Guys just want to have fun: In Packers’ new world with Matt LaFleur, work can still be fun
GREEN BAY — There was some disagreement on whether it was truly an interception. But what happened after? There was no debate: New coach Matt LaFleur wants his guys to have fun while they’re working.
“I’m all for it,” Pro Bowl wide receiver Davante Adams said after Wednesday’s second practice of minicamp — the first that was open to reporters. “I love it. The music playing at practice, having fun, jelling together — it’s a little bit of a different dynamic. It adds a little bit of a youthful vibe to practice, and a little bit of juice. And it’s contagious, too.”
In addition to playing music (at a relatively low volume) inside the Don Hutson Center throughout practice — instead of merely during water breaks — LaFleur has encouraged his players to enjoy their jobs as much as they can. While that’s undoubtedly easier now, before the team has played — much less lost — a game under their new coach, the different atmosphere is palpable.
The best example Wednesday came when cornerback Jaire Alexander came down with an Aaron Rodgers deep pass intended for wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the left sideline. Valdes-Scantling tried to wrest it away from him while on the ground, but after the play was over, Alexander jumped up and every one of the defensive backs celebrated with him by posing for a fake group photo — with defensive backs coach Jason Simmons pantomiming taking the photograph of them.
“I didn’t see that one,” LaFleur said with a smile. “We’ll have to address that in a meeting. We definitely don’t want to do that.”
Asked where his philosophy on fun comes from, LaFleur said working for Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn in 2015 and ’16 was part of it.
“Who doesn’t want to have fun when they go to work? I want to,” LaFleur said. “It kind of goes back to my time in Atlanta, just seeing the environment, the culture that Dan Quinn instilled in our organization. I just think that you get more out of people when they enjoy what they do.”
The Packers could face an interesting dilemma when they go on the clock Thursday night — at No. 12, or perhaps even at No. 30 — if Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat is still on the board because of some teams’ concerns after Sweat was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at the NFL combine in February.
Sweat is widely viewed as one of the three best edge rushers in the draft, and perhaps the diagnosis won’t impact his draft stock at all. While Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst didn’t speak specifically about Sweat’s situation, he said the team trusts its medical staff — team physicians Dr. Pat McKenzie and Dr. John Gray, and head athletic trainer Bryan Engel — because of its combined experience. McKenzie joined the team in the early 1990s, while Engel has been with the team for 22 years.
“We have an outstanding team downstairs with Bryan Engel — ‘Flea’ — and obviously Doc McKenzie and Doc Gray. They’ve been doing this a long time,” Gutekunst said. “We kind of have a process, a system of a medical grade — just kind of like our scouts grade. We’ve done that (for this year’s draft class), and we make decisions as we go.
“They’ve done it a long time, so they’ve seen a lot of these things before — so there are always comparisons. Rarely are there players that they come across by now that they haven’t had that (issue) in the past and can kind of compare and at least look at the history of it. That’s kind of how we go about it.”
Because the extra minicamp came before Phase II of the offseason program, which consists of individual position work, LaFleur said he hasn’t worked with Rodgers and the other quarterbacks on footwork changes he’d like to implement with them in his scheme. For Rodgers, after 13 seasons with McCarthy, that change could be an adjustment. For now, LaFleur said, he’s letting Rodgers, DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle “go out there on what they know, because I don’t want to slow them down. We’ll dive into more of the detail of the footwork and the mechanics in Phase II.” … The minicamp marks the first time LaFleur has been on the field with Rodgers for practice, and LaFleur said it’s been interesting. “It’s pretty incredible,” LaFleur said. “And until you’re around it, it’s different than when you’re watching it on tape or from afar.” … The only player on the roster who wasn’t taking part in Wednesday’s open practice was cornerback Kevin King, who finished last season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. King was watching practice, however, and did some light drill work, too.