GREEN BAY - It isn’t often Green Bay Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy mentions a player on another NFL team by name during the franchise’s annual shareholder meetings.
Much less frequent that the mention would elicit applause and even some loud cheers from Packers fans.
Such was the case Wednesday when Murphy addressed the crowd of 4,200 from the podium inside the lower bowl at Lambeau Field. Long after general manager Brian Gutekunst had provided his rundown of the roster and coaching staff, giving ample time for the hometown team, Murphy gave one more name for fans to be excited about.
“J.J. Watt’s return to Wisconsin,” Murphy said.
Insert applause here.
The Packers will host the Houston Texans, led by the former Wisconsin defensive lineman and five-time All-Pro J.J. Watt, for joint practices Aug. 5-6. Both practices commence at 10:15 a.m. on Ray Nitschke Field, though they could be moved indoors if there’s inclement weather. The two teams will then play Aug. 8 at Lambeau Field in their preseason openers.
It’s the first time since 2005 the Packers have held joint practices against another team. Given their refusal to relocate any training camp practices because of each session’s economic value to the city, scheduling joint practice can be particularly challenging. Teams customarily expect joint practice locations to be reciprocal with their opponents, scheduling one session at home and another on the road.
Murphy said the Texans were an ideal candidate for joint practices that weren’t reciprocated for one reason outside the Packers’ control.
“The Texans wanted to get out of the heat and humidity of Texas,” Murphy said. “So they were willing to come up here with no return."
Coaches are often responsible for their team’s training camp schedule, including securing a joint practice against another opponent. Mike McCarthy never scheduled a joint practice in his 13 years as head coach. It’s not a coincidence that drought ended in LaFleur’s first camp. The Los Angeles Rams participated in a joint practice with the crosstown rival Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 when LaFleur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator, and Murphy suggested his new head coach thought favorably of the experience.
“I don’t think Mike was necessarily against joint practices,” Murphy said, “there was just nothing that worked. But Matt has been with a number of teams that had joint practices, and he thinks there’s some benefits. So made a lot of sense, and we have a good relationship with the Texans organization.”
Josh Jones reports
After missing the voluntary portion of offseason workouts, Josh Jones was present at minicamp and vowed he would report to training camp.
The third-year safety followed through Wednesday, general manager Brian Gutekunst said. Jones, who reportedly wants to be traded but declined that notion when speaking to reporters in June, reported to the team ahead of Thursday’s start to training camp.
Jones did not participate in minicamp because of a hamstring injury sustained while working out away from team facilities this spring, but he was neither listed on the physically unable to perform or non-football injury lists this week.
“I expect him to (participate),” Gutekunst said. “He's here today.”
Savage return imminent
Rookie safety Darnell Savage Jr. was placed on the non-football illness list Monday, but the Packers are optimistic his time away from the field will be brief – if he misses any time at all.
LaFleur suggested Wednesday the first-round draft pick might be able to practice Thursday when the team opens camp.
“We’re anticipating him to be going (Thursday),” LaFleur said. “That’s kind of a day-by-day thing, just to see how he feels.”
Savage had his wisdom teeth removed recently and is recovering.
LaFleur more active but still hobbled
While LaFleur will still be wearing a walking boot around his left foot when training camp opens Thursday, and his go-cart isn’t going away, he expects to be more active in practice than he was at the end of the Packers' offseason program.
“You’ll see me in the mix a little bit more,” LaFleur said. “I won’t be covering anybody or doing any of the stuff I was doing previous. Hopefully, that’s only a matter of time.”
LaFleur said he’ll wear his boot at least a couple more weeks. The first-year head coach is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in his left foot, an injury sustained when he was playing basketball at the team’s facility this spring.
Immediately after the injury, LaFleur debuted his cart to help him navigate the practice field. He said it’s still a useful tool to help him stay safe but also engaged at practice.
“It definitely is a little bit easier to transition in between drills and whatnot,” LaFleur said. “So there will be a cart out there.”