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Packers will open packages on Christmas as Lions practice

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

The Lions and Packers are taking a different approach to the holiday week as they prepare for Sunday's NFC North-deciding game Sunday at Lambeau Field.

With Christmas Thursday, Green Bay is taking the day off, instead practicing Tuesday to make up for lost time on the holiday.

"Because that's the way it should be on Christmas," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the decision on a teleconference Tuesday. "Just like our coaching staff and support staff, it's something that I've always believed in."

The Lions, meanwhile, will stick with their usual routine of practicing Wednesday through Friday, but Thursday's practice will be later than normal. Players also had Monday off for the "Victory Monday" tradition after beating the Bears.

Coach Jim Caldwell said he asked players for input on this week's schedule. After all, most of them will be playing for their first division title as the Lions try to win the NFC North for the first time — it was the NFC Central when they last won in 1993.

"I think you have to allow some flexibility, and it's something that we talked to the leadership council about to see what they wanted to do in that regard," Caldwell said Monday.

Caldwell gave the players a few options. They could've taken Christmas off and practiced Tuesday instead, or players with children could've stayed home for the holiday and made adjustments after that.

Ultimately, the players decided to work on the holiday, and Caldwell said part of the reason is because many of the players don't have children with which to spend Christmas.

"They want to keep it the same in terms of our rhythm, so we're going to practice on Christmas, but it'll be a little bit later in the day to give the guys that do have children time to be with their families in the morning," Caldwell said. "They'll come in and we'll work in the afternoon. We'll be finished at a reasonable time, so they can go home and have dinner with their families. But every other day will be the same."

In Green Bay, wide receiver Jordy Nelson said he appreciates having the holiday off.

"It's great," he said on a teleconference Tuesday. "Coach McCarthy always preaches family, and then over Thanksgiving and Christmas he shows it. It's one thing for coaches to stand up there and say that family matters and that it comes first and then keep you in all day on Christmas."

The Lions will travel Saturday as usual, so being the home or road team didn't play much of a role. Several other teams are practicing Tuesday, typically an off day, instead of Thursday this week.

The Lions practiced on Christmas last year, too, under former coach Jim Schwartz despite already being eliminated from postseason contention.

"I think like every week in this league when you have a seven-day week, there's a certain amount of work that needs to get done in that period of time," McCarthy said. "When you are able to adjust that for what's best for your players and their families, I think it's a no-brainer."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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