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Inbox: It all starts here in Cincinnati

It’s important for coaches to see how young players respond when things get competitive


Steve from Ankeny, IA

I have to admit I've never been much of a fan of preseason NFL games. However, this year, with all the young talent on this team I simply cannot wait! Regardless of the outcome, this is going to be a fun season.

This could be the most compelling preseason the Packers have embarked on during my 12 years covering the team. There is a plethora of young skill-position players to develop, several starting battles on defense to decide, and addition of Anders Carlson on special teams. The preseason will be essential to sorting everything out. And it all starts here in Cincinnati.

Dwight from Brooklyn, NY

The recent discussion regarding practices using early vs. late-round draft picks (and, for that matter, the undrafted walk-ons) got me thinking. Regarding practices themselves, do coaches deliberately insert a player on a high-pressure play, like third-and-goal to go with 30 seconds on the clock, or something similar, just to see how he will perform? Or is it more to see how the player responds during any given sequence of plays?

I think the approach you outlined is reflected more in how Matt LaFleur has installed live-tackling periods with the undrafted free agents and late-round picks, all of whom might not get into preseason games until the second half. Tyler Goodson busted a big touchdown run during live tackling last week and Tariq Carpenter made his big play at Family Night during the same period on Saturday. Simulating game situation is a good teaching tactic, but I think it's just as important for coaches to see how young players respond when things get "competitive" in practice.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Wes. So, who stood out and who had a tough day at the first joint practice? Thanks.

The scuffle between Elgton Jenkins and Germaine Pratt, and later D.J. Reader ignited some fireworks, but I continue to be impressed by Carrington Valentine. I was expecting to see Jaire Alexander going against Tee Higgins and Ja'Mar Chase Wednesday, but he wasn't participating in the team portion of practice. So, Valentine – the Cincinnati kid – got his chance and registered a couple PBUs in red zone. Valentine is like the youngest guy on the roster, but he doesn't back down from anything. I'm getting some Sam Shields vibes from the young man – quiet, humble and confident.

Jake from Regina, Canada

Any word on what led to the fights at joint practice? I'm assuming something had to be pretty bad to get Big E fired up like that. Glad everyone seemed to come out of it all without injury.

From my perspective, it seemed like Elgton Jenkins made a good block on Germaine Pratt and then tensions flared…and flared…and flared some more. I don't know the long and short of it, but obviously Reader felt some type of way. I'm an Elgton Jenkins guy. I have a ton of respect for that dude, both the way he plays and carries himself. From my perspective, Jenkins wasn't looking to start anything but definitely was willing to finish it.

Anthony from Sturgeon Bay, WI

II guys, after hearing that Aaron Jones was putting in extra time fielding punts, I am wondering if other players are allowed to "experiment" with other positions or does the risk of injury keep them from playing around with atypical drills? These are all talented, highly skilled athletes that must be tempted to play around with the various equipment and training drills.

If it makes sense and there isn't an imminent threat of injury. For example, Keisean Nixon ran through individuals with the receivers for one period during practice last week. Maybe the Packers have something up their sleeve with him, but a pass-catching drill is also beneficial to Nixon's exploits as a cornerback and returner.

James from Panama City Beach, FL

I haven't heard much on the first-round pick (No. 13) except he looks the part. Has he shown anything in practice to validate the 13th overall pick?

Oh, for sure. I thought Lukas Van Ness might have had his best practice to date in Cincinnati, winning a couple one-on-one rushes. He's stacking days and getting better, but some fans watch it with the astronomical expectations. We went through this once already with Rashan Gary. Barring injury, Van Ness may follow the same developmental pattern as Gary in 2019.

Doug from Green Bay, WI

Does the defense seem to be sticking to last year's perplexing strategy of backpedaling beyond the sticks and giving a big cushion on third-and-long, or are they playing tighter?

As's Rob Demovsky wrote earlier this week, the Packers' defense is playing much more aggressively this summer. Time will tell how things look in the regular season, but Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas have been pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage all camp.

John from Cameron, WI

It seems to me that in the most recent drafts the Packers have drafted for speed. Is speed more important on grass vs. artificial or does that advantage remain constant?

Speed is speed, but I do think top-end speed is more valuable on artificial fast tracks, especially when the temperature dips outside. Still, that doesn't guarantee anything. It's what you do on the playing surface that determines whether you win or not – not who can run the fastest 40.

Jerry from Trevor, WI

Hey guys, I had a chance to see some USFL games this year and Alex McGough was definitely one of the best in that league. He reminds me of Favre in his early years with some of his take-control energy and joy of the game. I also saw some pinpoint accuracy, as well. From a health standpoint, how much does he have left in his tank from playing a USFL season and how well is he matching up in the big leagues? I noticed he's third on the depth chart.

McGough has a big personality. His on-field antics with Jordan Love and Sean Clifford have been quite comical. For a guy like McGough who's trying to make this roster, I think that USFL season actually helps him stay in a groove. Once the regular season begins, this is Jordan Love's team, so I don't worry too much about overexertion like I would a running back or linebacker.

Mark from Geneva, IL

One player we haven't heard much about is Anthony Johnson Jr. There was a lot of buzz about being able to get him so late in the draft and his level of talent, especially at a wide-open position. Any updates on how he is looking?

