GREEN BAY — NFL coaches — Matt LaFleur certainly included — have their favorite phrases.
Among those that the Green Bay Packers coach self-deprecatingly acknowledges as oft-used and tease-worthy are his “Go 1-0 every week” and “Hit the reset button” mantras that have helped his teams go 31-7 in his first 38 games in charge.
He, like many other coaches, also likes to use “Control what you can control,” “next man up” and “the standard doesn’t change” when it comes to injuries — like the spate of injuries his team has dealt with during the first six weeks of the season.
But LaFleur also acknowledges some injuries cannot be avoided, and that while the standard or expectation might not change, the talent level of the next-man-up player replacing the established starter in the lineup certainly does.
Which, LaFleur said Monday, is where he and his coaching staff come in.
Having lost starting center Josh Myers after four snaps to a knee injury during Sunday’s 24-14 victory over the Chicago Bears and with seemingly indestructible outside linebacker Preston Smith’s availability in question because of an oblique injury he suffered just eight snaps into Sunday’s win, the coaches may have to find even more creative, schematic ways to make up for the latest in a series of injury-related losses the team has overcome during its 5-1 start.
“You’ve just got to be ready to adapt and adjust and pivot to wherever you have to go. Our job as coaches is to try to put the players in the best position possible, and it definitely makes it easier when you have really good players to do that,” LaFleur explained during his usual day-after-the-game Q&A session with reporters Monday before turning the team’s focus to this Sunday’s game against the Washington Football Team at Lambeau Field.
“We never want to put a guy in a position where he’s set up to fail. That’s our job, to try to scheme around certain things. But we are fortunate that we have a lot of confidence in the guys — not only our starters but everybody in that locker room.”
Already without their most decorated edge rusher (Za’Darius Smith, on injured reserve after back surgery and possibly done for the year) and their top two cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander, on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, and Kevin King, who missed Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury), the Packers lost Preston Smith, Myers and starting safety Darnell Savage (concussion) against the Bears.
But they still found a way to win.
“That’s kind of how we’ve been winning the last few weeks with as banged up as we’ve been up front and really on defense,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, referring to the ball-control offensive approach LaFleur has taken to protect the makeshift offensive line from having to protect for extended periods as a downfield passing game requires. “We’ve been trying to control the line of scrimmage, get those guys kind of comfortable up front.
“If we have to win like this, it’s great. We’ve got to get healthy, though. ... It’s nice to be 5-1 and be banged up and have won five in a row, but we’ve got to get healthy as we move forward against an important stretch coming up.”
LaFleur acknowledged Myers’ knee injury, while not season-ending, is “most likely” going to keep him out multiple games. That means veteran Lucas Patrick will be the starter there for the next few weeks, while Elgton Jenkins, who returned to the lineup after missing three games of his own with an ankle injury, will man the left tackle spot until five-time All-Pro David Bakhtiari returns from the physically unable to perform list. LaFleur said the team plans on opening the practice window for Bakhtiari this week.
“I thought guys were blocking pretty well for the most part,” LaFleur said of Sunday’s performance. “Hopefully, we get some more consistency with who we have in the lineup. The continuity upfront is so important in terms of not only establishing a run game but also in pass protection.”
Meanwhile, LaFleur expressed hope Preston Smith, who has never missed a start in his seven-year NFL career, will be able to play against Washington. If not, Jonathan Garvin and La’Darius Hamilton again will have to fill in opposite Rashan Gary.
“P, he’s been really consistent, does a great job of getting prepared each and every week. We’ll just see how he’s feeling this week,” LaFleur said. “I know he’s definitely motivated to want to play. But we want to make sure that he’s not going to put himself at further risk of injury and be out a long period of time. So we want to make sure that he’s good to go.”
Considering how fortunate the Packers had been during LaFleur’s first two seasons, going 13-3 each year while staying remarkably healthy compared to many other NFL teams, LaFleur admitted the team’s luck might be changing — and that it’s up to him and his staff to find ways to mitigate the impact.
“I think there are ways to prevent some of the soft-tissue injuries, but some of these, it’s just a part of football — an unfortunate part of football,” LaFleur said. “Certainly we never want to see any player get hurt, whether it’s from our team or whoever we’re playing. It’s an unfortunate part of the game that just happens.”
Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures
Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers fell to the Houston Texans 26-7 in a preseason game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
The Green Bay Packers failed to pick up a win in the preseason, falling to 0-3 in exhibition play after getting blanked by the Buffalo Bills 1…
Despite third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert’s strong showing while filling in for injured backup QB Jordan Love, the Packers came up short i…
Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions as the Green Bay Packers struggled on both sides of the ball Sunday afternoon, falling …
Wisconsin State Journal photographer Kayla Wolf captured all the action from Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers quickly erased a 17-14 hal…
Check out all the best images from Levi's Stadium as the Green Bay Packers escaped with a 30-28 victory over the San Francisco 49ers after a w…
The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
The Green Bay Packers improved to 4-1 on the season after kicker Mason Crosby overcame a shaky performance to hit the game-winning field goal …
The Green Bay Packers improved to 5-1 on the season after rolling past the Chicago Bears 24-14 on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Green Bay Packers shored up their red-zone defense Sunday en route to their sixth consecutive victory of the season, defeating the Washing…
The Green Bay Packers (7-1) won their seventh straight game when they took down the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals (7-1) Thursday night…
The Green Bay Packers (7-2) wasted a strong defensive effort as their seven-game winning streak came to an end when the Kansas City Chiefs (5-…
The Green Bay Packers fell to 8-3 on the season while the Minnesota Vikings improved to 5-5 with a 34-31 victory in an NFC North showdown Sund…
The Green Bay Packers (8-2) got back on track with a 17-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks (3-6) on Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
The Green Bay Packers withstood a late push by the Los Angeles Rams en route to a 36-28 victory Sunday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.