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Inbox: The separator is consistency

A younger player will handle more and more on his plate as he goes along

LS Hunter Bradley

Eddie from La Crosse, WI

Mike Spofford, I find it highly unlikely that you "waltz" into the office at 9 a.m. I do see you walking calmly, with a purposeful stride, into your pocket universe, with eyes and ears open to whatever Wes might be plotting …

Which has made this such a low-stress week, even with no Inbox break.

Denny from Lebanon, PA

Adding to the question on equipment, with all the knee and leg injuries, why do the players not wear knee, thigh or hip pads anymore? I know the answer is going to be it slows them down, but wouldn't losing a tenth of a second be worth it, if you could prevent a season- or career-ending injury?

Not if the lost speed means you aren't good enough to play. Thigh pads and some knee pads are still worn.

Jeff from Vandenberg SFB, CA

Mike, I'm an Angels fan but missed their only World Series championship run in 2002 due to being in Basic Training at the time. Are there any major sporting events or series you regret not getting to see for whatever reason?

My semester in Spain during college was the fall of 1993, when the Badgers put together their first Rose Bowl season in my lifetime. My dad was able to fax me all the articles every Monday morning after the weekend coverage so I could keep up on the games. I was actually on the phone with him getting the play-by-play of the big interception to seal the Michigan win. I also saw the footage of the tragedy after that game on CNN International, which was a little surreal from half a world away. Fortunately for me, I was home for Christmas and therefore could see the Rose Bowl broadcast New Year's Day on TV.

Marin from West Lawn, PA

Whom do you perceive will be the Packers' kick and punt returners this season?

Nice try, but it's who. Amari Rodgers is definitely the front-runner to return punts, and I expect him to get a long look on kickoffs, too. Malik Taylor would be another candidate if he makes the roster. The winner of the No. 3 running back job amongst Kylin Hill, Patrick Taylor and Dexter Williamscould be in the mix as well. A wild card might be undrafted rookie Christian Uphoff, who returned kickoffs for a year in college.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Hi Mike, who are the main candidates to get the third RB spot? Do you think they would keep more than three?

I listed them above. I don't see keeping more than three on the 53-man roster, but I could definitely see an extra (or two) on the practice squad.

Mike from Austin, TX

My esteemed fellow Austinite Jason asked about TE blocking and also properly mentioned the HEB queso in the OI. To follow the blocking question, it seems that there are multiple aspects; technique (how to block) and scheme (who do I block?) Which is harder to teach? Does Coach Outten enlist the OL room (and Coach Butkus) to help with any of this? Is this a cross-room training? Thanks for pulling double duty this week, Mike.

Sorry, it's whom do I block. I give up. Technique is definitely harder to teach (than grammar perhaps) and he might ask for a tip here or there, but by the time a coach gets to this level, he knows what needs to be taught.

Mark from West Bend, WI

Mike, the top three players at OLB are pretty set in stone, and you and Wes have discussed those that will be competing for the fourth roster spot. Do you see this as a possible position the Packers could try and add veteran depth prior to the start of training camp or is cap space just too limited?

I think the cap crunch makes a veteran addition highly unlikely, and such a player may not be interested in signing where fourth on the depth chart is his best opportunity, barring injury.

Mike from Allen, TX

Gentlemen, I need an adjective. All the NFL coaches (not just head coaches) have a certain level of proficiency or they wouldn't be coaching. Thus, I wouldn't use the word "bad" to describe any of them. On the other hand, not all of them are golden. You see coaches and must think, "That guy is fantastic!" What do you call the guy who isn't fantastic, the guy who isn't getting the results?

He might end up being a poor fit for the scheme, for the organization, for the head coach or coordinator he's under, for the players he's assigned, or for that particular time and place in his life (see the "human" comment from yesterday). Or he might not have any players worth a darn to coach.

H.R. from Las Vegas, NV

II, in your opinion, which rookies are in the best situations right now to win OROY and DPOY? I would love to hear you say "Amari Rodgers and Eric Stokes," but I also know that would be extreme homerism and not really a look at the entirety of the league.

I'd make Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville and Ja'Marr Chase, catching passes from his old college QB in Cincinnati, the offensive favorites on paper. Defensively, the first name that jumps out to me is Micah Parsons because I think the Cowboys will find ways to use him to help a defense that needs a boost.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

Regarding teaching trying to create turnovers, do you think sometimes players try too hard to create a turnover? Seems like sometimes, while a player is trying to force the ball out, the ball carrier gains 10 or more yards. Wouldn't you try to stop the runner first?

Of course. You never want to sacrifice the tackle for trying to get the ball out. But that's why some guys are good at it and some aren't. The best know how to pick their spots.

Bob from Sister Lakes, MI

For those wondering how Willie Davis could compile such large sack numbers when there were fewer games and fewer pass attempts per game, one has to remember, offensive linemen could not use their hands to grab and hold. They had to use their forearms with their hands at their chests and could not push with their arms (not supposed to), while D-linemen could whack their opponent in the head to knock them off-balance. The blocking rules were more conducive to running rather than passing.

You wonder how many guys got concussions just from head slaps as opposed to helmet-to-helmet contact.

Bruce from Appleton, WI

Do you think Aaron Rodgers will show up for training camp?

Yes, I do. Which day exactly? No idea.

