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Inbox: Never stop fighting

It’s a statistic every NFL team wants to win

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Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, FAN Hall of Famer Frank Lamping

Good morning guys. I'm going a slightly different direction with today's Inbox. We'll answer a few questions later in the column but first there's something I need to say. Three years ago, I had the great privilege of meeting Frank Lamping and his wonderful wife, Andrea, during his Packers Fan Hall of Fame induction. In almost 15 years doing this, I can tell you there are a handful of stories that have changed me as a person and covering that event on that day was one of those seminal moments, and the friendship I've developed with Frank and Andi is something I deeply cherish. As some of you may know, Frank has been valiantly battling cancer for the last seven years and these past few weeks have been especially challenging. So the good folks of Union Grove held a beautiful parade on Saturday to celebrate him. Seeing that video of the event, and reading all of the first-person testimonials on his "Go Frank Go!" Facebook page, brought tears to my eyes. As someone who believes in a higher power and greater purpose, I fall into darkness at times trying to grasp why horrible things happen to good and virtuous people. The only answer I can come up with is how many lives Frank Lamping has touched in his 63 years, this writer's included. There's an endless line of human beings who are better people for having known Frank, especially those who have been introduced to his story over the past three years. He's everything you could want in a Packers fan, and more importantly, a person. His infectious personality is his gift. My introduction to Frank was pure happenstance. It very easily could've been Spoff covering the Packers Fan Hall of Fame ceremony that day. But it wasn't. It was me. It's like I was supposed to be in the room that day and we've been friends ever since. And each time I've seen Frank around Lambeau Field or at a road game, it instantly makes my day better. He greets me with that same sturdy handshake and suffocating bear hug. He'll keep saying how he doesn't want to take up any more of my time, like he's some kind of minor inconvenience. It's the other way around, Frank. Like what did I do to deserve this type of positive person to randomly enter my life? This man who always leaves the soil richer than he found it. On Sunday morning, I had a chance to call Frank and Andi. Frank's speech was slower but he remains the same positive, upbeat person he always is. Cancer can touch his body but it cannot affect his mindset. I can only hope I will be that strong if I ever encounter such adversity. Despite every obstacle he and Andi have faced, the two things on the forefront of Frank's mind were what's going to happen this upcoming NFL season and whether the 17th regular-season game was being added for 2020 or the following year. We talked a little about how Frank's doing but mostly he and Andi were asking about my family and my son. At the end of our conversation, Frank made a promise: "I'll never stop fighting." After saying our goodbyes, I sat there and lingered on that line. Life is hard, man. I think 2020 has taught that to all of us. We have to find true purpose in the short time we're here and make the most of it. We need to love passionately and unconditionally. I learned that from Frank Lamping and that is something I'll pass down to my son. I will sit him down someday and tell him about a great man who stared Stage 4 prostate cancer in the face and smiled; a husband and wife whose faith was so strong the greatest forces of nature could not pull them from their grace and convictions. That's love. That's toughness. That's the Lampings. Never stop fighting, Frank. May God bless you and Andi. Go Frank Go! Forever and always.

Kevin from Westminster, CO

What one statistical category would you have GB lead on a yearly basis to ensure success?

Turnover margin. It's a statistic every team wants to win. Why were the 2011 Packers so successful with a 32nd-ranked defense? They were second in turnover margin (plus-24). Last year, 10 of the top 11 teams in turnover differential made the playoffs.

Daniel from Appleton, WI

In regards to wide receivers, do you have to earn reps with the first team, or do all wide receivers get reps with Aaron Rodgers at some point during training camp to evaluate chemistry? I would imagine some wideouts have better chemistry with certain QBs, and it would seem counterproductive to simply advance them up to the next string of players only if they develop chemistry with their current QB.

In the past, it was always a big day when Rodgers would work the scout-team offense before the first preseason game. Because that often was the first time he would be throwing to the young receivers near the bottom of the depth chart. However, Matt LaFleur mixed it up last year. He had the undrafted rookies rotating in with the "first-team" offense early last year, which is how the Darrius Shepherd hype train got started. I expect they'll do the same this summer.

Eric from Green Bay, WI

Given the state of the NFL preseason (or lack of it), and given the "win-now" window of opportunity assigned to the 2020 Packer team, doesn't the second-round selection of a bruising running back who can catch the football make more sense for December/playoff football than a rookie wide receiver who will take more time to develop?

I don't think a "win-now" label has been thrown on the Packers but I agree with the basic premise of your question. The Packers wanted another option and AJ Dillon gives them a bruising back who can wear down a defense. They haven't had that type of running back since Eddie Lacy was in his prime. So Dillon's selection makes all the sense in the world to me with the direction the offense appears to be headed.

Dave from Waterford, WI

What do you think the Packers' chances are of making it to the playoffs this year?

Favorable.

Sandy from Green Bay, WI

The different look to the offseason meetings and programming has almost certainly posed challenges in terms of usual routines and preparation. Are you aware of any advantages/positive developments that have resulted from this unconventional time as experienced by coaches, players, and other staff?

Pre-taped meetings uploaded to the iPad. Most traditional meetings happen and everyone moves on for the day. Having recorded videos and lessons can help players who might need a little extra time to pick up certain concepts.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Wes, who has the inside edge to be a swing tackle for the Packers this year if a starter would go down?

