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Inbox: It’s time to get back to it

LB Za'Darius Smith
LB Za'Darius Smith

Venny from Montgomery, AL

Regarding your response to Theologos from Athens, Greece, which NFL team currently has the longest playoff drought? It does seems as if a winning season is usually one or two seasons away for most losing franchises. The Bears did go from 5-11 in 2017 to 12-4 in 2018. Training camp has arrived! Are you excited?

It’s time to get back to it. Good morning!

Dean from Ottawa, IL

Will you give us your insight on releasing Mike Daniels? I don't understand, but I don't have your big-picture view of things.

Daniels had a great seven-year run in Green Bay. I believe his 29 career sacks are the most for a Packers defensive tackle. Daniels’ big personality and backstory made him an easy guy for fans to root for. As Brian Gutekunst said, these decisions are never easy. However, the Packers have a vision for their defensive front and feel confident they have the necessary pieces to see it through. The part I envy least about a general manager’s job is knowing when to move on from a veteran and trust the young talent on a roster. Either way, I expect Daniels won’t be a free agent for long.

Christopher from Savage, MN

You guys said in “Packers Unscripted” there would be tough decisions along the D-line, but seeing Daniels go is surprising to say the least! Hopefully, he lands on his feet with a new team (just not in the NFC North). Do you have a favorite Mike Daniels moment, on or off the field?

I didn’t anticipate it happening that soon, but I have a lot of really positive memories of Mike’s time in Green Bay. He was the first to come down after that infamous team meeting in 2016 and congratulate me on my new job. There also was the time Paul Imig and I snuck Mike into a WWE Raw event back in 2014. The show had already started and Paul texted Mike that his friend and former Iowa teammate, Ettore “Big E” Ewen, was wrestling on the card. Mike, who lives in Green Bay year-round, drove to the Resch Center, got a ticket at the window and joined us mid-show. I ended up talking WWE security into allowing us backstage so Mike could reunite with Big E. By some act of God, it worked and we got to hang out for the rest of the show. It was a memorable night.

Clay from Goodyear, AZ

I’m a huge Mike Daniels fan and will cheer for him wherever he goes. He has been a stalwart for us and his absence will be felt, though we hope his productivity will not be missed. To that end, I see an open field competing for his snaps. Do you see a front-runner?

It’s on the young guys now – just like it was when Daniels helped supplant Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji five years ago. The defensive front will start with Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. Those two will eat a majority of those snaps, but Montravius Adams, Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke all have to step their game up, too. We had a hunch the defense was going to look different in 2019, but it’s definitely official now.

Cheri from Joliet, IL

Do you think Z. Smith now gets more DL reps or is it more likely to be a rotation?

Za'Darius Smith and Rashan Gary will both be part of the interior rush. They can do a lot of things, which is why the Packers acquired both guys. It sounds like Smith is pretty dynamic inside on passing downs, but it’s going to be another month or so before we see the plan come together.

Jason from Aurora, WI

I didn’t see that coming. I’ll miss watching Big Diesel play and his charitable work was unsurpassed. I wish him nothing but the best. What does his departure say about our young group of D-linemen?

A tip of the cap to Mike and his wife, Heaven, for the tremendous contributions they made to the Green Bay community. Gutekunst and the front office wouldn’t have made this move if they didn’t feel good about the D-line. Lowry and Lancaster really flashed down the stretch after all those injuries hit last season. They helped keep that unit afloat and now have the chance to build on that momentum.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

One of the 40 locks to make the team has been released. We know so little.

An important lesson I never forget whilst covering an NFL team.

Jordan from Walpole, MA

I understand the cap reasons of letting Mike Daniels go but I don’t understand the timing. If it was to clear up cap space, why not do it closer to free agency so the money could be used towards the team?

Gutekunst said there were some trade talks this offseason before dying down in the last couple weeks.

Jay from Wilmington, NC

So who is the unlucky person to inform Daniels he is not part of the team anymore? I bet he is gonna be a bit ticked off. I know I am. He will be missed!

I don’t know who delivered the news but Gutekunst did speak to Daniels, which I respect. He also stepped in front of the podium Wednesday afternoon and explained himself. That’s the right thing to do. I’m sure Daniels was disappointed, but Gutekunst said he handled it like a pro.

Ed from Tucson, AZ

I just finished watching today's “Packers Unscripted” episode in which you mentioned that the defensive line would be position group most likely to take a hit in terms of needing to cut someone the Packers would rather keep. Obviously this episode was taped before the announcement was made about the release of Mike Daniels, so your foresight was right on the money yet again. I'm curious about how surprised you were that it was Daniels who was let go as opposed to someone else.

If you cover this league long enough, nothing surprises you anymore. It’s a young man’s game and Daniels was the oldest player in that room. Like Josh Sitton in 2016, Daniels also was in the final year of his contract.

Paul from Bay View, WI

Thanks so much for answering our questions. I think it's great Packer fans have this connection to the team and what goes on at 1265 Lombardi Ave. Your work is truly appreciated. Some fans are really having a hard time with Mike Daniels’ release. I, too, feel bad as I really liked what he brought to the team with his leadership. Who do you think will take up that role now that he's gone?

There’s only one Mike D. so it’ll take a group effort to fill that void on the field and in the locker room. The three veteran additions (Za’Darius and Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos) will factor into it, but there are also established veterans such as Tramon Williams, Blake Martinez and Clark on this team.

