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Inbox: It's the longest day of the year

Expect the unexpected at every turn this season

Head Coach Matt LaFleur

Matthew from Glasgow, Scotland

Hey guys, hope you're well. With all the drama going on I haven't thought about American football or been on since the draft and the new season has crept up on me. What's one thing I should watch out for in Game 1?

Unscouted looks. I think teams are going to take them to a whole new level during these first few weeks of the 2020 season. Without a preseason, NFL head coaches and coordinators have had time concoct all sorts of plays under a cloak of darkness. Expected the unexpected at every turn this season, but especially Week 1.

Hugh from Leicester, NC

I don't think I've ever gotten to know the players so well before the season started. First off, hearing the questions clearly at their interviews makes all the difference in the world, so we definitely expect that moving forward! What strikes me is how incredibly different their personalities all are, while still buying into the team philosophy. Do you think this a product of the Packers' culture, or are all teams like this?

Most have been playing football since they were kids. They understand and appreciate the idea of "team." While establishing a healthy and productive culture is a big part of the process, credit really goes to these 80 men who come together from different backgrounds and all walks of life. Over time, they want to win for the men alongside them. It's what makes the great teams great, but also what makes today so difficult when you have to part company with a third of the roster. Without a doubt, this is the longest day of the NFL season.

Chuck from Dade City, FL

Hey II, I had a quick question about the big TV screens in the stadiums. With no crowd in attendance, will they be turned off? And thanks for keeping us up to date on our team; it has helped me a bunch in this crazy time!

No, the video boards will most certainly be running. If nothing else, that's still a resource for coaches on potential challenges. The Packers had them on during Sunday's practice.

Alex from Duluth, MN

II, both of you fine gentlemen (along with AR12) have been touting the solid training camp by Marquez Valdes-Scantling. In contrast, it has mostly been crickets on Allen Lazard. Might I persuade you to offer a prediction on who currently has the leg up for the No. 2 receiver spot in Week 1?

I'm not sure how this sentiment got out there that Lazard had a quiet camp. It's not like he was dropping balls or failing to get open. He did fine. I just think the bigger story is how much better Valdes-Scantling looked this summer than a year ago. I don't get into ranking depth charts but Lazard and MVS clearly are the next two up after Davante Adams and both will have big roles this upcoming season.

Aaron from Black River Falls, WI

A lot of people were skeptical of the draft Gutey had, but for me I feel he's done a good job at finding the guys he feels fit the system and organization. What are your early thoughts on this year's class?

They looked a lot better than I expected, without a physical offseason program. AJ Dillon, Kamal Martin and Jon Runyan looked great in practice. I thought Josiah Deguara and Jordan Love flashed a lot of potential and even the two seventh-round picks, Jonathan Garvin and Vernon Scott, made a few nice plays. I suspect that group will be represented on the playing field sooner than later.

The Green Bay Packers held a practice inside Lambeau Field on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, a day before reducing the active roster to 53 players.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

It is going to be hard to predict the 53-man roster this year because of the strategy that goes into who might clear waivers. How much do you think the Packers will play those games compared to previous years?

I don't know if it'll be any more or less than other years. Brian Gutekunst still wants to build the best 53 possible going into the regular-season opener in Minnesota. As I mentioned earlier this week, the only thing I wonder is how many special-team stalwarts, league-wide, end up on practice squads to make room for developmental draft picks.

Dale from Palmyra, NE

You've stated a team which claims a player off waivers has to put them on their 53. How soon can that player be sent down to the practice squad?

The player must clear waivers again before signing to a practice squad. For example, the Packers claimed Tim Williams last year and then released him a few weeks later. He was subject to waivers before eventually signing to Green Bay's practice squad.

Sal from Hailey, ID

Based on your practice observations, which defensive player looks most likely to have Pettine's voice in his ear on the field?

It's Christian Kirksey. I don't think that's a big secret.

Abiegail from Santa Clarita, CA

What's happening in the photo of an airborne Tim Boyle with Aaron Rodgers?

Isn't it obvious, Abiegail? Tim is clearly attacking from the top rope! Nah, those two have been wrestling in practice all week long. On Friday, the two playfully tussled all the way to the ground before stretching. The UFC/WWE/AEW fan in me was all for it. Lucas Patrick seemed to enjoy it, as well.

Jessica from Tucson, AZ

I just tore up my knee for the second time dismounting my horse. Waiting on an MRI, the doctor thinks it's an MCL/ACL tear. How do athletes that have had a knee injury have enough confidence ever to go 100% again?

I'm very sorry to hear that, Jessica. It comes down to trusting your rehab and your body. I remember hearing that over and over again when Jordy Nelson was working his way back in 2015 – strengthen your lower half, get the confidence back in your knee and press on. All the best to you in your recovery.

David from Florence, AZ

I have always wondered when a receiver runs a route a specified number of yards how they determine when they are there. Do they count steps, seconds, look at yard markers, pick the spot before they start?

Footwork, footwork, footwork. I don't know if it's as specific as "I need to take four steps to reach my route," but it is an exercise in field awareness. Receivers must know their leverage and when to break off the route.

Tom from Scranton, PA

Am I the only person in the world that thinks Robert Tonyan should be the starting tight end?

