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A tough stretch, but also an opportunity

Packers' margin for error has shrunk


Bill from Champaign, IL

Hi guys, thanks for all that you do for us fans. Danny White from the Cowboys is another special teams player who was a QB.

I'll forgive Wes for not remembering White as the Dallas punter because it was before his time. Several of you brought up Joe Theismann as a return man in his early days with Washington, and that was before my time.

Thomas from Alpharetta, GA

What do you mean Aaron Rodgers is not a rah-rah type guy? Haven't you seen the commercial in the locker room?

Good one. You know, it took several viewings of that ad before I noticed Matthews swinging a broom on the porch in the background at the end. I think that's my favorite part.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Mike, I think Clay's time in Green Bay is over. His hamstrings have been bad for years and now he's 30 years old. He is not helping us and the young guys are learning (and playing).

This was the dominant thought in the Inbox upon McCarthy's announcement on Friday morning that Matthews would be out on Sunday. I don't understand the kick-him-to-the-curb mentality. Yes, he's had hamstring problems before, but not since 2012. His twice-broken thumb in 2013 was a bad-luck injury he tried to play through, not a chronic deal. He played every game during 2014 and '15. Of course, you want him to be healthier. Everyone does. But this defense won't be better this year, or next year, without Matthews.

Todd from Raleigh, NC

Would you say the 2000 Packers draft was our best top to bottom?

The quartet of Bubba Franks, Chad Clifton, KGB and Mark Tauscher all became long-term starters, which is an impressive collection of productivity and longevity from one draft class. In my generation, though, it's hard to find a draft better than 1995 (Craig Newsome, William Henderson, Brian Williams, Antonio Freeman, Travis Jervey, Adam Timmerman). And the Packers probably will never top 1958, when they got Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer in the first four rounds.

Daniel from Castle Rock, CO

2016 Browns vs. 2008 Lions … who wins?

The team with the best player on the field would be the '08 Lions with Calvin Johnson, so I'd take them.

Steve from St. Charles, MO

I think I understand waiver rules and process for released players from the regular roster. And I understand that any team can directly sign any practice-squad player from any team to their roster 53. But are cut practice-squad players waivered or immediately available to any other team's practice squad?

They're immediately available, because they had already cleared waivers in order to be on a practice squad in the first place.

Tim from La Crosse, WI

For some reason I have a feeling, a feeling that we are going to get healthy and make a second half run, and I think being on the road is going to help.

Road wins can forge a lasting mentality for a team. This is a tough stretch, but also an opportunity.

Jerry from Harlingen, TX

For the record, that's Senator Blutarsky.

Anyone can indeed get a job in Washington.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Mike, thanks for the question to Coach Capers about his history with Dick LeBeau. Dick is one of two coordinators that aren't Packers coaches that I can think of if a gun was pointed to my head (Bevell the other due to his UW ties). And I know he is a popular whipping boy for your Inbox and comments section, but for me, I would love to sit and listen to Capers talk about defensive football for as long as he'd allow. His press conference this week gave me a glimpse of that kind of conversation. If I was a player, I'd follow that man anywhere.

I knew that question would start an interesting dialogue in the media auditorium, and it was a treat to listen to it all. If you haven't seen Darren Perry talking about playing for both men with the Steelers in the early 1990s, that's worth your time, too. It's moments like those I'm reminded coaches like that have forgotten more football than I could ever dream of knowing.

Bryant from Augusta, GA

Insiders, sorry for the length of the question, but the NFL preaches player safety and health, and their IR system is the worst out of the four major sports. By forcing teams to either keep a player on the roster for a four-week injury (see Starks) or to end their season is causing teams to have less healthy players come gameday. Why not make it where you can bring back three players or so that are designated to return from IR, and if the fear is teams stashing players then make the players subject to waivers if they aren't activated? Players with minor injuries end up missing whole seasons and are missing opportunities. I know this suggestion would need regulations but there has to be a better way of doing things rather than causing less opportunities for young players, or major players missing the season if multiple players are injured (see Lacy and Shields).

