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Inbox: There will be even more opportunities to make an impact

Brian Gutekunst and the Packers’ front office have done their research

Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow
Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow

Paul from Phoenix, AZ

Wes, thank you for the Monday column. After a weekend of unprecedented news, I greatly appreciated the touchstone of the II. As an expat Wisconsinite, the Packers are more than a football team to me, they are a part of my cultural heritage - and the II has become an integral part of that heritage. I would say more, but I can't read what I am keyboarding as my eyes are too "moist." I wish you and yours the best of health.

We made it through Monday, folks. I wrote this column from the bonus room above our garage, which I'm pretty sure will be my makeshift office over the next few weeks. Fortunately, there's some news to discuss. So I guess we have that going for us…which is nice. Good morning!

Eric from Honolulu, HI

With the scare of the coronavirus, how does it affect operations for the Packers?

Lambeau Field is shut down for at least two weeks, so 1919 Kitchen & Tap, the Packers Pro Shop and Packers Hall of Fame are all closed. Our department can easily work from home, so my life hasn't been drastically altered…yet. Meanwhile, the beat goes on for the Packers' front office and football operations. They're grinding tape and working the phones in preparation for the new league year, and start of free agency. They're getting after it.

Justin from Los Angeles, CA

If they can find a way to do it safely, the NFL has to realize that the draft might be the only sporting event of any kind over the next few months, right? Not saying they shouldn't delay it, but I can't imagine that visions of only-game-in-town ratings haven't crossed the league's mind.

It's starting to look that way, especially with UFC reportedly postponing its events. We have to see how our world evolves, adapts and adjusts to life in the age of coronavirus and make the best decision possible regarding the draft. The technology is there to conduct the NFL Draft remotely, but that's only if society is managing the virus all right a month from now and GMs feel they have sufficient information to make these career-defining decisions. If so, go for it. We don't need poppers, boats or multicolored kazoos to draft NFL players. Just make the picks.

Gary from Sheboygan, WI

OK Insiders, showing my complete ignorance here. What is the significance of decreasing the number of practices in pads to 16 in the new CBA? What was it before? And what is so hard about practicing in pads, unless it was an everyday event?

It was 28. The reduction is intended to reduce punishment on the body, especially with an extra game. There's a big difference between practicing in pads and in shells. I understand the old-school mentality that hard-hitting practices condition players for a long season but the science supports the notion of pulling back and promoting recovery.

Hannes from Milwaukee, WI

Wes, in not-too-distant future you'll have to deal with questions about how/if season and career stats are comparable before and after the 17th game was added. How much are you looking forward to this particular aspect of the new CBA?

The traditionalist in me hates it but the reality is a lot of those records (passing yards, touchdowns in a season, receiving yards and touchdown) have been falling anyway. There's no question the extra game will gradually rewrite the record book. Just like the 1978 expansion did.

Chris from West Allis, WI

Well, we know this about Brian Gutekunst: he's decisive. When he finds a player he likes at a price he likes, he's not afraid to go get them and wastes no time doing so. I like it!

As I wrote last month, Gutekunst and his scouting department needed to be pragmatic with how they approached free agency because they can't keep everyone. And if (Insert unrestricted free agent here) moves on, there needs to be a plan to replace that individual. Gutekunst and his scouting department did their research and have acted decisively out of the gate.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

Brian Gutekunst impresses me as a man with a plan. Address needs in FA and get BAP in draft. Doesn't mean he won't miss here or there, but I like his approach.

It's like a long-drive competition. Put a few balls out there and keep hacking away. Not every shot is going to be pin-high to the green but each ball on fairway gives your team a chance.

George from North Mankato, MN

What is the point of legal tampering if exact details in contracts and trades are known when they happen? Why not just start free agency early? Looks like we have a little insight to the plan at OL and LB. Any other moves you think are possible before the draft?

When the NFL began the "legal tampering period" five years ago, the league wanted to make the first day of free agency a big news day with high-profile players signing left and right. Instead, we have agents and teams ironing out deals in a matter of hours on the opening day of negotiations. The ink has to dry on the Packers' deals before we know where things stand with the cap, but to my untrained eye, it appears they still have some wiggle room.

Mike from Ames, IA

Do you think the flurry of activity Monday could have been partially motivated by wanting to get guys in the fold quick in case the league does decide to amend plans for starting free agency due to the virus?

Possibly, but teams also don't have to wait until the start of the new league year to sign recently released players. So there's nothing holding Green Bay back from going after a "street" free agent or two. Also, keep in mind some of the Packers' best free-agency signings (e.g. Julius Peppers and Jared Cook) have been players picked off other teams' discard piles.

