Green Bay Packers: Make the preseason about the young guys

Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy must look at ways to keep the playing time for veterans to a minimum. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy must look at ways to keep the playing time for veterans to a minimum. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The NFL yesterday released its preseason schedule for this coming summer, including the official announcement that the Green Bay Packers would be playing the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 7 — meaning Green Bay will have a total of five preseason games this summer.

For those who like watching the Green and Gold in action and on the field, it’s great news; for the Green Bay Packers football team, it’s not such great news, especially for the veterans.

We all understand what transpired in the third week of the preseason in 2015 and certainly aren’t interested in seeing something like that happen again.

Yes, we all want to see Jordy Nelson on the field when the regular season starts in September. The likelihood that he will be there will depend, of course, on him staying healthy through the preseason.

The same could be said of Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Clay Matthews and any number of other veterans who we all know will have made the squad even before the first snap of that first preseason game.

More from Green Bay Packers News

The balancing act of allowing veterans to play live game action before the regular season is a tough one … just how much exposure do you give to your veterans at this point in the year? Yes, their competitive nature pushes the players to demand playing time. They do have to get their bodies into football and game shape, after all.

And while that’s true, some of that conditioning is accomplished during preseason practices. But granted, there is some live action play that’s needed for these guys.

But you can bet that head coach Mike McCarthy is going to be extra caution this year when it comes to his starters. You can bet he is going to be protective of them.

That’s a good thing.

In fact, we ask that the head coach take it one step further …

Do the starters necessarily even have to suit up for the first couple of preseason games? Isn’t this portion of the season designed to get the rookies and undrafted free agents on the field? The wins and losses don’t count at this point, though coaches and players like to win games – that’s all part of the preseason conditioning, too.

Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton -- he's one veteran the Packers must keep healthy this season. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton — he’s one veteran the Packers must keep healthy this season. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

But when you’re talking about established players with huge contracts, you’re talking about the future and the difference between a winning and losing season.

If you lose a Jordy Nelson, your passing game and offense overall goes in the tank; if you lose an Aaron Rodgers or a Clay Matthews or a Josh Sitton or a Bryan Bulaga for any extent of time you may as well start looking at the next year’s draft – it would be all over.

So, let’s consider the implications of working your starting veterans into preseason games … let’s consider using them at a minimum and using those five games that must be played as a springboard for evaluating the rookies and younger players on the team. Yes, the possibility that these players get hurt is a reality, but the team can recover more easily from losing depth than it can from losing veteran starters.

Last year the Packers lost Nelson, a few years ago the team lost Bryan Bulaga during the Family Night scrimmage. These were player losses that could have been prevented.

Yes, injuries is a major part of the game. Every NFL team deals with the issue week-in and week-out.

But by minimizing the number of minutes and the number of plays that these veteran starters are on the field will lessen the chances that they won’t be on the field come September.

We only ask the Packers coaching staff to approach playing time with caution.

The coaches know, pretty much, who they want on the field in September. There are players who may make a statement and play well enough to move into the starting lineup or be considered as part of the team’s player rotation. That’s fine. Let the coaches work that stuff out in practice.

Next: Draft picks under the radar

But for the emotional stability of all us fans, we only ask that the Packers coaching staff to consider lessening the time on the field for the most valued of veterans who will be needed in the regular season.