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Inbox: They put in the work

RB Jamaal Williams
RB Jamaal Williams

Jeff from Madison, WI

Still fall weather out there. Did summer get missed? Is it football season? Heading for Arizona tomorrow.

Besides a few cloudless days here and there, May was mostly a disappointment in northeast Wisconsin. Good morning!

Al from Green Bay, WI

Count me among the many that look for Aaron Rodgers to have a bounce-back year. The one thing I am hoping to see is more rhythm passing, and fewer extended plays. That means potentially fewer big plays, but also fewer sacks, fewer holding penalties, and a reduced chance of injury. Do you think Coach LaFleur is on board with this thinking? Are you?

I think everything starts off the mechanics of the offense. If Rodgers is confident in the call sheet, it’s going to speed everything up – from the time it takes for the ball to come out of his hands to how much time comes off the clock between plays. That’s why this time is so important for players and coaches alike. The offseason program is the foundation the house is built upon once training camp rolls round.

Jack from Chicago, IL

Jamaal Williams "leaning up" his body is the first line I have heard about any changes he made this offseason. I am a huge Williams fan! I hope he still packs a punch (I’m sure he will)!

Aaron Jones and Williams had two of the more impressive offseasons of anyone on the roster. They put in the work. Both weigh roughly the same, but they’re noticeably leaner. I’ll have a story posting later today on all the changes Jones made to his diet, but Williams also is in the best shape of his career. He’s 218 at the moment. Williams said on Wednesday he wants to play at 220 pounds. He believes he can do it, too, without forsaking his agility.

Larry from Sheboygan, WI

With the new scheme, will we still hear "Green-19"? Or will that go away?

We’ll know once we hear it…or don’t.

Jason from Des Plaines, IL

Although we had a lack of consistency in the use of our one-two punch at running back last season, I personally liked what I saw from both RBs. What concerns me is that we just drafted a kid from Notre Dame who has a personal passion for the team he landed with. That’s not to mention he put up great numbers in college and has great physicality. Is it possible to have too many weapons behind Aaron Rodgers? Doubt it.

You never can have enough playmakers, especially at a physical position like running back. Time will work out the wrinkles in the end. It always does.

Steve from Middletown, KY

The Pack is absolutely a playoff team. Even with 12 hurt, what might have been if not for 52 getting two obscene penalties and good ole Mo Wilkerson being on our side. In my mind, last year came down to a handful of plays that determined our fate. Obviously, getting a fast start this year will set the tone, but we must keep 12 healthy. Little preseason work and trying to do too much made 12 vulnerable early. Add all the quality FAs and the draft, how can Packer fans not be optimistic? Go Pack Go!

As I say every year around this time – if you don’t have optimism in the summer, you have nothing. There are plenty of reasons for optimism at the moment in Green Bay.

Joe from Hartford, CT

Gentlemen, from your viewpoint, does it look if Kevin King will be on the field this year or another season of nagging injuries?

That’s impossible to answer. King is on the field right now and is doing everything he can to stay there. I asked Jaire Alexander on Wednesday what a healthy King brings to the defense. His reply? “Two shutdown corners.”

Mike from Madison, WI

Who is your pick for one player currently on the roster to be a surprise starter this year?

It wouldn’t be a surprise to say Oren Burks as the second inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez, but my bigger prediction is Burks plays a bigger role in the nickel on passing downs this year.

Adam from Rochester, NY

After reading the wonderful article on Tramon, I was curious what position after QB has the longest NFL career? I would think since DBs can't have any contact anymore they would have to be second, right?

Assuming you mean non-specialists, I think it’s probably defensive end, safety or tight end. All three of those positions seem to feature productive players well into their 30s.

Jim from Bismarck, ND

I have been a Dean Lowry supporter since his first year in the league. What do you feel he needs to do this year to take it to the next level, or do you think he has already reached his potential?

I’m excited to see what Lowry does in Year 4. I think he really opened a lot of eyes last year, especially after Muhammad Wilkerson was lost for the year with the ankle. Lowry has made strides every year he’s been in the league. He turns 25 next week. There’s no reason to think his star won’t continue to rise.

Barry from Green Bay, WI

Great Bart Starr tribute by Larry. Does he write his own scripts for his videos? Quite the wordsmith if so.

He does. Please check out the video if you haven’t seen it already.

Trish from Columbus, OH

The ESPN website has a brief story on Bart Starr’s toughness by Ian O’Connor and a link to his extended magazine story from Sept. 2015. It drove home the ordeal caregivers go through in these circumstances, and I am in awe of Cherry Starr. Her grit and determination and class are as great as her husband’s.

I cannot say enough about Cherry and the strength she’s displayed over the last five years through Bart’s illnesses. Over the years, Bart was always quick to redirect any praise he received for his off-the-field accomplishments to Cherry. They were equal partners in everything they did.

Bill from Kronenwetter, WI

I know some of the "stats are everything guys" questioned Bart Starr. However, aside from Rodgers and Brees are there any quarterbacks today the coach could give the game plan to and have them call the plays? Bart Starr did it brilliantly with no one talking in his ear. He often set up plays early in the game for use when crunch time came. Thanks for the great work.

