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Inbox: They only take you so far

Winning defenses make big plays at big times

G Lucas Patrick and RB Jamaal Williams
G Lucas Patrick and RB Jamaal Williams

Eli from Yardley, PA

Can't have clacking of typewriter keys without the "ka-ching" of the carriage sliding back over once you reach the end of a line. Which sound more defines the typewriter, clacking or ka-ching? Or the crumbling of paper into a ball as a novice writer succumbs to too many mistakes for white out to fix?

This crowd never quits. Here we go.

Hans from Fairborn, OH

On the team captain topic, I've always felt that being named a team captain by your peers was more meaningful than being named by the coaches. If the Packers still maintain the player council like they had under McCarthy, it seems like that would be a good avenue for defining how captains will be elected and who will be named team captains. Let the players decide who they feel the leaders are amongst themselves.

I think most coaches prefer to take that approach.

Tom from Woodbury, MN

What is a team captain expected to do other than participate in the coin toss?

It depends on the team. McCarthy's weekly captains were charged with giving short talks to the team, either the night before the game at the hotel or right before kickoff in the locker room. They might break down huddles, give postgame thoughts after a win, that sort of thing.

Jon from West Des Moines, IA

With our defense looking very different from last year, I would think huge improvements would definitely be possible. Along with that, however, will be some growing pains/adjustments. Everyone is expecting the defense to improve, but is there a cap? Is it realistic to think we can turn things around and become a top five defense by the end of the year, or are we still a year too early?

I don't think the target should be a final ranking. If I'm looking at category rankings, I'll be focused on turnovers and third downs. Beyond that, I'm going to let my eyes do some judging. Is the defense making a play at crunch time? Is it getting the key stop late in the game? Winning defenses make big plays at big times.

Todd from Brighton, MI

You might get a Game 7 both on the hardwood and hard water surfaces this year. That would be a nice distraction.

I watched the second and third periods of the Stanley Cup Game 4 the other night, and for a non-OT hockey game, that was about as good as it gets.

Greg from Downers Grove, IL

Kudos to Ken for the great suggestion to mark the historic spot from the Ice Bowl. Does II have any influence on the grounds crew? Also how many levels of approval with team and NFL would it take to get 'er done?

I have no influence whatsoever, but I thought I'd post the idea in case anyone with influence reads it.

Dave from Germantown, TN

With the talk about the impact of penalties on special teams, is there a statistic that subtracts total special team penalty yards from actual return yards? If so, I am curious if the Packers were plus or minus last year.

I've never seen such a statistic. To clarify how penalties on special teams affect return stats, the returner gets credit for the return yardage up to the spot of the foul, and the penalty yards are marked off from there. If the penalty occurs while a punt is in the air, the penalty yardage is marked off from the spot of the catch, and the return never existed.

Richard from Menasha, WI

Are any of the minicamp practices next week open to the public?


John from Madison, AL

You two guys deserve a huge kudos on your NFL knowledge! I've been a fan of the NFL for 54 years but there is no way I could fill in for one of you guys and answer questions on salary cap issues, signing bonuses, front-loaded contracts, free agency stipulations, injured reserve rules, etc. I think I'd have to acquire a four-year degree to learn all that. Did you guys sit thru classes on the business aspects of the NFL when you were first hired or did you learn all that on the job?

You learn on the job, and you learn where to go for information you don't know, or sometimes in my case as I get older, have forgotten.

Theologos from Athens, Greece

Mike, the Packers had invested a high draft pick in Jason Spriggs and meaningful resources for his development. The team has shown patience with him but eventually patience is not perpetual. Do you think that for him this year is make it or break it?

I think any high draft pick who hasn't become a starter heading into his fourth season is at a critical juncture in his career. That's stating the obvious.

Justin from Canton, NC

Bart was 5-0 against Jim Brown's Browns, that makes it sound a little better. How was he head-to-head vs. Unitas? I used this in an argument with a Pats fan belittling the '60s championships and saying back then the Packers didn't have anyone to play. I responded with, "You're probably right, just a bunch of no names like Brown, Unitas, Sayers and Ditka...just to name a few."

If I did the research correctly, Starr was 8-9 vs. Unitas in games both QBs started, though in what turned out to be the final meeting, a 1969 Colts win, Starr is listed as the starter but left the game without having thrown a pass.

Al from Green Bay, WI

I've long been impressed by Bart Starr, and he is certainly on the Packers' Mount Rushmore of QBs, along with Favre and Rodgers. Is there a worthy fourth in your view?

Tough call among Arnie Herber, Cecil Isbell and Lynn Dickey. I'd defer to Cliff on that one.

Bret from Hertel, WI

Dear Mike, now that the Bears retro uniforms were leaked, will they be used in the first game? And what did you think of them?

If what has leaked is indeed their new throwback, I have to believe they're wearing it to kick off the NFL's (and the Bears') 100th season, and at first glance I think they look pretty cool.

Terry from Sun Prairie, WI

What type of running game will the Packers have this year?

A committed one, by all accounts.

