GREEN BAY – The Packers are preparing for their first true road game in quite some time, with a measure of uncertainty regarding the offensive line to boot.
It's a challenging combination for the upcoming trip to San Francisco for Sunday Night Football.
Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., was actually the site of the Packers' last road contest in front of a full, hostile crowd – the 2019 NFC title game 20 months ago.
Last season featured either no or few fans without any crowd noise issues to speak of, and then this year's Week 1 trip to New Orleans was moved to Jacksonville, where a half-empty stadium included more Packers fans than Saints fans.
Sunday, it'll be back to "normal football" on the road, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers put it, and all the potential communication issues that go along with it.
"It's going to be a lot different," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "It's going to be a prime-time game, their home opener, they're 2-0. So I'd imagine the crowd is going to be into it big time and it's going to be a factor.
"Two years ago, it was tough to operate from an offensive standpoint because it was a pretty chaotic environment, so I anticipate that being much the same."
Crowd noise affects the visiting offensive linemen more than any other position group, whether that means making adjustments, changing protection calls, and/or operating with a silent count.
That's the Packers' unit that remains the biggest work in progress at the moment, with fill-in left tackle Elgton Jenkins missing Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury and the starter at left guard also up in the air.
LaFleur said the coaches would give Jenkins the entire week to see if he can play on the ankle come Sunday night. If he can't, the job of blocking premier pass rusher Nick Bosa on Rodgers' blind side would probably go to Billy Turner, who could flip from right tackle to left tackle. In that case, veteran reserve Dennis Kelly would replace Turner. Another option would be to just have Kelly give it a go on the left side.
At left guard, the Packers have used two different starters the first two games this season, Lucas Patrick in Week 1 and Jon Runyan this past Monday. Patrick sustained a concussion against the Saints and didn't practice all week, so Runyan was given the start in the Lions game even though Patrick cleared the concussion protocol. Which way the Packers will go for this week hasn't been, and most likely won't be, revealed in advance.
The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.
On top of that, rookie starters Josh Myers at center and Royce Newman at right guard will be playing in their first true NFL road game, but it's not as though either is a stranger to crowd noise coming from the Big Ten and SEC, respectively. The Packers also were practicing with noise a lot last month to prepare for the opener in New Orleans before the game was moved.
"We're going to have to do a good of handling it with our young guys up front," Rodgers said of the crowd noise and communication. "But that's what we've been working on the last, I'd say month of camp, and the first two weeks of the season is the silent count and being ready to adjust to that, adjust to the noise.
"We'll be ready."