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Inbox: There's absolutely no reason at all

History says two teams are likely to pull it off

LB Blake Martinez, C Corey Linsley, QB Aaron Rodgers
LB Blake Martinez, C Corey Linsley, QB Aaron Rodgers

Doug from Union Grove, WI

Someone told me about a local band playing at our county fair last night, Lunch Money Bullies. I had to smile.

A great way to start the week. Here we go.

Andy from Clive, IA

Has a Packer ever admitted to not knowing how to ride a bike?

Not that I'm aware of, but that's a very interesting question.

Mark from Westminster, CO

I have one question requiring two different viewpoints. What stands out to you all with how training camp looks and is run this year compared to other years? And secondly, when speaking to the players, what do they say is different about how training camp is structured this year versus previous years?

There's nothing dramatically different, really. Saturday was different, with the first day in pads being shoulder pads only but still wearing shorts and no lower-body pads. Sometimes in 11-on-11 work, they'll split up with offensive and defensive groups at both ends of the field, which gives reserve players more reps. The one-on-one pass-rush/pass-blocking drill also had a pair of players go head-to-head two snaps in a row with no break, which is a good conditioning tool as well as a way for players to make adjustments on the spot.

Max from Troy, MO

I always kind of figured the offense wore white in practice so the red QB jerseys would stand out more. I look forward to having my assumptions corrected.

A popular theory in the Inbox. Wes said he asked equipment manager Red Batty, and the answer was there's absolutely no reason at all.

Jim from McLean, VA

Hope springs eternal for teams league-wide this time of year. I'm totally on board with "Optimism without expectations," but what two or three things to you show most that this is not false hope for the Packers in 2019?

In a nutshell, an all-time great at QB, an elite receiver, an All-Pro left tackle, and a defense infused with new talent that still improved last year despite a rash of injuries.

Elliot from Minneapolis, MN

Will this be our most athletic defense since you started with the Packers? If not what team compares?

We've spoken plenty in this space about the '10 and '14 defenses, so I take nothing away from those units. Different system, but the '07 defense was no slouch either, with Kampman and KGB on the edges, Corey Williams a dynamic interior rusher, Barnett and Hawk active linebackers, and Woodson, Harris and Collins leading a solid secondary.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, can you recall a time that while watching a regular-season game your mind flipped back to something you saw during training camp? Does camp help build your football IQ so you can better connect the dots?

I won't speak for Wes, but it doesn't work that way for me. I don't focus on scheme or X's and O's as much as individual players. In camp and the preseason, I like to get a feel for players who belong, as much as my amateur eyes can determine. Then once the real games start, my mindset changes from belonging to making a difference when it counts.

Benjamin from Evergreen Park, IL

My sons play HS football and everything is spread-offense shotgun, read option. No blocking sleds, bigger players are less featured and the smaller players in space seem to attract more attention. Are we seeing a watering down of the sport?

I'd call it an evolution, but call it what you want. We're seeing more and more at this level how the big guys better be really, really athletic or it's hard to find a place for them outside of substitution-specific roles. It may be a while yet before the NFL becomes basketball on grass, but it's probably just a question of when, not if.

Drew from Croton-on-Hudson, NY

I saw J.J. Watt started training camp on the PUP list. Does he need to be active to ride a bike when the Texans come to town?

Watt is off PUP and on Houston's active roster now, as is receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Paul from Bay View, WI

When the Texans come to practice with the Packers, are practices set up to have Pettine's defense figure out the Texans' offense and vice-versa? Or is it more just competition between what players will make the final roster? I can't imagine we will be tipping our hand too much on our scheme and they won't be either. So I'm just trying to get a feel for how they use these practices to each of their advantage.

It's more about competition for players than about scheme. They won't be worried about divulging scheme because they don't play one another this year, but the players will know less about the opposing scheme and therefore will be tested snap-to-snap much more like a preseason game.

Dani from Richmond, VA

Always love watching the bike tradition play out every year, but I have to admit that I've been getting a special kick out of this year with Jaire Alexander's pack of 23-clad kids and Gerhard de Beer carrying them on his shoulders. And J.J. Watt hasn't even arrived yet! Have there been any other takes on the tradition in the past that stick out in your mind?

In his later years, I remember Donald Driver would occasionally choose a rather strange or unique bike – something noticeably huge or impossibly tiny, for example – and find a way to make the ride work, one way or another.

Ken from Campbell River, British Columbia

To me this is the most depth we have had in years. Is there a position you see that could still use more depth?

There will be once injuries hit. I'm not being a negative Nellie, just a realist. Two joint practices and four preseason games will inevitably impact depth somewhere.

Mike from Somerset, WI

II, what is the thought being the Packers having larger-built edge players than previous with Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and Za'Darius Smith? What are the tradeoffs vs. smaller body types?

Size can set the edge better against the run, and length can help separate from offensive tackles as well as get hands up into passing lanes. You risk losing some speed coming around the outside in obvious passing situations, but there's nothing slow about Gary, and Z. Smith will most likely be rushing from the inside on third downs.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

With all the talk about wanting the D-line bigger, does three inches and 20 pounds really make a difference?

You're joking, right?

Chris from Maple Ridge, BC

Is Patrick Willis a Hall of Famer? Short career like Sterling Sharpe but unbelievably dominant, also like Sterling Sharpe.

