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Packers coach Matt LaFleur finding ways to make best of practice limitations

Head coach Matt LaFleur during Green Bay Packers training camp at Ray Nitschke Field Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

GREEN BAY - Less than a week from having his team practicing together for the first time since the lead-up to the NFC Championship game in January, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur thinks he’s in a good place.

So much so that he plans to give the players a day off after their first practice Saturday just to keep them from overdoing it in the early going.

The players were off this past Saturday, were scheduled to do strength and conditioning Sunday through Tuesday and will be off again Wednesday. They’ll continue strength and conditioning Thursday and Friday, practice Saturday and have off Sunday.

“I thought six days in a row was just too much at this stage,” LaFleur said during a Zoom call with reporters Sunday. “I mean, really when you look at it through the course of a year, you never go six days straight.

“So, just thought it might be a little bit better to chop it up into a block of three,”

The first five days of practice must be conducted in helmets and shorts, but LaFleur wants to hit the ground running with just three weeks of training camp available before the Sept. 5 roster cutdown to 53. Teams usually spend the first week of camp reinstalling piece by piece the various segments of their offense and defense.

LaFleur said he is doing that now – albeit just in the meeting rooms – and then will do it all over again when the players hit the field the first week.

“I think we're going to stay kind of like how we’ve been doing it this whole time,” he said. “So, it’s really afforded us a great opportunity to hit the installs twice before we actually get out there and practice (in pads).”

Early birds

Because every player on the roster must be tested for COVID-19 every day, LaFleur decided to have the players report to the facility earlier than they normally would once practice starts.

His goal is to conduct practice at about 10:15 a.m. most days, the same time he did during his first season. But since it takes a while for 80 players to get their temperatures taken and their noses swabbed, he is starting the day earlier than normal.

“It certainly has presented some scheduling challenges, but that’s something we’re working through, we’re working around,” LaFleur said. “We feel confident we’re going to give these guys enough time to get that in because it is an important part of this process.

“We need our guys to make sure that nobody’s infected with the COVID. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

LaFleur has said he would like to conduct a couple of practices inside Lambeau Field to get the players accustomed to what it will be like with no fans in the stands when the regular season gets underway.

He would also like to conduct some practices under the lights.

“That is definitely something we’re looking at, especially when you look at Weeks 3-4,” he said of back-to-back night games at New Orleans on Sept. 27 and home against Atlanta on Oct. 5.

Five Packers players remain on COVID list

The Packers will begin practicing Saturday, and less than a week out they still have five players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: linebacker Greg Roberts (July 28), defensive lineman Treyvon Hester (July 30), tight end Jace Sternberger (July 30), kicker Mason Crosby (July 30) and long snapper Hunter Bradley (Aug. 3).

As of Sunday's transaction wire, none of those players had been taken off that list.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur was asked Sunday if he knew when any of those five players might return to the stadium.

“I’m still trying to figure it out. That’s something that 'Flea' (head athletic trainer Bryan Engel) and the doctors are handling. We really don’t have any updates on those guys who were on that initial list but I’m sure it’s kind of been a learning experience for all of us in terms of how that works.”

To land on the list a player must have either tested positive for COVID-19 or come into close contact with someone who has. No distinction is made as to which one the player falls under and the player can choose to disclose if he tested positive.

In order to return, players who come into close contact with a positive COVID-19 person but test negative themselves must test negative again within 24 hours and have eight more days of testing before they can return to the facility.

If a player tests positive and has symptoms, he has many steps to clear before returning:

  • At least 10 days have passed since first symptoms appeared.
  • At least three days have passed since symptoms last occurred.
  • Their return has been cleared by not just the team, but incident command system (ICS) and the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills.
  • Local and state rules for returning to work are met.

If they test positive and have no symptoms they must either have waited 10 days since the initial positive or five days and have tested negatively twice in three days via PCR virus test. The final hurdle for that player is doctor approval to return.