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Inbox: It certainly has everyone talking

The re-signing of Keisean Nixon went well beyond just his contributions on special teams

Packers kickoff
Packers kickoff

Patrick from Coppell, TX

Greetings from Texas, Wes! I am curious what your thoughts are on the new kickoff format. I haven't watched any XFL so I do not know how the new rules will impact the Packers and Keisean Nixon (favorably or unfavorably). GB had one of the best kick returners last year, and for some unexplained reason, I think he will have his best year yet in this new framework.

It certainly has everyone talking. I understand the Packers' reservations about doing this one-year trial run during the regular season. Like Mark Murphy said, there very well could be some unintended consequences of that. At the end of the day, everyone wants the kickoff return to stick around. Nobody wants to see it go away. There are just going to be a lot of unknowns about this hybrid version until we actually see it on the field.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Nixon re-signs and the majority of owners vote to change the kickoff rules (which we imagine will benefit the Pack). Then, I see it reported that GB voted against the rule change? Man, the inter-web is a weird place.

As I outlined in our “Five things learned” story, the Packers would have preferred the trial happen during the preseason and that's why they voted against it. Now that hybrid kickoff has been implemented, however, Murphy said the Packers fully plan to support the measure. As excited as Green Bay is about Nixon's prowess as a returner, his re-signing went well beyond just contributions on special teams. Nixon's also their starting nickel cornerback.

Mark from Westminster, CO

I'll have to agree with Wes that the new kickoff rule seems rather gimmicky. That said, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how special teams coaches adapt their return strategy to the new rule. Having a player like Nixon is definitely going to tilt the field in the Packers' direction when receiving… it's the defending I'm a bit nervous about.

It brings the play back into the spotlight, for sure. I wrote this on my Instagram story on Tuesday, but Green Bay is uniquely positioned for this change. Not only did the Packers re-sign Nixon but they also brought back several key coverage players. I'm excited to see what Nixon does with the opportunity. He's a cornerback with a running back's mindset. He sees the field as well as any kick returner in the game.

Rob from Wilmington, NC

Looking at the new kickoff rule, is there a minimum distance the ball needs to travel? Could we see a high-lob kick that could land in the zone where the two lines are and let them fight for it? There are no more onside kicks, but could this still be exploited like this?

The kicker can do whatever he wants as long as the ball falls in the "landing zone" between the goal line and 20-yard line. One way or another, that ball must get to the 20 or it's coming back to the 40 (no different than a kick out of bounds). You can kick the ball through the end zone, but it's then placed at the 30 – that's back five yards from the original proposal of the 35. If it hits inside the landing zone and bounces into the end zone, it's placed at the 20. Coincidentally, what had been the customary 25-yard starting line is now obsolete for the moment.

George from North Mankato, MN

Outside of Nixon, which Packers' special team (we-fense) players do you think will benefit most from the kickoff fouled change?

It should help stalwarts such as Eric Wilson, Kristian Welch and Robert Rochell, who all predominately play special teams. If it's permanently enacted, the version of the play should also benefit older kickers who might not be blasting the ball five rows deep into the stands anymore. It replaces the power element of ball striking with a bit more finesse.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

Hey Wes, I must say you are holding up well, at least from this reader's perspective. Answers still sharp and on-point. My question is in regards to having to announce an onside kick if you are going to do one in the fourth quarter. Does the rule say how far it needs to go (besides the 10 yards) or otherwise define "onside kick?" It seems a team could announce one and then squib it 20-30 yards downfield. Is that still an onside kick next year?

That won't be allowed. The NFL says if an onside kick goes beyond the setup zone untouched, the kicking team would be penalized and the return team would start the drive at the "A20-yard line," or where the ball was originally kicked.

Nathan from New Lisbon, WI

Since the new kickoff rules are the talk of the town, I think it's memorable knowing that we'll never get another moment like the beginning of Super Bowl 44's second half. I don't think it's a stretch to say the Saints likely don't win the game without that onside kick.

Again, it's a one-year trial. Roger Goodell said it himself that there's still some tinkering to be done with the new kickoff. But yes, a surprise onside kick like that is not possible under these new rules.

Dan from Richmond, VA

Just checking to be sure I've got this right: The NFL rule-makers banned the hip-drop tackle, which no one seemed to be clamoring for. But they didn't even consider banning the "Tush Push" (aka the "Love Shove"), which every fan outside of Philly seems to abhor?

The swivel hip-drop was banned due to a player-safety issue. While it may not be flagged regularly, the swivel variant must be deemed a penalty for the NFL to issue a subsequent fine. The "tush-push" is not categorized by the league as unsafe, and the NFL's stance is the play doesn't yield an unfair advantage. Philadelphia is just better at it than everybody else.

Greg from Perkasie, PA

In regards to the hip-drop tackle rule, I seem to be in the minority, but I am completely fine with the rule. It reminds me of banning horse-collar tackles and facemask grabbing, which I think the majority of people are OK with. Hopefully, the hip-drop rule will force defenders to focus on better technique moving forward to make the game a little safer. Watch some rugby, there are guys flying around the field able to tackle others of any size using proper techniques that limit injuries.

The change has been made. It's up to coaches and players to adapt now. Like the kickoff, we won't know exactly how this will play out until we see it in real-time.

Megan from Noblesville, IN

If the Packers were to bring in another free-agent safety, do you think it would be Julian Blackmon or a reunion with Micah Hyde? I'd happily support either.

