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Inbox: He personified toughness

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Dale from Caledonia, NY

Would you rather win with a smothering defense in a low-scoring game, or with an explosive offense in a shootout?

Yes. I stopped reading after the fourth word. Time to get on with it.

Zach from Virginia Beach, VA

When I think of T.J. Lang I'll always remember the NFC title game against the Falcons. It was the "run the table" year and the Packers had an incredible run to the game. Then everything fell apart. Lang got hurt during the game. He was on the bench, hurt bad enough he wouldn't be able to come back in. His emotions broke through and you saw pure heartbreak etched on him. It was his last game for the Pack and my heart went out to him. I appreciate the hard work and play he put in for the team.

I sat down with him after one season and he detailed for me everything he played through. Shoulder, elbow, foot, toe, you name it. I was blown away. So much we were never aware of. When he went to the bench in Atlanta you knew he was truly injured. He personified toughness, not only for gutting out so many games without complaint, but for how he also came to his teammates’ defense time and again. The term warrior doesn’t do Lang justice. He can rest now. He’s earned it.

A fourth-round pick for Green Bay back in 2009 out of Eastern Michigan, Lang started a total of 94 regular-season games for Green Bay, 105 including postseason.

Ben from Rochester, NY

T.J. Lang. A football player. My favorite play was a penalty coming to No. 12’s defense. Was he a great interviewee?

One of the best. Interview questions generally seek one of two things – information or a quote. Lang understood this as well as any player I’ve ever covered, and he delivered for the media on both counts, often on the same question. He also provided, without prompting, how players are thinking and feeling in the heat of the action. Talking to him at his locker in Miami after the last-second heroics in ’14 was a real treat. He was genuinely exhausted yet took reporters through the emotion of it all. Those are the moments I’ll remember most about him.

Cody from Thunder Bay, Ontario

I love former Packers as much as the next guy, but it is telling when the team makes decisions not to re-sign them and you see they are retiring a year or two later. I’m not saying they couldn’t still play but not to their previous levels. It’s a harsh reality because they become fan favorites, but they simply weren’t worth the money they were seeking. I think we should appreciate greatly what they have done, but also trust that the people paid to make these decisions know what they’re doing.

I understand and appreciate the fans’ desires to see favorite players finish where they started (and the players’ similar desires, for that matter). But GMs have to make tough decisions all the time, and sometimes they’re not even about the money a player may or may not request. They’re about looking long term at what the team needs and where it needs to go. Delaying those transitions can be as painful, in a different way, as pushing through them.

Jenn from Peoria, IL

I thought the point that Adrian Amos made about the new PI rule on “Good Morning Football” was a really interesting and valid argument. He said that the players don't ever get a do-over so why should the refs get one. Thoughts?

Sorry, apples and avocados.

Dan from Cross Plains, WI

Since all scoring plays are reviewed, do you think there will ever be a play where the offense scores a TD on a pick play, the refs miss the PI call, but scoring review determines offensive PI and nullifies the TD?

A close reading of the new rule language indicates this is entirely possible. With regard to automatic reviews, it reads “all reviewable aspects of the play may be examined and are subject to reversal,” and PI is now a reviewable aspect. Unless I’m misinterpreting something, a defensive coach won’t need to throw a challenge flag to review offensive PI if the play results in a touchdown.

Cameron from Springville, UT

What does the Jordan Howard trade mean for us? I think one of the reasons the Bears did really well is because they had a balanced attack, so who will be the main running back for them? I think without Howard, the Bears might need to pass more, and it will really test our secondary. Thoughts?

I don’t see Matt Nagy abandoning the run, if that’s what you’re thinking. They still have Tarik Cohen, and they signed Mike Davis in free agency. Cordarelle Patterson is another option, after the way the Patriots used him in the backfield last year. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears add a young back in the draft, though they only have five picks, and two of those are seventh-rounders. To answer Monty from Hazen, ND, the Bears must have felt Howard just didn’t fit Nagy’s offense very well.

Brandon from East Brunswick, NJ

Hey guys! Longtime reader but never asked a question. I've been away from the II for a bit recently so forgive me if this question has already been asked, but if the league decides to implement the fourth-and-15 method over the traditional onside kick, don't you think you'd see a lot of hot offenses going for that option anytime throughout the game when they have a defense on the ropes? I know it's a huge risk/reward scenario, but I can see this being abused from its initially intended purpose.

For the record, the fourth-and-15 proposal as an alternative to the onside kick that was voted down stipulated teams would only be able to try it once per game, and it would have to be in the fourth quarter.

Bill from Savannah, GA

Now that the floodgates have cracked a little bit with the PI calls being challengeable, how many teams/players will have to endure the type of treatment Clay Matthews got last season before roughing the passer is also eligible for challenges or review? It's not unreasonable to think we could have been 9-7, at least, without the egregious bias we saw.

I’ve been saying for years the league should add safety-related rules to the list of reviewable plays, whether you’re talking hits on defenseless receivers, body weight on the QB, etc. I think those are extremely difficult to call correctly at live speed and not have replay as a recourse.