Starr was truly one of a kind.

Dan from São Paulo, Brazil

Hello Insiders! Being born after Bart Starr's playing and coaching days were over and living most of my life outside of the USA, I unfortunately do not have any kind of anecdotes about Mr. Starr. However, something that I very quickly noticed is that every single person that had any interaction with the man considered him a true gentleman and an incontrovertible class act. Which players currently on our roster you think better fits that bill?

Whether it’s players, coaches or media, good luck finding anyone who says a bad thing about Kenny Clark.

Brian from Menominee, MI

Over the next few years, do you think one of our first-rounders will be most commonly associated with or compared to Marcus Davenport? Jaire is the guy we took in the same draft after "passing" on Davenport. Rashan was in a similar draft slot and plays a similar position, and Savage was the extra player we received from the trade. I can't wait to see the impact of that trade unfold.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t make comparisons between players involved circumstantially in draft-day trades. It’s not like the Packers moved back four spots and didn’t get anything for it – they acquired an extra first-round pick. Alexander and Davenport also play different positions. At the end of the day, both should be fine NFL players if they live up to their first-round potential.

Jonathan from Madison, WI

Do Packers "sell" their numbers to bigger-name free agents?

I don’t recall this happening during my time on the beat. I remember there was some initial chatter when Richard Rodgers changed from No. 89 to 82 after the Packers re-signed James Jones in 2015. Rodgers said he didn’t want anything for it. He wasn’t attached to it. It was just a number.

Burt from Oconto Falls, WI

I noticed a mention of pension money in the Tramon Williams story. Can you give us some information about the pension system in the NFL? Is it based on years played and salaries earned? Also, how much do some of these guys earn in pension money? Thanks for the good work and all the information that you guys provide to us.

I don’t know much about the program other than players are fully vested once they accrue three NFL seasons. I had heard years ago that it maxes out once a player accrues nine seasons, but I had a former Packers player recently dispel that. No different than a 401(K), I believe players are allowed to begin withdrawing early from the pension at 45.

Gil from Phoenix, AZ

When does training camp officially start?

My summer, and 2019 really, ends July 25.

Dane from Franklin, WI

I read the NFLPA notice to agents as being more about leverage than anything. If negotiations break down, then the NFLPA is in a position to hold out if needed without needing to worry about players desperate for their next paycheck pressuring them to immediately fold. The owners will be aware the NFLPA is prepared for a holdout and so playing hardball is unlikely to win them any concessions, so they won't try. Is that a fair read? Or is there an expectation that NFLPA will make a big ask?

As Spoff said, this is part of the rhetoric entering the second-to-last year of a labor agreement. I think the NFLPA is mentally and financially preparing its base for a worst-case scenario. It doesn’t mean a holdout is any more likely to happen, but it puts everyone on notice. I don’t think it changes anything from the owners’ perspective, though. Both sides are still going to push for what they feel to be fair. The eventual compromise will fall somewhere in between.

Scott from Allen, TX

A group of us were discussing the advantages/disadvantages of being self-employed vs. an employee. It got me wondering, are NFL players employees of the team with whom they have a contract or are they self-employed contractors? Even if it's the former, I presume any FICA paid by the team would not count against the cap.

Contracted players are team employees but with benefit programs – to which the teams contribute – managed by the union. The NFLPA also has provisions available to help players who are released from their contracts. I think former Packers linebacker Andy Mulumba just did an internship through the PA recently.

Alex from Greensboro, NC

What do you guys think about coaches wearing shirts and ties during games (think Lombardi in the ’60s)? I think it would add some classiness and professionalism to the sidelines.

I absolutely love it, but the game is so much bigger now. I don’t think the league will ever go back to that. Just look at the sidelines. There is sponsored team apparel everywhere.

Mike from Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dear II: First, let me thank you for providing my daily fix of Packers banter for my lunch break. Despite this being the doldrums of the offseason, you all keep it interesting. Congrats. Second, I haven't seen much about how legalized sports betting may affect the NFL. Fans betting during games on outcomes (fumble, sacks, interceptions), NFL teams sponsoring casinos, requirements for standardizing the disclosure of critical information (injuries). Do you see the Packers going all-in on this?

I’m not sure, but the state of Wisconsin has to go all-in first before this becomes a story. Right now, 12 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting.

Jeremy from Rice Lake, WI

So as you gents are sitting together on those long flights, what does the conversation revolve around? It can't be all work. Is it favorite non-fermented beverages? Maybe discussing Hod's new full dresser hog? A heated game of rock, paper, scissors?

We’re always working or sleeping on the flight back. Going out, Spoff always has his SI with him, whereas I do a little of everything. I’ll download podcasts, read stories on my phone or bring a book to read. This past year, I watched a few in-flight movies. That’s usually not my thing, though.

Tony from Pittsburgh, PA

Any popcorn in the press box?

They have to get media to games somehow.

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