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Inbox: The Packers are counting on all of them

It’s a game of playmakers and Jamaal Williams is one of Green Bay’s core guys

DL Kingsley Keke

Chad from Minneapolis, MN

(Bruce Buffer Voice) "IT'S TIME!!!"

A part of me can't believe there's a football game tonight and then a Packers game in three days…and I cannot wait.

Micky from New York, NY

HOW SWEET IT IS! Football is back! What is the one area of the game that you feel, if the Packers win on Sunday, the Pack start 1-0?

You asked for one but I'll give you two that are tied together: Pressure and containment. I feel like the path to victory for the Packers is pressuring Kirk Cousins and containing Dalvin Cook, preferably to under 100 yards. The Packers didn't have to face Cook in that Week 16 matchup and halted the Vikings' ground game in its tracks. From there, Za'Darius Smith absolutely wrecked the game. The defense is going to have to work for it Sunday but it can be done.

Jake from Lake Mills, WI

There has been a lot of prognosticating the last few days or so about what the first offensive play will be and who should get the first touch. We all know defense wins championships, though. So, what's your guess for which defender(s) wearing the green and gold will record the first sack of the season and the first interception of the season?

Za'Darius. Based on the percentages, it'd be foolish for me to say anyone other than Za'Darius.

William from Palmdale, CA

Wes, loved the interplay between you and Bubba from Kenosha. Glad he's maligned with a positive outlook on the WR room, and I too, wholly agree with you on the talent we possess in RBs. It's amazing that the character of Jamaal Williams has him working extra hard on his pass catching. A signal that with ML's creative offensive scheming talent(s) GB will bring out some new wrinkles. Wasn't it you who flatly shared Josiah Deguara was really ML's insistent draft choice? Love your work! WRs aren't the only group catching!

There was a segment of media and fans who kept saying the Packers might trade Williams this offseason and even at the end of camp. I don't know why. Because those who have been paying attention can tell you Williams is a big part of what the Packers do. He's not only a reliable running back but also a core special-teams player. The best thing about Williams is he's a bell-cow back who doesn't have much tread on his tires – and he wants to get better. It's a game of playmakers and Williams is one of the Packers' core guys.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

This year more than any other, roster depth may be the difference between playing in January or watching in January. Not just illness, but the soft tissue and joint type injuries that may come from going from zero (shells) to 60 (full contact on game day) right out of the gates. Just ask the Broncos.

Without question. In a Q&A I did for Vikings reporter Eric Smith this week, I mentioned how discipline, both on and off the field, is going to be paramount this year. Everyone talks about COVID-19, and rightfully so, but players must be mindful of their hydration and taking constant care of their bodies after a bizarre offseason.

Brandon from Mount Vernon, IL

Hello Insiders, a couple of questions: There's been a lot of talk about players stepping up this year, but I haven't heard much about the D-line. How have Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke looked in camp? Also, how has Mason Crosby looked since he returned a few weeks ago?

It was telling how the Packers approached free agency and the draft. They brought in two new linebackers, Christian Kirksey and Kamal Martin, but chose not to draft a defensive lineman for the first time in 24 years. A big reason for that was Keke, whom the coaches and scouts are high on. He took the offseason seriously and returned for camp with a lot more muscle. If the D-line and run defense are to take a step forward, Keke needs to play a role in that progress. It's no different than the rest of that 2019 draft class. The Packers are counting on all of them.

Dan from Morehead City, NC

Shouldn't Pat from Kewaskum have said Spoff-on seriousness? Anyway, when does the NFL do its last COVID test before each game? Are there any provisions if a team has so many positives it can't effectively field a team?

The last test is conducted on Saturday. After that, the roster is in a pseudo-bubble with meetings, lunch, final walkthrough and the plane ride. Once the Packers land in Minneapolis, they're hunkered at the team hotel until it's time to bus over to U.S. Bank.

Collin from Kirkwood, MO

In a year with a daunting road schedule, do you think the Pack can benefit more than most from a lack of crowd noise at opposing venues? Aaron Rodgers is obviously among the best at controlling the line of scrimmage with hard counts and audibles. Normally that's a challenge for Rodgers and the O-line at places like Minnesota and New Orleans, but maybe not the case this year. Sure every team shares that benefit on the road this year, but every team doesn't have AR12 commanding the line of scrimmage.

