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Inbox: The goal is to build the best team in football every offseason

It’s worthwhile to explore the technological possibilities

RB AJ Dillon
RB AJ Dillon

John from Fairbanks, AK

Aloha Wes/Mike. I'm another one of the Insider Inbox family lucky enough to be on Kauai at the moment. It's nice to know other Insiders are on the island. Is there any way that the Inbox can put Insiders together? I'd hate to get to Texas and miss Dar, for example. It might not be possible, but an Insider Inbox T-shirt would help us identify each other. When can I get one? GPG!

What is going on in Hawaii? Was there a summit or something? But you'll never miss Dar in Texas. The man has his own shirt for Pete's sake.

Bryce from Lorain, OH

"But I'm also not going to dump an ICEE down your back and tell you it's snowing." Speaking of which, how much snow did Titletown, USA, get? Must have been some serious weather to close shop.

We had 11 inches in my neck of the Suamico woods. Nothing too crazy, but enough for me to write today's column from home.

John from Livermore, CA

And so, the wheel of the NFL turns. The draft is coming, and every team is resetting expectations. Realistically, what are your expectations for the upcoming season at this early date?

It's the Green Bay Packers, John. There's one expectation here. The goal is to build the best team in football every offseason.

Bennett from Ashwaubenon, WI

Good morning! How does the NFL decide which players to invite to the combine?

There is a player selection committee comprising NFL personnel directors and directors of both National and BLESTO scouting services. The executives involved can rotate on a yearly basis. While the committee ultimately votes on which invitees are chosen, all 32 NFL teams are encouraged to provide input.

Mark from Appleton, WI

Just a comment following up on how the combine could be improved: I attended the Indy combine last year and, while I'll probably catch some of it on TV in the future, it is the last time I go in-person. Watching grass grow in winter is more exciting. The most fun was trying to spot familiar sports announcers hustle from spot to spot. There is too much waiting time between events, while live and TV coverage thankfully edits out the downtime.

That's what I was hinting at. I appreciate the NFL's effort but also don't think there's enough lipstick in Macy's to cover that pig – and it's not necessary. Not every facet of the NFL needs to be teeming with excitement. It's athletic testing.

Brian from Fort Atkinson, WI

Good morning, Wes. Hope you are doing well today. This may not be a question per se, more of an observation, but I would like your thoughts. I can see a few uses for chipping the ball but determining spotting the ball on an offensive play is not one of them. Where the ball ends up does not matter. Most replays are trying to find out where the player was actually down, whether it is a knee or elbow. Where the ball comes to rest makes no difference. You have the floor. Thank you.

Oh, stop making sense, Brian. You know how Mike McCarthy used to say, "More creativity. Less volume"? Well, Wes Hodkiewicz wants "More innovation. Less rationality."

Dave from Waterford, OH

To answer Mutt's query about the chip(s) in the football. There wouldn't be one chip or a couple of chips. The football would contain an array of chips, or something similar, that would encompass the entirety of the ball. So, this array would probably be a thin line between the bladder and the leather, or possibly integral to the bladder itself. Therefore, ball location measurements would only be inaccurate by the thickness of the leather. We can probably live with that tiny of a discrepancy.

Hey, not every idea is a good one. I'll admit that. But again, isn't it worthwhile to explore the technological possibilities to make the best calls? In the worst-case scenario, New York and the in-game officials still have the benefit of replay, no?

John from Salt Lake City, UT

Wes, Hawkeye actually captures a ball by way of many cameras mounted around the stadium tracking the ball then locating it based off triangulation. It's highly accurate and is actually the system they are using in minor league baseball with the "robo-ump" ABS technology. It wouldn't work in football if someone was carrying the ball high and tight but would be excellent for punt location-type stuff where there is no human contact with the ball.

Well, you gotta start somewhere.

Samuel from Skokie, IL

If Aaron Rodgers leaves, will Jordan Love play in preseason games? Matt LaFleur played no starters in the past. Wouldn't Jordan Love need reps? Would ML put him out there without the No. 1 offensive line? It's an easy call not to play a vet like Rodgers, but this is different.