Zack from Christiansburg, VA

We know you don't announce signings until its official, so I'll ask this instead – what do you know about Christian Kirksey and what he brings to the table?

I like the cut of his jib. Prior to this recent string of injuries, Kirksey was one of the NFL's most dynamic young inside linebackers. He had two promising seasons with Mike Pettine in Cleveland before breaking through with his 148-tackle season in 2016. He's quick in coverage and athletic enough to rush the passer (11½ sacks during his first four seasons). He was a team captain at a very young age in Cleveland and still is only 27. There's a lot to like about the 6-2, 235-pound linebacker.

Sal from Hailey, ID

"Rick Wagner, Wisconsin" just doesn't have the same ring to it. He'll definitely have some giant shoes to fill. What are some of his strengths at the position?

Good player with tremendous size for the position and a lot of pelts on the wall (87 regular-season starts). As a West Allis native and Badgers alum, he has deep ties to the state of Wisconsin. Wagner battled some injuries last year but he's been a consistent performer throughout his NFL career.

David from Janesville, WI

While I enjoyed watching both Blake Martinez and Bulaga, suddenly I am hoping they get huge deals not just for them but for our compensatory pick equation. There's not a ton of money left to sign UFAs, so we should be looking good in regards to these extra picks, agreed?

Time will tell but both deserve to be rewarded for their contributions. Bulaga has been one of the league's most underrated tackles for the better part of a decade. On a personal level, it's also been fun to watch how Bulaga grew in his dealings with the media. For all the grief he's received over injuries, Bulaga has started 111 games over 10 years for the Packers. What more can you ask from a first-round pick? As a former fourth-round compensatory pick, Martinez has earned every penny on his paycheck over the last four years.

Bill from Houston, TX

The Pack should one-up the Texans and trade Davante Adams for Todd Gurley. I will see myself to the door...

You forgot to swap the second- and fourth-round picks.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

The new CBA allows the active game day roster to be 48, if you dress eight offensive linemen. Can an offensive linemen wear No. 88?

See you in 2021, Dale…kidding (maybe).

Dale from Owatonna, MN

My previous submission about the offensive lineman is going to get me banned so I wanted to ask a serious question. With the roster allowing 48 players, if you dress eight offensive linemen, how long before someone figures out they can dress an extra tight end in an ineligible number and then have him report as eligible in an emergency or use him on special teams? I realize offensive line is a high need position when injuries start happening, but when you don't have eight dress someone will.

Good to see we have a comedian in the audience. I still think it would be difficult for an NFL Team to pull the switcheroo because that tight end would have to declare every single time he enters the game. The league would catch on pretty quick to any team attempting to game the system.

Clipton from Pasadena, CA

Can you please shed some light on the new CBA requirement that at least eight of the 48 dressed players must be offensive linemen? Which side wanted this and why?

Offensive linemen don't have much special-teams versatility, so many teams (including the Packers) only dress seven offensive linemen on gamedays to make room for an extra linebacker, tight end or defensive back. This occasionally results in teams getting shorthanded due to injuries. In Detroit, for example, Green Bay was down to its last five O-linemen after Bulaga and Corey Linsley exited. Billy Turner injured his ankle but finished the game because there was no one left on the bench. I think both sides were in favor of this measure, which was added in the name of player safety.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Gentlemen, a question about the format of the preseason with the new CBA. With only three games, won't UDFA have less chance to make an impression? How will fewer games affect playing time for vets, if at all? In general, I'm assuming coaches and players favor reduction in preseason.

I don't see this having much of an impact on veteran participation in the preseason. Very few starters play in the finale anyway. As far as undrafted free agents are concerned, I believe there will be even more opportunities to make an impact. Sure, there's one fewer preseason game but what they're getting in return is two (and soon-to-be four) extra spots on the practice squad. In addition to receiving better benefits, practice-squad players will have a more direct line to the game-day roster now, too.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I'm not a fan of watering down the playoffs, but on the lighter note, I do like going from three games (per conference) to two games to one game. Also, I think we'll hear fewer "Why did this division winner get in when this other team had a better record?" questions. I get you guys aren't fans of expanded playoffs, but what other positives do you see for it?

True, though those 10-6 teams that miss the playoffs aren't overly common. It seems like a once-every-four-years occurrence. If the 14-game playoff format was implemented this past season, the 8-8 Steelers would've advanced as a wild-card team. Yippie.

Dave from Sparta, WI

Teddy Bridgewater. I can't imagine anyone not being impressed with his quality of play as QB1 for the Saints. Where will he land? And where would the Vikings be if Teddy was on the roster still?