Ronald from Edison, NJ

Are we re-signing Jimmy Graham?

Looks favorable.

Ryan from Elmhurst, IL

Any injury update on Coach LaFleur’s leg?

He’s walking again. He’s going to have the golf cart nearby, but the plan is to coach without it.

Ryan from Gulfport, MS

Good Morning II, does Gute ever pop his head in and apologize for making your job super difficult?... Or even give you a heads up... “Hey, sorry guys, tomorrow your Inbox is gonna be filled with a lot of upset people”?

Uh, no.

George from Fort Wayne, IN

Regarding nutrition, I don't imagine Jaire and Kenny eat the same portions – is it individualized? Are there specific diets/caloric intake for different position groups? The responsibility of the player? As someone familiar with the culinary field and athletics, I could see this being a real challenge considering these are elite athletes with different needs, dietary restrictions, tastes, etc.

The cafeteria is buffet style and each player has his own plan. Former linebacker Ahmad Thomas can’t eat meat, but he needed to put on weight to complete his transition from playing safety in college. They made it happen and have cooks available to prepare anything else a player may need.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

When do you believe a player becomes a veteran? Is it based off of the number of years he is in the league or general playing time?

The Packers define veterans in the media guide as any player with an accrued season. As a writer, my tendency is to call players in their fourth season “a veteran.”

John from Yakima, WA

How many current players, if any, are on an actual third contract? I’ve tried to use various sites to determine without success in my opinion, apparently due to most players getting extensions of second contracts with changed terms/finances.

Aaron Rodgers (overlap with two extensions) and Mason Crosby are the only two on their third contracts. Not counting players who have signed tenders, Tramon Williams, Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis would be players who have at least three NFL contracts.

Anthony from Southington, CT

I know he's a specialist, but is Hunter Bradley considered a backup for any other position?

He played tight end a few ACLs ago.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

Lowry's signing brings the '16 class into focus. There was a lot of concern about Ted's final drafts. With Lowry signed, Kenny Clark and Martinez being legit players who will get paid here or somewhere, and Trevor Davis possibly playing like he's in a walk year on special teams, the '16 class isn't looking too bad.

Not to mention Kyler Fackrell’s emergence last year. I’ve been trying to tell you guys.

John from Onalaska, WI

Wes, so does the digital and broadcast department still go through introductions at the first team meeting? If so, who gets the most applause between you, Spoff, Larry and now KUUUUUUHN?

We only did it that one year, but I’m guessing John would be a favorite if we ever do it again.

Sarah from Neenah, WI

Who do you think will be their toughest opponent this season?

The opener in Chicago. It’s a road game with high stakes. I’ll start there. The Kansas City game will be a big test, too.

Mike from Manchester, UK

In response to Al from Green Bay, football is good on TV, but it’s even better in person. Can you smell the leaves through your TV? Can you see the darkening clouds rolling in over the top of the stadium on your TV? Can you feel the chill that says winter is on its way? TV can tell you everything about the game, but it can’t personalize the experience. Being there makes the game a personal experience. And memories make us rich.

And to each their own. If you really don’t want to be there, then there’s a list of 100,000 waiting to sit in that seat.

George from Norwich, UK

Thinking of how you could spread 16 games out around the world, you have the obvious cities that would likely draw a crowd in London, Mexico City, Munich, Paris, Rome, Rio, etc. But are there any world cities that you would really like to attend a game in?

First and foremost, I want to go to London. I’ve never been to the UK. My honorable mentions would be Tokyo or Shanghai.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

We always hear about the Packers-Bears rivalry and its generations of memories, and rightfully so. But what about Packers-Lions? What are some of your favorite parts of their collective history?

It has to be the Packers’ winning streak at Lambeau Field that spanned Jason Hanson’s entire career and Green Bay taking the winner-take-all game in Detroit for the NFC North back in 2016.

The Green Bay Packers fields department put the finishing touches on the playing surface at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, July 24, 2019.

John from Derby, CT

How/when did the training-camp tradition of players riding kids' bikes get started? This is one of the coolest things I've seen a major league professional sports team do. Another reason among many to love the Packers.

It’s believed to have started in 1961, when the Packers built a new administration building on the north side of the stadium. Vince Lombardi asked players to do it.

Andy from Verona, WI

If you were forced to live in the dorms for training camp, which player would you want to be your roommate?

Danny Vitale. I could talk to that dude about MMA for hours.

Karl from Brooklyn, WI

Forget color-rush uniforms, and throwbacks, why not have a graphic design competition and have fans vote for the next one-game uniform?

The Packers use their alternate uniform to do throwbacks. That’s just the way it works when you have a franchise with a tradition as rich as Green Bay. Those third uniforms have to be worn for five years, and before you ask, this is Year 5.

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Will Jordy be in Green Bay on 8/7?

Man, I hope not. That’s like one of the four days I have off in August.

Dan from Cromwell, CT

Wes, what’s your response to Aaron Nagler calling you out on a “Madden” showdown?

So he ran out of comedians to beat up on? I’ve seen Aaron play. He’s OK. He has some skill, but there are levels to this game. I’m Bowser, the boss at the end of the game you play toward. Get on my level.

Sam from Greendale, WI

'Twas the night before training camp and all through Lambeau,

all the creatures were typing--Mike, Wes, and some more.

The stories were typed on computers with care,

the dead zone was over, camp was finally there!

The readers were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of touchdowns danced in their heads...

And with that poem, my summer is officially over.

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