GREEN BAY – Matt LaFleur was back at practice Tuesday with the help of golf cart and scooter after undergoing surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon Sunday in Green Bay.
The Packers’ head coach suffered the injury last week playing basketball in the Lambeau Field gymnasium. It had been a routine for him and his assistants to play a little in the evenings since most of their families have yet to move to Green Bay.
For Tuesday’s public OTA, LaFleur drove to the field with General Manager Brian Gutekunst after the team’s stretching period. He coached from the cart for the remainder of practice, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and tight end Jimmy Graham being among those who walked over and talked with LaFleur between drills.
This week has been a challenge for a 39-year-old coach who’s used to being hands-on during practice. Through the Packers’ first few public practices, LaFleur routinely threw passes to receivers in individual periods.
“I definitely had to adjust my routine, but that’s why you have great assistant coaches because we’re all on the same page,” LaFleur said. “We communicate all the time, and I kind of let them know what the expectation is and whatnot. It does throw a little wrench, a little curveball at us right now. But you know, I think long term we won’t see any effects.”
It’s the most significant injury LaFleur has suffered, dating back to his playing days as a quarterback at Saginaw Valley State. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the surgery, with fellow team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie and head athletic trainer Bryan Engel also on hand during the operation.
Nothing crazy happened to cause the injury, according to LaFleur. He was going for an offensive rebound when “it felt like somebody kicked me,” but there was no one behind him.
While LaFleur doesn’t know whether he’ll have to use a cart once training camp starts July 25, he was instructed to stay off the leg for the next four weeks.
Rodgers said it wasn’t much different working with LaFleur from the cart, which evidently received a significant upgrade before Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s easy to find, especially now that he’s got the souped-up one,” Rodgers said. “He had a little dumpy (one) when you guys (in the media) weren’t out there (Monday). He knew you guys were coming today and he had to bring it. I can’t say if that was his or not or if he used company funds to pay for that, but he’s definitely looking better in that thing.”
LaFleur isn’t the first to have to coach through an injury, either. New Orleans coach Sean Payton torn his medial collateral ligament midway through the 2011 season that required surgery.
The recovery isn’t expected to distract LaFleur from his day-to-day responsibilities, and he believes he can schedule his rehab to coincide with when he watches film and other administrative duties.
As long as he follows doctor’s orders, LaFleur says he shouldn’t have to coach from the coaches’ box or do anything differently than he usually does by the Packers’ regular-season opener against Chicago on Sept. 5.
If anything positive comes from LaFleur’s ordeal, the Packers’ head coach hopes his injury serves as a cautionary tale to his players.
“Hopefully this will be a lesson to them not to play basketball,” LaFleur deadpanned.
The Packers were on the practice field Tuesday afternoon for the offseason program.