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Inbox: Simple game, right?

The rest is about performing when it counts

C Corey Linsley

Dennis from Parrish, FL

I have a Duke Bobber in my tackle box, NO WAY that's a real name?

Oh, it's real, and it's spectacular.

David from Prior Lake, MN

II, can we talk numbers quick? Outside of 1929-31 when they won their first three titles, the Packers seem to have retired a number or a pair of numbers for their championship teams. Hutson 1931 and 1936, Hutson and Canadeo for 1944, Starr and Nitschke for the '60s, and Favre and White for '96. I would assume Aaron Rodgers will have his number retired someday, but what are the chances of Woodson being the second member of the 2010 championship team to have his number retired?

Mike from Franksville, WI, asked a similar question. With all due respect to Woodson – one of my favorite players who's headed to Canton sooner than later, probably on the first ballot next year – I don't see this happening. If the organization had any inclinations in this regard, it wouldn't have given Ha Ha Clinton-Dix the No. 21 when he was drafted in the first round in 2014. Maybe I'm wrong, but I anticipate the No. 12 will be the only one retired from the XLV squad.

Dave from Boise, ID

Any word on Kamal Martin at ILB?

He certainly looks the part and looks like he belongs, but until you see a young linebacker actually tackle NFL players, it's really hard to gauge.

Greg from Combined Locks, WI

With the veterans knowing within a day or two of who is NFL-caliber, do they approach rookies and say "keep doing what you're doing" or "you better do something different" or do they even care who makes the team?

If a rookie is asking, a veteran's answer is usually the former because the young guys don't always understand the no-news-good-news ethos. If they need to do something different, they're hearing that from their coaches.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

One thing that always blew me away about the Holmgren/Favre era was looking at how they dominated time of possession. "Establish the run" certainly helps with that, but why is there not more focus on dominating TOP?

Because it's not as determinative a statistic as it was 20 years ago. The Packers won time of possession decisively in two of their four losses last year – by almost five minutes vs. Philly and by more than 10 minutes on the first trip to San Fran. They also won games when losing TOP by 11 minutes (Denver) and nine minutes (second Chicago meeting). I'm not saying it's meaningless, but there are plenty of examples where the stat indicates what you think, and plenty where it doesn't.

Bill from Iowa City, IA

Along with the offense, the Packers will enter Year 2 for Coach Mennenga's special teams. That group improved over the season, finishing better than 2018. What are the keys for Packer special teams again showing good improvement?

Keep the penalties down, find a return game early this year, and eliminate the explosives allowed. In Mennenga's first year, the accepted penalties on special teams were more than cut in half, from 26 in 2018 to 10 last year. That alone was a huge step forward. It took until December and Ervin's arrival to find a return game, and they should be better in that phase from the get-go now. And they allowed two kickoff returns of 60-plus and one punt return of 30-plus. Cut out a couple more there.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

Mike, when will your Mid-Week Chats start up again?

Probably in the regular season, but if I can fit one in during camp, I will. Things are just super busy right now. Appreciate your interest and patience.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

Is it my imagination or do the guys look like they came back extra ripped? Going through Evan's pictures several times I was struck by the muscles on display. Even Aaron's calves look like he put in extra leg time this offseason.

The message was delivered that virtual offseason or not, the players were expected to get their work in. I'm sure some put in extra work out of boredom.

Thomas from Altoona, WI

I feel the offense is going to take off this year, simply because it's the second year in the system. Watching Rodgers wearing a wrist band with the plays written on it last year should tell you how complex it really is.

Lane Taylor's post-practice comment sums up what we've heard from many offensive players since media access resumed. "Things we were worrying about this time last year are second nature now and pushed way behind us." That says a lot. It's still a game of execution and beating the man across from you, and no one physically wins every battle. But familiarity in a system reduces mental errors and, theoretically, negative plays.

Dave from Huntsville, AL

Inquiring minds want to know, who is technically tenured longer, Kenny Clark (draft position) or Dean Lowry (signed contract first)? Of course, I may be wrong about who signed his rookie deal first.

Lowry actually did sign about six weeks before Clark, but if you really want to get technical, tenure is time on the 53-man roster, and they both made the roster on the same day their rookie year. So there's that.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

There's been a lot of talk regarding AJ Dillon's legs. Regardless of position, who would be on your Packers' 11-man all-physique team?

Off the top of my head, three others would have to be Raven Greene, Za'Darius Smith and Rashan Gary.

Doug from Union Grove, WI

I realize it's early in camp, but is there a noticeable difference in Matt LaFleur's comfort level in running the show?

