In nearly 30 years of coaching in the NFL, Dom Capers hasn't seen anything quite like it.
The shuffling of practice schedules. A dedication to regeneration periods. Even the decision to fly out a day early for the NFC championship game. The Green Bay Packers have taken a proactive approach to utilizing sports science and seem to be reaping the benefits from it.
Although coach Mike McCarthy prefers to hold that conversation until after the season, the early returns are promising. The overall health of the team has been up since McCarthy ordered a crackdown last offseason on the injury epidemic that plagued the roster for years.
All 53 players on the active roster participated in Thursday's final practice open to the media inside the Hutson Center. Four players, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, were limited, but everyone had a jersey on in the final preparation for Sunday's game in Seattle.
"I think Mike has done a great job of that," said Capers, the Packers' defensive coordinator and former head coach in Carolina and Houston. "Obviously, the last few years when we've been in the playoffs we haven't been at full strength. It's like everything else. You critique. You try to ask yourself what can you do to rectify that? I think for the most part, this is probably the healthiest we've been. I think the credit goes to Mike for evaluating the schedules, adjusting the schedules.
"We've seen the results, I think, of it."
The newest measure involves the team flying out Friday afternoon to Seattle, a day earlier than usual to help the players acclimate to Pacific Time following the four-hour flight. They'll conduct their final practice of the week at an indoor facility somewhere in the nearby area.
McCarthy admits the change in venue won't allow the Packers to do everything they normally do. With that in mind, the team incorporated some elements of its usual Saturday routine into Thursday's practice.
"A long flight and getting in the air, sometimes it does stuff to your body," tight end Andrew Quarless said. "I'm not a doctor. I can't explain it, but I think really staying hydrated that's one of the things they've emphasized on long trips. Make sure you hydrate and stuff like that. Getting in a day early is going to help rest-wise, I think it's going to help us."
McCarthy said the team will have an "in-depth" meeting on Friday about all the specifics of the team leaving early. He credits the organization for the commitment in making the early travel arrangements leading up to the 2:05 p.m. Central Time start.
Given all the other initiatives that worked this season, it didn't take much to convince the players.
"I don't fly all the time, but I think that would make sense," defensive back Micah Hyde said. "I think it's awesome. Sometimes you get there on Saturday and I don't want to say rushing around, but you get out early, get something to eat and you get back to the hotel and wake up the next morning and play. It gives us more time to relax, especially to watch film. I enjoy it."
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