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Packers Practice Notebook, August 11th: Matt LaFleur talks inside linebackers, Za’Darius Smith rehabs on the field

As the preseason continues, expect to hear more and more about how special teams impacts roster spots. Inside linebacker, as Matt LaFleur reminds us, is not an exception.

Syndication: Green Bay Press-Gazette Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Last month, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur made it clear that the team will not be “going hard” three days in a row in camp, as the organization believes in an alternative way to get players ready for the season while also keeping their players healthy. After two hard days prior, this was Green Bay’s scheduled lighter day, as the team gets ready for their first preseason game of 2021 this weekend against the Houston Texans.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood tweeted that the team was going through “walkthrough pace” for practice, which lasted just over an hour. Overall, the media availability of LaFleur and wide receiver Reggie Begelton were more interesting than the news that came out of practice, aside from the fact that pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith is inching closer to being able to practice.

Pre-practice presser: head coach Matt LaFleur

  • Inside linebackers Ty Summers and Oren Burks were available to the media today, which made their standing with the team a hot-button topic. On the inside linebacker room, this is what LaFleur had to say: “I think that’s a spot, again, that’s got a lot of competition. I think Ty [Summers] and [Oren Burks] are doing a really nice job...I do think that there’s some young players that are competing for an opportunity to contribute to that room. Not only in that room, but we also need those guys to be big players on special teams for us.”
  • When asked if Summers and Burks were more special-teamers than defenders, LaFleur replied, “I think they have been. So we are excited to see them go out there and compete this weekend versus the Texans, but those guys have definitely been major players for special teams for us.”
  • Last season, the Packers stayed in the locker room for the national anthem. When pressed on his commitment for the anthem this season, LaFleur noted, “We talked to the team about the discussion that’s right in front of us, but we have not come to any conclusion as of this moment.”
  • Yesterday, it became apparent that the Packers’ current plan is to have rookie Kylin Hill take the inside track for the third running back spot on the team, but that Patrick Taylor was still in the mix. This is what LaFleur had to say about Taylor: “He’s a big back that has really good hands...He’s extremely intelligent. You should see his notebook. It’s as good as some of our quarterbacks...I think he’s another guy who can help us in pass protection as well.” When pressed on what he is looking for in an RB3, LaFleur said, “Whoever our third is, it’s going to have to be a player for us on teams.”
  • After yesterday’s comment by Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, LaFleur responded, “Well I’m honored that he would think of me, first of all. You know, Arthur and I shared a locker room together in Tennessee, so I might have been looking in the mirror getting my clothes right while he was trying to get his hair right with that Just For Men.” While taking off his hat, LaFleur added, “You guys know he’s younger than me, right? No, Arthur’s a great friend of mine.”
  • When asked about special teams risers, LaFleur explained that it’s difficult to evaluate the unit with practice reps. “I think we have some ideas, but until you really get out there and go live, full-combat it’s tough to tell right now.”

Practice

  • Pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith is doing on-field work now after some rehab progress for a back injury. Currently, the two-time Pro Bowler is on the non-football injury list.
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight end Marcedes Lewis, and pass-rusher Preston Smith all had scheduled veteran days off, holding them out from practice reps as the team attempts to manage the workload for older players.
  • Packers.com’s own Wes Hodkiewicz called the left guard scene at practice a “straight up competition” between Jon Runyan and Ben Braden, which is what we saw at Family Night last week. He also noted that Runyan and Lucas Patrick, who is currently slated as the team’s starting right guard, are working in at center. If either can prove they’re worth the coverage at center, it may make parting from Jake Hanson easier.
  • Pass-rusher Rashan Gary is again off the field for a groin injury. This is an unfortunate setback for Gary, who has been having a good summer.

Post-practice presser: WR Reggie Begelton

  • Wide receiver Reggie Begelton, who is set to turn 28 years old at the end of this month as a second-year player, stole the show in the post-practice availability. The former CFL all-star touched on subjects ranging from Jordan Love’s development to his perspective as an older player who was able to stick through the practice squad for Green Bay during the whole 2020 season.
  • On where Begelton sees Jordan Love’s progress from last season: “In his reads, he’s a lot quicker recognizing defenses. He understands where his receivers are supposed to be and honestly he does his job. He’s doing it good.”