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Inbox: That's when the tide turned for the Packers' defense

NFL GMs have to trust their process and make the best decision for their team

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LB De'Vondre Campbell

Dave from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Why is it readers somehow think you two gentlemen have a crystal ball when it comes to the health of David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins and Robert Tonyan?

Because we're the only ones doing a daily fan Q&A and seem more credible than Norbert and Fred at the local bar.

Michael from Santa Cruz, CA

It seems like decades ago, but it was barely over five years ago (Jan. 2017) when LaDarius Gunter was our clear No. 1 corner going into the 2016 playoffs. The transformation of that group since then has been incredible and the CBs will be my primary focus as this season begins. What position groups are you most closely tracking at the beginning of this season?

For me, it's the inside linebackers. Because that position went from a weakness to perhaps the Packers' deepest position. For example, the Packers' fifth ILB (Ty Summers) was picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had the first waiver claim of any NFL team. The Packers' fortunes at the position changed the day they signed De'Vondre Campbell. That's when the tide turned for the Packers' defense.

Benjamin from Bear, DE

If a cut player is claimed off waivers, but their original team offers a spot on the practice squad, do they have to go to the team that claims them?

Yes. If a team claims a player, that player must go if he wishes to play in the NFL this season. I remember both Patrick Lewis (2013) and Mitchell Henry (2014) were prepared to sign to the Packers' practice squad before finding out they'd been claimed by another team.

Mike from Somerset, WI

Wes, I consider the following players All-Pro caliber: Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Elgton Jenkins, and DeVondre Campbell. If they are all on the Week 18 roster and beyond, we are plus-two from last year and the Packers are going to represent the NFC.

And that's why the Packers take the approach they have towards training camp and the preseason. You can't win the big race if you're not entered. Less than two weeks from the opener, the Packers have all their weapons. That's all you can ask for, especially during a 17-game season.

Matthew from Portland, OR

Hi Insiders, the fact that all 12 players signed to the practice squad spent time with the Packers during the 2022 training camp warms my heart. Do you feel the love here? It makes me even more proud of this organization.

It's a major W for the Packers that Tyler Goodson, Caleb Jones and Juwann Winfree all cleared waivers. We'll see if Winfree comes back on the practice squad but all three are talented players who could make a difference at some point this season. The Packers' practice squad is full of potential.

Richard from Telford, TN

With only putting two RB on the roster, do you think the Packers consider players at WR and TE as viable options if needed?

Amari Rodgers and Randall Cobb could help in case of emergency. But I think it's more likely the Packers elevate either Patrick Taylor or Tyler Goodson as a third RB on gameday.

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

Good morning, Wes. I'm watching new signings during this waiver period with more interest than in previous years. To me it seems more about specific ST skills and less about depth. Although one doesn't exclude the other, it wouldn't surprise me to see more special-teams specialists added to the roster. Strange thought?

It's funny you submitted this like minutes before we found out about Rudy Ford being signed. Gutekunst and LaFleur reiterated again that special teams were the tiebreaker on a lot of these roster decisions. The Packers have placed a heavy emphasis there all offseason. They ain't stopping now.

Markus from Aurora, CO

Wes and Mike, I like the fact you pointed out that the initial 53 is just a starting point; there are still plenty changes to come over the next weeks and months. Get your resting in before the grind starts, gents!

And the Packers already made one move Wednesday, signing Rudy Ford and releasing Micah Abernathy. It reminds me of Myles White scratching and clawing to make the Packers' roster in 2015. Although he survived the cut to 53, White was released the next day when James Jones was re-signed. It's a tough, tough business.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

Man, brutal, brutal day for our Cinderella story. On the team for one day before being waived. Any chance Abernathy comes back on the practice squad?

That's the plan, according to Brian Gutekunst. The Packers want Abernathy back on the practice squad and I hope he signs on. In just 20 days, Abernathy reminded everyone what the league missed on him the first time around.

Gregg from Richview, IL

It seems like everyone is ready to replace Royce Newman on the OL when everyone is healthy. The fourth-rounder played more snaps than anyone on the team that won 13 games. Shouldn't we be giving him a little respect for his second-year growth?

