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Inbox: He has to stay on this path

LB Oren Burks
LB Oren Burks

Derek from Maple Grove, MN

Selection of a tour guide is important. But, more important is what are you serving for snacks and where are you storing all those muffin stumps?

Nicely done. John from Yakima, WA, says Ma Hod must be the guide. I tend to agree.

Jeremiah from South Bend, IN

Spoff, you quoted poignant words from 12 regarding what it takes to be a leader on the team. Do you have a sense if leadership (players and/or coaches) ebbs and flows during and NFL season the way other facets of the team do (e.g. three phases, injuries, schedule)?

It can’t. Leadership has to be the constant, or the steadiness to counterbalance the inevitable ups and downs of the other aspects you mentioned. Leadership only in good times or bad times is not leadership. It’s opportunism.

John from Newcastle, England

Hi Mike/Wes, what do you make of the announcement that there'll be a bigger class of inductees to the Hall of Fame next year? Do you think there is enough of a logjam of candidates to necessitate this, or is this a watering down of the standard required to reach the Hall, as Vic feared?

I can appreciate using the NFL’s 100th season to consider a larger pool of senior committee candidates and undo a bit of a backlog. But to vote on that pool of 10 senior nominees as one block, as they’ve outlined they’re going to do, is just wrong. Every Hall of Fame inductee has gone in on his own merits. A “group induction” cheapens it, in my opinion. Or, there might be one person in the group of 10 that enough voters want to keep out, so they’ll torpedo the whole bunch, which isn’t fair to the individuals who would and should get in. If you want to consider more candidates, fine, but each candidate should still get an individual up or down vote. The Hall is simply off-base on this one.

Sean from Boulder, CO

Or, rather, 29 years but who’s counting?

Touche. You got me. Tired camp brain, or I’m just not willing to process that 1989 was three decades ago.

Jack from Chicago, IL

I wonder how many times (if at all) the playoff teams were entirely new? I doubt that has happened with all 12 teams, but perhaps it has happened to all six in one conference.

According to the research referenced previously by Glen from Eugene, OR, the fewest number of repeat playoff teams since 1990 is four, and never has a conference had all six playoff berths go to new teams. Five of six has occurred a few times.

Justin from Fayetteville, AR

A year ago at this time Reggie Gilbert was one of the hot stories of training camp, and this year he hasn’t made much impression. It reminded me of other undrafted OLBs who flashed for a year or two (ex: So’oto, Moses, Zombo, Mulumba, Elliott) and then just kind of fizzled. I don’t want to count Gilbert out, but it seems like every year there’s an undeniable undrafted pass rusher, but they never develop into starters. Why do you feel that is?

It’s a premier, difference-making position, which more often than not requires premier, difference-making talent to have staying power in the NFL. That reality is nothing against Gilbert or any other undrafted players, but the history you just rattled off is why I think we saw the investment of two top-tier free agents and a first-round draft pick this year to revamp the defense. Since drafting Matthews in ’09, the Packers had made only four similar-level commitments (first-round pick or major contract) to the position over a nine-year span – drafting Perry (’12), re-signing Matthews (’13), signing Peppers (’14) and re-signing Perry (’17). They made three such moves in one offseason in 2019.

Evan from Durango, CO

Nice article on Jaire and use of the word ebullient, Mike! I had to look that one up. My question is a matter of opinion, but I’m interested in yours. Which player from each of our division rivals do you consider to be the biggest threat when we go against them? The only caveat I’ll impose is you can’t say Khalil Mack for the Bears because that’s too obvious.

Then I’ll say Eddie Jackson for Chicago, Dalvin Cook for Minnesota, and Darius Slay for Detroit.

Mark from Westminster, CO

What percentage of Inbox questions would be discarded if you could only chose perfectly written questions?

You mean choose? This wouldn’t be a column. It’d be a news brief.

Dan from Twin Lakes, WI

Gentlemen, what can you tell us about the little touch to the helmet Trevor Davis gave Nydair Rouse after Davis went up and over the rookie CB for the highlight-reel catch on Family Night? It looked playful more than anything else and has me quite curious about the backstory.

