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5 things learned from Packers GM Brian Gutekunst

Thoughts on the upcoming preseason, backup QBs, new leaders and more

Head Coach Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst
Head Coach Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst

GREEN BAY – Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the media on Friday, the day before the annual Family Night practice inside Lambeau Field.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Preseason playing time remains TBD and won't be an easy call.

No decisions have been made yet by Head Coach Matt LaFleur on how much new starting quarterback Jordan Love will play in the preseason. Gutekunst suggested how things go on Family Night and in the joint practice in Cincinnati next week will factor into how much he plays in the preseason opener against the Bengals.

The same could apply the following week with the two joint practices with New England before the home preseason matchup with the Patriots.

However it shakes out, it's not as simple as saying Love needs to take a certain number of preseason snaps.

"What Jordan needs affects a lot of the other guys, right?" Gutekunst said. "Because if Jordan's in there, there's going to be a bunch of other players in there as well that may not play a ton in the preseason. I think Matt will work through that and make good decisions.

"You guys have heard me say he needs to play, a lot of our guys need to play, that unit needs to play together. That's a tough call protecting the safety of those guys in these games but also giving them the best chance to grow and be ready for the season."

2. Love's backup most likely will be one of the three competing in camp currently, not a veteran brought in later on.

Danny Etling, rookie fifth-round pick Sean Clifford and USFL MVP Alex McGough continue to rotate in practice on a daily basis running the reserve units, and Gutekunst does not sound inclined to sign a backup with NFL starting experience.

"You've seen each guy's had their moments, which is good," he said. "The preseason games, they're going to get a lot of work. That should probably separate some things

"They all have a little bit of a different skill set, but they all have athleticism and the ability to make plays with their feet, which is important. As of right now, my mindset is, 'Let's see who comes out of that group.'"

3. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, who is signing with the Bears, was not brought back simply because he would've taken snaps away from the rookie draft picks.

The Packers want and need Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft to learn on the fly as quickly as possible, and in Gutkeunst's view, Lewis' potential presence hindering that would've outweighed his value as a mentor at the position.

Lewis' 2023 season in Chicago will be his 18th, the most all time for a tight end in league history.

"When guys need to play and need the snaps, I mean, if (a veteran is) out there, those other guys aren't," Gutekunst said. "That's just part of it. With all players that leave here, especially the guys who have done things in the league and are veteran players, they're more experienced and they're going to be better players than some of the young guys, but at the same time you can't get those young guys to that speed unless they get to play."

4. He sees players growing into leadership roles, particularly on defense, but he's reserving judgment on the unit until the real games.

With the defense having the upper hand on the offense through most of the first week of practices, more leaders are starting to emerge on that side of the ball. Gutekunst mentioned De'Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Jaire Alexander and even Rashan Gary, who hasn't practiced yet while rehabbing from last season's ACL injury, as players stepping forward more than in the past to set the tone and push their teammates.

That said, whatever "swagger" the defense is currently carrying doesn't mean much until the results truly count.

"Maybe a few guys that have a different kind of edge are stepping into leadership roles that maybe weren't in the past," he said. "That stuff's going to be earned in the regular season, but I like the intentionality that some of our guys are bringing to the table."

The Green Bay Packers continued training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field.

5. The next two weeks, which include a total of three joint practices and two preseason games, are truly the heart of training camp.

The Packers will be in Cincinnati from late Tuesday through Friday night's game, a first-of-its-kind preseason road trip for the franchise, followed by another busy, important week with the Patriots coming to town for an extended stretch.

The joint practices and preseason games are crucial evaluating tools for the personnel department as it studies the youth on the roster, particularly with so few full-speed, padded practices in camp compared to yesteryear.

"There's going to be a lot of stressors for these guys they've got to push through and fight through," Gutekunst said. "I think that'll serve our team well in the long run, and it'll give us a lot of answers too I think to what we're looking for.

"Whether it's practice, joint practice, Family Night, preseason games, early-season regular-season game, the learning and growing part has to be on the forefront. As we go through this, we've got to get better each week … because so many of them have so much room to grow."

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