GREEN BAY – The Packers didn't get to travel over their bye week, but their return to work Monday felt like a trip several hundred miles south.
On a rainy mid-50s day in Green Bay, Head Coach Matt LaFleur conducted practice inside an excessively heated Don Hutson Center to simulate the mid-80s temperatures the Packers will encounter down in Tampa at the end of the week.
Getting acclimated as best they can in advance is the first step in preparing for Sunday's showdown between NFC contenders, as the 4-0 Packers will visit the 3-2 Buccaneers and new quarterback Tom Brady.
"We definitely had it cranked up in there and it was nice and 'sweltry,' if that's the right word," LaFleur said after the roughly hour-plus workout. "But our guys are going to have to do a great job during the week making sure that they're taking in the proper fluids because we don't want any problems on Sunday."
The Packers want to get healthy for this game as well as stay healthy during it, and there were some good signs in that regard coming off the players' long weekend break.
Receiver Davante Adams and defensive lineman Kenny Clark, who have missed a combined five games, were on the practice field. So were outside linebacker Rashan Gary and tight end Marcedes Lewis, who sat out last Monday's game against the Falcons.
The Packers also started the 21-day window to activate receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and rookie linebacker Kamal Martin off injured reserve by having them practice for the first time since being sidelined.
Only cornerback Kevin King and running back Tyler Ervin did not practice after getting hurt in the Atlanta game, but in general the team's health seemed in a much better place post-bye, which is always the goal.
"We'll see where they're at by the end of the week," LaFleur said.
So far so good on the virus testing, too, which is far from a given with the players and coaches confined to Green Bay, where the infection rate in the community is among the nation's highest right now.
LaFleur said the position coaches stayed in touch with their players during the time off, as it was a very different bye week with all the restrictions. It made for perhaps an even stronger positive vibe in getting back to work, a notion also fueled by the team's 4-0 start and the desire to keep the momentum going into the season's second quarter.
"I think the guys looked forward to coming back to the building and seeing one another. The camaraderie they have is pretty special," LaFleur said. "It was an energetic day. I liked the mindset and I liked the speed of practice."
The change with the environment at Tampa isn't limited to the weather, either. The Buccaneers are slated to have limited fans in the stands, which will be a first for the Packers this season. Green Bay played its first four games in empty stadiums.
A limited crowd isn't likely to affect communication or be too disruptive, but it will be different, another adjustment in a season already full of them.
"We've got a mature football team that I think handled themselves the right way and did what they have to do," LaFleur said of his players managing their break. "We've got a big stretch in front of us. Anytime you have that early bye, it makes for a longer season. And certainly the competition, specifically with Tampa Bay coming up, I mean they're as good as any team, I feel, in the league."
The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020.