Exclusive: Nathaniel Hackett defends his ‘easier’ Broncos practices
The Denver Broncos ramp it up this week, welcoming the Dallas Cowboys to UC Health Training Center for a joint practice on Thursday and then facing it off with America’s Team in the first preseason game on Saturday.
Nearly a month into practice, many have said first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett is taking it easy on his player, perhaps too easy. Much of this criticism has come from former NFL players now working in analysis which lends both credibility and bias to the take. For one, who knows better than guys who have been there before? But is their view of what is needed to be a successful football team skewed by the rigors they were put through in the past?
“It’s a new NFL; it’s just that simple. There’s more science than we’ve ever had in this game,” Hackett said, explaining what’s changed about the league and why practice schedules have become lighter. “I’m pretty sure you didn’t wear an extra helmet on top of your helmet. So I think there are so many different things, and our full focus is health. The healthiest team at the end usually has the best chance to go ahead and make a run in the playoffs. That’s just fact.”
While Hackett is new in his role, he’s not new to the NFL. He’s had jobs on and off in the league since 2006, the last of which was in 2021, when he served as the offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
“We have to make sure everybody’s healthy. I did it this way in Green Bay where Matt (LaFleur) and I went deep into all those different scientific things, never wanting to practice hard on the third day, all the different things we want to do,” Hackett said. “And then also looking across the league, a lot of other guys are doing a lot of this stuff too. It’s just about the guys’ health and ability to go out there and take advantage of the practices.”
It doesn’t take a doctor or scientist to know that the fewer hits a player takes, the more likely he is to be healthy. However, the Broncos have suffered a few major injuries in camp. Some would argue that this is just the nature of football and Hackett is at least lessening the chance for key injuries.
“If we practice four times in four days in two-a-days, two of them might not have been the best practices because you’re just beat up. And so for us, how do you maximize, how do you make it like a game,” Hackett asked. “During the season, do you hit the day before you play a game? No. So how can we just continually train them to get ready for the season for the games, everything like that?”
Hackett went onto say if he weren’t being criticized for the practices, people would find something else.
“I know everybody’s critical about it. I love it. I can tell by the way you’re looking at me like I can see everybody and it’s great because you come and you want new regimes, all this, all these different things and it’s like, maybe they’re too hard or oh, now it’s too light,” Hackett said. “It’s, hey, let’s pick anything. ‘God look at the shirt he’s wearing,’ what are we doing? Hey, regardless of what you do in this league, I’ve done it so many different ways, been around so many different guys in the end, It’s about believing in what you do, letting the guys have confidence, staying healthy and just hoping that they know what they can do and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Hackett also talked about how he and Russell Wilson’s relationship is developing, which you can hear in the full interview on Schlereth and Evans here.