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Inbox: That's where the biggest questions are answered every summer

We have to learn from every experience along this wayward journey

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Linebackers Greg Roberts and Rashan Gary

Stephie from Flowery Branch, GA

So...did training camp start today or not?

Not. Isn't 2020 great?

Joe from Dundee, IL

Oh boy, what will happen now after a number of positive tests of Marlins players and coaches? Will this give the NFL pause? Will it cause the NFL to add some more protocols?

The Marlins' situation is a reminder we have to listen to the medical professionals at every step of this wayward journey – in sports and otherwise. This is going to be a daunting challenge for the NFL and it's going to be up on everyone to avoid getting complacent over these next five or six months. The antennas must be raised at all times. With daily testing in place and no preseason to worry about, the NFL needs to use these next six weeks to determine if the necessary protocols are in place to keep players safe and healthy once the games begin. I fear for baseball, though. Time is not on its side if teams have to get quarantined for 10-14 days and the schedule starts to get dusted.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

My buds and I played sandlot football or baseball every day, whichever season it was. We chose different teams each time. We didn't get paid and had no one cheering us on, but we played like that was the case. We just had each other, pride and bragging rights for the day. I don't think the pros will have an issue with motivation to win.

They're world-class competitors. These players wouldn't be here if that internal motivation wasn't already instilled in them.

Craig from Appleton, WI

With no preseason games, do you think the coaches will hold any scrimmage games? Players often mention needing to get their bodies ready for game-type physical contact. With fewer padded practices and no preseason games, it seems harder to prepare for this.

The teams won't be scheduling scrimmages in these conditions, even if they're only intra-squad. Whatever padded practices teams can get in will have to do.

Mike from Austin, TX

As the battle zone is being redefined from the edges to the middle of the field, the safety position is emerging to that of elite status. Given that the 49ers are leading edge in taking the middle, isn't the Jamal Adams trade actually brilliant for the Seahawks? Is the Pack ahead of the curve with Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage?

What matters most is having a stable one-two punch on the back end, but that isn't a new revelation or anything. That's how I felt in the late-'90s with LeRoy Butler, Eugene Robinson and later Darren Sharper. So I credit Brian Gutekunst for identifying an area the Packers needed to shore up and devoting resources to that cause last year. Whatever you think about what the Seahawks gave up, John Schneider has seen firsthand how a stellar back end affects a defense and obviously wants to get back to that.

Morris from Eau Claire, WI

From our pool of skill players, do you see anyone aside from Davante Adams reeling in over 1,000 receiving yards in the upcoming season?

Yes. All it takes is 62.5 yards per game if someone plays in all 16 games. And there's plenty of snaps to go around if a No. 2 receiver distinguishes himself from the pack.

Curtis from Brookfield, WI

Hi Mike and Wes, I know we have asked some questions about the practice squad, and I don't think this question was asked: If a player gets (signed) off a practice squad and for some reason would fail his physical for his new team, does he still remain with his new team for three games or does he go back to his old team, or is he in some kind of limbo? Thanks guys.

The new team would have to pass that player on his physical for the deal to go into effect. If he should fail, he would then revert back to the practice squad of his original club.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

With the salary cap reportedly going to $175M in 2021 from $198M this year, will teams be able to credit the money they are under the cap this year to the 2021 cap? If so, how do you think that might affect cuts (especially high-priced veterans) and signings through Sept. 5?

Any unused cap space in a season automatically rolls over to the following year. So those considerations would have to be made before a team agrees to sign Jadeveon Clowney, for example.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

Our favorite South Carolina beachcomber always talked about every unpadded camp produces an underwear champion. His term for a guy who can't play once the pads come on and real hitting starts. I have a pretty good idea EVERY team in 2020 will keep on the roster a couple of underwear champions who won't finish the season!

Underwear champions and I bet a few classroom guys who impressed during the virtual offseason program and retained that knowledge to get off to a strong start with the installs during camp.

Robert from Harris, MN

As a coach, I am getting a kick (or something) out of the fans that are wringing their hands at how difficult it will be to make decisions on roster spots with no preseason games. I understand the concept of "gamers" but seriously, a single practice can create 10 times the number of touches/reps that a game can. Trust me, everything being even, replacing a preseason game with a practice gives the coaches much more information than you think.

Exactly. Brian Gutekunst always talks about how preseason games often reinforce what a player does in practice. That's where the biggest questions are answered every summer. I'll miss the preseason because it gives us writers some tangible numbers to ascertain how certain players are performing, but there's still plenty to be gleaned from what happens over at Nitschke Field.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

This may be wishful thinking, but do you think the NFL will take into account the economic hardship to the Green Bay economy due to the pandemic when awarding the 2024 draft?

Economic hardship is everywhere right now, though. Either way, I still think the Packers have a good chance of hosting it. Not every NFL Draft needs to attract 600,000 people. Bringing it to Green Bay would not only be an homage to the history of the game, but also a nice change-of-pace from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. We conducted a draft in the commissioner's basement for crying out loud. Don't tell me Green Bay is too small to host it.

Craig from Milwaukee, WI

Which rookies do you think will surprise and stand out?

I can't wait to see AJ Dillon run in-person.

Jeff from Belton, TX

How many undrafted FA make the team this year? I'm thinking that not having preseason games will hurt the chances this year. They will not have the opportunity to shine against other players trying to make teams.

There's always one. I do think we see perhaps fewer on the active roster than most years but also more on the practice squad that the team wants to take a deeper look at.

Mike from Ames, IA

As someone covering sports, is there anything you've seen in the first wave of MLB/NBA action that you've focused on to help you prepare for whatever the NFL season looks like?

