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Inbox: That's what makes training camp special

The NFL is placing more value on inside linebackers who can do it all

RBs AJ Dillon & Aaron Jones
RBs AJ Dillon & Aaron Jones

Earl from Marietta, GA

Is it time yet? Can't wait much longer...GPG

I'm driving the fastest I can, Earl. Do you want us to get pulled over? There's the sign for the Nitschke campground. Eleven more days. You're just gonna to have to hold it.

Steve from Colorado Springs, CO

With all the talk about the running game, what are the chances we come out throwing the ball to start the season? Element of surprise, seeing what we have, showing we are not afraid without Davante Adams....I'm just a fan, standing in front of a journalist, asking for an answer....

It's not a crazy thought, especially with the refined pass-catching ability of both AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones. And whatever the outside sentiment is about the Packers' receiving crops, I promise you Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur and the rest of this organization like the cards they're holding. Green Bay Packers don't need another receiver for this offense to be ready for Week 1. All they need is the referee to flip the coin and get this thing started already.

Dan from Kenosha, WI

Made a play Wednesday and got noticed by the coach. It felt amazing! Made me think of all these young men on the cusp of fulfilling their lifelong dream of playing in the NFL. How exciting it must be for them to make an attention-grabbing play in camp and get that affirmation. Have you ever seen a player not be able to contain his joy in a situation like that or do they all just play it off like it happens every day?

It's usually not the player but his teammates. Most rookies and guys on the roster bubble know their job is to finish the play and get back to the huddle. But it's cool seeing an established player such as Randall Cobb or Jaire Alexander get excited and congratulate a young guy on a big touchdown grab or key interception. That's what makes training camp special.

Dominic from Chesapeake, VA

I've been a fan since 1965 but have really closely followed the Packers since 2010. With Rodgers, trades and draft picks I get excited every year for the upcoming season but know to temper expectations. My expectations this year as high as ever. Do you feel the same? If not, what year were they higher for you?

Probably 2011 based on how many players the Packers returned from the Super Bowl XLV team, but last year was up there, too. What impresses me most about the construction of the 2022 squad is in its improbability. I didn't see any scenario where Green Bay could retain De'Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas, while also getting a long-term extension done with Alexander. While I obviously didn't expect Davante Adams to leave, Brian Gutekunst kept most of a young and talented team intact. Rodgers is still the QB, and the Packers are still contenders.

Melvin from Dubuque, IA

Great reference to "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" Wes! Let's see if it will pay off! So, which would be the "bolder" strategy, keeping an extra defensive lineman or receiver on the opening day roster?

Three times in the last six years the Packers have had seven receivers on their initial 53-man roster. In the same span, they also kept six defensive linemen on three occasions. So, neither would be a total stretch.

Grant from Janesville, WI

Do you think Sammy Watkins makes the team? I read an article that recalled Devin Funchess and speculated that Watkins might not beat out the rookies. But wasn't the Funchess situation more a product of a COVID-filled year, not so much him not making the team?

Watkins and Funchess are different receivers who came to Green Bay under different circumstances. Funchess had played one game in two years and then injured the hamstring. Watkins has battled some injuries, too, but he's also had big moments every year he's been in the NFL. I'm not making any roster predictions on July 16. There's plenty of other outlets willing to do that, but the fact of the matter is Watkins is a former top-five talent who's still on the right side of 30 and motivated to prove he has a lot left in the tank.

Dennis from Beavercreek, OH

I like to think I know more about football than the average bear (no I do not mean a bear's fan) but last week I came across something I must have missed in the past. This was the UFA Tender that was placed on at least two players this year. Seems to me that this is where a team says to an UFA go test the waters and if you find it to cold come back here and we have this contract waiting for you. Am I correct?