The NFL did this to itself with rampant specialization. How can 46 active players not be enough to play a football game? You get seven roster spots for injured players who aren't out for the season, plus the one return from IR now. If that's not enough, then expand the roster, period, but that has drawbacks for both union and management. More players means spreading the same salary cap thinner (which the union might not want), and more expense, medically and otherwise, for teams. Practice squads already have been increased from eight to 10. I'd rather see a de-specialization of the game before more rules and regulations complicate the roster machinations, but we're too far down the road to walk that back. In my mind, there isn't a good solution unless the two sides can agree to expand the rosters.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

In the last year, we've seen a potential "greatest of all-time" Golden State Warriors blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. The Cubs ended a near eternity-long drought to win the World Series after being down 3-1. Brexit passes after all projections show it will fail. Trump wins the presidency after all polls show Clinton with a commanding lead. If this year hasn't taught us to never underestimate an opponent, I don't know what will. Winning can never be taken for granted.

It's why we watch.

Derek from Clarence, NY

As great as our run defense has been, our lack of a secondary has been a major Achilles' heel accompanied with the lack of a pass rush (Clay). What if anything can we do to make adjustments, since we are riddled with injuries, to make a change this week?

Adjustments have to be based on the opponent more than your own personnel. All you do is keep playing and trying to improve until you get back to (close to) full strength. Joe Whitt put it pretty matter-of-factly on Thursday. Gunter began the season as the No. 4 corner. He's been the No. 1 for a few games now, and there have been growing pains. Rollins is back, and Randall should be back soon. If Gunter settles in at No. 3 for the stretch run, he should be better than he ever could have been in that spot otherwise. Matthews' absence hurts. There's no sugar-coating that. He's the Reggie Jackson of this defense, the straw that stirs the drink. They need him, and Randall. To use Rodgers' words, the Packers just need to make sure they're in the conversation when they get these guys back, along with Cook on offense and others. The problem is last week's loss really shrunk this team's margin for error. The Colts game has to be the season's turning point now.

Bruce from New Canaan, CT

It seems like every year fans engage in a bit of wishful thinking by trying to compare the current Packers season to 2010. In addition to the obvious note that very few current players were on that roster, I would like to point out that the 2010 team never trailed in any game, regular or postseason, by more than seven points. To me, that shows how special that team was. Its 10-6 regular-season record could just as easily have been 14-2 or 13-3.

It also could just as easily have been 7-9, with three one-score wins, plus three one-score wins in the postseason. It's about when the game is in the balance, and being better at that time more often than not. That stat about trailing by no more than seven for an entire season is one of the most remarkable I've ever come across.

Jonathan from Goshen, OH

I'd like to know if you could change one thing about your career, what would you change?

I'm not sure if this question was intended for me, but I'd say the last 3:52 in Seattle, because that would have allowed me to cover a Super Bowl with Vic.

Curt from Oronoco, MN

Will we see any lollygaggers on Sunday?

I hope not, but I wouldn't put it past Mike Daniels to toss a bunch of football helmets in the shower if he gets upset again.

Jim from Champlin, MN

Mike, the "one play" haunts me. I saw it in homage to Dan Marino in 2014 in Miami. I saw it last year against San Diego and in Detroit. I thought I saw it in Arizona too, but then I saw the one play slip out of the hands of Mike Neal and into the hands of Larry Fitzgerald. We needed it in Seattle in 2014, and like a fumble it maddeningly bounced just out of reach time and again until the other team fell on it. It bounced off Gunter's hands in Atlanta, and off Janis' hands last week only to tease again as it escaped HHCD's grasp on third-and-10 in the closing minutes. With it, the arrow points straight up. Without it, a team is doomed to mediocrity. What is the secret of making the "one play"?
No offense, but if I knew the answer to that, do you think I'd be sitting here every day talking to you people?


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