I never thought I'd see the day when Rodgers wouldn't have to use the silent count in U.S. Bank or the Superdome. But then COVID-19 happened. So yeah, I'd say this plays to the Packers' favor.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

About the long-snapper question: I always understood that a long snapper is necessary for practice. The starting center cannot be practicing with the offensive line and the special teams at the same time. His practice time with the line is just too valuable to miss. In addition, one botched long snap could cost you a game so it just has to be right.

No lies detected here.

Patrick from Duluth, MN

The Vikings have revamped their starting cornerback group from last year. Do you feel it's an improvement from last year? Or is Aaron Rodgers set to shred them in Week 1?

Mike Zimmer defenses are not easily shredded but there are questions surrounding this new-look secondary. That being said, I get why the Vikings wanted a fresh start and they still have two of the game's best safeties, Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris, commanding the back end.

Alex from Duluth, MN

I heard somewhere "Mike Zimmer doesn't coach bad defenses." I've also observed he rarely has started rookies (until this season). Here's to outliers on both accounts.

You'll get answers to both of those thoughts soon enough, but I don't expect a walk in the park Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank.

Kevin from Indianapolis, IN

Do you see the reduction of live tackling opportunities this preseason setting up AJ "Quadzilla" Dillon to have a bigger impact early than he would have otherwise?

Possibly. I imagine this is the freshest he's ever felt heading into the month of September in his football career. At the same time, there probably would have been a benefit to AJ Dillon seeing snaps in a traditional preseason, as well. Whatever the case, I don't have any doubts about Dillon's readiness if his number's called.

Karl from Fort Collins, CO

We're all excited for play to resume, but won't one of the best parts of this team's edition be watching the growth of the offense over the season? We have some excellent young talent that is untried in the Pack's game plans and will need a number of games to assimilate. By the end of the year, this offense could move up the charts and shine in the playoffs.

It really could. We talk so much about Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, etc., etc., etc. Now, just imagine where this team would be in December if Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, Robert Tonyan and these other second- and third-year players make strides.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

The LaFleur offense seems perfect for a top TE to shine. I thought Jace Sternberger would be that guy this year but he didn't have a great camp and sort of fell out of the conversation. Does Tonyan have the talent to be "that guy"?

Yes, if he can stay healthy.

Miranda from Rochester, NY

Am I the only one who is excited about what Robert Foster could bring to this team? He's the exact field stretcher we need to complement our bigger guys! Here's to hoping he earns Rodgers' trust and gets elevated to the 53!

For now, Foster is just on the practice squad but he has a good football pedigree and serious home-run potential. He certainly grabbed my attention during his rookie year in 2018 (27 catches for 541 yards and three TDs). This is Foster's chance to recapture that magic in Green Bay.

Dennis from Denver, CO

Looking at the Packers' 53-man roster and the backups made me wonder, who is the backup if Mason Crosby tests positive for COVID and can't play?

There's no backup. The Packers would just sign someone off the street to step in.

Tucker from Lawrence, MA

Regarding the center vs. long snapper discussion, how difficult would it be for a long snapper to fill in for a center? Has this ever happened due to injury or other circumstance?

Very few long snappers look like offensive linemen. Most are built more like tight ends. Heck, Hunter Bradley is a former tight end.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

Latching onto Daniel from Allen, TX, who was latching on to Dave from Rockford's response re: long snappers. Snapping the ball is only part of the long snapper's job. He also has to get down the field on coverage. I think that is why we see more guys with TE/LB frames in that spot than a 300-pound center.

Pretty much. They also aren't there to block. In today's NFL, defensive players can't even touch the long snapper when he's in a crouched position.

Mutt from Blaine, MN

Since you're watching the televised broadcast, will you watch without sound? Curious if that distracts from things you're looking for or if it's just weird to watch in silence.

I haven't decided whether I'll listen to the broadcast or Larry and Wayne; probably the latter depending on the delay. I'm not sure how information typically provided in the press box is going to be disseminated this year, so I don't want to miss injury updates, etc. So if I have to listen to the broadcast to get the most up-to-date info, then I'll do that.

