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Inbox: That's the magic of sitting in those stands

Mike Pettine is stressing tackling and takeaways with his defense


Chris from Mankato, MN

In "Madden 04," did Seneca Wallace throw the pigskin like Uncle Rico?

I don't know. I ran the "Veer." Most kids like to throw the ball 50 times for 500 yards in "Madden." I played like it was 1936 and our starting quarterback just left the team to go into medical sales. Good morning!

Aaron from Green Bay, WI

I must politely disagree with Brett from Green Bay and Wes on the comeback matter. Some people believe that athletes should retire and just stay retired.

Fortunately, none of us are athletes.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

Call me crazy, but I hope "the play" never sees the light of day. In this age, isn't it nice to know something wasn't recorded by the masses? That something can live on as legend and not be downgraded by a sub-par cell phone video that doesn't give it justice? At this point, anyone who's heard about it has probably imagined it a certain way in their head. Can't we just let it live that way?

That's great perspective to have. In this day of pixelated 15-second Twitter videos being aggregated over and over again, there is something pure about such a brilliant play existing only within the brief moment in time. That's the magic of sitting in those stands at Ray Nitschke Field for training camp each and every summer.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

Do you think TE Jimmy Graham will have a better year this year than last year?

I really do. Graham is extremely competitive and passionate about this game. He wants to prove he's the same guy he's always been. I also point to how much Aaron Rodgers trusts him. You can't synthesize that kind of trust – it's organic and earned. If Graham stays healthy, I think he'll have a solid year.

Take a look at photos of Lambeau Field from a new perspective.

Bruce from Green Bay, WI

There has been some discussion of what players are standing out in camp. I would like to know with all the new coaches in camp, which coach has put in a good offseason and come in with guns a blazing, making his mark early and capturing the players' attention?

Mike Smith. That guy had 5-foot-nothing, 100-and-nothing Wes Hodkiewicz ready to run through a brick wall for him.

David from Janesville, WI

Wes worked Ka'Dar Hollman into two of his answers in Tuesday's Inbox. Coincidence or has the sixth-round pick really made that big of an impression in OTAs?

As sixth-round picks go, Hollman had one of the more successful springs I've seen from a rookie. Hollman has good speed and the necessary tools to be an effective special-teams player right off the bat but he also played better than I expected in team periods. Hollman is off to a good start.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, which three positions require the most intelligence from an NFL player? I'm thinking QB, maybe safety and WR? I'm talking about on the field but also playbook study and film analysis.

I think every position requires intelligence, but the three you mention are critical in Green Bay with how Aaron Rodgers operates the offense and Mike Pettine's reliance on the safety position to be assignment-sure. I think offensive line is fairly underrated, as well, with all the checks and calls they have to register in a split second.

Perry from Ishpeming, MI

Bottom line is you have to score more than the other team or give up less than the other team, right? Other than points allowed, what aspect will make or break Year 2 in Pettine's defense? Yards allowed or turnovers? The Packers only forced 15 turnovers and gave up 5670 yards last year. Thanks again for the awesome reading!

This is why I think the NFL's system of determining "Total defense" is flawed. Yards are a part of the equation, but it's not the be-all, end-all. Takeaways affect games – and the Packers didn't take away the ball enough last year. You didn't hear Pettine talking about how his defense needs to allow fewer yards in 2019, did you? He's stressing tackling and takeaways.

Joe from Dundee, IL

Most NFL players were likely multi-sport athletes growing up. Do any of the Packer players have a strong sport background in a sport that really surprised you or was quite unusual? If so, who and what sport was it?

It's not very unusual, but I was talking to Tramon Williams earlier this offseason about his achievements in track and field. It sounds like he could have gone far in that sport, but chose to focus on football. He's coaching his kids now, so maybe they'll pick up where their dad left off someday.

John from Duluth, MN

Wes said..."I don't know what Michigan fans thought of Gary, but his former coaches have had nothing but positive things to say about him and his work ethic – on and off the record." That begs the question: How do you handle situations when a coach's or player's public comments contradict their off-the-record comments?

By getting to know the individual personally and not rushing to conclusions based on hearsay. I don't know about you guys, but the videos I've seen of Rashan Gary are not those of a guy who isn't committed to his craft.

