Packers tailor training camp schedule to mimic upcoming season
GREEN BAY - A quick glance at the Green Bay Packers’ training camp schedule is likely to convey whimsy. The practice times change frequently and drastically — from 8:15 a.m. to as late as 6:15 p.m. — and with seemingly no rhyme or reason.
But there is, however, an explanation. There is a method to coach Mike McCarthy’s madness. You just have to ask.
Morning sessions: The Packers began training camp with five consecutive morning practices, the last of which was Tuesday. Each practice began at 8:15 a.m. sharp and lasted a minimum of two hours and 15 minutes. The rookies do their daily lifting even earlier, prior to the start of practice. The veterans lift during lunch.
McCarthy believes the morning sessions are the most productive of training camp.
“These are the best practices,” McCarthy said. “ … I’m a big believer in regularity. Get up, get your heavy lifting done. That’s how we’ve always done it. You look at even during the season, we lift early in the morning. I think early morning work’s important.”
The overall schedule looks something like this: rookie lifting at 6:30 a.m.; practice at 8:15 a.m.; lunch and veteran lifting; correctional meetings analyzing tape of the morning’s practice; dinner; installation for the next day’s practice.
“We do everything that went on during our practice and get it all corrected,” McCarthy said. “Then there will be dinner, then we’ll install at night for the next day. So we always install, practice, correct and that’s why the days are so long.”
Evening sessions: Beginning Thursday, the Packers will have three consecutive night sessions culminating in the annual Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field on Saturday. The schedule for these days is meant to mimic the kickoff times of the Packers’ exhibition games, all of which begin at 6 p.m. or later.
In addition, the Packers are always involved in prime-time games during the regular season. There are five such games on the schedule already — at Atlanta, vs. Chicago, vs. Detroit, at Pittsburgh, vs. Minnesota — and there is always the option of late-season flex games as well.
“We play night games in preseason; we obviously play a lot of night games, national games during the season so we need work under the lights,” McCarthy said. “So we need to be on that, have a feel for that time clock, how that day feels as we all have experienced it in the past, whether we play Sunday night or Monday night, there’s a lot of time there in the hotel and those types of things.
“So you go to the night practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being Family Night and those are very long days. Those are actually harder schedules. It’s fun to practice under the lights in front of the fans. It’s a tremendous atmosphere that we have here. But that’s a long day, a very long day, and our football team needs to feel that and experience that because we’re going to go through it in the season with the Monday night games. So that’s why we do that.”
Afternoon sessions: On Aug. 7, the Packers enter their regular-season schedule. The final seven public practices all begin at either 11:45 a.m. or 12:15 p.m. This gives players and coaches a three- or four-week taste of what things will be like after the 53-man roster is in place.
By September, the routine will be comfortable as habits begin to form.
On these days the sequence of events changes to accommodate the midday practices. Installation meetings shift from evening to morning, and overall the day looks something like this: installation, practice, correction meetings in the late afternoon.
Said McCarthy: “We go into the season schedule and the regularity we’ll be on the rest of the season.”