Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, coach Matt LaFleur take opposite views of joint-practice value

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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GREEN BAY – If you were wondering if the Green Bay Packers got a lot out of their two days of joint practices with the Houston Texans, the answer is yes and no.

Yes, if you’re coach Matt LaFleur.

No, if you’re quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The two couldn’t have been in further disagreement about the value of practicing with another team.

LaFleur liked the workouts with the Texans on Monday and Tuesday so much that he’d like to hold joint practices again and add another team.

“Absolutely, 100 percent I want to do this again,” LaFleur said. “I’d like to do it multiple times if we could.”

LaFleur wasn’t happy with his offense’s performance Tuesday, but he thought it was important to get work against someone other than the team’s own defense. He thinks just having someone different to match up against made it beneficial to his team’s development.

On the other hand, Rodgers didn’t find much value in the work and seemed cranky when asked about it after practice Tuesday.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Rodgers said, when asked about the joint practices.

Asked why, he said, “So we can get onto the rest of training camp.”

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) watches scrimmage during a joint training camp practice with the Houston Texans at Ray Nitchske Field Tuesday, August 6, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

Rodgers felt that the Packers were finding their groove with the daily installations of the offense and defense prior to the Texans coming to town. During the two practices, he said everything became so dumbed down that it wasn’t that beneficial to the offense, which is installing a new system.

Teams typically don’t show much in exhibition games because they want to save their new stuff for the regular season. They show even less in joint practices, apparently.

“I think before the Texans came, we had some really good practices,” Rodgers said. ”I think we were very efficient, we ran the ball well, we were getting into more of our miscellaneous plays and schemes, kind of installs 6, 7 and 8, and felt good about the work that we did.

“But again, this (the pair of joint practices) was, as the preseason is, it’s kind of limited scheme and limited pressures.”

Rodgers said he didn’t think it was smart to run some of the special teams drills the two teams engaged in, especially kickoff return where there was no tackling but both sides ran down to cover kicks and engaged in some three-quarter speed collisions.

The Packers lost a pair of players to injury Monday, one of whom, receiver Trevor Davis, suffered a stinger on a kickoff return. The other, tight end Jace Sternberger, was being evaluated for a concussion after taking a big hit from Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson.

“I wouldn't mind if they didn't do it for another 14 years,” Rodgers, referencing the Packers' last joint practice with Buffalo in 2005. “Look, that's out of my control. I think the key for all of us here is we know how important training camp is to not only our fans, but our local businesses. So, unless we're going to California, I'd kind of be bummed out if we had to go to another city.

“We bring a team in, I understand the point of it, but I don't think doing live special teams drills are very smart. I think the PA (players association) is going to look at that, for sure. Kickoff, especially, is one of the most dangerous plays in football and that's why they've tweaked different things over the years.

“To do close to a live kickoff drill, I don't think is the best use of inter-squad practices.”

Not everyone was in Rodgers’ camp over thinking the joint practices were not very productive. For a lot of younger Packers, it was a chance to face some of the players they’ll be going up against Thursday night when Green Bay hosts Houston in an exhibition game at Lambeau Field.

It also gave some of the interior players a chance to face players with different pass-rush moves or blocking techniques.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien, whose team practices with the Detroit Lions next week, remains a proponent of joint workouts.

“Yeah, one of the reasons why you do it is you get some really good reps for really all of your players, but you do get some good reps for your first-team players, second-team players against different competition and different schemes and things like that,” O’Brien said Monday. “So, I think that's one of the main reasons why you do it.”

After the Packers play the Texans, they will return to working exclusively against themselves. LaFleur was not happy with the play of the offense over the two days and continues to want the players to show more energy.

Rodgers thinks the offense will get back on track when practice resumes without the Texans.

“Just this minor frustration is when you do so many fun, schematic stuff for eight or nine days and then it gets kind of cut back for a couple days,” he said. “But we’ll be on next week, probably playing, and looking forward to just practices.”

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