I think we'll see, and hear, more from Johnson in the preseason. The Packers are sorting out who'll start next to Darnell Savage at safety and that's resulted in Rudy Ford, Jonathan Owens, Tarvarius Moore and Dallin Leavitt receiving a bulk of the first- and second-team snaps.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

It's crazy how fast rosters turn over in the NFL. Mike brought up Raven Greene in yesterday's column, I had forgotten all about him! While in Philly to watch an Eagles vs. Cowboys game a few years back (my gf is a huge Eagles fan) I ran into a kid who went to James Madison with Raven. He said he was Eagles all the way but was rooting for Raven to make an impact for the Pack. Time flies when you're not the one suiting up in the NFL…

I'm a big fan of Raven, both the player and the person. He had some tough luck with injuries, but I always felt like Greene could play at the NFL level.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

Great story on Sean Rhyan, Wes! In this case, the word “intentional” rang out like a bell. Both you and Mike write articles that seem always to incorporate life lessons. Is this intentional or what naturally flows from highly motivated and functional athletes?

Thanks Margeaux. I think there are life lessons to be learned from every story – written or told – from every walk of life. We are our lived experiences.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, in your article on Sean Rhyan, he mentioned dietary changes and implementing new lifting and cardio regimens so he could "... get back into football shape a little bit quicker." Would you please explain what getting "back into football shape" means to a returning professional athlete?

Running and lifting go a long way, but the endless grind of training camp prepares NFL players in a way that cannot be replicated. That's what professional football players rely on to endure a 60-minute game every week for nearly five months.

George from Duluth, MN

Enjoyed the Sean Rhyan story! I'm excited every time I read, see, or hear about a player's growth. Wondering though what to make of being suspended "for violating the NFL 's policy on substances"? Not just in Sean's case, but all stories with that message, it seems we're left to just assume what the violation was. And since I don't know any better, I just guess it was steroids? If it was steroids, would the official public report differ from "violated NFL policy on performance enhancing substances"?

Rhyan told Jason Wilde last week that he believes his positive test was triggered by an ingredient in a supplement he took during the season. What's done is done. Rhyan paid the price and has moved forward. This year is a clean slate.

The Green Bay Packers held a joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at Kettering Health Practice Fields in preparation for their preseason opener on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.

Kelly from Stoughton, WI

Thanks for all you and your teams do. With recent depth chart release one thing that was notable was Josiah Deguara listed at FB. What's the meaning of this? I understand he is more the H-back but is there an advantage to listing him at FB vs. TE? Are they trying to announce what their base formation is? Why would anyone do that? Sorry I feel I have gotten off-track.

I think it's just semantics and more of showing the uniqueness of the position Deguara plays here. It's a slight modification from what the Packers showed in the past when they listed Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan as their starting tight ends.

Joe from Hampshire, IL

Hi Wes, just how spicy was that bowl of chili/spaghetti? Root beer does not help as well as milk, eh? He has to show out in preseason game action, but could we see Daniel Whelan kept on practice squad, much like we had a placekicker there last season?

Skyline was good. It had a cinnamon flavor to it, which I didn't expect. I wouldn't say it was life-changing, but I enjoyed it. Whelan has looked good so far, but it's also August, not December. One of Pat O'Donnell's best attributes is his knowledge and experience kicking in the Midwest. Whelan certainly has an NFL leg. The Packers haven't been shy about keeping specialists on the practice squad now that you can carry up to 16 guys. He's in the hunt.

Chris from Milwaukee, WI

I know Packers fans are everywhere, but I'm curious about how TV stations in places as far flung as Alaska get included in the Packers Television Network. Does the franchise throw affiliations wide open? Do individual stations approach the franchise and ask to be included (and if so, who says "Yea" or "Nay" to the requests)? Do fans contact the Packers and suggest/beg for their local stations to be part of the network? I noticed this a season or so ago, but only today managed to ask.

There are three basic tenets: A) The state cannot have an NFL team. B) There must be a direct line to Wisconsin through states that don't have an NFL team (e.g. Wisconsin to Iowa to South Dakota to North Dakota to Montana, etc.) and the stations need to reach out to the Packers for inclusion. Hawaii and Alaska are considered open states since they don't connect to the lower 48.

Brian from Chesapeake, VA

The "Yikes" and "Wows" made me recall ESPN's Chris Berman questioning Brett, his second or third year starting, is he hamburger or is he steak? The national media landscape has changed dramatically in 30 years, but how would Brett have been portrayed by the national media these days should, in an alternate universe, Brett be replacing Aaron?

The 18 interceptions a year might have been a sticking point with some fans, but greatness is greatness. Both had it however it manifested on Sundays.

Gary from Davenport, IA

While Larry may have delivered a classic line on "Three Things," my favorite line from him was at the premiere of "Pitch Perfect 2" which had a few Packer players in the movie. He tried to get an interview from Anna Kendrick, the star of the movie, but she ignored him. So, Larry looked into the camera and said, "Pitch slapped again." Hard to top that one.

Larry is a Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Famer who's been the Packers' radio color analyst for 25 years and yet I'd argue that was his finest moment. As you wrote that, I can still hear Larry's voice calling out, "Ana" repeatedly. I know that was a wild trip for Larry and our esteemed photog, Mike Vandersnick.

Mike from Washington, D.C.

My son Peter was born this summer and I want to show him good examples of other similarly named lads. Who is the best known or most formidable Packer named Peter (or Pete)? I can only think of Green Bay Notre Dame high school alumnus (and winner of the eponymous Holder of the Year Award) punter Peter Mortell, who spent time in camp in 2016.

Mortell never appeared in a regular-season game for the Packers, so he isn't included on the all-time roster. There are four "Petes" in Packers' history, though: RB Pete Van Valkenburg (1974), TE Pete Lammons (1972), B Pete Regnier (1922), and G/LB Pete Tinsley (1938-39, 1941-45). Take your pick, young Peter.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

One integral part of the team that has demonstrated incredible growth over the past few seasons is Mike "The Mic-Man Spofford." His "sponsor business" gets more flavorful with every episode of "Unscripted." Did he reach out to a broadcaster for tips, or is he just a natural? Thanks for everything, fellas.

Spoff knows how his bread is buttered. Have a great Thursday.

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