Mark from Iron Mountain, MI

Correction, the biggest move the Packers made this offseason was alienating AR12.

Who said it was this offseason?

Barb from Marengo, IL

I know you guys are trying to stay away from all the drama of the Aaron Rodgers situation and I appreciate that. I look to the Insiders for honest reactions and some great entertainment. However, I'm interested in your perspective. What do you think our chances are for a successful, playoff-bound season if Rodgers never steps foot in the building this year?

It would be a significant challenge but I wouldn't rule it out. Jordan Love would be such an unknown it's almost impossible to gauge, but I do think the Packers would still be competing for the NFC North title, because the only "juggernaut" in the division is the Rodgers-led Packers. The non-division schedule is awfully daunting, though, without a polished QB. The competition Love would be facing as a first-year starter makes me hesitate.

With 61 days until the regular-season opener, looks back at those who have worn No. 61 in Green Bay.

Matt from Burlington, WI

I'm still baffled at the loss of Corey Linsley. How long would it take for a new center and veteran QB to be comfortable? How long until that veteran QB can fully trust a new center with adjusting the line and calling out responsibilities? What would the time be with a young center and a young QB? Can that trust be developed only in live games?

It takes time and live games is when you live and learn. But you make it sound like the sky is falling when a team has to go through this process. The offense isn't going to crumble based on a change at center. Rodgers got a new center in 2014, the rookie Linsley, and won the MVP. A younger player will handle more and more on his plate as he goes along. If they're both young, they just have to work out in practice who's responsible for what and communicate.

Craig from Appleton, WI

As a follow-up to my question from yesterday about the biggest offseason move, I am curious why you feel re-signing Aaron Jones is hands down the biggest move. While I agree it was an important big move (and probably the biggest move), replacing the defensive coordinator with an unknown quantity in our organization and letting your All-Pro center walk in free agency and drafting his replacement at least deserve consideration.

Because this offense is just different with Aaron Jones, and it would feel very different to me without him.

Ross from Hudson, WI

Before Aaron Jones, who was the last starting running back drafted by the Packers and signed to a second contract? How did their stats fare after signing said contract?

Ryan Grant wasn't drafted by the Packers and was never an unrestricted free agent, but as an undrafted player he'd been in the league three years (two with the Giants on the practice squad and IR, then one with the Packers) when Green Bay gave him a multi-year deal in 2008. He rushed for over 1,200 yards each of the next two seasons.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike, you mentioned some training camp battles that you are going to focus on. How do you see the special teams competitions playing out?

Despite a second kicker (JJ Molson) in camp, I don't see Mason Crosby's job being on the line. At punter and long snapper, JK Scott and Hunter Bradley are the favorites to hold their spots, but I believe Ryan Winslow and Joe Fortunato, respectively, will get their chances in the preseason games. I'm curious to see how much pressure they can put on the incumbents.

Kent from Lewiston, ID

II, I'm intrigued by how long snappers are actually evaluated. I'm sure timing, accuracy, and chemistry with the holder is part of it, but in reality aren't LS a dime a dozen? I understand it's a specialized position, but is there a hidden value the common fan doesn't see?

Plenty have the skills (speed and accuracy), but the separator is consistency, because one bad snap can cost you a game.

Jack from Minnetonka, MN

In yesterday's column you mentioned Jaire Alexander being someone who could qualify as a player getting new focus and game-planning from opposing coordinators. Does this mean you get the sense that they weren't game-planning around him during the 2020 season? I guess "don't throw his way" probably doesn't count as game-planning, however.

That was specifically in reference to how Barry might use him differently or in a more varied role compared to past years.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

Reading your Desmond Howard article and marveling again at how dominant he was in 1996 (I was lucky enough to be at that playoff game against SF and vividly remember him zooming down the sideline in the slop) got me thinking: What player do you think had the best season for Green Bay who only played one year for the Pack? I feel like Howard would have won that title in a walk if he hadn't returned in 1999.

For sure. Another notable one from a title team would be Ben Wilson in 1967. But I think the answer to your question is Ted Hendricks in 1974. He had five interceptions, seven blocked kicks and a safety.

John from Madison, WI

How many "How it Happened" articles will you have to write before it gets its own menu on the web page? I am really enjoying this series.

Yesterday's was the last one for this year, and I think that puts me at a dozen over the past two summers. Maybe I'll ask the more technically inclined in the department about carving out some space for the series on Cliff's history page. Glad you've enjoyed it.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Hey Mike, does your hockey knowledge come primarily from observing or have you ever played it? I got into ice hockey three years ago so I could play with my son while he was in college and still around (it was cool seeing Micah from Princeton, NJ, in the Outbox last week). Now that league play has finally resumed I'm missing him even more. Enjoy spending time with your kids while you can!

I was a huge Badgers hockey fan growing up. Huge. I was a terrible player because I was a terrible skater, but I loved watching the game, and getting a chance to see the Badgers live at the old Dane County Coliseum was a special thrill the few times I was fortunate enough to get tickets.

Mark from Westminster, CO

Hey Mike, please let Madeline know she should start asking for some real money and a real title for the work she does versus underselling herself as an intern. She does great work and has proved she can play in the big leagues!

True that. She's with us only two more days and we're gonna miss her. Happy Thursday.