Packers use last padded practice of the season to the relief of most, but not all, players

Kassidy Hill
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers held a padded practice Friday. That is not particularly strange or noteworthy. Friday was essentially a Thursday for the Packers as they gear up for their Monday night game against the Los Angeles Rams, and that second day of practice typically is when the pads come on for a tougher day of work. 

What stands out about this padded practice is that it will be the last of the season for the club, coach Matt LaFleur confirmed Saturday. 

“We’re out of them,” LaFleur said before joking, “I didn’t want anybody to know that; not that that’s that big of a deal.” 

The most recent collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players' union states clubs are allowed a total of 14 padded practices during the regular season. Eleven must be held during the first 11 weeks of the regular season. Three must be held during the remaining six weeks of the regular season. The day of the week is up to each club. One week of the regular season, clubs can hold two padded practices within the same week. Once reaching the postseason, teams can hold one padded practice per week. 

The Packers used the three padded practice they were allowed in the final six weeks on Week 12, Week 13 and in preparation for this Week 15 game. Week 14 was the bye week.

Following the upcoming Rams game, the Packers will have three more games in the regular season, all must-wins if they have any hope of making the playoffs. With no padded practices left, skill players are celebrating. 

“For the skill guys, we don't like them at all,” receiver Sammy Watkins said. “Faster we run, less on your legs, less on your feet.

“I hate (the pads),” Watkins punctuated, as receiver Randall Cobb concurred. 

Green Bay Packers receiver Sammy Watkins is in favor of fewer padded practices.

Those in the trenches, Watkins said, might feel a need for pads throughout the week, but not for those in his unit. 

“For wideouts, it’s like, eh, we don’t really get hit when we catch the ball,” Watkins said. “You have eight catches, you might get tackled eight times.”

Past Packers teams have used up their padded practices early as well, allowing lighter days late in the season when bodies are tired. The Packers had a late bye week this season, providing some relief.

Still the scheduled lighter days ahead are also appreciated by those in the trenches. 

“We’re getting down to this point of the season kind of where you really start feeling it on the body,” offensive lineman Jon Runyan said. “That goes for the guys that played a lot of snaps this year. And you got guys with soft-tissue stuff here and there, stuff aching. So I think taking the pads off at this point of season, I think it makes our bodies feel a lot better. 

“I know we can still get really good intentional work in even without the shoulder pads anymore. Because this offense is really just about running. So as long as you get out there, I don't really think you miss much of that physicality in the game. I don't think it really transitions over. I feel a lot faster honestly, my body's not hurting. So I like late in the season, no pads.” 

Between the skill players and the linemen are tight ends. Despite the duality of his position, Packers tight end Robert Tonyan actually feels differently than his teammates on the subject. 

“I think in-line wise, you kind of want to feel pads during the week, especially because, like, we take care of each other,” he said, "so it's not like full, full speed, but it is competitive and kind of get that feel of football during the week. So I would favor on the side of pads at least one time a week." 

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For Tonyan, the compromise is working on the technical aspects of his role during his individual work.

“Just kind of taking that time in individual drills to just hone in on like more so technique stuff,” Tonyan said. "Just blocking technique and stuff like that. Just getting more reps to kind of fill the void of not feeling pads.” 

No matter how players adjust during the week, on game day the week of practice without pads makes a noticeable difference. 

“Some of those practices, especially during camp, they get going and you're banging, bodies aching, gotta be ready to stand tough, making sure you're recovering, stuff like that,” Runyan said, adding the absence of pads allows his body to stay fresh for game day. "But when you get to this point of season, and just knowing the scheme inside and out and playing fast and being really fresh is really important. And so there's a lot of debate for it but I enjoy making my body feel good." 

Said Watkins: “I’d rather run around fast. In the game, I feel really light. When (the pads) come on, they feel like nothing. When I’m practicing, tired already from lifting weights, I feel heavy and sluggish, I’m running slow. When we get in a game, it’s like ‘oh this light as s---,’ (at least) in our minds. It’s only like four or five pounds.”

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