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Inbox: Those free agents helped turn the tide

The Packers need to play clean football and win up front to win this game

LB Preston Smith and S Adrian Amos
LB Preston Smith and S Adrian Amos

James from Ottawa, Canada

Is it unreasonable to hope that, at some point in the near future, Royce Newman has such a singularly dominant game that we get a hot mic picking up an opposing interior D-lineman saying "Newman!" in an exasperated whisper while clenching their fist in the air?

Yep. It's Saturday Inbox, all right.

Graydon from Menomonie, WI

Football weather has finally arrived!

It sure felt like it on Friday. Our interns, Ingesa Spencer, Rachel Gillam and Jennifer Brien, were all bundled up with the temps hovering in the 30s. Meanwhile, I had to plead with Spoff not to go shirtless during "Final Thoughts." The man is ready for the cold.

Tim from Charlotte, NC

Brian Gutekunst was 4-for-4 in his major free-agent signings in 2019. That doesn't happen too often. Where would we be without Billy Turner, Adrian Amos and the Smiths?

The Packers wouldn't be in a great spot. That's for sure. But more importantly, they wouldn't have been able to jumpstart whatever perceived rebuild there was after a disappointing 2018 campaign. Those four free agents helped turn the tide in Green Bay and they continue to set the standard.

Flavio from São Paulo, Brazil

I guess Darnell Savage will play. The seamstresses seem to think so, too.

The Packers prep every player's jersey, from Aaron Rodgers' to Kurt Benkert's. Because you never know. So, I wouldn't read too much into that quite yet. Matt LaFleur said Savage is still in the concussion protocol but that's obviously a great sign he was able to return to practice this week. Darnell Savage, Preston Smith and Kevin King will all be game-time decisions Sunday.

Matt from Burlington, WI

With all the moves Brian Gutekunst is making, what's the trade deadline? Will it affect BG's approach afterwards?

Nov. 2. Even with the injuries, I wouldn't expect the Packers to be major players, though. They've banked a lot of compensatory picks from departing unrestricted free agents over the past year. I don't see them relinquishing any future draft capital unless it's necessary. After the deadline, the Packers will keep their ears to the ground like the past few years with Jared Veldheer (twice) and Tyler Ervin.

Alex from Baltimore, MD

What player, aside from Chase Young, should we be watching on the defense? I just saw that Jonathan Allen went from limited participant to full.

I mean, take your pick on the defensive line. Allen and Daron Payne are premier interior tackles. Matt Ioannidis had the biceps injury last season but is still only 27. He's one of the game's most underrated defensive tackles in my opinion. Montez Sweat was one of my favorite players leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft. The Packers need to play clean football and win up front to win this game.

Bill from Wilmington, DE

Hi Wes, Jonathan Garvin looks to be improving fast, I hope he can turn into a star. Have you had any conversations with him? What are your thoughts on his upside?

Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. So, is it Bil or is it Bill? I finally started letting Bil slide and now you change it on me. I need clarification here, William. I've yet to meet Garvin in-person, but I'm a big fan of his pressers. He's a pleasant, straightforward guy. As a player, Garvin is only getting better. I think many people forget he declared for the draft at only 20 years old. Garvin is a young dude with a lot of growth still ahead of him, but you're definitely seeing him make that Year 2 jump. He looks stronger and more comfortable in this defense.

Duane from Oak Creek, WI

Do you see recent additions as a change in philosophy or needs due to injuries?

It's not an abrupt change in philosophy, per se. They've always added players throughout the course of a long season. I think the difference is Green Bay is pursuing established veterans to deepen its roster. In recent years, the Packers have picked up more of the "household name" free agents fans have clamored for, such as Jaylon Smith, Tavon Austin, Snacks Harrison and now Whitney Mercilus.

Matt from Waunakee , WI

How many players are currently on the 53-man roster?

They are finally back at 53. Mercilus filled the last vacancy.

Rog from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Wes, good morning. Has Dennis Kelly been on the active list for any game this season? He was supposed to be veteran support while David Bakhtiari is unavailable. First, he had a knee problem, and now it is his back. Do you think he will make an appearance anytime soon?

Kelly has been active. He just hasn't played on offense yet. As you point out, Kelly has been battling a few things this year, whether it was the knee in camp or the illness and back issue that have sidelined him the past two weeks, respectively. Fortunately, Yosh Nijman stepped up in a big way. It's a long year. There's still time.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

When Bakhtiari (my favorite Packer) finally takes the field again, I'm celebrating by chugging a beer.


Harry from Chandler, AZ

How long has it been since the special teams have had a runback for a score?

Micah Hyde's 55-yard punt return for a touchdown against Detroit on Dec. 28, 2014. The Packers' last kickoff return for a touchdown was Randall Cobb's first NFL game (his 108-yard TD against New Orleans on Sept. 8, 2011).

Art from Aurora, IL

Any chance as an owner of the Bears, A12 changes his pre-snap cadence from 319 to 312?

Not bad, Art. Not bad at all.

Bob from Bella Vista, AR

Why was Mercilus released? It was a mutual decision? But why? Money? Make room for young guys? Is Houston tanking and Mercilus wanted to get on a winner?