Curt from Oronoco, MN

Is the throwing of the challenge flag reviewable?

Nicely done.

Garett from Medford, WI

Hi guys, it's naive to think the new PI rule is just going to correct the egregious calls. Anyone who pays attention can see that this is going to open an enormous can of worms. There's some form of pass interference on every play downfield. Jim from McLean, VA was spot on saying "What is PI" will replace "What is a catch?"

You and he may be right. I prefer to believe, for now, that added scrutiny to PI calls will help define the difference between downfield contact and actual interference. In a sense, yes, “What is PI” will be the question for a while, but over time we’ll get clarity, so maybe we’re actually speaking the same language, just with a different attitude.

Thomas from Dunkerton, IA

Comparing minor league baseball to AAF is comparing apples to oranges. In baseball, the major league teams may not own the actual franchise, but they own the team. The players and coaches are their own. In the AAF they are all free agents. Until the NFL has a minor league system where they "own" the players, an alternate football league in this country will always teeter on failure.

Again, speaking the same language.

Andy from Verona, WI

With Jordy Nelson retiring and the success of the Wisconsin professional teams, I started thinking about which old-school jerseys I would get from each of the three teams. I came up with Jim Taylor, Paul Molitor, and Ricky Pierce. What would be your trio of old-school jerseys?

You putting both Taylor and Molitor in the “old-school” category doesn’t jibe with me, but getting away from that nebulous definition, the collection of 4’s would be hard to pass up – Favre, Molitor, Moncrief.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares some of his favorite images he took of Packers WR Jordy Nelson through the years.

Brady from Madison, WI

Responding to Mark from Amarillo's question in Thursday's Inbox, Jordy and Aaron connected on 40-plus-yard passes a total of 27 times across nine years. To put this in perspective, Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson had 30 such connections in seven years, and Peyton Manning threw 40 of these strikes to Marvin Harrison in 10 years. Considering the Hall of Fame-worthy names in that collection, we're lucky to have had Jordy. Thank you, No. 87.

Thank you, for the research.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

One of my favorite Jordy memories not yet mentioned or shown in his highlight reel…his reaction when catching the touchdown to start the comeback against Dallas. A couple of Jordy's teammates tried to celebrate. Jordy wasn't having it, he didn't even smile. He handed the ball to the ref and ran back to the sideline. That play was quintessential 87 to me. Leadership without saying a word. His body language said everything. We're coming back and we're going to win. All business.

If there’s one facet of Nelson’s leadership he’s never received enough credit for, it was in ’17 when Rodgers was out and Adams began emerging as the offense’s go-to player. He harbored no jealousy and never questioned or fought it. He let Adams flourish, because he knew it’s what his teammate and the team needed most.

Steve from Wichita, KS

With the draft being top-heavy on defense, do you see a chance that the Packers go DE edge with both first-round picks? It would create that competition that you speak of.

I will continue to say anything and everything is on the table for the Packers in this draft.

Joe from Champaign, IL

Last year was full of stupid losses, big injuries, and some bad luck. This year so far we have a new coach, made free-agency noise, have young defenders waiting to make a big leap, and I love having picks 12, 30, and 44. I am ridiculously confident about this upcoming season, I think we can bounce back and be serious contenders. Am I setting myself up for failure?

Another thing I’ll continue to say is optimism without expectations is a good way to live.

Brad from Gallatin, TN

With the success of Aaron Donald, and potential of Ed Oliver, does a player like Gilbert Brown have a place in today's NFL?

Yes, but in a much more limited role. The ol’ Gravedigger wouldn’t play nearly as many snaps per game today.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

I was just wondering, when a player comes in for a pre-draft visit, who is he meeting with? Coaches, scouts, doctors? Is he there for a full day, or does he just knock out a tour and an interview and then go grab a burger at Kroll's? I've got a pretty good sense of what the combine is like but I don't have as clear a picture of pre-draft visits.

They meet mostly with coaches and personnel staff, check out the facilities. They might meet with the medical staff if there are questions about their combine check, or if they didn’t attend the combine. The Packers traditionally have used a lot of their pre-draft visits on potential undrafted players, like a recruiting tool. I don’t know if Gutekunst has altered that tendency at all.

Sreedharan from Pewaukee, WI

NFL coaches’ challenges should take a page out of cricket's challenges: In cricket, reviews can have three different results. Stay with referee, reverse referee's call, not enough evidence to overturn either way, which means stay with on-field call. In cricket, the challenging team loses the challenge and timeout only in the first case. This enables coaches to challenge to the merits of the situation, and not have to worry about not having challenges at crucial stages of the game.

No thanks. Just give me two-strikes-and-you’re-out.

Will from Glendale, AZ

Be honest Spoff, how productive were you at work on Opening Day?

Writing Inbox lends itself to keeping one eye on a ballgame, I won’t lie. I got my other work done for the day before first pitch.

Gary from Davenport, IA

I saw the big Powerball jackpot was sold in Wisconsin. The Powerball number was 12. Coincidence? I think not.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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