One of the strangest sights in the NFL in the unusual 2020 season has yet to be revealed. When the Green Bay Packers take the field for real games starting in week one, NFL stadiums’ seating bowls will be mostly or entirely empty. Many teams, the Packers included, will not have any fans in the stands early in the season, while the rest will limit attendance to around 20 percent capacity.
That will be a strange situation for the players, who often feed off the energy — positive or negative — from home and road fans. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters on Wednesday that this will be one of the biggest challenges that result from those empty settings. “The energy that the fans bring, especially our fans, I thought they did a tremendous job last year of being loud and giving us energy. So the guys are going to have to dig deep within themselves to find that energy.”
LaFleur believes that even in empty stadiums, there will still be some advantage for home teams due in part to not having to travel and general familiarity with the facility. But he acknowledged that the 2020 season will be a “unique experience” for all involved. He also alluded to the NFL potentially allowing teams to bring virtual crowd noise in through the stadium audio systems, a report recently presented by ESPN’s Adam Schefter: “I’ll be interested to see what the ambient noise (is) that the NFL’s going to give to us.”
As for the current goings-on in training camp, LaFleur revealed that most of the key Packers who have been banged up with injuries over the past few days are not dealing with anything serious. Za’Darius Smith and Marcedes Lewis sat out practice on Wednesday, but LaFleur said that they were just out for precautionary reasons: “We want to be smart with these guys,” he said.
LaFleur also clarified that Davante Adams, who limped off the field at one point on Wednesday before getting checked out by the medical staff, is “going to be just fine.” That is great news for a team that has little proven production at the wide receiver position behind the veteran.
However, one of those unproven players in the wideout group is making a good impression in his return from an injury. Equanimeous St. Brown’s intelligence in particular has caught his head coach’s eye: “He is really intelligent so that gives you a lot of flexibility with him. You can move him throughout different positions and put him on different spots across the field. He knows our playbook inside and out.” LaFleur also complimented St. Brown on his size and speed, noting his “nice catch radius.”
On Thursday, the Packers will work in pads for closer to two hours thanks to the NFL’s ramp-up rules for practices this summer.