Under the scenario you outline, I'd expect Love to get some preseason work behind the starters. That's valuable experience for any young quarterback, let alone a first-year starter. As far as the offensive line is concerned, the Packers played their available starters with Love last summer. Yes, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were still on the physically unable to perform list but it's not like the Packers sent Love out there with practice-squad guys.

Jeff from Montclair, VA

Hey Wes! I saw that fan fav Kurt Benkert was invited to the combine. Do vets get invited often, and is there any significance beyond maybe getting another shot? He seems to be doing well outside of the game and I for one would like to see him land somewhere.

This is the first time the NFL has had two veteran quarterbacks throw to receivers at the combine. I haven't yet seen who the other QB will be, so it's hard to say what the significance might be of Benkert being chosen. It is an interesting idea, though, and another opportunity for Benkert to work in front of NFL scouts.

Shawn from Kissimmee, FL

I'm pretty sure Rodgers is doing more than just a darkness retreat, it's a full-sensory deprivation retreat. He's not in there listening to anything but his own thoughts and whatever sounds he creates like stubbing his pinky toe again. Who needs an alarm to wake you up when you don't have a clue of what time it is, unless you're counting the meals they serve you to keep track of what time or day it might be? I'm intrigued to hear about his experience in there more than his decision for next year.

I read Xuan Thai's piece for on the darkness retreat and was fascinated to learn more about extended sensatory deprivation. We rarely take time to unplug in today's society. The story also made me meditate on Rodgers' quote to Pat McAfee about how "some people don't want to do a few days and nights of darkness, and that's fine. But to out and out judge it like you have any understanding of it, that's not exactly a way to come together as a society and connect better as a people." It's true. People will spend hours judging the actions of others but won't spare a second to understand different perspectives. This was a mental exercise Rodgers wanted to explore. I hope he found it be a rewarding experience.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

The winds of change are blowing in Packerland whether this year or is inevitable. I'm thinking next year will be one of the youngest teams overall the Packers have fielded in a few years depending upon veteran cuts or trades. As for our QB, I can see both camps, either staying with the older veteran or starting the young gun. Personally, the old hippie in me leans towards going with youth, peace and Love as the first choice. GPG!

If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one. Those are wise words from John Galsworthy. But I will add if you never take time to enjoy the present, then of what use is the future? Out of the darkness, decision time draws near. A few days out from the combine, that's all I'm thinking about right now.

Ted from Amherst, NY

Aaron Rodgers gets four days of darkness. We get four days of pundits speculating about what comes out of the darkness. I think Aaron is getting the better end of that deal.

Serenity now.

Eric from Springfield, VA

Tampa Bay is $56 million over the cap. Using Vic's phrase, are they on the train tracks? Is this a matter of going for it all for the Super Bowl?

Again, nearly every NFL contender has salary-cap issues right now because of how COVID forced teams to kick the can down the road two years ago. Despite the cap shrinking in 2021, franchise players still wanted to be the highest paid at their respective positions and teams understandably made it happen. But the bill eventually comes due. The problem isn't exclusive to one particular team. It's a reality most of the league is facing.

James from De Pere, WI

Kind of an odd question but please bear with me…is the use of a mouth guard strictly a personal decision by each player? I notice some wear one and others don't. Dental work can be painful and pricey. I wouldn't want my teeth knocked out no matter how much money I'm making. Thanks for the answer.

Yeah, and it mostly boils down to communication. For many positions, including quarterback, it's crucial to be able to talk and adjust pre-snap. Still, Mouth guards are essential for skill-position players and tacklers absorbing contact every down, which is why you'll see Adrian Amos putting his in after the defensive call is relayed and the ball is snapped.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

I've been reading a lot about ChatGTP and other generative AI software. How do you see this affecting the print journalism world? Might small local newspapers be able to use this type of technology to stay afloat?

I'm somewhat leery about ChatGTP, but I can see the positives. It should make aggregation of information a lot easier, but ultimately you need the human element to conduct interviews and generate original content regardless of how big or small your media entity is.

