Packers planning to host Browns for joint practice sessions in training camp
INDIANAPOLIS - Coach Matt LaFleur said this past week the Green Bay Packers have an agreement in place to again welcome another NFL team to training camp for joint practices in 2020.
PackersNews.com has learned through multiple league sources familiar with the planning that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the Cleveland Browns under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski will be heading to Wisconsin.
Last year the Houston Texans practiced with the Packers for two days Aug. 5-6 in advance of the teams' preseason opener Aug. 8 at Lambeau Field.
Before that, the last joint practice the Packers held was in 2005 with Buffalo.
Speaking Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine, LaFleur said he had come to an understanding with another team for a joint practice but was not in a position to announce it.
“I think it was a positive experience for us last year and I know as an evaluator, I got a lot out of it,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “So I’m all for it. I think it helps our football team, so, but we’ll see. I think we’re just working through some details right now.”
The practices with the Texans were officially announced April 9 last year. The preseason schedule was finalized June 5 and practice times were set July 23.
LaFleur was a strong supporter of the joint sessions and the ability to work against other teams may only grow in importance as a new collective bargaining agreement could further reduce offseason practice time and padded work.
The preseason would be reduced to just three games also, meaning joint practices could only grow in importance regarding individual evaluation for roster builders.
“Well, it’s one less opportunity, so I think we have to be a little bit creative in how we stage things for evaluation purposes,” Gutekunst said about the potential loss of a preseason game. “Last year we had some joint practices for the first time in a long time. I think those were really helpful. It was a way for our guys who are established to get the reps that they needed against a quality opponent, taking some risk factors away, and allowing our younger guys to have more time in the actual game under the lights, which I think is important. So it will take an opportunity away from us for an evaluation period, but I think overall I’d be excited about it.”
Former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, now with the Dallas Cowboys, weighed in with how beneficial the loss of the fourth preseason game could be from the coaching side:
“The fact that you can potentially have two weeks to get ready for the opener, I like that,” McCarthy said. “I think it gives you a chance to really take a step back because that last week is difficult. You've got a number of balls in the air when you're trying to pick your 53, make sure you develop and give the young guys the opportunities, but you're also trying to get ready for the opener. I think going to three games makes perfect sense. I'm excited about that.”
Last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in the preseason and LaFleur and his first-year staff had four days after final cuts to get ready for a Thursday night season opener in Chicago.
As for the joint sessions with the Browns, a year after Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt rode bicycles and took to Ray Nitschke and Clarke Hinkle fields, the likes of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett and Odell Beckham, Jr. could be doing the same.
And for those wondering: If the sessions are held the second week of August, the Milwaukee Brewers are off Monday, Aug. 10 between home series with Chicago and Miami. Christian Yelich is a friend of Mayfield’s and the Brewers star playfully dueled Aaron Rodgers and David Bakhtiari in a beer “chugging” contest at a Bucks game last year. If the schedule aligns, there could be a lot of star power outside Lambeau Field.
As it stands, former Packers center JC Tretter, offensive lineman Justin McCray and safety Damarious Randall are on the Browns' roster. PackersNews.com reported Friday that the Packers have interest in Browns free agent linebacker and Waukesha native Joe Schobert.