There were fireworks, laser lights, music, games. But most importantly, there was football. The first Packers first performance — albeit still a practice — of the 2019 season drew more than 56,000 fans into Lambeau Field for the annual Family Night practice.
Yes, you read that right. More. Than. Fifty-six thousand. That’s better attendance than at least three teams averaged during all of last year’s regular season. So you know, the Chicago Bears drew just under 62,000 per game in 2018.
Between the attendees and thousands of others who tuned in for the locally televised event, the Packers offered fans their first look under the hood at what’s coming in 2019 under the new staff and with new weapons at their disposal.
Here are five of the biggest takeaways from Friday’s Family Night scrimmage:
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Nothing’s Bigger Than Football in Green Bay
On top of hoisting some of the NFL’s top overall attendance numbers, the Packers’ numbers inside Lambeau Field haven’t dipped below 70,000 on average in more than a decade.
No surprise then that an affordable, family-friendly training camp event got so many to dig out the green and yellow from their closets and march it proudly into the Lambeau Field stands.
The Packers weren’t entirely at full strength, with running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones both out with hamstring issues and Mason Crosby sitting with a calf issue.
Eight total players sitting out, though, didn’t change much for the fans, who roared whenever Rodgers — or anybody, for that matter — connected with a receiver downfield.
Some even cheered just to cheer. Can you blame them?
Matt LaFleur Got His Taste of Lambeau
The Packers new head coach had heard stories about how fans in Green Bay packed Lambeau Field for the team’s annual Family Night scrimmage, but seeing it for the first time left him in awe.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that in my life. I don’t know what the final number was, but when you can almost fill up that stadium — on a practice — that’s pretty unreal. It just shows the passion and loyalty that this fan base has”
At the end of Family Night, they played the first-year coach and his players off the field to the tune of “Go Pack Go.”
No doubt LaFleur will be hoping to hear them chant it more than a few times in 2019.
Manny Wilkins Flashes Potential
Sure, the idea of a person not named Aaron Rodgers under center for the Packers might make you woozy. But the day will come, even if not for another few seasons still.
As Rodgers did learning and waiting behind Brett Farve, the Packers could attempt the process again as the current star’s days wind down on the football field.
DeShone Kizer could be an option. So could undrafted rookie Manny Wilkins, if he has more throws like this one.
Not a great look for rookie cornerback Nydair Rouse, but the 70-yard touchdown connection between Wilkins and receiver Trevor Davis is inspiring for future.
Speaking of Davis …
Primarily a kick and punt return guy for the Packers in his three seasons, Davis didn’t just wow on his catch from the newcomer quarterback.
He finessed another grab from quarterback Tim Boyle — again over Rouse — and took it straight to the house for a crowd-roaring, sideline-riling score.
Davis was a fifth-round pick for the Packers in 2016 and has caught 8 of his 14 targets since then, taking a backseat role to some of the Packers’ more prolific receivers.
But in a new system, Davis could finally get his time to shine.
No Double-Doink Going On Here
While the Chicago Bears are still letting two options duke it out for the role of starting kicker, determined to avoid a repeat of last season’s dreadful ending, the Packers seem to have more than one lined up.
While Crosby was out injured, Sam Ficken stole the show when he capped the evening’s festivities with a 63-yard field goal, raising the volume on an already-raucous crowd.
Those career numbers could double — triple? quadruple? — if he keeps booting them like that.