Culture Club: Better chemistry paying off for Packers

Packers

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 06: The Green Bay Packers celebrate an interception by Chandon Sullivan #39 against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

A new year, and a new coaching staff will undoubtedly bring plenty of changes. For the Packers this year the biggest difference is the culture in the locker room.

After Sunday’s win over the Cowboys quarterback Aaron Rodgers pointed to the chemistry being a big reason for Green Bay’s 4-1 start.

“I think it’s really about encouraging guys to be themselves. I think when you create an environment that allows freedom of expression, or you have guys like [Za’Darius Smith] who just bring it wherever they go,” said Aaron Rodgers.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 06: Za’Darius Smith #55 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after a play against the Dallas Cowboys in the game at AT&T Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Smiths, Za’Darius and Preston, are a big part of that culture change on the defensive side of the ball.

“Z and Preston are like actual brothers. They love each other, hang out, and do interviews together. It’s just a different feel. It helps that those guys are playing well too. Obviously Preston had a couple sacks today, and Z was active when he was healthy, which I guess he really wasn’t today,” said Rodgers.

“I like the vibe on the team, and I think we’re having a lot of fun.”

Aaron Rodgers on chemistry of 2019 Packers team

Matt LaFleur could take credit for the culture change in the locker room, but the first year head coach knows that starts even above him.

“Obviously you talk about it, but ultimately it’s about the guys. I think it boils down to getting the right type of guys. [Brian Gutekunst] and his staff have done a great job of assembling a roster of high character people. I think any time you’re able to acquire good high character people you’ve got a much better chance of that happening,” said Matt LaFleur.

Two of the biggest additions to this year’s team has to be the previously mentioned Preston and Za’Darius Smith. Both are ranked in the top ten in sacks so far this season, and help anchor a Packers defense that trails only the Patriots in turnovers.

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 22: Za’Darius Smith #55 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with Kyler Fackrell #51 of the Green Bay Packers after his tackled in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Lambeau Field on September 22, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Things have changed for the defense and it seemingly starts up front with the Smiths.

“I can tell they genuinely care about each other, and they’ve done a great job of just bringing everybody along. You see it when our guys get a turnover or whatever, they’re all celebrating together. We’re going to keep preaching that, and trying to reinforce that. I just love how are guys go about their business,” said LaFleur.

ARLINGTON, TX – OCTOBER 6: Chandon Sullivan #39 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 6, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Right now business is good for the Packers. So far they’ve found different ways to win four of their first five games of the season. Whether it’s the defense in the first two weeks, or the offense starting to find it’s way in the last three games.

The one thing that remains the same, at least from the outside looking in, is the culture in the locker room.

“Generally speaking, I think the teams that were the closest, that were the most connected, that played for each other had the most success. You’ve got to have good players and we’re fortunate that we’ve got a bunch of really good players. The more that they continue to play for each other that’s going to lead to greater results and greater success,” said LaFleur.

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