Ryan from Colfax, WI

I think this question has been asked/answered in the past, but this is regarding the players on the Packers' practice squad. If a team says they want to sign Player X to their active roster, do the Packers have "first dibs" on bringing Player X onto the active roster to avoid losing him to another team? Appreciate all of your insight and am extremely jealous that you guys get to watch the Packers live at home games!

Let's say I'm the general manager of the Hodkiewicz Mudhens and Mike Spofford is on my practice squad. If I designate Spoff as one of my weekly four protected players, then he can't sign anywhere. End of story. If he's one of the 12 unprotected guys and an offer comes in, what often will happen is I either find a spot for him on my active roster or offer to match the prorated salary he'd make with his new team, to keep him on my practice squad. From there, it's completely up to Spoff and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to decide what he wants to do.

Vince from Flagstaff, AZ

Did officials visit the Packers training camp this year like they have in the past to go over what rules will be emphasized?

Yes. They were here during the third practice in Lambeau Field on Aug. 30. They did not meet with the media this year, though.

The Green Bay Packers practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

Nick from Plainwell, MI

I don't think anybody should be sleeping on the Lions for the North either. Matthew Stafford was playing at a Pro Bowl level before his injury last year, although that defense looks a little worse for wear. My question is how long into Thursday's opening night game does it take for someone to complain about pass interference not being reviewable this year?

New York didn't want to review pass interference so pass interference will not be reviewed. It's that simple. The decision has been made and I couldn't care less.

Walt from Skandia, MI

Expanding on Bob from GR's question, do you think with the pandemic there has been more, less or just the right amount of baloney (only not really baloney) this year?

Let's just say there was enough bologna to comfortably feed a family of four.

David form Hilliard, OH

Mike and Wes, I believe Mike DeWine, our governor here in the great state of Ohio, has notified our two NFL teams that they may choose two home games to allow a limited amount of fans to attend. Have you heard anything in this regard for the Packers this season?

Gov. Tony Evers said on Tuesday he'll leave those decisions up to the Packers but added it's unlikely we see full stadiums in 2020. In my mind, the most important thing is keeping the athletes safe and getting these games in. Beyond that, let's see where September takes our state and country before talking about whether fans should be allowed to attend or not.

Ryan from Freeport, IL

With an additional player being active on game day, was there already an extra locker in the two Lambeau locker rooms?

There are plenty of lockers. I think I counted 62 or 64 in the main area last year and another 40 or so more in the auxiliary section.

Steve from Cedar Falls, IA

Are the officials going to be using electronic whistles like the ones used in the college games last weekend? I heard the announcers saying the players were having a hard time hearing them. I assume it is coming from speakers and not from the field per se?

Officials will have the option to use the electronic whistles. I'm not sure how many actually will do so, though.

Jim from West Point, NY

While Rodgers/Brady won't break Favre/Testaverde's geriatric record, Brady/Brees is going to crush it Week 1 in a way that may never be beaten...at least not until Week 9 when they do it again and then two more times next year. What do you think is the most unbeatable record in football? Favre's start streak has to be up there.

Brees and Brady are going to shoot that record into orbit this season. Favre's ironman streak will last forever. It's hard to see any non-specialist breaking that with increased emphasis the league has placed on player health and safety over the last 20 years.

Nic from London, UK

It's not like Rodgers doesn't get respect for his career or anything, but it's interesting that it's seen as a disappointment that he hasn't won more than one Super Bowl. That doesn't seem to be an issue for how Brees' career is evaluated. Why?

Because before Brees, the Saints had none. I think the one Super Bowl thing became a big deal in Green Bay because Favre "only" won one.

George from Hutchinson, MN

Will the audience cardboard cutouts be able to withstand the wetness that is fall and winter? Will the cardboard cutouts of Spoff and Wes on road games be layered with protective clothing? Congregating minds want to know!

The Spoff and Wes cutouts can be layered with clothing but they're still very frail – like the real Spoff and Wes.

Travis from Bremerton, WA

I will never forget the feeling I had as a kid on Christmas because that's exactly how I feel every Thursday night in early September. Happy Opening Day, everybody. It's finally here!

We made it. Football is back. Enjoy the opener, folks.