GREEN BAY – The Packers waded into uncharted waters on Monday, beginning their virtual offseason program with a roster of players scattered across the country.
In light of the cancelation of the traditional nine-week offseason program due to stay-at-home orders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to allow teams and players to reconvene for three consecutive weeks of classroom instruction and workouts using videoconferencing technology.
An extra voluntary veteran camp will be available for new coaches, according to NFL.com, with the virtual period ending no later than May 15.
Green Bay was one of 20 teams with returning head coaches that went online Monday. The Packers historically have been huge proponents of the offseason program. A virtual format doesn't change that.
"Going into Year 2, I think there's a lot that we can improve upon," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur following the conclusion of the NFL Draft on Saturday night. "The emphasis for our guys is just learning the details, and making sure we know why we're doing exactly what we're doing and how to do it.
"I think you can accomplish some of that stuff by having some of these virtual meetings, and it's really on the player to be disciplined in their approach, make sure they stay in shape, make sure they're working on their craft. That's the expectation."
Per NFL rules, classroom sessions and video workouts can each last no longer than two hours a day. LaFleur is emphasizing the classroom portion, with recorded meetings being uploaded to iPads. From there, the coaching staff will follow-up with quizzes and individual position meetings.
He expects recaps to run about 20-30 minutes in duration, to answer any questions players might have. The Packers also will dedicate 15-20 minutes to special teams, according to LaFleur.
During an interview with packers.com's Larry McCarren earlier this month, President/CEO Mark Murphy voiced his pleasure with how creative LaFleur and his coaching staff have been in their preliminary discussions for outlining a virtual program.
While the closure of team facilities has been a challenge for all 32 clubs, Murphy pointed out "the better teams and better organizations are going to adapt and be flexible."
General Manager Brian Gutekunst echoed those comments when asked this past weekend about how LaFleur and his staff will get the incoming draft class up to speed without the benefit of an in-person offseason program, adding it's a challenge every team in the NFL will deal with.
"I feel really good about our coaching staff and their ability to kind of improvise and teach and be innovative in the way they go about things," Gutekunst said. "It's pretty impressive seeing those guys go to work."
Since finalizing his coaching staff, LaFleur has spent the past three months laying out his vision for the 2020 Packers.
The country's current predicament required the coaching staff to call an audible on implementation this spring, but LaFleur credited second-year coordinator Nathaniel Hackett for thinking "outside-the-box" with offensive preparations.
LaFleur said he's also had "a lot of conversations" with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on plans for that side of the ball. Meanwhile, LaFleur has leaned on director of football technology Mike Halbach to tie everything together.
The Packers were scheduled to welcome players back to Green Bay last week for the traditional offseason program. Although there's a lot of uncertainty as to when team facilities will reopen, there's also excitement and ingenuity forming inside that vacuum.
"I'm excited about this offseason," LaFleur said. "We've talked to our players, just kind of giving them an outline of what's to come and I'm just looking forward to their feedback to see how we can make the best virtual offseason that there is out there."