Brian Gutekunst told reporters Monday that all options are on the table but also acknowledged the Packers traditionally like free agents who still have their best years ahead of them. For that reason, I think it's more likely Gutekunst follows his 2019 blueprint when he drafted Darnell Savage to complement Adrian Amos.

Joe from Surprise, AZ

Speaking of gadget plays and players like Nixon on offense, when was the last time a GB non-QB threw a pass since Paul Hornung? I used to love the old HB option pass! Do any current skill players have experience or skill in throwing?

Dontayvion Wicks literally just did it. He threw a 14-yard pass to Aaron Jones in Denver.

Eric from DeMotte, IN

Wes, with the UFL spring season starting up on Saturday, whom on the Packers' staff will keep an eye on possible additions to the 90-man roster? Thanks for keeping us informed and entertained!

The Packers' pro personnel guys all keep tabs on the UFL. In addition to helping Green Bay land Daniel Whelan and Alex McGough, the spring leagues have served as a valuable portal for finding players when injuries pop up during training camp.

Jeff from Ripon, WI

Do you see the Packers drafting a quicker/finesse running back in the draft? I picture Josh Jacobs and AJ Dillon as bruisers to get the first down and not so much with breakaway speed.

Jacobs is faster than you're giving him credit, but I still think the Packers will add a quicker running back to the room over the next month. I've learned kids can't live on peanut butter alone. They need some jelly, too.

Kenneth from Oceanport, NJ

As per your comment, "The door is always open," do you foresee a scenario where the door is open for Aaron Jones to return to the Packers next year or the following year? Or has that door closed?

Ahman Green came back. Ryan Grant came back. James Jones came back. Randall Cobb came back. Tramon Williams came back twice. Never say never.

Jeffery from Brooklyn, WI

Hey guys. Are they looking to have the new kicker push Anders Carlson or is he a replacement?

While nothing is official until it's official, the reported signing of Greg Joseph signals to me a kicking competition that'll play out through the summer.

Adam from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, I'm glad the owners decided to give your taste buds a big sample of the new kickoff rules next season on a one-year trial basis. Do you recall any significant rule changes in the past approved on a one-year trial basis that reverted back to the original rule after the one-year trial?

Anyone remember when pass interference was reviewable?

Hal from Lanesboro, MN

I know it's verboten to peek into the draft room but am wondering if there were ever a possibility to take a photo of the Packers draft board and publish it, say, 10 years later?

The media would still make a mountain from those molehills. I also think some aspects of life are better left as mysteries. Gutekunst and his scouts dedicate their lives to building those boards, making numerous sacrifices to do the best job they can for the Packers. Personally, I don't feel I'm entitled to see it. I haven't earned that.

Darell from Waukesha, WI

Can you submit a name for the draft? I'd like to submit Chop Robinson to be drafted at 25th? He is something. Thanks.

I did his Prospect Primer. Let's see if I finally hit on one.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Cooper DeJean, Cooper DeJean, Cooper DeJean. I figure if I repeat his name over and over in the Inbox it will manifest itself into a draft day selection, or at the very least a Prospect Primer voiced by our very own famous Weston. What's not to like? Plus-athlete at a position of need, attended a college in serious consideration for DBU (Go Hawks!). So, for good measure, Cooper DeJean, Cooper DeJean, Cooper DeJean!

I have not voiced a Primer for DeJean. The good news? I'm not sure I've ever done a voiceover for someone the Packers actually ended up drafting.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

Wes, the history teacher. What would your favorite era be? And would Cliff approve?

History professor, not teacher. My favorite era is the turn of the 20th Century and Teddy Roosevelt's administration. I have him ranked third on my all-time list of U.S. Presidents, but he's also my favorite.

Dominic from Riverside, IL

Has the Packers ever suggested a new rule like the Lions did with the third challenge rule?

I don't think so, but Murphy also served for years on the competition committee. If there's something the Packers wanted to look into, I'm pretty sure it went through that channel.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Wes, has either Young Hod or your horse-sized dog ever executed a hip-drop tackle on you? Were they penalized?

Yes, and both were sent to timeout.

Nathan from Plover, WI

Wes, DX or nWo? I remember being in Milwaukee for the nWo's return at No Way Out back in 2002. I got goosebumps when the theme music hit.

DX. Not even close.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Wes, this may equate to telling a kid there is no Santa Claus, but did you know pro wrestling is fake?

Did you know "Star Wars" is fake? Did you know "Dune" is fake? Did you know "Game of Thrones" is fake? Did you know "Breaking Bad" is fake? Did you know "Independence Day" didn't actually happen? Shall I continue?

Jake from Lansing, MI

Wes, I'm guessing the NFL schedule maker is either protecting their job or was one of the original artificial intelligence adopters. To me, I'd think the NFL is overthinking the schedule. They just need to spend 30 minutes setting up a scheduling prompt for Chat GPT and presto, the schedule is made. Has there been any discussion about using artificial intelligence in the NFL world?

That ship is coming and perhaps it's already here. I don't have the manifest.

Rod from Eau Claire, WI

While reading Tuesday's column, like I suspect many other readers probably did, I had to google Valjean A. Pinchbeck, Jr. I was impressed with the description of his "computer-like" mind and dedication to creating a fair schedule. Since it seems the schedule never pleases anyone, I've always thought it might just be easier to just draw team names from a helmet. Thanks for educating us while also entertaining.

Just goes to show how some things are un-ChatGPT-able. Have a great Wednesday.

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