PHOENIX – Matt LaFleur’s first training camp as an NFL head coach will include holding joint practices with a preseason opponent in Green Bay.
Nothing is official yet and the Packers' new coach wasn’t ready to announce the opponent Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting, but he said it will be the team Green Bay plays in its preseason opener. The practices are expected to be open to the public.
LaFleur said his teams of the last two years, the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, practiced against another team in camp for a couple of days. He found it to be a good way to get starters working against starters without wearing his own players down.
“In Tennessee we scrimmaged vs. Tampa before our second preseason game, which I thought was awesome,” LaFleur said. “You can get so much good-on-good work. And quite honestly, you can practice your guys and not have to play them as long in the preseason game.”
The Packers never held joint practices under previous coach Mike McCarthy. The last time they did it was 2005, when former coach Mike Sherman brought the Buffalo Bills to Green Bay.
Here are some topics LaFleur addressed during his media sessions Tuesday:
» LaFleur has watched about 1,500 snaps of Aaron Rodgers, including every snap from last season as well as video from as far back as 2010. One play from the ’10 season that caught his eye came in the Packers’ 9-0 win over the New York Jets. The Jets cross-blitzed their two inside linebackers, which freed Bart Scott for an unimpeded run at Rodgers, but Rodgers stood in the pocket and took the big hit from Scott just after he’d delivered the completion to Jordy Nelson over the middle.
“It’s what we call our no flinch,” LaFleur said. “There was a free runner, I think it was Bart Scott came running in there free and just how (Rodgers) stood in the pocket and delivered an accurate (throw) and took one, really he got folded in half like a suitcase. But that’s one of my all-time clips of him, one of my favorite clips of him.”
LaFleur said he will show that clip to Rodgers. “I think it’s an inspiring clip for any quarterback to watch and for anybody on the team,” he said.
» Though it appears free-agent signee Billy Turner is likely to play at the open starting spot at right guard, LaFleur wouldn’t commit to what position Turner will line up at when offseason work begins in April.
“I remember (Turner) coming out (of college) a few years back, and when his name showed up on the free-agent list he was a guy we spent some time evaluating,” LaFleur said. “He definitely is quote-unquote a scheme-fit type player.”
» LaFleur suggested that his best receiver, Davante Adams, probably will line up some at slot receiver and named Geronimo Allison as among the players he can use in that role now that the Packers have allowed Randall Cobb to leave the team in free agency. He sees Jake Kumerow as an outside receiver, though, not a slot.
As for the qualities he’s looking for in a slot receiver, LaFleur said the emphasis is on smart, instinctive players who are good at making quick reads on choice routes.
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“The guys that I’ve been around that have been capable of doing that were like (the Rams’) Cooper Kupp was really good at that, (Atlanta’s) Mohamed Sanu was really good at that,” LaFleur said. “It certainly makes the play caller’s job a little bit easier when you can call a choice route and it really doesn’t matter what look the defense presents because whatever they’re showing him he’s going to make sure he gets open.
“If it’s zone he’s going to sit down in the zone, if they’re playing man with inside leverage he’ll break out and if it’s outside leverage he’ll break in. There’s a lot of trust that goes into that between him and the quarterback to make sure they’re on the same page. But yeah, certainly intelligence is a key factor in that position.”
» LaFleur’s first regular-season game as an NFL head coach will be on national television in the Thursday night opener that’s part of the league’s celebration for its 100th anniversary.
“it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “You start off right out the gate with the total focus of the entire country or the entire world, especially in a game that means so much to so many within the league. It will be an exciting atmosphere. Opening day is always exciting, but when you have a rivalry game on top of that — and by the way, it’s on Thursday night and you’re the only game on — yeah, there’s going to be a lot of excitement out there. Nothing like jumping in.”
» LaFleur on the Packers’ two biggest free-agent signings, defensive ends Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith: “They’re still young in their career. Their best football is in front of them. When you have two guys taking care of the edges, it presents a lot of problems on the defense. Not only from a pass-rush perspective, I think those guys bring it in the run game as well, which sometimes is an oversight in this league.”
» LaFleur said he considered not hiring a quarterbacks coach because he plans to be at all quarterbacks meetings this year, but he ultimately still decided to hire one because Luke Getsy was available.
“I think he’s a phenomenal coach, I think he’ll be a future head coach,” LaFleur said. “You just can’t pass on guys like that.”
» It appears Tramon Williams is at most a fallback plan at safety and more likely will be a cornerback, at least to start the offseason work.
“I think he’ll start off at corner but knowing he has the flexibility to go either corner or safety,” LaFleur said. “That’s a luxury we have with him.”