Matt LaFleur has never looked forward to games that don’t count in the standings more than this year. While they’re still not anywhere close to valuable enough to risk injury for the team’s front-line players, after a year without preseason games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Packers head coach and his staff are eager to see their young players under the lights of actual game action.
“It’s like anything. You don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone,” LaFleur said. “You’re trying to evaluate these young players and luckily for us, we have a lot of veterans and we already know what they can do. So that’s why you feel a little bit more comfortable not having to play some of those guys in the preseason game, not expose them to injury. Yet at the same time, you’ve got to get those guys ready to play for Week 1. There’s always a balance there that you’re trying to strike in terms of making sure that they’re competing to be their best but at the same time not putting them at risk.”
LaFleur wouldn’t say beyond quarterback Aaron Rodgers exactly which starters would be held out of the game, but while the game-planning was kept to a minimum during the week, he did say he would do some scheming to help young backup Jordan Love have success in his first NFL game action. And while Love will be scrutinized, the coaches and personnel staffs will be taking just as close of looks at the other youngsters who are playing in preseason for the first time.
“Last year was tough, without the preseason games,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “I'm really looking forward to the preseason games. I think Matt does a really good job of managing our team, not only through the weeks of practices but leading up to those games and how we do it. And that's a difficult thing to do sometimes, when you're trying to get the team ready for the season but also get enough looks so you can evaluate the players so they get a fair chance to make our football team.”