Wade from Roseville, MN

Reports are that Goodell wants to shorten the preseason. My vote is the NFL shorten the preseason by one week and lengthen the regular season by one week by adding an additional bye week per team. This would lengthen the weeks the NFL has top viewership ratings by one week while lowering injury risk to players by giving them an extra bye week (possibly the week leading up to their Thursday night game) and taking away one preseason game. I think that is a win for everyone.

A 3-17 structure has been floated before, and the players have long resisted any extension of the regular season. We'll see if it gets any traction in the next round of CBA negotiations, but we're a long way from this being a serious possibility.

Nathan from Kewaskum, WI

Do II writers and staff get to park in the fenced-in parking lot along with the players?

Uh, no.

Anthony from Kenosha, WI

I saw Jordy is signing a one-day deal to retire a Packer. Do players get paid anything for signing one-day deals to retire?

Also no, but that's not why they do it.

Dave from Coloma, MI

In reference to your answer about Rodgers seeing "tells" in the defense, how much do the offense and defense communicate with each other about such things? I went to a college game years ago and could tell whenever there was going to be a pass play because one of the receivers would dry his hands on his towel before the snap. Hopefully there's nothing that obvious at this level, but do the different squads point things like that out during practices to help break the bad habits?

At times I'm sure they do. I asked Rodgers specifically on Tuesday about what he's seen from Pettine's defense in Year 2, and one of the first things he said was "their disguises have gotten better."

James from Asheville, NC

I was surprised and intrigued that Rodgers was tied for the league lead with 16 pass plays of 40-plus yards last season. Without context that seems like an admirable stat but many (perhaps most) of those were desperation plays when the team was behind. I'd much rather have them be designed plays to keep the other team off-guard, and that starts with a strong offensive line.

Actually, many of them weren't when the Packers were behind and they were very impactful plays in the games. But the point is they only take you so far when they aren't complemented by steady, consistent offensive production. Which yes, starts up front.

Austin from Washington, DC

I wish the subjunctive mood were to appear more often in II! We readers are obsessed enough with hypotheticals to learn to correctly state them.

That's pretty much what I was getting at.

Dan from Rothschild, WI

To those who wish the preseason were here already, don't you think summer is short enough? Get out and enjoy yourselves before winter shuts us in again.

Another thing worth getting at.

Paul from Ellensburg, WA

Hey fellas, I get that "Big Bob Tonyan" might be an appropriate nickname back at school or with family and friends, but on an NFL team, amongst the players, does he really stand out as BIG in any way?

Certainly not next to fellow tight end Jimmy Graham, but you have to admit the name has a nice ring to it.

Braden from Aurora, CO

Hey guys, I remember Vic mentioning half-line drills being a part of camp under McCarthy. Weren't those also banned or am I remembering wrong?

You're right, the half-line drills have been banned, and the Packers did those a lot under McCarthy. I was thinking of the Oklahoma and Bull in the Ring when I made yesterday's comment.

Fredrick from Bluffton, SC

I was reading a comment you guys wrote on Jaire Alexander. The 2018 first-round pick led the secondary with 66 tackles and 11 passes defensed on his way to becoming the first Packers player to be selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team since 2014. I realize four things can happen on a pass. An interception, an overthrown ball, a catch or the defender knocks it away. So does 11 passes defensed mean the defender knocked it away while in the air or in the receiver's hands?

Generally speaking, a pass defensed is credited when the defender is deemed responsible for an incompletion. That can mean a deflection or a legal hit on the receiver that prevents him from making the catch.

Adam from Madison, WI

Cornhole is like darts and fantasy football. It is fun to be good, but if you are too good you spend way too much time doing it.

To each his own.

Jon from Bath, England

I love the offseason renewal all fans get, in all sports, thinking that next year will be "our year." However, only half the teams can improve, and some will naturally stumble. Which teams do you think will improve the most, and which teams do you envisage having a stinker?

I'm not publicly going to predict anyone's demise, but as for other teams on the rise, the Browns and the 49ers quickly come to mind.

Chuck from Columbiana, OH

Who do you feel (team) will be your stiffest competition for the division title this season?

The Bears are the defending champs and the Vikings have put together their best seasons lately in odd-numbered years, so take your pick.

Trevor from Carmel, NY

Growing up, I must admit I was quite jealous of the kids in Wisconsin. I always had dreams of someone like Edgar Bennett or LeRoy Butler riding my bike. When my kid is old enough to appreciate it, I'm going to try my darndest to get out there for the shareholders' meeting and some practices. While he's hoping to get selected, I'll be down the way a bit with my 10-speed. I'll outfit it with a handlebar basket full of ice and a couple cold ones. Make my dream come true, Spoff.

I don't care what you put in the handlebar basket, the kids will laugh you out of the line with such an outdated accessory.

Steven from Plymouth, MN

Paul McCartney at Lambeau Field this coming Saturday night. I've been to many games at Lambeau but never a concert. I'm looking forward to it and it should be a terrific night. Will either of you be attending?

I won't be. I'm actually pulling off a baseball doubleheader this weekend – Wrigley Field on Saturday night, Miller Park on Sunday. But I did attend the Billy Joel concert at Lambeau a couple of years ago, and it was a great setup.

Jeff from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Spoff, is today the day we finally hear? The 1919's are chilled and ready for you.

Good to know. Happy Wednesday.