Good vibes and energy help Packers lay strong foundation heading into training camp

By: Paul Bretl 6/21/24

The Green Bay Packers have entered their summer break before they report back for training camp in mid-July with the energy and vibes within the locker room and on the practice field quite high.

“Mr. Larry,” said Quay Walker in response to a question from Larry McCarren, “I’d be lying to you if I said we wasn’t because honestly, I done been on a championship team and I understand that it’s college and this is the NFL, but chemistry is there already and any time you have a team with chemistry, that’s a good, good sign.

“At the end of the day, we still gotta play football, but the chemistry is there and that’s all you could ask for right now, to be honest you.”

Following the Packers’ playoff loss to San Francisco last January, Preston Smith detailed the importance of this being a “championship offseason” for the team, meaning that everything each player does is very intentional and with one goal in mind–winning. What the Packers do in the months leading up to training camp sets the stage for how they perform in critical moments during the upcoming season.

“We’ve got to have a championship offseason,” said Smith back in January, “so everything rolls into the season because, at the end of the day, those games come back to following your training, trusting your technique, and trusting everything you worked hard for this offseason. Coming into this next season, we’ve got to focus on the things that we can improve on, make sure that our weaknesses are our strengths, and we improve on the things we’re good at.”

This Packers team knows the opportunity that is out there for them this upcoming season. It’s not only outside of the building that the expectations are high. That in itself can contribute to the energy and vibes in the building–it’s exciting to believe that you’re playing on a Super Bowl-caliber team.

One way that this enthusiasm and commitment to a championship offseason has shown through during this time of the year is with the Packers’ near-perfect, and at times perfect, attendance during OTAs, which are voluntary. Perhaps this seems like a small thing, but it’s not the norm around the NFL either.

Every player in that locker room knows what the end goal is this season, and this offseason showcased a team that is working as one cohesive unit to do everything they can to achieve it, cultivating the chemistry – and subsequently the vibes and energy – that Walker described.

“I think everybody is locked in,” said Xavier McKinney following the first OTA practice. “I think we understand. It’s good to because us being young as a team, we understand the talent that we have on this team and we do understand where we can take it if we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do day in and day out. I think that’s just a credit to these guys in this locker room. Like I said, everybody’s been great. Everybody’s came in every day with a great attitude and just ready to put the work in. I know it’s going to pay off for us.”

Optimism this time of the year runs rampant throughout the NFL. The Packers certainly aren’t the only team who are excited about the upcoming season. But with that said, these feelings are certainly justifiable.

During the Packers’ season-ending stretch, Jordan Love and the offense were operating as one of the best units in football. And now in Year 2 together, as good as this group looked at the end of last year, there is the potential for a jumping-off point with a full offseason to build off of what has already been established.

Defensively, change can help breathe new life into a unit, and that seems to be the sentiment that every player is feeling playing under Jeff Hafley and his coaching staff. ‘Run’, ‘hit’, and ‘aggressive’ are a few of the words that we keep hearing from players when they’re describing Hafley’s defense. Defenders are being asked to play fast and make plays–and they love it.

“You can tell the energy around the building from top to bottom is great,” said Rashan Gary, “especially on defense having a whole new staff, a whole new life. We’re loving it on defense.

“With the offense, man, I love their swagger. It’s not like last year at all. We come back, everybody work day in and day out. Like I told everybody to come back 1 percent better than what we were today when we left, we’re gonna be fine and where we want to be.”

All of this is great, but over the course of a long NFL season, eventually, the Packers are going to get punched in the mouth – it happens to every team – and they’ll have to respond. It’s in those moments that the offseason optimism can feel like a distant memory.

While it may never truly be known how a team is going to react in those situations until they face them, as Smith mentioned, the work that the Packers are putting in now will help guide them through those critical moments.

At the end of the day, there’s only so much that can be gleaned from this time of the year, and of course, what takes place in April, May, and June doesn’t guarantee success during the season. With that said, it’s also hard to envision this Packers team being in a better spot heading into training camp than where they’re at right now–and while that isn’t everything in the grand scheme of an NFL season, it does matter.

A strong foundation has been laid this offseason, however, the work is far from done. Each player needs to come back from this time off mentally and physically ready to endure what can be a grueling NFL season and build off of the energy and good vibes that have already been established.

“I think we’ve laid a good foundation,” said Matt LaFleur following the final minicamp practice, “and I think the guys the things that we stressed to these guys in terms of our communication, how close the connection can get, I think it’s a good start.

“But it really doesn’t matter once we come back to training camp. (Then) it’s about what we do moving forward. Again, it’s just the foundation. So, I feel really good about the group in there and hopefully throughout the course of these give weeks is you cannot come back the same player. You’ve got to come back better. You’ve got to come back in better shape, and you’ve got to come back better mentally.”