Elizabeth from Sylvania, OH

As a Michigan fan, I can tell you that no one had any complaints about Rashan Gary's play and ability during his college years. I feel it's also worth noting that when many players around the country who were NFL-bound opted out of their final bowl game for the year, Gary made it clear he would be playing and his loyalties were with his team and not with himself at that point in time. I personally felt that given his status, that was special. I think the Packers got a good one.

I won't fault a kid for not playing in a college bowl game after what happened with Jake Butt. At the same time, I think that mindset speaks to Gary's character. I want that guy on my team six days a week and twice on Sunday.

Carroll from Madison, WI

I'm wondering how you see our depth chart compared with other Packer squads you've covered. Seems like we've not only got lots of talent, but serious depth across the board (except S/ILB and to a lesser extent CB, maybe).

There is good depth on this year's roster. All it lacks right now is proven talent, but all you need is three or four regular-season games to change that perception.

Craig from Appleton, WI

Last year the Packers were last in the league at 20.8 rushing attempts per game. Assuming 60 offensive plays how many would you prefer to run the ball on average?

At least 21.

Arthur from Chippewa Falls, WI

How is the long-snapper position looking this year? Any competition or one player already set?

The Packers made a commitment last year to seventh-round pick Hunter Bradley and haven't backed down from that. Bradley had his rookie moments last year but has the upside to be a guy who holds down that spot for the next decade. It doesn't hurt he came into the league at the same time as punter JK Scott.

Tony from Lima, OH

The Wilson football factory is located in Ada, Ohio, 15 minutes from Lima. I have friends who work there. That's right I know a guy! Any changes to the ball (e.g. sensors), I will be informed ASAP, and will pass it on to you! You will have the breaking story!

I feel so alive.

Tom from West Palm Beach, FL

If the hypothetical new GPS-chip-enabled football hits the laser goal post, does it explode on impact?

A black hole forms and sucks the entire stadium into it.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

Is it true that if the football had sensors during the Ice Bowl, the previous play would have been spotted at the 1½-yard line and Bart Starr's iconic play would never have happened?

I've been told by a very reliable source sensors freeze at negative-10 degrees. History would have been preserved.

Kyle from Osceola, WI

I'm hoping to attend the Houston preseason game. Around Lambeau Field beforehand, what's the biggest difference between a preseason game and a regular-season game?

Less day drinking?

Dave from Coloma, MI

Any old sports venues you wish you could have experienced before they were torn down?

Old Yankee Stadium.

Erik from Sisters, OR

My no-good brother-in-law from Seattle asked me at what age my now 11- and 8-year-old boys could throw and catch a ball. My answer was by their third birthday because that's all we played with. My question is at what age are you gonna expect your kid to throw and catch, Wes?

I threw a plush football to my son yesterday. He caught it with his body and then proceed to put it in his mouth. I call that progress.

David from Appleton, WI

As a member of the media, we understand you have to keep a professional distance. However, you are not an automaton. What is your favorite training-camp memory?

This is meant as no disrespect to B.J. Coleman. He's a great guy who I loved covering, but he is responsible for my favorite training-camp memory. In 2012, he was running a two-minute drill and had the third-team offense inside the red zone. Blessed with a rocket arm, Coleman rolls out to his right and no one is open. So he throws the ball about four rows into the stands at Nitschke Field and hits a fan, who lets out an audible "Oof." The real kicker, though, was Shawn Slocum, who was wearing the mic over the loud speaker. With the crowd silent, Slocum says in a somber tone, "That was fourth down..."

David from Florence, AZ

So Wes, everyone thinks you don't have a life outside of Insider Inbox. That's true, but it's also what you are paid to do.

Thank you for clarifying that all for me.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Wes, you used indubitably. Mike had no copyright for its use in II, I guess. I had to scroll up to see if Mike was on.

I've seen "Seven Days in Hell," Mike. I reserve the right to use "indubitably" as I see fit.

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

I watched the replay of the Green Bay-Pittsburgh game from 2009. Both had top-five defenses coming in to a game that ended 37-36. What happened to that defense come the playoffs (51 points)?

Kurt Warner.

