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Packers Coach Says Football Season Will Require Player, Staff Accountability Amid The Pandemic

One Of The Biggest Changes This Year Is No Preseason Games

By
Matt LaFleur
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is introduced at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. Morry Gash/AP Photo

The decisions a player makes under the lights at Lambeau Field are usually the ones fans and football executives remember.

But making the right choices off the field this fall will be more important than ever for Green Bay Packers players and staff, according to general manager Brian Gutekunst. On Sunday, Gutekunst told reporters that dependability and reliability will play key roles in who makes the team this season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we’re going to have football played this year, it’s going to take a lot of self-discipline and a lot of self-accountability,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur agreed.

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Still, it’s likely the Packers will experience some positive coronavirus tests this season, Gutekunst said. Professional team sports only recently returned to the United States. Already the challenges of playing a season during a pandemic are clear.

The Milwaukee Brewers were set to host their home opener at Miller Park Friday, before the team’s weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed. At least four Cardinals players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since Thursday.

Despite the pandemic, the Packers are preparing to start the season on time, Gutekunst said.

“Everybody’s excited to be around football again, so that’s what we’re focused on right now,” he said.

Last week, players returned to Lambeau Field, where things look a bit different. To allow for social distancing, Gutekunst said the team is using larger spaces for its meetings and people are wearing masks in the hallways.

One of the biggest changes this year is the elimination of preseason games. Those games usually play an important role when it comes to evaluating players, Gutekunst said. Instead, the coaching staff will look for ways to replicate some of those high-pressure situations in practice. The team will hold a practice or two in Lambeau Field, LaFleur said.

“I think we’re going to have enough opportunity to evaluate guys fairly,” Gutekunst said.

So far, just one Packers player, wide receiver Devin Funchess, has opted out of the upcoming season over coronavirus concerns.

“I can’t thank the Packers organization enough for their understanding and for giving me the opportunity to be a part of one of the most storied franchises in the league,” Funchess posted on his Instragram last week.

Green Bay signed Funchess earlier this year, after relying heavily on Davante Adams last season. Still, LaFleur said he has a lot of confidence in his receiving corps.

He also said the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of quarantining a backup quarterback — keeping him away from his teammates — so that he’d be ready to play in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

There’s no doubt things will look different this season, but it’s all about trying to make the right decisions for the team, LaFleur said.

“We’re all in this sucker together, that’s for sure,” he said.

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