Ryan Wood and Michael Cohen discuss Jeff Janis' broken hand and the muggy weather awaiting the Packers in Jacksonville. (Sept. 6, 2016) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - They closed the Don Hutson Center’s doors during practice Tuesday afternoon, left the air condition off. Outside, the thermometer read 83 degrees.
Inside, it was even hotter.
Nothing is accidental in an NFL coach’s game-week preparation. With the Green Bay Packers opening their season Sunday at the Jacksonville Jaguars, preparing for a southern summer is among the top priorities.
Early weather forecasts call for temperatures to be scraping 90 degrees when the Packers and Jaguars kick off. During the game, the temperature will climb a little more. Maybe the Packers can’t quite simulate the heat and humidity they’ll play through in Jacksonville, but they can try.
“Today was a good start,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “That indoor, I mean, that was cranking in there a little bit.”
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The Packers are fortunate they get to open their season in Jacksonville. Even if Green Bay summers aren’t as hot as Florida, the difference is much greater in the fall.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he met with players Tuesday morning to highlight how little the difference is between Wisconsin and Florida in August. The Packers monitored the temperature in Jacksonville throughout training camp.
“The comparables of our summer versus the summer in Jacksonville,” McCarthy said, “we laid it out for our players today. Our nutritionist, Adam Korzin, went through a presentation, and the fact of the matter is it’s been six degrees warmer there than what we trained in the past five weeks for our training camp. So we’ve been training in an environment that’s similar to what we’re getting ready to go into, but at the same breath we have to make sure we take care of the hydration.”
It isn’t the first time McCarthy has gotten his team ready to play down south. Over the years, McCarthy said, he’s learned to better prepare his team.
The Packers designed their preseason schedule to be fresh for Week 1. While more emphasis was put on practice than their five exhibitions, the Packers also led the NFL with 13 days away from the practice and game field during the preseason.
Their opponent followed a similar approach. In Florida’s muggy heat, the Jaguars scheduled almost as many practices with no pads (seven) as they had wearing full pads (nine).
“We don’t want to get mentally psyched out,” said cornerback Damarious Randall, a Pensacola, Fla., native. “Because the first thing you hear of Florida, you think humid and hot. But it’s just about the same here. Just to show some of the guys, I think that’ll help to relax them a little bit.”
Two years ago, the Packers traveled to the Miami Dolphins in mid-October. Temperatures reached the mid-80s that afternoon. It was worse, Bulaga said, when the Packers returned to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in late December.
On the Sunday before Christmas, temperatures were unseasonably warm.
“It was like an 80-degree day,” Bulaga said. “High humidity, and we were coming out of 20 degrees here. I thought that was tough as well. It’s a good thing we’re coming out of heat here in Green Bay. It’s very humid here as well. Just go play football. That’s really what it is, you know.”