Brian Gutekunst looking for consistency, growth from players competing for roster spots

Packers GM thrilled to extend “well-deserving” Kenny Clark

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General Manager Brian Gutekunst

GREEN BAY – In 15 days, General Manager Brian Gutekunst will be tasked with reducing the Packers' roster from 80 players to 53 in preparation for an NFL season unlike any other.

And he'll have exactly zero preseason games to assist him in that painstaking decision process.

Instead, there is heightened importance on each and every practice the Packers conduct between now and when final cuts are due to the NFL office by 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 5.

The team already has made some adaptations, from building in more competitive periods to moving practices inside Lambeau Field, the first of which came on Thursday.

Gutekunst and his scouts are watching every rep intently, to collect as much information possible over the next two weeks.

"We're certainly not going to have very many opportunities to see them tackle and do some of those things, so it makes it a little bit more challenging," Gutekunst said. "I thought (the stadium) was a nice change with some noise and kind of seeing how the guys reacted there. But yeah, we're going to need to be as patient as we can before we start making decisions."

The preseason is only a small part of player evaluation, but it still plays a vital role in the process. There have been countless undrafted prospects and longshots who have played their way onto the Packers' active roster over the years with standout performances in the team's four exhibition games.

Even for a rookie like quarterback Jordan Love, whose roster spot is secure, the preseason would have been a helpful measuring stick to gauge the progress of the Packers' first-round pick. Or for Tim Boyle, the Packers' primary backup QB in 2019 who threw for six touchdowns last preseason.

Position battles often get ironed out in those settings. While splash plays and big moments in preseason games might get the attention of the Packers' brass, that doesn't necessarily mean that's the highest thing on Gutekunst's practice checklist.

In this current environment, he's looking for consistency more than anything and young players who can keep stringing together productive practices.

"We've had a lot of guys come through here who've been able to do that here and there, but can you be where you're supposed to be? Can you be counted on? Can you make the plays day in and day out?" Gutekunst said.

"When young players come into this league it's about becoming a pro and a lot of those guys are in that transition right now and you're looking for, every day, do they have ups and downs or is it steady growth?

"It's not science. There's a little bit of art to it and obviously we're not always right but that's what we're looking for."

Gutekunst credited Head Coach Matt LaFleur for creating ample opportunities in practice for the scouting department to get a read on players. From there, it's up to Gutekunst to weigh the short term vs. the long term when constructing 53-man roster and the 16-man practice squad that'll follow.

The Packers already have finalized one key decision in signing defensive tackle Kenny Clark to an extension last week. The move not only rewarded the "well-deserving" Clark, but it also allows Green Bay keep working on other potential extensions.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari, running back Aaron Jones, center Corey Linsley and cornerback Kevin King are all entering the final year of their contracts.

"I think there's some dominoes here," Gutekunst said. "There's a bunch more guys we'd like to keep. There's some restrictions we're going to have to work through to see if we can do it all, but I'm eager to see if we can get some of these guys locked up, that's for sure."

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