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5 things learned from Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur – Aug. 27

Roster decisions loom and injury statuses remain unclear

General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur
General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – Head Coach Matt LaFleur addressed the media on Saturday, two days after the Packers' preseason finale, and two days before final roster cuts must be made.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Disagreements are inevitable at decision time, but open discussions are the key to sorting them out.

LaFleur said it's expected he and General Manager Brian Gutekunst won't see eye to eye at times over roster decisions, because a head coach is naturally focused on the here and now while a GM also must keep the longer-term future in mind, and player development is never in a straight line or on a specific timetable.

The Packers will trim their roster to the league-mandated 53 players by Tuesday afternoon, and many conversations to be had in the coming days are a continuation of those conducted throughout training camp, only now the discussion has to reach a consensus.

"What's great about our relationship and where we've come is just to have the debate, and I never feel like it ever gets contentious or anything like that," LaFleur said of hashing things out with Gutekunst.

"They (the personnel execs) see, I would say, the majority of the guys the same way we see them as a coaching staff. So we're without a doubt on the same page, and if there is any differences in opinion, we're always working through that."

Another consultant in the mix as well is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose opinion is solicited and considered.

"Not only at the wide receiver position but in particular the guys on offense," LaFleur said. "Also I think he's got a great feel for our locker room and who really fits in well and who might not."

2. There's still a lot of uncertainty about key injured players.

LaFleur said there's "no idea" at this point whether starting offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins will be ready for Week 1. It remains a day-to-day process for them as they return from ACL rehabs. The same goes for tight end Robert Tonyan, though LaFleur indicated Jenkins and Tonyan could soon be cleared to participate in 11-on-11 work in practice.

Also, no decision has been made on whether kicker Mason Crosby (knee) will come off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list by Tuesday. Reports of his workouts have been encouraging, but if he's not pulled off PUP, he would miss at least the first four games of the regular season.

Regarding rookie receiver Christian Watson, who missed the opening weeks of camp with a knee injury, LaFleur said the medical staff wanted to give him two more weeks before he's thrown into game action, so that's why he didn't play in the preseason finale in Kansas City.

3. Jordan Love's preseason work has inspired confidence in the young QB.

As he said earlier in the preseason, LaFleur is seeing "a lot more decisive player out there that is letting the ball rip" when it comes to Love, the third-year backup QB.

Love's final preseason numbers (41-74, 437 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT, 63.9 rating) also aren't the crux of the evaluation for LaFleur, who noted the offense's top three receivers, top two running backs, and top two tight ends did not take a single preseason snap.

The growth was evident in his footwork and fundamentals, on adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and with the overall timing of the offense when he was in command of it.

"He looks much more fluid," LaFleur said. "I don't see a whole lot of hesitation in his play.

"I think we have a lot of confidence, if need be, if he had to go in there, he absolutely could win a game."

4. Special teams remain a significant work in progress.

While acknowledging special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia auditioned players up and down the roster for potential roles, requiring constant personnel changes from rep to rep each preseason game, LaFleur said the film from Thursday's game was upsetting beyond the poor results.

He said players were seen using "made-up techniques" that aren't coached in practice, and not giving legitimate effort in the game's third phase. Without naming names, he indicated the film showed plenty of reasons for certain players to get cut by Tuesday.

"It was definitely not good enough the other night, that's for sure," he said. "We definitely got it taken to us pretty good by Kansas City, and our guys understand that. We're never going to run from that or hide from that."

5. The players have a few practices before a pre-Week 1 break.

The Packers will practice on Sunday and Monday, with the roster cuts due Tuesday, and then one more practice will be conducted Wednesday before the players are given four days off beginning Thursday.

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