I never sensed any lack of comfort leadership-wise last year, but it's obvious he's very happy to not be in a walking boot or driving around in a golf cart anymore.

Steve from Smithfield, NC

Seems as though Rodgers has thrown a lot of interceptions in practice based on your coverage. Is he a little rusty or is the defense that good?

The defense was ahead of the offense the first few days, which was to be expected, and it felt to me like he was taking some chances to test out concepts they were running.

Leo from Providence, RI

When was the last time a defensive player took a Lambeau Leap? Has an offensive lineman ever taken one (either on a fumble or as an eligible sixth lineman)?

The Packers' last interception returned for a touchdown was by Bashaud Breeland in 2018, and the last fumble taken to the house was by Dean Lowry in 2017. Those are the last two defensive Lambeau Leaps to my knowledge. Back in his day, Mark Tauscher did, or tried, a Lambeau Leap when he scored on a tackle-eligible pass reception, but the play was called back on a penalty.

Bob from Riverside, CA

Mike, while looking at the practice photos, I couldn't pick out anything that looked like a COVID proximity tracker. What do they look like and do the players wear them during practices?

I believe they do but I'm not entirely sure. They're little rectangular things about the size of a domino.

Richard from Madison, WI

Blocking backs "need to know which defender the center is declaring as the middle linebacker." THE middle linebacker? Who's that vs. a 3-4 D?

Whoever the center declares it to be on that given play.

Mike from Austin, TX

Great question about RBs getting the protection call. Mike's answer included "assignments are generally made inside-out based on the protection call and that declaration" left me spinning a bit. I would love an explanation, or perhaps a breakdown of that phrase on a Rock Report? This is a bit of a black box for me (and a lot of us, I'm sure). Thanks for adding to our football education!

I'm not an expert on the finer points, but I'll try to lay out the basics. Once the "mike" in the defensive front is declared, it's a counting system. From the offense's perspective, the first defender to the mike's right is the right guard's, the second guy the right tackle's, and so on. The center picks up the mike if he rushes, or helps wherever he can if the mike stays back. Same process going to the left of the mike. One non-lineman (linebacker or DB) in the potential pass-rush mix is usually the running back's, and his assignment is to stay in and block if that guy blitzes, or maybe run a route if he doesn't. There are also "slide" calls where assignments shift by one spot, to the left or right, depending on the direction of the slide. That can leave a running back taking someone coming off an edge who would otherwise be free due to the slide (think Kuhn cutting across the formation to clip Peppers on the fourth-and-8 from the 48 at Soldier Field in '13). The QB or center could change the protection call if it doesn't feel right, but everyone has to get it or potential disaster looms. The QB must know if the play call combined with the protection call leaves anyone possibly unblocked. If that guy's coming, it's the QB's job to go to the hot receiver or escape the pocket ASAP, and the hot receiver has to read what the defense is doing because a blitz making him hot likely changes his route. There are variations and adjustments to everything here, but hope that helps. Simple game, right?

TK from Grafton, WI

Would it create chaos if, after the QB yells out who the "mike" is, that player and another one switch alignment just before the snap? Would it create the momentary blocking assignment confusion necessary to give a rusher the extra step needed to splatter the QB?

The center knows when he's snapping it, so if he feels he has time to change the declaration and get it to everybody, he will. Otherwise, the blockers have it worked out in advance whether they're switching assignments at the last second if a defensive alignment change occurs as you describe, or if they're sticking with their original guy. Sort of like staying or switching on a pick-and-roll play in basketball. It's all part of being on the same page.

Jordan from Eau Claire, WI

Do you sense any additional fire in our young WRs, after a whole offseason of national headlines basically telling them they didn't belong on the team? I believe you when you say that guys at this level don't or shouldn't need extra motivation, but how can that not get to them?

Some hear it, some block it out, and some lie about which they do. Motivation comes in all forms, and different forms work or don't for different guys. On balance, I think professional athletes have a steadfast belief in themselves or they wouldn't have gotten here in the first place. The rest is about performing when it counts, plain and simple.

Bill from Kronenwetter, WI

If or when the cap goes down for 2021 will teams lose cap left over from 2020? If so, might the Pack use what they have on free agents for one-year deals for depth? Say at left tackle?

Any leftover cap money will carry over like it does any other year. Players in line for big deals aren't inclined to sign one-year contracts, while a team's option is the franchise tag for one player.

Nick from Hamilton, Canada

To piggyback off the nickname question for Tyler Ervin, I often hear Aaron Rodgers referred to as 12. Can you explain the relevance there?

Happy Friday.


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