GREEN BAY – The Packers' first full practice of training camp will be a week from Saturday, on Aug. 15, Head Coach Matt LaFleur announced.
That leaves, in essence, three weeks of on-field work to meet numerous challenges …
- From installing as much of the offensive, defensive and special-teams playbooks as possible
- To evaluating young players with roster decisions looming
- To getting the players' bodies ready to play 16 games over the ensuing four months
… all without wearing the team out in the process given everything that must be accomplished.
It'll be a gigantic balancing act for LaFleur and his coaching staff, and there isn't really an old training camp schedule anyone can pull out for guidance. Cramming everything into three weeks, with no preseason games and on the heels of a virtual-meetings-only offseason, is uncharted territory.
With that in mind, LaFleur has a schedule mapped out beginning next Saturday, but it's going to be "very, very fluid," he said. Communication with the players' leadership council, the medical staff, and the strength and conditioning coaches will be constant in navigating all the aforementioned tasks.
"We've got to get a good feel for where our guys are at (as camp progresses)," LaFleur said. "That takes a lot of people in this building."
Staying in tune with the players' physical conditioning will be paramount, because in a normal training camp, there are extended breaks built in for veteran players. Usually they hold just a light practice or walk-through the day before a preseason game, play only a few if any snaps in the game itself, and then get a weight workout in the day after the game.
Those pockets of time are natural rest-and-recovery spots through the grind of camp for veteran players prepping for a 16-game slate, but they won't exist once the practice regimen begins in a little over a week.
"You'd get these three-day breaks that right now we don't have," LaFleur said. "You can't really afford that time off, so we've got to be very strategic and mindful of how we plan out our practices."
In the meantime, conditioning, meetings and walk-throughs are continuing during this ramp-up period, and LaFleur added they'll shift to larger group meetings when there's practice film to review.
The team will have an additional week of practice after roster cut-downs on Sept. 5 to get ready for Week 1 at Minnesota, but the three-week window of camp is also needed to get a legitimate evaluation of all the young players fighting for roster spots.
The Packers currently have 22 rookies (nine draft picks, 13 undrafted) who have yet to practice in the NFL. Also, a handful of their 11 first-year players (non-rookies but without an accrued NFL season) are practically starting from scratch in terms of their Green Bay resumes as well. Receiver Reggie Begelton, signed from the CFL, and linebacker Jamal Davis II, a waiver claim, are examples there.
While this year's expanded practice squad of 16 players will allow more who don't make the final cut to stick around, there are still only so many hours a day on the field for them to make an impression and for the personnel department to see first-hand what they bring to the table.
As a result, some practices are going to include more closer-to-live action, to see how the young players react to the pressure and the speed of the pro game.
"There's nothing like going out there and playing preseason games against real competition. Unfortunately, that's not the circumstances we're given this year," LaFleur said. "We've got to try to implement as many game-like situations to see how guys respond in those moments."
As for gauging whether young guys are ready, or how much work the veterans need to get prepared while feeling physically in a good spot for the long haul, it's never an exact science, and it'll be even more imperfect than usual in 2020.
"I think that's just a feel thing," LaFleur said. "You've got to trust what you're seeing."