New strength and conditioning coach Aaron Hill bringing ‘cool’ ideas to Packers

Just days after the Green Bay Packers season ended following a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Matt LaFleur made the tough decision to move on from strength and conditioning coach Chris Gizzi, who had held that position since 2019 and been with the organization in some capacity since 2013.

This past week, it was reported that the Packers hired Aaron Hill to fill this role. Hill had spent the last five seasons working with the 49ers’ strength and condition team, who, as LaFleur said, were doing some “cool things” out in San Francisco.

“It was just one of those deals where I felt like some new leadership in that position could be beneficial to us,” said LaFleur, “and found a guy in Aaron Hill coming from San Francisco, ironically enough, that I think they’re doing some pretty cool things out there.”

Last season, the Packers dealt with a number of soft tissue injuries, most notably to Christian Watson and Eric Stokes, both of whom had multiple stints where they missed games as they navigated hamstring injuries.

Aaron Jones also missed three games with a hamstring injury, while Rudy Ford and Zayne Anderson missed time as well. Dontayvion Wicks and Romeo Doubs would each miss practice time with similar injuries as well.

As LaFleur said at his season-ending press conference, this is something “that we need to figure out.” In an effort to solve this riddle, the Packers are leaving no stone unturned, which includes sending Watson and Stokes to a UW hamstring specialist.

However, despite the soft tissue injuries being a problem that has to get resolved, LaFleur was adamant when speaking to the media on Thursday that all the blame was not being placed on the strength and conditioning team.

“Again,” said LaFleur, “you’ve got to make some tough decision. I think Gizz is an outstanding strength coach, and I don’t want that to be like that’s all the strength department’s problem. That was not what it was. Quite frankly, that’s not what I believe, and that’s not what we found out either.”

Before running back Christian McCaffrey joined the 49ers at the trade deadline of the 2022 season, he had played in just 10 total games the two seasons prior with Carolina. However, with the 49ers, McCaffrey has played in 27-of-28 games during that season and a half span and was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2023.

“Obviously, you guys know I’ve got a close relationship with Kyle (Shanahan),” said LaFleur, “but also with the head strength coach there, Dustin Perry, who may or may not be my wife’s first cousin. So had a lot of conversations with him.

“When we decided to make the change, just kind of asking for advice, in terms of looking for people, again interviewed a bunch of guys, there’s a lot of good strength coaches out there. But ultimately, I thought Aaron did an outstanding job in the interview process.”

McCaffrey is only one player and one example, and of course, there are many factors outside of the strength and conditioning team’s control that contribute to whether a player is available or not on Sundays.

So, the addition of Hill doesn’t mean that hamstring injuries are now a thing of the past for the Packers. But what he does bring is a new voice, a new leadership style, and different processes from an outside perspective to hopefully help the Packers solve what was a significant team issue in 2023.

Hill impressed in his interview with the team, but the decision to hire him was not solely LaFleur’s to make. He consulted with many individuals who are a part of the Packers’ training staff–all of whom agreed that Hill was the best fit.

“It wasn’t something that just I was involved in that,” LaFleur said. “All our special teams coaches were a part of that process. Certainly, Flea (Bryan Engel) and Nate (Weir) were a part of it. We had a couple other guys in there as well.

“I just think it was important that we were all onboard with this. Just in order to get the collaboration, cooperation because a lot of people touch our athletes, and at the end of the day when you’re talking about a performance staff, you need everybody in alignment. So the communication has got to be on point, and we just came to a consensus on picking Aaron for that spot.”

Injuries are going to happen, and every team deals with them over the course of the season. That’s just the nature of the beast in the NFL–there’s only so much a team and training staff can control.

However, for a Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations in 2024, they need Aaron Jones and Christian Watson on the field as often as possible. We know the obvious impact that each player brings with the ball in their hands, but their presence alone opens up opportunities for others and takes some of the burden off the other players on the field.

“That’s something that we need to figure out because he’s an impact player,” LaFleur said of Watson at his season-ending press conference. “And we see his value when he’s going full strength. His ability to make plays for us, explosive plays. We’re better when he’s on the grass.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire