Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.

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Down in one: LaFleur hobbled, Yelich, Bakhtiari shine

If one of the key figures on your favorite football organization suffers a torn Achilles tendon 3½ months before the opener, it might as well be the coach.

Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur did precisely that, blowing out his wheel on a basketball court playing a game fittingly called “Knockout.”

His torn Achilles, far more limiting than the broken nose suffered by Clay Matthews last year in a benefit softball game, will relegate LaFleur to a golf cart to get around until the tendon heals.

These non-football injuries are borderline irritating. Hopefully the Packers workouts that LaFleur oversees will include more stretching than he apparently may have done.

As he’s a coach and not a player, his injury isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the Packers. If ever a key guy like Aaron Rodgers or Davante Adams gets knocked out of the picture in the offseason, then feel free to hit the panic button.

In light of the fact that it’s his first year, and that he and his staff are installing a new offense, it’s not an especially good thing, either. His is described as a very animated, hands-on style of coaching, and the injury — which typically takes anywhere from four to six months to return to normal activity — will markedly stifle that.

A hands-on approach to coaching can produce a more collaborative feel, a common bond in striving toward a goal, between coach and player.

A coach could become so in tune to his players’ character and tendencies that he can get a read from the most superficial of “tells” about a player’s readiness.

A perfect example came during Game 5 of the Milwaukee Bucks series with the Toronto Raptors, when a spontaneous beer-chugging demonstration led to a lineup decision in the next day’s baseball game.

Packer offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, sitting in an area with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, put away two full cups effortlessly. Rodgers, sitting apart from Bakhtiari, was unable to finish his glass in one gulp, to a chorus of derisive howls at Fiserv Forum.

Yelich eventually got into the act. The major league home run leader slammed down his half-full cup of beer, and the crowd roared its approval. Rodgers responded by holding up his thumb and index finger apart to indicate how shy of being full Yelich’s glass was when he drank his — not nearly as smoothly inhaled as those put away by Bakhtiari, it should be noted, but Yelich did get it down in one.

Yelich, the reigning National League MVP, has missed seven games with back discomfort but still leads the team in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. He had not played in the Brewers’ previous game, but his performance in Beer Slam 2 Electric Boogaloo was enough to convince the skipper that he was good to go.

“When I saw him (guzzle the beer) I knew he was ready to play,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.

He was right. The Brewers got beat by the Phillies the next night, but Yelich hit his 20th home run and drew a walk in four at-bats. He’s since banged out a couple more and began the week leading the majors with 22 homers.

That’s an impressive connection. Counsell showed once again that he’s a player’s coach, and a big reason for the Brewers sitting atop the NL Central.

They lead the evenly balanced division but two of their starting pitchers, Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin, recently went on the 10-day disabled list. Gonzalez has a dead arm and Chacin has a strained back.

The sooner they come back, the better, but bad backs are funny. So are dead arms. There is no timetable on either one’s return because of how unpredictable their injuries are, even with a beer test.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@newmedia-wi.com.