlier this offseason, he was voted by his peers in the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society as the NFL Strength Coach of the Year. A member of the Packers’ strength and conditioning staff for 13 years, Lovat follows Kent Johnston (1997) and Rock Gullickson (2007) as Packers strength coaches who have won the award.
“That’s really a product of the people I work with,” Lovat said. “That’s a direct pat on the back to Zac, to Thad and to the people that I’ve worked with in the past – Kent Johnston, Barry Rubin, Rock Gullickson and Dave Redding. It’s really nice for all of us to get something like that for the Packers program.”
Green Bay’s program under Lovat focuses on more than just the physical workouts. It also incorporates the players’ mental approach, recovery techniques and nutrition.
It’s all designed with the six-month grind of training camp, the regular season and, hopefully, the postseason, in mind.
“Our key objective never changes – it’s just to help these guys be better football players,” Lovat said. “That’s what we’re here to do.”