11

July

Green Bay Packers Short on Practice Time

Green Bay Packers training camp

The Packers have just 17 practices to prepare for the 2014 season

This year, the Green Bay Packers have a mere 17 practice sessions at their disposal during training camp.  That’s not really big news.  After the latest collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was put into place back in 2011, several of the current restrictions on practice protocol went into effect.

Teams don’t practice all day or have two-a-days like they used to and when you consider that most practices lasts about an hour and forty five minutes, that equates to just under 30 total hours of work.  That’s less than an average work week for you and me.

That doesn’t include valuable preseason games, so there are more opportunities for the team to see their players in action and gear up for this coming season, but just 17 camp practices?

I get the new rules, I just see that number and am reminded of why many NFL teams don’t hit their peak until a few games into the season, sometimes later.  I’m also reminded of why we tend to see many teams beat another team that they wouldn’t otherwise if they were to face each other later in the year (the Packers have to be hoping for this scenario in week one against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks).

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has talked about using less scheme and more personnel groups this season.  He wants to be more “multiple”, as he says, meaning using the different strengths of each player and within the scheme to maximize results.  McCarty cites the number of young players on the roster as the primary reason.  You can also thank the lack of practice time.

Some argue that professional players can play and they don’t need to be ramming into each other all day, every day to get ready for the season.  That may be true in some cases, but many teams would seem to benefit from more emphasis on fundamental football and the Packers are one of those teams.

The tackling, for example, has been marginal over the last three seasons.  While the Packers say they work on it as often as they can, training camp offers more of an opportunity to do it in a live setting.  During live periods, players can make more contact with each other, although rarely is full contact encouraged anymore during practice.

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3

December

Is Not Practicing Catching up With Packers’ Clay Matthews?

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a blurb about Clay Matthews’ recent drop in production and a possible correlation with a shin injury that severely limits his practice time.

On Monday I wrote about how I am done criticizing Aaron Rodgers this season, and I probably could write basically the same piece about Matthews. When examining problem areas for the Gren Bay Packers, Matthews is nowhere near the top of the list.

But Matthews has only 10 tackles and one sack his last two games. That one sack was given to him after Brett Favre slid behind the line of scrimmage early in the Vikings game. Matthews has only practiced once a week since the beginning of November and maybe that is starting to catch up with him. Despite what Allen Iverson says, practice is important – especially in the NFL and especially for a young player like Matthews.

It would have been unrealistic to expect Matthews to continue the torrid pace he set early in the season. He is a great talent, but nobody is talented enough to notch over 35 sacks. After his fast start, teams are now ready for Matthews. They are game-planning for him. They are forcing him to make adjustments, which is tough without practice time.

Most coaches will tell you that half the battle in football is lining up correctly and getting to the right spot once the ball is snapped. It is difficult to experiment and make necessary adjustments without practicing them first. The less Matthews practices, the more difficult it is for him to work on new stunts or schemes to get favorable matchups on Sunday.

Obviously, I am not arguing that Matthews needs to suck it up and practice regardless of how injured he is. He needs to be as healthy as possible on Sunday and he is probably the best judge of whether he can practice or not. But Matthews’ production is something to monitor as the season winds down.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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