I really like Bridgewater. I love him as a player and I love his story. I still say the Vikings made the right call with letting Bridgewater walk and signing Kirk Cousins two years ago. They needed a proven veteran and there were so many questions surrounding Bridgewater after such a gruesome injury. He showed he could play in a capable offense. Hopefully, Bridgewater lands in a good situation.

Courtney from Butte, MT

The CBA passes and with it comes a 17-game season. What about doing the following? Get two more teams so total is 34. Have every team play once-a-year in an overseas game, once-a-week in an AFC vs NFC format. That's 17 games in London, Mexico City and Toronto with no home-field advantage so all teams still only have eight home and eight visitor games. All that addresses concerns about fairness, satisfies NFL interests, and increases revenue even more. Sounds win-win to me.

I appreciate the creative-thinking but the NFL isn't adding any new franchises anytime soon. That would mean cutting two more slices out of the ownership pie. Furthermore, the league is committed in the CBA to having no more than 10 international games per season through 2025.

Scott from Los Angeles, CA

These are crazy times when all the toilet paper has been bought (even though this is a respiratory virus) and there's a rush on bottled water (even though we all have tap water already). I'm feeling like we need five letters of wisdom: R-E-L-A-X. Wonder what's on Netflix.

My favorite story so far was going to Target before I left for Vegas to buy a jug of hand soap to refill my dispenser. The store was fresh out of hand sanitizer, but had hundreds of bottles of the soap. Priorities.

Sonia from Fairbanks, AK

Good Morning Wes. I hope you have a story or two to share from Vegas, one of my favorite cities. I was married in one of those chapels on the strip. I'm wondering if the virus impacted your activities.

I didn't walk 10 feet without washing or sanitizing my hands. Seriously. And shout out to the Village of Suamico. While Green Bay stores were out of sanitizer, I still had some left from what the village handed out last year. It was a lifesaver in Vegas. I also don't do Vegas like most people. I spent one day of the trip hiking Red Rock Canyon. I'm happy to report I'm still feeling good one week later.

Matthias from San Antonio, TX

Wouldn't it be more prudent to put the fans in masks and hand out sanitizers than to shut everything down for less than a couple thousand cases nationwide?

We love you, Matthias, but I'm glad you're not running the CDC. Social isolation prevents transmission. While it may only be "less than a couple thousand cases" today, we're trying to prevent a couple thousand more tomorrow.

Allan from Guatemala City, Guatemala

Hi Wes! My niece was born on Friday in Peru and my parents traveled to meet her yesterday. During the afternoon, I learned the confirmed COVID-19 cases over there almost doubled in 24 hours. I'd just like to take this moment to wish you and the II community to stay safe during this time.

Case in point. All the best to you and yours, Allan.

Dylan from Holmen, WI

The new 17th game could all be played on the 80-yard field in Canada.

Now there's an idea.

Larry from Carney, MI

Witty sportswriter, hot wife, great children and close to parents. Did you ever notice how your life parallels Ray Barone?

Everyone loves Weston…or something.

Nate from Naples, FL

Can we get some official Packers hand sanitizer added to the Packers Perks merchandise? Please and thank you.

I'll put a note in brand and marketing's (virtual) mailbox.

Jon from Eden Prairie, MN

Hey Wes. Hey Hod. I noticed in yesterday's inbox you wrote "a XFL alum." Never one to turn down a grammar moment, I was wondering: Is it proper to use "a" or "an" in front of an acronym that starts with X? Hope you're staying safe and occupied over the next few weeks.

It should've been 'an.' We regret the error.

John from Yakima, WA

Wes, thank you for your answer to Stephen from Palos Park, IL. It helped me a lot to adjust to news from my sister, an infectious diseases nurse practitioner. After 35-plus years on the HIV/AIDS medical front line in Baltimore, she is now being tasked to step up again and run her hospital's tent screening program for COVID-19.

Bless her. Those are the real heroes right now.

Rod from Chugiak, AK

Yes, Wes, you are as you say in the "boredom-killing business," but also so much more. If I were only more articulate and wanted to invest more time, I could maybe do better. But to the non-bored, I evaluate you and Mike as fever-feeders, humorists, perspective-aligners, error-correctors, Packers ops, game-of-football educators, and realism plumb-bobs. Additionally, I can't find a nutshell, but your sensitivity to, and ability to write about human plights endears you to us.

We're trying, Rod. We're trying. Wash your hands and wash your butt, everyone. Talk to you tomorrow.

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