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Five things learned on the eve of Packers training camp

Head Coach Matt LaFleur, General Manager Brian Gutekunst discuss what lies ahead

Packers GM Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – Roughly 24 hours before the Packers hit the field for the first practice of training camp, Head Coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the media.

Here are five things we learned:

1. It's a new day in Green Bay.

With the Packers making the transition to Jordan Love at quarterback, there's both enthusiasm and unknown in the air.

"It feels like Year 1, quite frankly," LaFleur said. "It feels like we're right back where we started when I first got hired here. That's exciting."

The unknown has mostly to do with the offense, and not just Love. Essentially the entire pass-catching corps comprises second-year pros and rookies at the wide receiver and tight end spots who will be learning and growing right along with the new starting QB.

"It's going to be how quickly we can acclimate these young players and get 'em ready to roll and how we come together as a team," LaFleur said.

2. Preseason playing time is to be determined.

With Love taking over and so much youth around him on offense, starters might see more preseason snaps than in recent years, but LaFleur considers the situation "fluid" while Gutekunst referred to it as "double-edged."

"You'd like to see (Love) play a lot if you could promise me we could protect him and keep him healthy," Gutekunst said. "That will probably be something Matt, as he goes through it, it's a feel thing for what he feels he needs."

3. Which puts a significant spotlight on the upcoming joint practices.

The Packers will practice once with the Bengals in Cincinnati prior to the first preseason game, and twice with the Patriots in Green Bay ahead of the second contest. How those workouts go, in a more controlled and protective environment, could factor into preseason playing time decisions.

"That provides them more game-like experience than most practices, just the competitiveness that goes along with that … seeing a different look and … a real opposition out there," LaFleur said.

How much spontaneity can be built into the joint practices remains to be seen.

"You're setting things up to what you want to see, but then, at the same time, the game's not played that way," Gutekunst said. "The game's played where it's chaotic and things happen when you can't expect it, and I think that's where players probably learn the most, but it's probably the next-best thing."

4. There's optimism both Rashan Gary and Eric Stokes could get back on the field by the end of camp.

Both defenders were injured at Detroit last season in early November and have been on the rehab trail since. Gary (knee) and Stokes (foot) will start training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list but could practice at some point.

"We're hopeful for that," LaFleur said. "The way they've attacked it, certainly they've put the work in. It's evident. You can see it."

Gary's situation also involves him playing on the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and he's in the Packers' long-term plans, so caution will be exercised.

"He's got a long career ahead of him and we want to make sure that we do everything we can to get him to where he can go let it loose," Gutekunst said. "It's gonna be hard to hold him back. He's ready to go. He wants to keep pushing and he will.

"I wouldn't put anything past him because he's a different kind of guy."

5. Depth on the offensive line should prove valuable in multiple ways.

Early in the spring, Gutekunst commented on how unusual it is to bring back 13 offensive linemen from last year's active roster and practice squad.

That depth will make for healthy competition for both starting and backup spots, but it should also pay dividends in the preseason games, helping to keep the reserve offense functioning at a productive level.

"It helps training camp immensely because when you get to the second and third groups out there in preseason games, and being able to protect the quarterback and run your offense, I think that's important," Gutekunst said. "It helps us evaluate everything. I think when you struggle there, it's tough to evaluate some things."