But what is a starter anymore? The guy who takes the first rep of the game? I care more about snaps played and Jimmy Graham's departure vacated nearly 800 of them. I think a healthy Robert Tonyan has earned the right to see a good chunk of that work.

Julian from Gastonia, NC

Despite the Packers' success playing division opponents in the first couple of weeks, I still don't like seeing those games so early on their schedule.

I actually think it works to the Packers' advantage – you get two of the loudest stadiums out of the way without fans in the first three weeks of the season. Both the Vikings and Saints will be tough matchups but that's the NFL. There's a tough slate of games in every schedule.

Beto from Gills Rock, WI

Like everyone, love the II! So, being the first game of the season, how far do you think Minnesota will "push the envelope" with piped-in noise and that stupid horn? They've done it before, and got caught. Will be interesting.

We've had quite a few questions about this. After the game, everything is submitted to the league and reviewed. That's not to say the Viking still couldn't pull a fast one but there would be a paper trail to answer for.

Al from Green Bay, WI

Spoff made note of Greg Roberts coming off the PUP list, and now practicing. I know he has an injury history, but – when healthy – what can he bring to the table for the Packers?

The Packers really liked Roberts coming out of Baylor but I couldn't give you an honest evaluation of him. Roberts is a tall, lengthy edge rusher but I've yet to see him practice other than performing individual drills during an in-season format.

Craig from Cedar Rapids, IA

Does Kamal Martin need to be on the first 53-man roster to be brought back later in the year? I was hoping for him to be defensive rookie of the year.

Yes. Any player who is going to be out for an extended period of time with an injury must make the initial 53-man roster before being eligible to be designated to return from IR later this season.

Jacob from Mukwonago, WI

Are there any players on the team that you might recommend to follow on social media? Anyone that I might not think of initially?

Adrian Amos and David Bakhtiari on Twitter, and Za'Darius Smith, Tim Boyle and Jamaal Williams on Instagram.

Josh from Houston, TX

You've been saying it all preseason, but it didn't sink in until I saw the screenshot of DaShaun Amos' interview. Wes's uplifting story of some NFL longshot is never going to be told because of COVID. That makes me sad.

It doesn't necessarily have to be me, but it is disappointing we didn't get to know more of these guys this offseason. I thoroughly enjoyed our interview with Amos on Thursday. I can only imagine how cool it must have been to sign an NFL contract for the first time since he was released by the Giants at the end of camp in 2017. Hopefully, we get a chance to tell the tale of some of these practice-squad players who make it later this season.

See headshots and action shots of the complete Green Bay Packers 2020 roster. #BuildingOurTeam

Neal from Ft Worth, TX

I felt like an idiot after Mike's reply to my question about placing Love among the four "protected" players on the PS. My understanding was that four could be put on the PS and other teams would not be able to poach them so I mistakenly assumed they would not be subject to waivers. Wes, please clarify the stipulations regarding the four veteran exemptions because I'm confused. And can you give an example of why any team would expose a veteran to waivers?

So many things could play into that decision but let's just say it's because that veteran wasn't "good" enough to make the team. That player still might help a team at some point in the season, so it's beneficial to keep them in the fold. Think of it like a Triple-A baseball player. I've said for years the NFL needs to expand its practice-squad rules to close the gap that allows second- and third-year veterans to fall through the cracks if they fall off the 53. This measure does that and allows players to stay current with a playbook if they're activated for gameday.

Trevor from Cheyenne, WY

Besides the Washington football team not having to worry about Dwayne Haskins missing plays because he's taking selfies with fans, what other team will have the biggest advantage not having fans in the stands for home games?

Everyone keeps joking the Chargers will be the least affected but frankly they'll probably like this format the best – since their stadium won't be infiltrated by visiting fans this year.

Aleks from Frankfurt, Germany

As a lifelong Packers fan from Germany I have no question, just wanted to say how supportive I am of the Packers and proud of your answer you gave Thomas from Hayward, WI. Social justice is not political. Wise words.

We are here to talk football and that means addressing the thoughts and concerns of the men who put on those helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads. Spoff and I aren't here purposely looking to argue with anyone, but it's our responsibility to let the experiences and perspective of these coaches and players be known.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Lot of shots being taken at Demovsky recently. Deserved? Payback? Or is this a case of when you're on top there will always be those looking to take you down?

I've never looked up to Rob. He's only 5-6.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Wes, I enjoy evidences you drop showing the warm friendship and esteem you hold for Mr. Demovsky. Outside of II he is one of the very few covering the Packers I find worth serious attention. Just wondering, did Mike Vandermause mentor you at all? I held his writing in high regard, but it wasn't until his parting message that I saw inside his sterling core character.

I owe everything I have to Mike. He gave me my big break 14 years ago and fought hard for me to get a full-time job at the Press-Gazette when I graduated in 2010 (right after the recession). Two years after that, he promoted me to the Packers beat and the rest is history. I only got to work the beat with the trio of Mike, Rob and Pete Dougherty for one season but it'll forever be one of my favorite seasons covering the team. All three of those individuals mean a great deal to me…even Rob.

Dave from Comer, GA

Oh man, I can't believe they kept (insert player name here)! How can BG keep his job? They should have kept (player name) instead! I just wanted to get an early jump on the bandwagon.

I have no doubt that's what awaits Spoff when he opens his email to write Monday's column. Have a great weekend, everybody.