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Grateful for rest, Packers gear up for the long haul

Green Bay hopes early bye sets the stage for rebound

CB Rasul Douglas
CB Rasul Douglas

GREEN BAY – After a little R&R, it's back to business for the Packers.

The team reconvened at Lambeau Field on Monday following its Week 6 bye to begin preparations for Sunday's road matchup with the Denver Broncos.

While the early bye was a welcomed oasis for a 2-3 Packers team battling injuries at several key positions, they now must navigate 12 consecutive games to finish out the 2023 season.

Green Bay has one brief respite – a mini-bye after the Packers' first Thanksgiving trip to Detroit in a decade – in an otherwise lengthy gauntlet of games.

"You can look at two ways," cornerback Rasul Douglas said. "You can look at it (as) 12 weeks – or we look at it like six weeks, play Detroit, got a Thursday game early at 12 (noon), so then we get a little break again, and then six more weeks. So, however you want to look at it."

The Packers saw some immediate benefits of the extended break on Monday, as both running back Aaron Jones (hamstring) and safety Darnell Savage (calf) participated in a light practice at Clarke Hinkle Field.

The extra session came after Head Coach Matt LaFleur and his staff took inventory of the team during two extensive self-scouting exercises – the first after Green Bay's Thursday game vs. Detroit in Week 5 and another after the trip to Las Vegas.

During those independent studies, LaFleur and his coaches cued up recent film from across the NFL to see what plays and concepts might align with the structure of Green Bay's scheme.

The Packers have been one of the NFL's better second-half teams, but a myriad of slow starts contributed to Green Bay ranking 28th in total offense (281.6 yards per game), 27th in rushing (81.6 ypg) and 29th in time of possession (27:01) through six weeks.

"You definitely watch a few teams that have had success and see if anything they're doing can help you out as far as generating offense," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said. "That's one thing that you're always doing because you always have to try and stay ahead."

The open weekend also freed the coaches up to take in games over the weekend, including the thrilling ending to Buffalo's 14-9 win over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Defensive passing game coordinator Greg Williams mentioned texting his players, "Eyes! Eyes! Eyes!" after watching Bills cornerback Taron Johnson defend Giants tight end Darren Waller from the goal line on the last play of the game.

"It's good for us to not only self-scout but you also get a chance to sit back and watch a lot of football around the league," Williams said. "See what's working, see what's good, see what other teams are doing successfully and see how that integrates into your team."

This Sunday, the Packers are set to face a Broncos team that has won just one of six games. However, Denver is coming off its own extended break following a competitive 19-8 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday.

The Packers hope the full week off not only helps them physically heal but also ready themselves for a grueling second-half slate. Despite the early ups and downs, Green Bay's young locker room remains in a good place mentally.

"It's always good when you've got a little time off," Douglas said. "We all seemed in a chill space. I think everybody's happy they had some time off from everything."

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