GREEN BAY – After a brief delay, the Packers managed to avoid the heaviest rain and get in their annual Family Night practice at Lambeau Field on Saturday.
Here are five things we learned:
1. This Family Night had a little extra meaning for Cole Van Lanen.
After going to his share of Family Night events as a kid, Van Lanen got to experience the other side of it Saturday night.
With a large contingent of family and friends in attendance, the Green Bay native was able to run out of the Lambeau Field tunnel for the first time in a Packers uniform.
"It was awesome to be able to go into Lambeau with fans and you're the person on the field, not watching it," said Van Lanen, who starred at nearby Bay Port High School before playing at the University of Wisconsin.
"It's definitely an unbelievable feeling, something kind of indescribable. I'm just excited to get in there for a real game, feel the real atmosphere. The atmosphere was awesome tonight, but I'm really excited for a game."
Van Lanen, a rookie sixth-round draft pick, stayed and trained in Green Bay throughout the offseason. Keeping a Monday-through-Friday schedule helped eliminate the "awe" factor, particularly in the offensive line room.
At Wisconsin, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman routinely studied All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari with admiration. Today, Bakhtiari is helping Van Lanen break down his own film.
"Dave's a very funny guy. He is a great mentor though," Van Lanen said. "I'm on the film a lot at left tackle, and he really mentors me, puts me under his wing and teaches me some tips that will really help me."
Lambeau Field hosted Packers Family Night on Aug. 7, 2021.
2. Devin Funchess is settling back in after almost two years away from the field.
It's been a long road back for the sixth-year receiver, whose last NFL appearance came as a member of the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 8, 2019.
Funchess, who suffered a broken collarbone in that '19 opener, is getting his football feet back under him after he opted out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which afflicted several of his close family members.
The decision to sit out last year wasn't easy. Funchess seized a few business opportunities, dabbling in real estate and partnering with some hydroponic farms, but still missed football.
"It was very depressing," Funchess said. "It was a man being a man, having to take care of a family in a different route and a different perspective of life. Being at Michigan, it helped me get prepared but to know that it could possibly be the end, because who knew if they were going to pick up my contract. It was interesting."
Emotionally, Funchess said he turned a corner by the end of October and early November. By March, the Packers opted to retain 27-year-old receiver's rights and give Funchess a chance to resume his playing career.
Funchess had perhaps his best public practice as a member of the Packers. He caught several passes in team periods, including one from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a stop route.
The sixth-year receiver said he's still getting caught up on all the offensive terminology and formations but feels he should be all systems go for the preseason opener against Houston.
"You look at a kid ride a bike or you go back and ride a bike, that's cool, and that's easy because you pick it right back up," Funchess said. "But the formations, it's a different language. So as soon as I get that all the way down pat and I can play very fast, that's when I'm going to be back."
3. Aaron Rodgers is in prime form right now.
The NFL's reigning MVP has been surgical with his accuracy since returning for the start of training camp last week and Family Night was no exception.
After his 50-yard completion into a net during practice went viral on Thursday, Rodgers garnered the biggest ovation of the night when he made it two more times from long distance.
"I met all the GOATs, the Peyton Mannings, the Andrew Lucks, the Tom Bradys, and then you got '12,'" Funchess said. "And he's the most poised one I've ever met, the most chill one I ever met. And he's about business and he's kind of a jokester, which is fun, but you can feel the presence that he brings and the aura that he has."
4. Kabion Ento continues to make a push.
After rotating in with the first-team dime defense in practice this past week, the former Colorado receiver continues to look the part of an NFL cornerback.
Ento, who spent all last season on injured reserve with a foot injury suffered in training camp, deflected two passes in team periods during Family Night.
"I thought Ento did some nice things," LaFleur said. "He's a guy that's got to go out there and compete and do it on a consistent basis. We'll have three more opportunities in live game action to watch him out there, and we'll see where he ends up."
The lone interception of the evening belonged to safety Darnell Savage, who picked off a Rodgers pass that got batted into the air when heavier rain started to fall near the end of practice.
5. The Packers got through the practice no worse for wear.
A shifting weather forecast caused the Packers to adjust the schedule throughout the day, and even during practice itself, but the good news was none of it led to any injuries, according to LaFleur.
Among the new players who didn't practice Saturday were defensive tackle Kenny Clark, receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Juwann Winfree, and tight end Josiah Deguara, whom the Packers have been careful with after he was just activated off the physically unable to perform list (torn ACL) Wednesday.