Lane Taylor is the wild card in all this. I could see him spelling David Bakhtiari at left tackle like he did in 2017 or sliding in at right guard if Billy Turner is called upon at right tackle. It's a really versatile offensive line.

Chun from El Monte, CA

We have seen the biggest jump in WR play during the junior season. Should we expect the same for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown? I believe MVS and EQ can be as good as Robby Anderson without spending top dollar. Hopefully, everything pans out but not spending big on WR during free agency is a smart move.

I really think the Packers played this perfectly this offseason. They weren't going to be able to afford a high-priced receiver. At least, not if you have any hope of re-signing Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley, etc. So they got a friendly deal with Devin Funchess and have asked Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and the rest of these young receivers to reward them for their trust.

Steve from Davenport, IA

Was this the year that preseason was to be shortened anyway with the 17-game schedule?

No. That's next year.

Former Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913. Take a look at photos of him from his coaching career.

Levi from St. Paul, MN

The 2011 Packers were dominant offensively but their defense suffered after losing Nick Collins. He really was a field-tilter. If the Packers don't lose Collins, do you think they are even better and could have beaten a hot Giants team? Do you see any similarities between Collins and an up-and-coming Darnell Savage? And I can't mention Packer safeties without including my favorite player on the '90s teams, LeRoy Butler. He should be in the HOF.

Maybe. I still tend to think, with or without Collins, the Packers beat the Giants nine times out of 10. But that's not how the game is played. You have 60 minutes to prove your point and the Packers didn't on that day. I'm not going to compare Savage and Collins other than to say patience is required with young safeties. The position lends itself to having rookies play right away, but Collins is also proof it sometimes take a few seasons to fully master it.

Ross from Roswell, GA

Gents, can the NFL as a whole dictate whether the teams would play to empty/half-full/full stadiums or will this be left up to each team?

The league will make this call.

Eric from Honolulu, HI

Can players train with other players in their area during this offseason?

Of course. They just had to get a little more creative this year. David Bakhtiari mentioned working out with Clay Matthews in isolation, and also spending some time with Aaron Rodgers this offseason. Jordan Love and Krys Barnes, too, trained together leading up to the draft.

Paul from Northglenn, CO

With all Da Bears have invested in Mitchell Trubisky, does he get an extended amount of time to clean up inconsistent play?

This is the year. It's make-or-break time.

David from Appleton, WI

Read the Jordy Nelson article today saying he is staying retired. One question in the article: "Do you think you could have helped the Packers out the last two years?" Still catches me wrong. What else is Jordy going to say other than, "Yes." Reminds me of my youth when I heard a reporter ask Don Hutson if he played in the game how many passes he thought he could make. Don replied with 50 and the reporter asked him, "Only 50?" Hutson replied, "Well, I am 70 years old." Classic!

Don was still selling himself short. I'm not a scout. I don't know what the Packers saw, or didn't see, when they chose to move on from Jordy Nelson. All I know is he was highly underrated on the national scale and enjoyed a remarkable 10-year run with Aaron Rodgers.

Evan from Marquette, MI

It really makes me sad to see people in "the organization" downplay how great Sterling Sharpe was during his tragically brief career! I know Reggie White is legendary, but c'mon you have to admit if Sharpe's run hadn't been cut short from those neck issues you'd be singing a different tune!

Am I in the twilight zone here? I'm not downplaying Sharpe's accomplishments but this argument is utterly ridiculous. Reggie White is one of the top 100 players in NFL history. Legitimately. There's an official list with the NFL's insignia on it. To argue anyone other than Reggie White as the best non-QB to play for the Packers over the last 30 years is blatantly ignoring reality.

Nikhil from Washington, D.C.

We never got a chance to see what Jordan could do without Jackson. Jackson went on to win five more championships (and almost got to a seventh with the Bulls without MJ) which always left me feeling Jackson was more important to the Bulls' success (arms up to defend myself against hurled objects). But with Brady and Belichick, they will both have a chance to prove it on the field. I look forward to seeing which does better over the next three years, despite Belichick's obvious starting-point disadvantage.

I still don't get it. None of this makes sense to me. Tom Brady and Gronk are in Tampa Bay and for some reason and the Patriots' quarterback depth chart consists of Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, J'Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke.

Margeaux from Tallahassee. FL

Having Tampa Bay in the Central Division was one of many things considered normal at one time. Do we really want to go back to normal?

This was so confusing to me as a child.

Sam from Janesville, WI

Every year it seems there's a question about how the Pack will do in the NFC Central. It makes me laugh every time, but I wonder if it's being done on purpose. What year did the divisions realign?

2002, with the addition of the Houston Texans.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

Will the Detroit Lions ever win the North Division of the National Football Conference?

I was 6 years old the last time the Lions won a division title. Our intern Ana was negative-4.

Sue from Grand Rapids, MI

No question, just a shout-out for your comment on Black Lives Matter. What a perfect expression of what it is about – it's time to hear the message and act on it. Thank you.

Kevin King offered a brilliant commentary on his Instagram two weeks ago that I implore every reader to watch. There were a few lines that spoke to me, including this analogy about racism and the plight black Americans face: "It's like if I tell you my foot is hurting. And just because your foot doesn't hurt, you're going to tell me my foot don't hurt? That don't make no sense. Your foot don't got to hurt, too. Just believe me that my foot ... hurts." I believe you, Kevin.

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