Mark from Savannah, GA

Good morning, Insiders. Do you have any insight on what Marcedes Lewis will be doing once he eventually retires? I met him in Jacksonville, and found him to be quite intelligent, well-spoken, and caring. He came across as sincere and honest. (Obviously, that rules politics out.) I know he will always be the "Big Dog" but get him around little kids and he is more like the "Big Puppy Dog".

I talked with his mom, Yvonne Withers, about that last year. She thinks Lewis would be a great advisor to young NFL players someday and I agree. I don't know what Lewis wants to do once his playing days are over, but I think he'd be an excellent team player-engagement rep...after he banks Year 18.

Take a look at photos of Green Bay Packers CB Keisean Nixon during the 2022 NFL season.

Ron from Mitchell, SD

The passing game in the NFL is so timing based, with quarterbacks throwing to spots. If a DB makes illegal contact with a receiver and changes/inhibits the receivers route, who can assume that the receiver would not have been at the targeted spot, especially with Patrick Mahomes. JuJu could have made it to the intended spot if his route had been impeded, whether it's in the first two minutes or the last.

You're right that it shouldn't matter if it's the first two minutes or the final two minutes. My issue is how the game has been officiated matters. There hadn't been a single holding penalty or defensive pass interference call in the Super Bowl until James Bradberry's "tug" on Smith-Schuster. Not one., It reminds me of ending of the 2020 NFC title game between Green Bay and Tampa.

Todd from Phoenix, AZ

Charles from Blairsville's question made me think about sod-gate. How do the Eagles slip on 38% of Patrick Mahomes' dropbacks, but the Chiefs only slip on 14% of Jalen Hurts' dropbacks? Did the Chiefs equipment team do a better job when walking the field during pregame, did the Chiefs get lucky, or could the sodfather have tipped off his previous employer?

Where did you get those statistics? Pro Footfall Focus? Get it? I'm here all week. Try the pork cutlet. To your question, I'll refer you to Jamaal Williams' comments last month about cleats and grass: "Just put on the studded things and stop trying to look cute. Just play with the field." Both Kansas City and Philadelphia play on natural grass. If you're slipping, then change your cleats. In a neutral-site game, the advantage goes to the team that figures the field out first.

Ben from Pensacola, FL

All due respect to Dennis from Parrish - I prefer to get my two-mile run in at 50 or below! That being said, I'm not sure how often it gets down that low compared to where I'm at. Panhandle gets significantly colder than the rest of FL during the typical "winter" months for everywhere else. I hate running in 70s and above, so my world is gonna get pretty hard in the next couple months. Here's hoping I'm in Colorado next summer.

I'm treadmill-only during the winter months. I remember having to run outside in 30-degree weather at the start of COVID in March 2020 and hated every minute of it. I'm not built for that. Stay warm, Ben…or cool.

Chuck from Jackson, WI

You guys in suits at the end of II just isn't right. Whom can we petition to get pictures of the two of you in sweats?

It does feel a bit too formal, doesn't it? Maybe we can get a photo of Spoff and me in our unofficial Inbox T-shirts.

Jacob from Zionsville, IN

Just a friendly reminder. When you're in town for the combine, Workingman's Friend is the burger spot you've gotta hit.

I'll put it on the list. Speaking of which, a big thank you to Dan (You know who you are). Appreciate the email and gift.

John from Waupaca, WI

Hello Inbox. I was waiting for someone else to mention "The Outlaw Josey Wales" reference in the Wednesday Inbox. One of the best Clint Eastwood movies. Great characters scattered throughout as well as some classic lines and like the one you mentioned, some not so well known. What are your favorite Eastwood movies?

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" is No. 1, 2 and 3 for me. I'd put "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "High Plains Drifter" as honorable mention.

Mike from Cascade, ID

Hi Wes, I used to think the offseason was a little easier on you and Mike. But it has occurred to me that it might be more challenging. You guys get the whole ball of wax thrown at you during this time.

Each day is like opening a box of chocolates and not knowing what's gonna be in there. Somedays, it's chocolate. Other days, it's…not chocolate. Have a great Friday.

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