The UFA tender is just a means to extend the window to receive a compensatory pick once unrestricted free agency ends in early May. New England used the provision to retain LeGarrette Blount a few years ago. In this case, Justin Houston could still negotiate with other teams prior to signing his UFA tender with Baltimore. But if he didn't sign anywhere before the deadline, Houston had to play on the tender the Ravens offered him.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

Speaking of the evolution of the game...there are several "shooting star" formations on the offensive side of the ball. By that, I mean new trends that burn hot for a couple of years until defensive coordinators figure them out or the element of surprise goes away. The Wildcat and read-option come to mind. Can you think of anything comparable on the defensive side of the ball? Hybrid backs and 3-4 defenses lasted pretty long.

Yes, but not like six or seven years ago. Safeties still line up in the box at times, especially in dime, but the NFL has slowly shifted away from having a hybrid defenders such as Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron play exclusively at linebacker. With rushing offense and bunch formations all the craze, teams are placing a more value on inside linebackers who can do it all and not leave the field.

Jeremy from Red Deer, Canada

Wes, I was surprised to read that Marcedes Lewis has the longest current starting streak among NFL tight ends at just 28 games. Is this because of how prevalent injuries at the position, or more just a quirk of how starts are calculated?

It's a combination of injuries and fewer all-around tight ends. We talk so much about running back by committee. The league is really centered on tight ends by committee now. When Lewis says he's the last of a dying breed, it's not just a convenient catchphrase – it's the truth. There are fewer tight ends who line up on the first snap of every game.

Mike from Ames, IA

When's the last time a rookie quarterback started a game for the Packers? Is it Don Majkowski? If so, I imagine that's one of the longest stretches in the NFL.

Ding, ding, ding. Don Majkowksi in 1987. That's quite a run.

Team photographer Evan Siegle shares his favorite photos from the 2021 Green Bay Packers season.

John from Twin Peaks, CA

I've been fascinated with idea of wrestling backgrounds helping linemen to succeed at the NFL level. Having never been a wrestler, and after watching "Vision Quest", I kind of regretted never taking wrestling seriously. How many current linemen on the roster have a wrestling background?

Kenny Clark wrestled in high school and (I believe) dabbles in MMA and/or jiu jitsu in the offseason. I think it's a real asset for linemen. I covered wrestling for almost 10 years at the Press-Gazette and see a direct correlation to football. Everyone thinks of power and leverage, which are essential, but technique and balance are as critical to football as they are wrestling.

Kurt from Sartell, MN

I just read an article on a behind the scenes look on the Vikings trade with the Packers to get Christian Watson. How surprised were you that they made that trade with their division rival?

I was stunned, especially after Minnesota agreed to a trade with Detroit in the first round. But if the price is right…

Jason from Austin, TX

Wes, I just read that the NFL is trying to get flag football in as an Olympic sport in 2028. As exciting as it is to think about the possibility of Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball to Davante Adams again in flag football, the reality is that both players might be out of the league at that point. What do you think about the prospects of flag football as an Olympic sport, and do you think NFL players would be dissuaded from playing?

I'm not opposed to it, but I do have a lot of questions. Would NFL players be allowed to participate? Or would they use former players or amateurs? Also, who would the United States compete against? You don't want it to be the U.S. team versus a pool of Brooklyn Brawlers.

Mark from Normal, IL

With the importance of home games, having the unbalanced schedules with some team having eight, some having nine could impact the playoff qualifiers – especially with teams having to sacrifice home games for international travel. My thought is that every team should have eight home, eight road and one neutral site game. The current inventory of international games could be expanded some - and then have games in large college stadiums to round out the mix. Seems like that would be more equitable.

Sure, but equitability wasn't the league's focus. The NFL wanted a 17th regular season and it got it. As I've said for two years now, I feel like we added a square peg to a board filled with round holes. It is what it is. Make the best of it.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

Weston, did a younger you ever wait, handlebars in hand, eagerly hoping a Packers' prospect or star would ride your Huffy across the parking lot with you skipping behind?

No. The first Packers training camp practice I attended was the first one I covered in 2012.

Mike from Manitowoc, WI

It's clear yous guys and II mean a great deal to the Packers community (thank you for your level-headedness and levity!). On the other side of things, do you have a story about a player being deeply appreciative of a feature story you wrote on them? I imagine it being refreshing to show there's more to each individual than a football player in pads and helmet. Speaking of greatest numbers in Packers History Mount Rushmore: Jermichael Finley, Bubba Franks, Keith Jackson, Ty Montgomery!

