GREEN BAY – One of the headlines from last week’s game vs. Carolina was the 2019 debut of defensive back Ibraheim Campbell less than 12 months from his ACL injury.
The story behind the scenes was the role Campbell played helping get the Packers’ offense ready for the Panthers, and it’s a reminder of the lesser-known efforts that go into a full week of preparation for the team.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur told the media the day after the victory over Carolina that Campbell not only played 40-plus snaps on defense, but he also was named the “show team player of the week” by the coaching staff.
“Show team” is another term for scout team or “look team,” the group that runs the opponent’s scheme in practice against Green Bay’s starters to prepare them for the game.
Roster and practice-squad limitations – 10 players on the practice squad is nowhere near enough to field full scout teams on both sides of the ball – force the opponent work to be shared amongst almost all players not considered front-line starters, so double duty is common.
Taking all the scout-team snaps as Campbell did, according to LaFleur, and then playing in the game so extensively is a tad unusual. In this case, it wasn’t the plan for Sunday, but Campbell’s in-game snap total nearly doubled when he ended up on the field for all of Carolina’s final 18-play drive to conclude the game.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said in practice Campbell insisted on staying in for all the scout-team work just to help get himself ready for what was supposed to be a more limited role in his long-awaited season debut.
“‘IC’ is a guy, he knew he needed the reps just coming out of (the inactive list),” Pettine said. “He was fresh having all that time off, and he was feeling good. He knew he just needed football – the speed of the game, diagnose a play and react.”
The extra workload got Campbell up to speed and he came out of the game no worse for wear. But the weekly award also shines a light on the value the coaches place on giving full-speed, all-out effort on the scout team.
“The most important thing is the look squad,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “They’re the ones that get us prepared for everything.”
The scout teams run plays or schemes off of cards that are drawn up and shown in the meeting rooms, and again in the huddle at practice. Certain players are charged with mimicking a star player from the opponent, whether it’s a running back, receiver, pass rusher or shut-down corner. Others are rotated through when they have regular offensive or defensive snaps to take as well.
The Packers’ two coordinators are both extremely complimentary of the looks their units get from the scout-team players, having coached in other places where similar diligence can be lacking.
“I’ve been around some teams, you had to be constantly on them about giving the look,” Pettine said. “This is pretty consistent across the board.
“It starts with us as coaches. You get what you emphasize. We have to make sure we draw the cards right and have the information we need, and then we’re keeping an eye on those guys.”
Both coordinators were reluctant to single out too many individuals for their exemplary efforts, knowing they’d inadvertently overlook someone. But Pettine did praise the scout-team offensive line for its consistent work throughout the season, along with receivers Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard for the prep they’ve given the defensive backs.
Hackett mentioned defensive lineman Montravius Adams and linebacker Oren Burks as two defenders who handle a large volume of scout-team snaps while also prepping for a limited role Pettine has in mind for the game.
“ Tony Brown is a guy, you almost have to throw him out of the drill,” Pettine said of the young, feisty cornerback. “The offensive guys aren’t real thrilled with him sometimes because he’s in their face and making them work. But that’s good.”
It also helps their own games, because while they may be playing someone else’s scheme in practice, they can continue working on specific techniques the Packers’ coaches have taught as they execute those plays.
“We preach to those guys, this is your time to perfect your craft,” Pettine said. “That’s how you get better.”
It also makes the whole team better, most importantly come Sundays.
“This is a really good group, a really conscientious group of guys,” Pettine said. “I think both sides of the ball have a good relationship as far as the scout-team stuff goes, and they have a good appreciation for it.
“I think it speaks to the tightness of this team. The guys that are playing appreciate what those guys do for them.”