GREEN BAY — Matt LaFleur had been all over the field during his team’s offseason on-field practices. It was, without a doubt, one of the most noticeable differences with a new, young head coach in charge.
So much for that.
The Green Bay Packers' first-year head coach will have to take a different approach for the rest of the offseason after suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon while playing basketball at Lambeau Field on Wednesday night, two NFL sources confirmed Friday morning. NFL.com was first to report the injury, which it said happened during a game of Knockout in the stadium’s gymnasium.
LaFleur is scheduled to undergo surgery on Sunday, and he’ll have to finish out organized team activity practices and the team’s June 11-13 mandatory minicamp while coaching from a cart. He’ll likely be on crutches for several weeks after surgery, in a cast or walking boot thereafter in hopes of being mobile in time for the team’s first practice of training camp on July 25.
Throughout the Packers’ open practices so far, the 39-year-old LaFleur had seemingly been everywhere. He was throwing passes with the quarterbacks during the post-draft rookie minicamp. He was taking a hands-on approach with receivers running routes, jogging alongside them while trying to educate them on the subtleties of the new offensive scheme they were learning.
During one quarterback drill during Wednesday’s OTA practice, LaFleur was a quasi-pass rusher, chasing Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, DeShone Kizer and Manny Wilkins as they ran bootlegs.
And later, during a red-zone drill, there was LaFleur, in his gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, playing safety so he could give the tight ends and receivers a better idea of how he wanted them to adjust their routes against certain coverage.
All the while, LaFleur explained, there as a method to his approach – and it wasn’t to show off his own football skills.
“I’m just kind of going out there, doing what I think is necessary,” LaFleur explained Wednesday afternoon — ironically, just a scant few hours before the injury would put an end to his on-field moves. “I think the key for all our guys is just trying to get them to learn the details of the play, because that’s where the beauty lies.
"That’s where I think you can take your game to a new level if you understand exactly what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. So I’m just focused on being in the guys’ ears and just challenging them to dig into the details.”
LaFleur played quarterback at Saginaw Valley State in college and his father, Denny, was a longtime assistant coach at Central Michigan. He’s also the second-youngest head coach in the Packers’ 100-year history, with only Curly Lambeau, who is believed to have coached his first game at age 21, was younger.
"I would say Matt is definitely hands-on," Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "The whole key is, especially now in the role that he's in, he's still got to be him. That's why he's here. That's why we're all here. We have to be who we are. I think everybody has their role they want to fill and who they think that they are.
"That's why you love Matt. Matt is the same guy I met about five, six years ago. He hasn't changed a bit besides now he's the head coach of the Packers. Every guy is different. Every head coach I've worked with and all the different guys I've been around have had their niche and how they want to do it."