Green and Bold: Don't Underestimate Team Chemistry

The Packers focus on improving their team both on the field and off during OTAs.

The Packers focus on improving their team both on the field and off during OTAs.

Do you think that the Packers' tradition of canceling a day of the offseason program for a team outing is a waste of a practice?

If so, you're underestimating the importance of team chemistry.

OTAs are like a rough draft of a practice to begin with.

Not all players are required to attend, though the Packers see high attendance due in part to their competitive offseason bonus structure. Contact is not allowed, and pads are not worn during practices.

If that's the case, missing one day out of the 10 allowed by the league for practices is negligible. However, the benefits to be gleaned from an off-site outing that improves teammates' familiarity and comfort with one another and allows them to communicate and problem-solve in a different environment are numerous.

For example, wide receiver Randall Cobb shared a lane with rookie punter Peter Mortell and in addition to meeting him for the first time, learned that Mortell worked in the press box during high school.

"They do a great job of mixing guys together," Cobb said, per Packers.com's Wes Hodkiewicz.

"I’ve never had a conversation with Peter. I didn’t know he worked here in high school. He’s from here, went to (the University of) Minnesota and came back. We get to know our teammates on a different level, so it’s just kind of cool to see everybody in a different light."

Anyone who has taken umbrage with the Packers' outings in the past will be pleased to know that while, in years past, Mike McCarthy has used one day of the three-day mandatory minicamp for an outing, this year he used one of the OTAs practices, which hold even less weight in the offseason schedule.

Given the players' positive response to the outings and ability to interact with teammates they normally wouldn't both on the same side of the ball and the opposite side of the ball, it's clear that the team values mental and social preparation ahead of the season as well as physical.

"I think it’s important to be able to step away from the fire," McCarthy said. "These guys have been competing throughout the whole offseason program. I think to get away one day each and every year, see the personalities come out – it’s very healthy for our football team."

Just look at the Golden State Warriors during their historic 2015-16 season and postseason. While they've clearly got talent on their roster, it's obvious to anyone who watches a Warriors game that there's something special happening this season on that team.

Chemistry is a huge part of it; Golden State's Death Lineup is so lethal partly because those five players on the court are able to communicate with one another without speaking.

That kind of communication is vital on the football field. Just think of what happened in the NFC Championship Game against Seattle, when Brandon Bostick tried to do Jordy Nelson's job. He should have been able to trust that if he blocked on the play, his teammate, Nelson, would step in and make the catch.

So if a day of bowling is going to help the Packers develop better chemistry come game day, and it comes at the expense of an offseason practice in June, then so be it.

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Comments (13)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 08, 2016 at 06:47 am

"...when Jarrett Boykin tried to do Jordy Nelson's job." This should be the TE, Brandon Bostick, not Boykin.

Never thought much of these get to know you parties.

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mnbruton's picture

June 08, 2016 at 07:29 am

Whoops, you're so right. Brain fart. Poor Boykin doesn't deserve that infamy :)

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dobber's picture

June 08, 2016 at 07:30 am

What they do well is appeal to the competitiveness of the players at the same time...they do paintball or target shooting or bowling. It allows for friendly competition among the guys. Bragging rights. Those kinds of things that create common ground are always good.

If you're talking about the dinner parties where you put on a nametag and hope the next couple hours go by quickly, I'm with you. I'd rather be shot.

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lucky953's picture

June 08, 2016 at 07:51 am

Your point is well-taken. Football is competitive AND cooperative. Guys have to trust teammates to be where they should be. When the inevitable disappointments occur, guys need to have enough respect for each other not to point fingers, which further erodes morale. Generally, we all learn to appreciate others through getting to know them, professionally and personally. As with successful companies, a positive team culture is developed through consistent, thoughtful policy on a day in-day out basis. One-time team building exercises are of little value as stand-alone one-offs, but as part of a larger program of nurturing a positive atmosphere, they make a contribution

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 08, 2016 at 08:23 am

One thing that Thompson really tries to do and does a really good job of is building a strong team chemistry. He tries to take players that are 'packer people'. Essentially saying that he looks for guys that won't cause problems in the locker room.

I like how McCarthy then takes the team and does team building exercises. Stuff that allows the team to become closer.

The Packers are a really well ran organization. One of the many reasons why I'm a huge Packers fan.

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Since'61's picture

June 08, 2016 at 09:05 am

The team building exercises are an excellent approach for breaking down barriers and building locker room chemistry. It allows players to "break the ice" with each other in a casual unstructured manner. These guys will be spending a lot of time together, practicing, on road trips, in the locker room, etc... The sooner they can "break the ice" and get to know each other the better. Kudos to MM and the Packers organization for creating a healthy environment among teammates. Thanks, Since '61

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PETER MAIZ's picture

June 08, 2016 at 11:49 am

The best solution to break the ice is the following. Send them all up to Canada to a giant log cabin in the middle of nowhere in the snow and have all day activities be giant snowball fights. So have them do this without smart phones, television, laptops or any distractions but have a good chef that will pamper them. Limit their Scotch to half a bottle a night. Repeat the same procedure for a week. Make sure they don't start to fight and argue about the snowballs.
End of suggestion......good luck team!

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J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

June 08, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Then we could finally figure out if a family of sasquatches is afraid of our O-line. They are about the same size. Would make for a great wrestling match!

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dobber's picture

June 08, 2016 at 01:18 pm

I'd rather they were doing that than "singing" in some cheesy college movie...

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Michalske's picture

June 09, 2016 at 05:29 pm

Didn't Curly Lambeau try that one time? :-)

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toolkien's picture

June 08, 2016 at 01:53 pm

Yada, yada, yada.

Yoga three years ago, hydration two years ago, the endless bowling outings. I don't care. I want a team that can hang onto the ball in the playoffs. I want a team that's not going to make Super Bowl reservations before they've closed escrow on the NFCCG. I want guys who are committed enough to not pork out and flush a season down the drain. I want -albeit young - players who have consistently good technique that reduce long term injuries. In short, I want the team to concentrate on those things that will bring a level of post season success that goes with their regular season success. I don't want another season to end with the head coach determined to "fix" the problem that washed the season away to only have another season killing problem to fix. As long as hydrating jello shots and picking up 6-10 splits don't intrude on the process where it matters - fine. But to suppose that lack of "team chemistry" is the cause for fat, out of shape players, or not knowing how to hang on to the ball, or patting yourself on the back with ten minutes left on the clock is nonsense.

I realize that the off season, particularly between voluntary camps and camp, needs to be filled with something, but every year we get these articles and it's all eye wash.

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JerseyAl's picture

June 09, 2016 at 08:09 am

And every year we get narrow minded comments like this one and it's all...

fill in the blank.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 08, 2016 at 07:17 pm

Excellent article Michelle. Love reading your columns. I think it's great MM does this in fact I think he should do a little more of this. The more these players know how the other thinks and acts the better it helps the overall team. Many of these players have two different personalities but most only know the person on the field not off so yes, this is beneficial.

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