All of the above. General Manager Nick Caserio told the Texans' media corps that Houston has its eyes on the future and wants to develop its younger talent. By cutting Mercilus, the Texans gave the 31-year-old an opportunity to catch on with a contender in his pursuit of a championship.

Travis from Caledonia, WI

I really love how aggressive Gutey and company are this year. I know they picked up some quality veterans the past couple of years, but this year seems different. I am a little confused, however. How were Mercilus and Smith not picked up on waivers by other teams once cut by their respective teams? Are veteran players that are released no longer bound to the waiver wire? GPG and Beat WFT!

Vested veterans are free to sign with whomever they choose before the trade deadline. It's only after the deadline they must clear waivers.

Erik from Anchorage, AK

"That was a Savage and Mercilus tackle." Who is going to say it first?

My money is on Mark Daniels.

Daniel from Allen, TX

Simple question. Outside of Rodgers, who has been your favorite QB to interview in your time covering the Packers?

Is that really a question? #TBLS

Curt from Oronoco , MN

When did championship rings get so gaudy? One of my favorite memories from college is sitting across the aisle in an upper-level math class from Henry Jordan Jr., who wore his dad's championship ring every day. He had lost his dad at a young age of course and I'm sure the ring was a great reminder daily. I don't really know how I passed the class with all the football that was discussed across the aisle in the back of the room…

That's a cool story, Curt, and what a neat memento for Henry Jr. to remember his dad by. But to answer your question, championship rings got so gaudy when the professional sports they're derived from became billion-dollar industries. Big business. Big rings.

Dan from Bridgman, MI

On Aug. 30, I entered basic training for the Air Force. I had no internet access and the only update I received on the Packers was the Week 1 loss. I just graduated and am back in the "real world." What's your brief summary for an out-of-the-loop fan trying to get caught up on the season? Thank you!

First off, thank you for your service, Dan. The long and short of it is the Packers are playing fundamentally sound and disciplined football. They're among the NFL's least-penalized teams and are among the league leaders in takeaways. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams continue to produce, and the backfield duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon has been a problem for the opposition. The defense has had issues in the red zone but played well overall despite missing several key players. The Packers are playing like a team and that's why they're 5-1.

Scott from Grovetown, GA

Greetings. Does having to watch the away games on television offer more insight and appreciation for those of us who only have this option available to us? What have you learned that the home viewer gains but also loses from only having access to TV broadcasts? Thanks.

I definitely can appreciate the plight of the viewer. It's much more challenging to watch a TV broadcast as opposed to the "All-22" the press box affords to reporters. Honestly, I don't think I've gained much, if anything, from watching the TV broadcasts. While I'm grateful I can do my job in a safe and appropriate manner, I'd much rather be in a press box.

Larissa from Minnetonka, MN

What's the drawback to current IR rules (e.g., why wasn't it done like this before)? It seems like being able to IR injured players and have them return while signing a replacement in the interim allows teams to remain competitive and put out a better product. You still have to pay new signees so no one can just hog every player, and while teams in a better cap situation might have a comparative advantage for doing so, that just incentivizes good cap management. Am I missing something?

There really isn't a drawback, in my opinion. Teams need to keep a little extra cash in their in-season reserves but I think the product is better, players theoretically are healthier and more players collect paychecks. I personally love it.

Thomas from Rowlett, TX

Does this week feel like a trap game to anyone else? Coming off a big rivalry win and an undefeated team looming on a short week.

No. It feels like a Sunday noon game. The Packers will either win or they will lose. Neither outcome will be dependent on whether this was a "trap" game.

Mikey from Little Chute, WI

Hello II! I was able to cross something off my bucket list last weekend by finally taking a tour of Lambeau. Along the way, I was blown away by the amount of art hanging on the walls. Do you have a favorite picture that is hanging somewhere in those historical halls?

The Lynn Dickey painting hanging across my boss Duke's office. It's like passing the Mona Lisa each day I walk to my desk.

Jon from Temecula, CA

"Players, not plays" was the II mantra for many years. With the exception of the "pony package" questions, I rarely see anyone submitting suggestions about how Green Bay should lineup and execute. Do you still see those questions or has Insider Inbox changed the way the fans see the game?

Well, that's because we don't publish all the "WHY DON'T THEY RUN THE LOMBARDI SWEEP?" questions. If Inbox/Ask Vic has accomplished anything, I hope it's that fans view the game through a more composed lens. Plays matter but it's the players who execute. Matt LaFleur said it himself when talking Wednesday about adding Whitney Mercilus: "Ultimately we're as good as, many times, as our players (who) are able to go out there and perform."

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

A gauntlet awaits,

Wins come at a premium,

Just beat Football Team.

It's not about the Cardinals or anyone else on the schedule right now. There is only one team the Packers must worry about…The Football Team.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

A nameless WFT comes with a dangerous defensive line anchored by Young and Sweat

A perceived lesser opponent that can't be overlooked

Statistics say our defense is top five, but

Fifteen times the enemy has come into our yard and 15 times they have crashed into our house

Not once have they been stopped and that must change

This is the time to draw a line and make a stand

Stand tall and answer the call Packers

A gauntlet of ten is coming

The only noon game at Lambeau Field this season is upon us. Enjoy the ball game, everyone.