For sure. But I also don't think it's disrespecting Newman as much as it's acknowledging the quality of prospects the Packers have accumulated on the offensive line. Once Bakhtiari and Jenkins are back, the Packers have a decision to make. Depending on where Jenkins plays, there are six former draft picks and established veteran Yosh Nijman to choose from in the two other spots. That's a lot of competition.

Steve from Wabasha, MN

What is wrong with Rudy Ford? 4.40 40-yard dash. How does Gute keep digging these guys up? How can the Jags not value him enough to let him get claimed off waivers?

I don't know everything that went into Jacksonville's decision to release Ford, but I can tell you the Packers are happy he's here. Technically, he was a free-agent signing. As a vested veteran, Ford wasn't subject to waivers.

Johnny from Newcastle, UK

Just as well Rudy Ford likes to go by his nickname rather than his forename, or that could've gotten confusing. Have the Packers ever had two players on the roster with the exact same name at the same time?

Not that I recall. Johnny Jolly and Johnny Jones were the closest I can think of.

James from Eagle, ID

Does signing Rudy Ford allow Dallin Leavitt to be put on IR if his shoulder isn't right?

Leavitt practiced again Wednesday, albeit in a red non-contact jersey. If Leavitt was going on IR, I'm guessing the Packers would've gone that direction Wednesday instead of exposing Abernathy to waivers.

John from Jupiter, FL

Morning Wes. Bigger surprise on the initial 53, only two running backs or Jack Heflin not on it? Thanks.

I had Heflin on my 53 but it was probably a pick 'em from that group of Helfin, Jonathan Ford and Chris Slayton for the No. 6 spot on the defensive line. I was pretty surprised to see the Packers go with just two RBs. As I wrote in my notes package, it's the fewest backs the Packers have kept since 2018 (when Aaron Jones had to miss a game due to a league suspension). There's only one other instance since 2009 of the Packers going with two RBs and that was in 2010 while Green Bay also was carrying three fullbacks.

Former Packers safety Morgan Burnett, who ceremonially retired as a Packer this week, joined the team for practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

Dar from Mansfield, TX

We know a trashcan full of dirt is hard to move, but it seems it's particularly hard to move out of Green Bay.

I like Heflin. I think on every championship-caliber team you need a few of those guys who have needed to prove themselves at every level they've played. Like C.J. Wilson and Tyler Lancaster before him, Heflin is a guy the Packers know they can count on if his number is called. He's one play away from being back in the D-line rotation.

Isaiah from Pyeongtaek, Republic of Korea

Does anything highlight the uncertainty of the draft more than the Eagles trading their 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor to the Vikings, who was selected one pick prior to the Vikes' Justin Jefferson, for a seventh and conditional fourth? Love what you guys do every day and keeping soldiers stationed all around the world informed on their favorite team.

Thank you for your service, Isaiah. To your question, that's how narrow the line is in the NFL. Ross Blacklock also was traded over the weekend by the Houston Texans. He's a defensive lineman I had going to the Packers in a few mock drafts I did in 2020. You just have to trust your process and make the best decision for your football team. Because you're never going to get 'em all right.

Bil from Stateline, NV

"Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark and Jordy Nelson all needed a couple seasons to get acclimated to the NFL." Can we add Davante Adams to that list, please?

You can, but Adams played some big snaps for the Packers as a rookie in 2014. His performance against New England was critical to that victory at Lambeau. Adams just hurt his ankle in Year 2 and never fully got over it.

Ivan from Little Chicago, WI

Pretty sure the Packers stashed kicker Ramiz Ahmed on the practice squad. It's crossed my feeble mind a few times that they might activate him for the first game or two specifically for kickoff duty. Just in case Mason Crosby's not quite 100%, and our coverage unit has been less than adequate. What say you?

