GREEN BAY – And so it begins.
With his first training camp practice as the Packers' head coach less than 24 hours away, Matt LaFleur faced no bigger question on Wednesday morning than how he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers are going to lead Green Bay's offense, and what exactly that offense is going to look like.
There were no definitive answers before a single practice, preseason game, or regular-season game has been played, but the new head coach emphasized it will be a joint effort between the two highest-profile Packers to find success.
"I've said this before – it's not necessarily about what I've done in my past or what he's done in his past," LaFleur said. "It's about how do we make this the Packers' offense, and us coming together to get us functioning at the highest possible level."
The introduction, or what LaFleur called the foundation, was established during the offseason program and OTAs. Moving forward, LaFleur said training camp will focus on "digging into the details" and finding the things Rodgers and his offensive mates can hang their hat on – what are they most confident running and how many variations can be developed from those concepts.
LaFleur has a plan for training camp, but he's also ready to adjust. He's worked under first-time NFL head coaches each of the last two years, so he knows to expect the unexpected.
The whole process, including building a relationship with Rodgers, is a challenge he enjoys. He sees Rodgers' ultra-competitiveness as an element that can set the tone of training camp as a whole as well as keep him on his toes as he works through all the firsts he'll encounter.
"He's an extremely intelligent player who's played a lot of ball, so you'd better know what you're talking about," LaFleur said of working with Rodgers. As the offense takes shape, LaFleur's emphasis on the run game will be evident.
"A philosophical belief of mine is that you need to marry the run with the pass. You want plays that play off of one another try to keep the defense off-balance. In regard to exactly what those plays are, we have a pretty big menu, and we have to hone in on that menu. We have to figure out what exactly we do the best and build off that."
On the defensive side, where second-year coordinator Mike Pettine has a mixture of returning veterans and new faces taking prominent roles, all the attention on the eve of camp was the pending release of defensive lineman Mike Daniels.
General Manager Brian Gutekunst was scheduled to address the roster move later Wednesday. It coincides in some respects with the contract extension signed Tuesday by 2016 fourth-round draft pick Dean Lowry, who was rewarded for his steady improvement over his first three NFL seasons, a climb that was most evident in his strong finish to 2018.
"He's played at a high level and he's just about all the right things you want in a player," LaFleur said. "He's a team guy, he gives great effort every day, he's reliable and accountable. I love the energy he brings to the defense. From my perspective, I'm just happy we have him locked up for four years."
Take a look at photos of Packers DL Dean Lowry through the years.
Lowry, third-year pro Montravius Adams, former undrafted find Tyler Lancaster and rookie fifth-round pick Kingsley Keke now are tasked with making up for Daniels' absence alongside budding star Kenny Clark. LaFleur also mentioned how the versatility of outside linebackers Za'Darius Smith and rookie first-round pick Rashan Gary, who can line up on the interior in various Pettine packages, helps provide ample depth on the defensive line.
"I know he's meant a lot to this community and meant a lot to this football team," LaFleur said of Daniels. "Having to prepare for him in the past, I still think he's a really good football player and I wish him well, but we feel really, really good about the group that we have. We feel we have a group in place that can get the job done."
As with the offense, LaFleur sees the level of detail the players can absorb determining just how far the defense can progress.
The next step starts Thursday, and while LaFleur won't be running from drill to drill like he did before tearing his Achilles this spring, he is now in a walking boot he hopes to shed sometime next month.
His first training camp as a head coach is finally here, and it's time to get the players on the field.
"It's everything right now," LaFleur said. "I'm just glad I can walk."