Matt LaFleur will prepare Packers for possibility of no fans this season

Practices inside Lambeau Field should help get players used to new experience

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Head Coach Matt LaFleur

GREEN BAY – At no point in the last 63 years have the Packers played an NFL game inside an empty Lambeau Field.

While the organization established preliminary plans last month for "significantly reduced" attendance at home games, it also has acknowledged the possibility Lambeau Field will be unable to host fans this year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It's something every NFL team is presently weighing, with the Las Vegas Raiders announcing this week they won't have fans during their inaugural season at Allegiant Stadium.

With a full offseason to consider all potential outcomes, Head Coach Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff have formulated their own ideas for how to ready their football team should Lambeau Field, or any road venue, be closed to fans this season.

"It's something that none of us have really experienced at this level," LaFleur said Tuesday. "Guys are going to have to really dig deep and find that energy because a lot of players feed off of fans. I know there's certain stadiums that you walk into in this league and there definitely is a home-field advantage. We'll see, we'll make the adjustments."

Those adjustments likely will include the Packers running "a few" practices and scrimmage situations inside Lambeau Field, to get players "used to that field" following the cancellation of the NFL preseason.

Addressing reporters on Monday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted it would be "very strange" to play to an empty stadium bowl, wondering whether teams would be allowed to pipe in noise or music. If not, it could lead to offenses using live cadence all season, a tactic that's enabled Rodgers to be one of the game's best at drawing the opposing defense offsides.

As Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark can attest, however, that knife cuts both ways. Quieter road trips for Rodgers also means the same for opposing QBs coming into Lambeau.

"It's going to be a lot different, just the excitement of the game," Clark said. "I think that's going to be like the main (thing) that we're going to have to get adjusted to. It's not going to be a lot of crowd noise or none at all, so that's just something at practice that we've got to consistently just work at is cadences, because it's going to be like we're playing at an away game every game."

LaFleur and his assistants devoted a lot of time, energy and resources during the pandemic to ready themselves for what's bound to be a rollercoaster of a 2020 NFL season.

A lot of ideas were scrapped during that process, but the information gained from those discussions gives LaFleur confidence his staff can adjust to a constantly shifting tide.

"That's definitely something that we've been mindful of, because you just don't know what's going to happen and you have got to be ready to adjust at a moment's notice," LaFleur said. "You've got to find a way to get 11 guys out there on the field in all three phases. So yeah, we feel pretty fortunate. We've got a great group of coaches around us and we will be pretty fluid."

The Packers are still in the early phases of the acclimation period for training camp. The team is now able to work as one unit, instead of split squads, after paring the roster down to 80 players following the release of quarterback Jalen Morton and fullback Elijah Wellman on Monday.

At the same time, LaFleur said the team still has two practice schedules at the ready if any currently exempt player on the COVID-19 reserve list is eligible to return. Players on that reserve list do not count against the roster limits.

Green Bay Packers players arrived at Lambeau Field on Saturday, Aug. 1.

While the Packers have conducted one live meeting since reuniting last week, the coaches continue to utilize many of the virtual tools it did throughout the offseason program. From his seat, LaFleur is enjoying watching players interact again after every offseason meeting was restricted to teleconferencing.

"There's so much good going on right now to be honest with you," LaFleur said. "I think these guys, you can feel the energy, you can feel the urgency, especially when us as coaches get to get out on the field with these guys. These guys definitely, I think they missed each other."

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