GREEN BAY — The worst part of rupturing his Achilles’ tendon wasn’t having to coach the Green Bay Packers’ open organized team activity practice from a golf cart Tuesday. Oh, Matt LaFleur didn’t like it, but that wasn’t what bothered him the most.
Nor was it the inconvenience of having to wear a bulky orthopedic boot and use a little scooter for the next several weeks to stay off of his surgically-repaired left leg.
No, for the Packers first-year coach, proving his wife, BreAnne, right about him being an overgrown adolescent — and now having to find a way to redirect his competitive nature — were the real punishments.
“She just shook her head,” LaFleur said of his wife, who arrived in town late last week after staying behind in Nashville, Tennessee, while the couple’s two young sons finished out the school year. “She always jokes around that she’s got three kids at home, and now she really does.”
The 39-year-old LaFleur confirmed the injury happened last Wednesday night while he and a number of other coaches were playing basketball — the game “Knockout” or “Lightning” — inside the team’s Lambeau Field gymnasium. LaFleur said he and the other coaches had started playing on a regular basis after work because many of their families had stayed behind in their previous cities, leaving them with extra bonding time at night.
“I wish I could give you some crazy dunk story, but we were playing on 10-foot hoops, and everybody knows I can’t jump that high,” LaFleur said. “I missed a shot and I went for a rebound and as soon as I made that explosive movement (to chase it), it felt like somebody kicked me, and there was nobody behind me. I had a pretty good idea of what it was right away.
“This could have happened out on the field (during practice). I’m sure it was bound to happen no matter what I was going to do. But after a long work day, you’ve got to get some exercise in. We’ve got a lot of guys on our staff that like to play basketball and there’s a gym right at Lambeau, so that’s kind of been our routine — nighttime basketball, especially the guys whose families haven’t moved here and whatnot.
“From a competition standpoint, in terms of not being able to go down there and play basketball a little bit, that’s brutal. I don’t know how I’m going to stay in shape.”
LaFleur, who was in a cast and kept his foot elevated as he drove around in his cart, acknowledged Tuesday’s practice wasn’t ideal, but he said after a month of staying off the foot, he should be up and about in a boot. While he may still be wearing the boot during training camp and for preseason games, he expects to coach from the sideline as he normally would and be back to normal before the team’s Sept. 5 season opener at Chicago.
“Hopefully I’ll be back at least in a walking boot by training camp. And then it just depends,” LaFleur said, adding that he hopes to do much of his rehabilitation exercises while watching film. “Even in the boot prior to the surgery, you can’t get around the field as well as you’d like to. But I’m definitely not going to let it creep in and create negative thoughts in my mind.
“A few years back, I remember when (New Orleans Saints coach) Sean Payton broke his leg on the sideline. I don’t anticipate coaching from the press box or anything like that,” LaFleur said. “I think as long as I handle my business and follow the doctors’ orders, I don’t foresee it being an issue come Week 1. As far as limitations during the preseason, there might be some. You might see me in a boot on the sideline.”
After throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a charity softball game hosted by wide receiver Davante Adams and linebacker Blake Martinez on Saturday, LaFleur had his surgery Sunday. Internationally renowned foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson, who joined the Packers medical staff last year, performed the surgery, with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie and head athletic trainer Bryan “Flea” Engel.
“All I know is he had surgery on Sunday and he was in the (team) meeting on Monday,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He’s been around. It hasn’t changed anything. It’s probably a little more frustrating for him but he’s in all the conversations. It’s not going to change anything.”
Rodgers was also only half-kidding when he said the fit LaFleur’s “superior diet and attention to his body is going to allow him to get back a lot quicker than most guys his age.”
LaFleur had been all over the practice field the day the injury happened, chasing quarterbacks during an individual drill and covering tight end Jimmy Graham during a red-zone drill. He’d also thrown passes earlier in the offseason at another practice, and planned to keep doing those things before the injury.
“Today was not what I’d like to be doing. I’d like to be hands-on in the drills,” LaFleur said. “But I’ve just got adjust to it, make the best of it and make sure that our communication is spot on in terms of the expectations of what we want to get done each and every day.”