He's got a great case. Only eight years, yes, but five first-team All-Pro selections from the AP. That's quite a run, not just as an elite player but being recognized as the best at your position (or at least top two). Sharpe had "only" three first-team All-Pro nods.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

I'm seeing a lot of speculation that Danny Vitale is a lock to make the 53 and that fullback will be a big part of this offense. If that's the case, would the Packers carry two fullbacks on the roster in the case of injury, or would they look to cross-train one of the RBs so they wouldn't lose a big part of the playbook if one went down?

I wouldn't call it a big part of the playbook, but either way the Packers aren't going to keep a second fullback who doesn't earn a spot, which means being effective on both offense and special teams. The practice squad is also an option for a young, developmental player as injury insurance if they're so inclined.

Jordan from Summerville, SC

I've heard from several people covering the Packers that Rashan Gary excels at stopping the run. I've also seen that he is expected to play everywhere from OLB to a 3-tech. At under 280 pounds, do you think we'd ever see him a defensive lineman in base or will his interior work be solely in sub-packages?

I'd say sub-packages. Interior offensive linemen at this level are entirely different beasts from college, where the best linemen often play tackle. I don't think I'd subject my 280-pound pass rusher to getting worn out by NFL guards on early run downs.

Shilo from Murrieta, CA

How could the Lions get Mike Daniels for $7.8M guaranteed, but no one wanted to trade and absorb his $7.6M base salary? My numbers may not be perfect, but this just doesn't sound right, especially with the reported market that Daniels had.

I agree, something doesn't sound right. So I can think of three possibilities. Maybe the agent was inflating the market for his player in leaking info to the media, or maybe the Packers didn't talk to the right teams about a trade, or maybe teams interested in Daniels misgauged the market for him and did not anticipate getting into a bidding war for his services, and in retrospect would have happily surrendered a draft pick to not have to compete with others in contract talks. Or any combination thereof.

Julius from Providence, RI

At St. Norbert, is it the red zone or the white zone that is for loading and unloading only?

Nicely done.

Craig from Johnson City, TN

What is the process for players getting into the Packers HOF? I was also wondering if A.J. Hawk might make it. He was a stalwart of the defense for many years even though some feel he underplayed his draft position. Who might be the next few players honored?

The process involves nominees being chosen and reviewed by multiple entities – the Packers Hall of Fame, Inc., the Packers organization (the two are technically separate), and the alumni association. Then the Hall of Fame's board of directors gives final approval on selections. I would hope in Hawk's case his draft position wouldn't matter, but his contributions would. In my opinion, he as well as other recent retirees like Lang, Sitton and Kuhn all should get strong consideration, but players have to be retired for at least four years before getting nominated.

Joe from Manitowoc, WI

With the opening game vs. the Bears, I believe there was a break in playing them every year. I think the longest streak against any team is vs. the Lions. The streak against the Bears was broken during the 1982 strike season, if my memory serves me correctly.

It does. The Packers and Bears did not play in '82, but the Packers and Lions still got both their games in, so the two teams have played one another multiple times annually dating back to 1932, when the Lions were the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans.

Neal from Fort Worth, TX

At first, 1:40 seemed to me like a short amount of practice time each day. Then I realized they also spend time in the classroom. How many hours are the players training/learning each day of camp? And, is this dictated by the current CBA?

Saturday's practice was shorter than normal, but we'll see what next week and the joint practices with Houston bring. I'm not sure what the CBA stipulations are, but in general, a day in training camp lasts about 12 hours for the players, no matter how long they're on the field.

Jon from West Des Moines, IA

Is Corey Grant being a little overlooked here? The guy had two seasons of averaging over 5.0 YPC. Yes it was an extremely small sample size, but to me it looks like he was just never really given an opportunity, which makes sense when you have Leonard Fournette. The guy ran a 4.26 40! Even if it's on special teams or catching out the backfield, seems like he could definitely contribute.

I'm very curious to see how and where Grant fits in as the next month unfolds.

Michael from Morrison, IL

Mike/Wes, with the addition of two backs in the last couple days, you surely have to add third halfback to the list of intriguing position battles this training camp, right?


James from Charlottesville, VA

In response to Venny from Montgomery, it doesn't just "seem" as if a winning season is only a season or two away for a franchise with a losing record, it's an absolute. I did my homework, and since the divisions realigned in 2002, there has been at least one team every year to go from a losing record the year before to a winning, playoff-bound team the next. There have actually been no less than two teams that have done this every year with the exception of 2013-14 (Detroit from 7-9 to 11-5). Venny pointed out that the Bears went from 5-11 in 2017 to 12-4 in 2018 and I would like to add that the Texans (4-12 to 11-5) and the Colts (4-12 to 10-6) turned their seasons around, too. Who are your guesses for teams that will accomplish that from 2018 to 2019?

I think there are numerous legitimate candidates, including the Packers. Cleveland and Atlanta immediately come to mind, as does San Francisco. I won't rule out Jacksonville, either. I highly doubt all five will, but as you noted, history says two teams are likely to pull it off.

Mark from Belleville, WI

Longtime reader of II and first-time submitter. No question just a comment. I certainly appreciate all you do to keep us all informed. As a fan I can't but smile and grin when reading Tramon Williams' take on football and life.

It was a refreshing story to write after a hot day.

Tyler from Stevens Point, WI

"I will repeat my mantra for 2019: Optimism without expectations." More like a sports journalist's fantasy while communicating with a fan base, daily. This just in: You will hear from the angry pessimistic sector regularly, and they will expect nothing less than guarantees and results, without fail. Even then, they will howl about something.

I'm not being ignorant or naïve. I'm just trying, ya know? Happy Monday.