You're lucky you asked such a good question, Mike. I can think of several players who have been appreciative of stories I've written, including Lewis this past year. But what means the most is when a parent or loved one reaches out. I want to use this question to give special mention to Liz Patrick, Lucas Patrick's mom, who earlier this offseason sent me one of the kindest letters I've received in my 16 years as a writer. I meant to write her back but never had the opportunity. Liz…if you're out there, thank you so much for the letter. Lucas may be in Chicago but you both are always welcome in Insider Inbox.

Walt from Skandia, MI

With the practice squad at 16, and being able to protect four, does that also go with the final cut at the end of training camp? Or does everyone have to clear waivers before those kicks in?

Nobody gets to polka until the dancefloor is clear…so, yeah, everyone has to clear waivers first.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Since we are still in the dead zone a non-football question for you Wes. You mentioned being at the Iola (my wife's hometown BTW) car show, so what is your favorite old car and why?

Ha. I suppose I only told half the story, didn't I? I'm not a car person but I love flea markets. Iola has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) flea market in the entire state. My dad is the mechanic. I just enjoy walking around looking for deals.

Vince from Green Bay, WI

I was at the Christmas Eve game in 1995. It was my first Packers game. "I was in that end zone, bro. Talk about setting a high standard for every live sporting event that's come after." I was in the same end zone and agree with Wes, it will always be near, if not at the top of the "I was at that game" list. Side note, nearly 30 years later, the pure numbers of over-served Santas also stood out. (And yes, my name truly is Vincent, after Lombardi. Don't print that, but it's true)

Oh, I remember. While gambling is illegal at Bushwood, I'd bet my prettiest penny that game holds the record for most inebriated Santas attending a professional sporting event.

Keith from Lincoln, IL

I would love to bring my 4-year-old grandson to watch the Packers ride the bikes. Does that happen every morning of training camp or are there some mornings when it doesn't occur? Thanks.

Weather permitting, the players ride bikes to every public practice at Nitschke Field. We'll make an announcement on and on our social accounts if practice is moved indoors for any reason.

Allen from Morton, IL

Hi Wes, offseason curiosity…do you or Spoff use any voice to text software for II or any other work? Would this be a professional journalist's no-no, or just too kludgy to be effective?

No. For better or worse, these 10 fingertips are responsible for every word I've written in Inbox over the past six years.

Will from Rochester, MN

Wes, you're an Allen Iverson fan? Do you feel the same way about practice as he did?

Iverson is my favorite basketball player of all-time.

Bill from Richmond Hill, GA

Not to step on the toes of a couple of II greats like Dar and Lori, but if there was to be an Inbox themed watering hole/watery, it's gotta be Wes' Lunchbox, right? Also, I've been published here as Bill from Clinton WI, Kent WA, and Savannah GA. Don't think I've been picked since moving to Richmond Hill.

I was trying to end this thread off, but there were just too many submissions related to "Wes' lunchbox." I had to give the people want they want.

Jennifer from Middleton, WI

Last week, I had dinner with someone I worked with for over a year and somehow didn't know was a huge Packers fan. As we compared notes, I gave her the ultimate test asking, "So are you following Outsider Inbox right now?" With a big smile she said "Yep!" What joy to discover another righteous soul. She said she just reads, doesn't submit. Everyone, meet Jenny from Fitchburg, WI, who is on the II bench but in midseason form, ready to jump in the game any time.

Thank you for reading, Jenny from Fitchburg!

Lori from Brookfield, WI

Wes, thank you for all you have done.

To make II and OI fun.

Leave your station

For vacation.

Rest up for a Super Bowl run.

Lori poems are the best poems. Yes, that will indeed do it for me, folks. Thanks again to everyone who came along for the ride on Outsider Inbox. When I get back, it'll be all systems go for football (and Pa Hod's first shareholders meeting!)