I'm walking softly and carrying a big tube of hand sanitizer. What I've learned is the importance of taking every precaution and humbly recognizing I don't have all the answers. That's why I'm keeping an open mind to everything. There are bound to be some missteps but following protocols put forth by medical professionals can help prevent you from stumbling.

Jeffrey from Eau Claire, WI

How's the linebacker situation looking?

Wide open. Behind Christian Kirksey, everything is there for the taking.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

For a player like Kirksey who has struggled through some injuries of late, do the changes to the preseason serve as a benefit to help him get healthier or a hindrance because he needs the live reps?

I doubt Kirksey would've seen much action in the preseason anyway, but I think the non-contact offseason helps him. The Packers already cleared him from his chest injury in March but the last four months can only help him regain the strength and confidence in his pec.

Jeff from Portage, WI

Hi guys, in reference to the question about game-day rosters, if a team only has seven offensive linemen and the limit is 47, does the other team have to have the same number?

The other team can still dress 48 players as long as it has eight offensive linemen. So if a team only has seven on the active roster, it might as well dress an eighth from the practice squad or forfeit that option.

Steven from Silver Spring, MD

So which team will game the extra lineman rule first? If I can have an extra lineman on the active roster, and the tackle-eligible rule still exists, then for example I can have Marcedes Lewis and Jace Sternberger list themselves as OTs and have them report into the game as tackle-eligible. Then I can use their now empty TE slots for other players. If a player's number is all that designates them, then this is an easy end-run.

I don't think it's worth it. Whichever way you slice it, we're literally talking about the 48th most impactful player you're trying to squeeze on a game-day roster. And if a team did abuse it, then I'm sure the league would step in. Remember, Lewis or Sternberger would have to report eligible on every single play if they were listed as tackles. If the Packers did that 40 times a game, that fish wouldn't smell right.

Bill from Houston, TX

Regarding the question from TK from Grafton, about players on the bubble: "How much does the team have invested into the player? In many cases, the tie goes to the draft pick." Sunk cost is not a valid basis for decision. I hope players are kept based on an assessment of their potential to provide value in the future and not on what has been spent to acquire them. What's been spent, be it a draft pick or money, is not relevant.

It may not be valid in your mind, Bill, but I can tell you from nine years covering this league that's often how it works when an NFL GM is deciding between an undrafted free agent and a rookie sixth-round pick. Is it best practice? Maybe not, but that's how the game is played.

Phil from Madison, WI

With no fans in the stands, is this the year for offenses to put up some big numbers without the noise interference? Hopefully teams won't be allowed to drown out the line calls with fake fan noise?

Maybe offenses will. Or maybe it leads to fewer defensive breakdowns because communication is so much easier. I really don't know. I guess we'll all find out together in Minnesota.

Dan from Morehead City, NC

With tailgating being such a big part of the Packers game experience, do you think any drive-in theaters might get rights to play the game and then allow proper socially distanced tailgating? Of course the day games would be hard to do.

Correct me if I'm wrong here but wouldn't that be kinda tough for noon games, with the sun and all? I love tailgating as much as the next Wisconsinite, but the whole idea seems to be counterproductive to containing a virus.

Norm from La Crosse, WI

Has Jordy Nelson retired as a member of the Packers?

Yes.

Venny from Montgomery, AL

Will Sunday practices in August be more like a preseason game day to get the team prepared for the regular-season regimen?

No. Family Night may take on added importance, though, since it'll be the only time the Packers will be on the Lambeau Field playing surface prior to Sept. 20 vs. Detroit.

Doug from Neenah, WI

I only saw a few minutes of Brewers baseball this weekend but occasionally could detect some "banter" coming from the dugouts in an empty stadium. Without fans in the stands at NFL games, opposing teams will be able to shout back and forth for all to hear, including field-level TV microphones. Taunting? Unsportsmanlike? R-rated broadcasts? Certainly there's been trash talk going on in years past but this could open everyone's ears to new possibilities. Your thoughts?

They're going to have to come up with something, whether music playing over the telecast or piped-in crowd noise like old wrestling broadcasts. Networks will want something to muffle chatter because it can get pretty PG-13 in the trenches.

Keith from Dodgeville, WI

What is baseball doing with all the baseballs hit into the stands now?

Picking them up?

James from Madison, WI

Wes, what's your favorite brand of root beer?

Sno-Cap.

Benjamin from Burlington, VT

Insiders, as an alternative to the recently oft-cited Astros' asterisk, may I humbly submit: Astrosisk. It won't be any easier to say, but I think it's got a sort of quiet charm to it.

How did I not think of this?

Rich from Woodburn, OR

I read you every day with my morning coffee. I usually rate the column "Up Vote" and sometimes "Love." I can't believe the one or two "Angry" or "Sad." It must be the same folks. Too bad they can't see themselves out!

I didn't even know that. So thank you for your up vote and occasional love.

John from Yakima, WA

To those Packers players in the "at-risk" category: Do take advantage of the opt-out, especially if it is a family member. Happy to see you back in 2021. To those non-risk Packers players who opt-out, keep in as much team (virtual) contact and happy to see you in 2021. To the Packers organization, let staff that wishes to opt-out do so with a negotiated stipend, and we will see you back in 2021.

I'm not too familiar with the football side of things, but I give Mark Murphy and the organization a lot of credit for how they've handled their employees. They encouraged us to stay home and do what's best for our families throughout this process. While I will continue working from home until there are practices to cover, I did write today's Inbox from my desk in Lambeau Field. It was my first time stepping foot in the building in 146 days. Incredible.

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