I’m not sure there’s a backstory. Given Davis beat Rouse deep earlier in the practice, the gesture was probably just a veteran player complimenting the rookie on his solid coverage, with the unsaid acknowledgement that in the NFL sometimes even that’s not good enough.

Michael from Hammond, IN

With Sam Ficken’s 63-yard field goal during Family Night, is Mason Crosby's roster spot in jeopardy?

In my mind, no. Before the impressive final kick, Ficken was 8-of-11 on Friday, which is not the kind of practice performance that’s going to put any pressure on a polished veteran. Crosby has been medically cleared from the calf injury now, too.

David from Pensacola, FL

The only football games I've ever played were pick-up games with friends in middle school. For us, blocking was simply stepping in front of the other guy. What are some of the elements of blocking that make it a difficult skill for tight ends like Tonyan to develop? It has to be more technical than just "getting in the other guy's way" but it seems to be the hardest thing that new tight ends struggle with. Why?

Because they’re often asked to block the same edge players offensive tackles block, without the size tackles possess. So technique is paramount, and developing reliable technique takes reps upon reps upon reps.

Todd from Brighton, MI

For the first time ever, I succumbed to one of those roster-builder hypotheticals. However, I keep getting around 57 or so guys that I really want on the roster, even when cutting to seven WRs (okay, that is still a lot). And we know I am missing one or two players that will make the team. I don’t see ANY position that is a given for the final roster. Your thoughts?

You’re trying to pick the roster before a single preseason game has been played. That’s a borderline ban-worthy offense.

Justin from Hoboken, NJ

Hi Wes and Mike, thanks for the great coverage. We expats (expatriates not ex-patriots) appreciate the coverage since we can't be there in person. Who supplies the refs for Family Night? Does the NFL supply them or are they Packer employees, or are they contractors who usually work local college/high school games?

LaFleur said the Family Night officials were a college crew. The Packers have their own practice refs (mostly current or former high school officials) for the garden-variety camp and regular-season workouts. This coming week, a group of NFL officials will be here for the annual visit to go over rule changes and points of emphasis with both the Packers and Texans, and to preside over the joint practices.

Matt from East Troy, WI

Spoff, my favorite line from Vic was “help is not on the way.” At this point in 2019 is that the case?

I don’t rule out a waiver claim or two at final cuts, but those are generally reserve players. If a waiver claim is going to crack your starting lineup, your 90-man roster is leaving quite a bit to be desired.

Bill from Watertown, WI

I’m not sold on the new coach. I see a 0-16 season.

You’re reading the mantra backwards. Try it the other way.

TJ from Eagle, WI

One thing that jumped out at me from Family Night was the explosiveness and the pressure created by Rashan Gary. The new 52 was flying all over the place!

It’s time for Gary to start getting more reps against first-team offensive linemen. He’s proven most backups can’t handle him.

Paul from Fort Lauderdale, FL

Neither EQ nor J’Mon received much coverage from Friday night and it seems they’re lagging Davis and Kumerow at least as far as positive comments are concerned. Are they in jeopardy of not being able to work their way back to being relevant or is it still too soon?

Four preseason games remain.

Nick from Portland, OR

What does an undrafted NFL rookie make money-wise during training camp if he ends up being cut? What if he makes the team? How about the practice squad? Just curious to see what’s on the line for these dreamers.

For a rookie on the active roster, the minimum salary for 2019 is $495,000, or about $29,000 per week for the 17-week season. The minimum practice-squad salary is $8,000 per week. If a rookie gets cut and does not get claimed or sign to a practice squad, then his only pay is any signing bonus he might have received, plus stipends for offseason workouts and camp.

Mike from Algoma, WI

“With tax, that will be $12.65,” said the cashier, as he rang up the purchase of my Packers Yearbook. “How appropriate is that?” I said. He said, “I hadn’t noticed before.” Unbelievable!

Just math, actually.