Curt from Locust Grove, GA

My brother-in-law is 16 and 6-5, 270 pounds. He is already being recruited by big-name universities to play left tackle. One recent scouting report I read about him said that he is projected to be an early-round NFL draft pick with proper coaching. Any advice that I could give him that you have heard from Packers players or lineman?

My advice is not to grow up too fast…and don't read the scouting reports. Enjoy football and any other sports you play. Make good choices, but enjoy being a high-schooler. Sixteen is special. Adulthood and responsibilities will come soon enough. There's no need to run to them. If you do well in school and keep doing all the right things off the field, your opportunity will come soon enough.

Tony from River Falls, WI

Any thoughts on what will happen when the Raiders move to Vegas?

Spoff wins the World Series of Poker.

Tom from Menomonee Falls, WI

My question is about sports writing. I continually notice poor grammar when I read sports articles online. Things like missing words, wrong words, words used incorrectly, etc. My suspicion is writers using voice-to-text apps, which can be imperfect in this regard, and proofreading must not be done very thoroughly. The II does not seem to have these errors so I am curious to know if you have noticed this in sports writing as well and what you attribute it to.

I don't think voice-to-text is the culprit. I think it's probably editors getting slashed at newspapers and the rise of unpaid bloggers who may not have strong grammar skills. Fortunately, we have Spoff here. I thought my grammar was decent when I came to, but Spoff is one of the sharpest guys when it comes to that stuff. You can tell his dad was an English professor.

Dan from Hudson, WI

Come on, Wes! Seneca Wallace on Madden '04? Michael Vick had like a 92 speed rating. All you had to do was call an all-verticals pass play, and scramble for 700 yards and eight TDs.

Because I liked rebuilds, Dan!

Jim from Tempe, AZ

So, will Bakhtiari wear 88 when he changes to RB/TE?

Oh my. What have I done?

Josh from Twin Falls, ID

I'm obsessed with the idea of David Bakhtiari getting a TD catch! He would have the best celebration of all time. Where do fans submit scheme ideas to the coaching staff? I have a couple Couch Coach plays drawn up that I think have some promise.

Do you want to win more games this season or not, Josh?

Fabian from Nuremberg, Germany

But do you really want to pull an All-Pro left tackle from his post so he can carry the football? Hell, yeah. I want to see Bakh truck some linebackers and safeties.

You all have had your right to complain about play-calling revoked for the next 365 days.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

Brett from Green Bay used to be who I aspired to become, then he became my adversary, competing for column space. Now we might both have Mount Rushmore status. Favre and Rodgers anyone?

But Brett from Green Bay never became Brett from Rochester on the Jets' website and then Brett from St. Paul on the Vikings' website, did he? At least, not that I'm aware.

Theodore from St. Louis, MO

I don't know what makes me happier: the fact I got a question answered or Ben Askren making the Inbox.

Christmas in July.

Max from Troy, MO

We hear a lot about players successfully running camps in the summer for those looking to improve their football skills. Do you think Lori, Derek, or any of the other MVP candidates would consider running a camp for people looking to improve their questioning skills? It might save you a lot of headache in the future.

You don't need a skills camp to be a successful Inbox questioner. All you need is to be respectful and ask insightful questions. Lori, Derek and dozens of others have mastered those two small things. Still, it's amazing how difficult that can be for some folks.

Nate from Wadsworth, OH

Not a question, but Packer Nation lost a wonderful fan at the end of June. My Auntie Vera was a die-hard Packers fan into her 90s! I would call her in the middle of the game as a joke, knowing full well she would pick up and immediately slam the phone down. When I asked why, she would say, "You called while my Packers were on!" The Packers have a strong supporter looking down on us this year. I'll stop bugging you during the game, Auntie, unless Rodgers needs a direct line for a Hail Mary.

My sympathies for your loss, Nate. It sounds like we lost a good one. You have big shoes to fill.

Tom from Vista, CA

Wes, any far-flung travel this summer?

I am currently driving to Atlantic City for the Professional Fighters League 4 event, so be sure to look for me on ESPN Thursday night. Thanks for bearing with me this past week, everyone. I'll be out for a few days, but Spoff is back tomorrow.