Brian Gutekunst sounded optimistic about Crosby's chances for Week 1 but acknowledged there's still some stuff to be sorted out between now and the opener. Either way, Ahmed is a sound investment. The Packers have kept a kicker on their practice squad for the past two years, but Ahmed earned a spot with how he played last month.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

Good morning, Wes. With Crosby coming off the PUP list I have been wondering if Pat O'Donnell has experience with kickoffs in the NFL? I noticed in a couple seasons he has kicking posted on his stats, but none were FG or extra-point attempts. It would seem logical to use him for a couple games to eliminate risk to Mason in the open field to further build up strength in his knee. Do you think this might be a possibility or by being fully released, Mason is good to go?

O'Donnell has a little experience doing kickoffs, but even when Gabe Brkic was banged up, O'Donnell didn't do it in San Francisco. That leads me to believe the Packers still prefer to have the kicker handling those duties. If Crosby is given the green light, I see no reason why he wouldn't handle kickoffs.

Dave from Emmalena, KY

Is Jack Coco the UDFA that kept the streak alive?

Eighteen years and counting.

Corey from Richland, WA

Does the recent roster reduction indicate if a team has more than one RB3, they really have none?

You can never have enough (Insert Position here)3s.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Wes or Mike, with the practice squad being assembled, how much do rookies and veterans make per week? Do they get more if they are brought up for a game or two? And can practice-squad players be given a larger contract or signing bonus to stay with the Packers? Thanks!

Younger practice-squad players (those with fewer than two accrued seasons) will make $11,500 a week this season, while "veteran" players can negotiate a salary between $15,400 and $19,900 each week. If a player is elevated to the gameday roster, he makes the prorated base salary commensurate with his NFL experience.

Franky from Roeland Park, KS

Mike/Wes, I know you can protect up to four players on the practice squad each week (and swap who is protected week-to-week), but is there any reason you wouldn't protect four every week? I seem to recall we sometimes protected fewer than four some weeks last year.

The Packers did it more as the season progressed. Maybe they just didn't want to tip their hand about which practice-squad players they were highest on early in the year? Regardless, there is no deterrent to protecting four players every week. By my understanding, the Packers can protect the same player for all 18 weeks. The only limit is gameday activations – you can only elevate a player three times before he must be added to the active roster.

Jamie from Marietta, OH

Do the protected spots on the practice squad come with any extra benefits like a higher salary? I would expect it to almost have to be a roster-spot salary since you are taking that opportunity away from them.

Unless that player is elevated, not that I'm aware of. That's probably a loophole the league will need to examine at some point.

Thomas from Anchorage, AK

Of the 11 or so players who are cut and don't make the practice squad, how many approximately make it back to the team because of injuries?

One or two. Those players are typically at the top of the Packers' rolodex when injuries occur.

Craig from Sheboygan, WI

After a player is cut, do the Packers pay for that player's air fare home?

Correct. I don't know the specifics today, but the old urban legend used to be that NFL players got a one-way plane ticket to a destination of their choosing.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

With his pending retirement, what's your favorite Morgan Burnett story?

The one I wrote on Morgan and his late father, Cap, back in 2016. Morgan is a great dude, but he also was a quiet professional. So, I had no idea Cap had passed away in 2015. I recall Morgan being away from the team for a short time but it's not unusual for players to be absent for family or personal reasons, especially during training camp. Getting a chance to tell their family's story was extremely rewarding, especially since it was one of the first longform stories I'd written at packers.com. Morgan is an all-timer. I'm glad he properly got his flowers on Wednesday.

Andy from Appleton, WI

Mike and Wes, have either of you thought of pursuing a career change within the Packers organization from journalism to player personnel? Have you ever been approached in that regard? I think the research, interviews, and film study that you do to create the published articles on the roster in general and players specifically, would be a great basis for the organization to mold those skills to benefit the team. It would be right up your alley. And a no-brainer for the Packers.

I don't have the eye to be a talent evaluator. Even if I did, I lack the fortitude to cut a player. My heart is too soft.

Jeff from Indian Lake, NY

Now that we have our 53, can I get a "just beat the Vikings"? Or do I have to wait until the practice squad is full too?

Just beat the Vikings. Have a good day, everyone.

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