Cheryl from Glens Falls, NY

Hi Mike and Wes, I’ve been listening to sports radio these last two weeks of training camp and it seems the focus has mostly been on the splashy headlines (mostly Zeke Elliott and Melvin Gordon’s holdouts, and the comments of Jerry Jones not needing a superstar RB to win Super Bowls, etc.). There’s been almost no news on the NFC North which I suppose is a good thing. What are your takes on the holdouts, and the Cowboys’ dilemma especially?

I don’t blame star running backs for trying to maximize their value before the wear and tear of the position diminishes it. They have a short shelf life, yet teams using that to their advantage is good business on their part. I don’t expect either side to really get what it wants here, but with a lot of time before Week 1, I’m not going to predict another Le’Veon Bell situation in either case. I do think Zeke has more leverage because the Cowboys’ offense is built around him much more than the Chargers’ is built around Gordon. Philip Rivers has made the playoffs only once without a star running back (LaDainian Tomlinson or Gordon), but Gordon’s still not as great a focal point offensively as Zeke is in Dallas.

Kelly from Kimballton, IA

How are things looking at ILB?

Oren Burks is doing everything he needs to in order to earn the larger role on defense he seeks. Now he has to stay on this path through the entire preseason.

Johan from Ottawa, Ontario

Not a lot of noise about JK Scott’s performance in training camp. How is he looking and what aspect of his game can (or has) he improve(d) on to make a solid second-year jump?

Scott’s consistency in camp has stood out, but he got off to a great start last year as well, through the first several weeks of the regular season, too. Scott’s second-year jump will be defined by maintaining what he’s doing through the entire season.

Ron from Waukesha, WI

Guys, Kevin King is injured again. Third year. I guess everyone but the village idiot would now call him injury-prone. So at cut-down time does Gute keep an additional corner on the 53 knowing that King will be out sometime during the season or does he ignore King’s injury history and just keep the best 53?

You can’t ignore the injury history. This defense needs King to be at its best, I’ll continue to say that. But, unfortunately, it also needs to prepare to deal with the uncertainty.

Bruce from Milwaukee, WI

There are references to observing how rookies respond to the large crowds and bright lights. Haven't most of them experienced this to some degree in college? Or is it added pressure because now you're getting paid to do it?

The big-school guys have seen plenty of huge crowds, but this 90-man roster has rookies and first-year players from Toledo, Angelo State, West Chester, North Dakota State, Ferris State, Fordham, Florida International, and Bowling Green. Not all adjustments are created equal.

Keith from Lindenhurst, IL

Under the McCarthy offense we were accustomed to labeling WRs as slot or outside but it seems in McVay’s and other offenses like LaFleur’s, the WRs regularly all line up in bunch formations tight to the O-line. Are you seeing much more of these bunch formations in practice this year?

Indubitably.

Tom from Queen Creek, AZ

When practicing 11-on-11 “scripted” plays, are lineups presented by the defense that are then supposed to test the offense’s ability to adjust and execute? Seems with the installation of the new offense the adjustments will require a lot more real-time practice.

The scripts are built to challenge each side, and then the film is dissected in the meeting rooms. Camp involves a lot of mental work, and the mental preparation needs to be recalled when the real game plans are installed. Offensively, it’s not about perfecting what to do against the Packers’ defense, but building a background library of adjustments that can be called upon against other defenses.

Steve from Minocqua, WI

Not a question, but a comment. While watching Jordy’s “best plays” highlight reel, I noticed Joe Buck and Al Michaels on the call many times, meaning Jordy showed up in big games. What a career!

After watching Nelson have such big years in ’11, ’13 and ’14, I didn’t think he could do anything else to impress me. Then he came back in ’16 from a torn ACL with 97 catches, 1,257 yards and 14 TDs, and added 6-67-1 in the NFC title game with broken ribs. It was a privilege to cover his entire Packers career, and I look forward to seeing him again, however briefly, on Tuesday morning.

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Mike, what's your best fastball speed? Them poor Brewers need all the help they can get! They might be holding a speed pitch challenge for fans pretty soon. You could become the next Nathan Patterson!

That story is going to make a great Disney movie someday. Happy Monday.

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