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Inbox: We’re almost there

GM Brian Gutekunst
GM Brian Gutekunst

Randall from Ozark, AL

When does the baloney really stop?

As soon as the sandwiches are put away and the first pre-game meal in Chicago is served. We’re almost there. Good morning!

Caroline from Olympia, WA

Why did they allow the Packers and Raiders to play on such a bad field?

The end zones weren’t hospitable for an NFL game, but the rest of the field was playable. The two teams made the best out of a bad situation.

David from Appleton, WI

We have heard a lot about Za’Darius Smith, but not much about Preston Smith this preseason. Anything of interest we should know?

Preston may not be as flashy as Za’Darius, but his role is going to be just as vital to Green Bay’s defense. He’s a durable workhorse who can drop into coverage, set the edge against the run and obviously get after the quarterback. His arrow is pointing up.

Corey from Henderson, NV

What's the latest on Rashan Gary? I saw where he left the game on Thursday, but there's been no word about his injury or what a timetable would be. Or did I miss yet another article on packers.com that was buried somewhere you wouldn't expect it to be?

It was good to see Gary back at practice Monday. We’ll see whether he plays Thursday against Kansas City, but the rookie linebacker is doing fine by all indications.

Jeff from La Crosse, WI

With EQ St. Brown injured, and Allen Lazard and Darrius Shepherd looking good, should the Packers put EQ on IR at the start of the regular season and to allow Lazard and Shepherd to show what they can do? Then come midseason, decide what to do with all three receivers?

Perhaps the toughest call the Packers will have to make this week is what to do with Oren Burks and St. Brown. If the Packers want to bring them back this year, both players must be on the initial 53-man roster. That means exposing two others to waivers on cut-down day. That’s where Brian Gutekunst and his scouts must get a read on the market.

Philip from Fishers, IN

Jack C. (an intern from last year) says hello. We were on the same kickball team this summer and he told me some great stories about his time with you and Spoff. Anyway, if Tim Boyle starts this final preseason game does that mean he has the No. 2 job?

Unless the Packers only keep two quarterbacks, I don’t think we’ll know definitively who the No. 2 QB is until the game-day inactives are announced in Chicago. It’s that close. Boyle’s game against the Raiders was noteworthy, though. It was the consistent performance the Packers wanted to see from Boyle. As Spoff has been saying, that second quarter was the best the Packers’ second-team offense has looked in the last five or six preseasons in my opinion.

Brendyn from De Pere, WI

How well does the offense perform come Week 1? I am a bit nervous. Aaron Rodgers does wonders but we haven't seen him in action really yet. I'm also wary of LaFleur and his offense in Tennessee. Should we be nervous? Are you confident? Does the defense need to carry the load this year?

If you’re nervous like Brendyn, I implore you to watch Aaron Rodgers’ locker-room video from Monday (or wait for my story this morning when it posts to packers.com). The quarterback seems pretty confident about the state of the Packers’ starting offense based on practice this week. Preseason is for the pundits, but practice is for the players – and Rodgers seems to like the hand he’s holding going into the opener against the Bears.

Steven from Ladysmith, WI

Knowing that drafting players is kind of a crap shoot, how much does it set your roster back having to release two second-round draft picks? I would think that a second-round pick is expected to be a cornerstone on your roster at least through his rookie contract and maybe into his second contract.

It’s not as easy to hit on second-round picks as you might think. Yes, teams expect an impact player when they draft someone that high, but there’s also nothing guaranteeing those players will be perennial Pro Bowlers. The Packers missed on Jerel Worthy in 2012 but succeeded in drafting Mike Daniels in the fourth. Spriggs didn’t work out, but Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez have contributed to the Packers’ strongest defensive draft class in years. To answer your question, it doesn’t set you back if you hit elsewhere.

Joe from Clio, MI

Is the hybrid position in Pettine's system a matter of if you have a certain player with certain skills he'll be placed in that spot and Pettine will not play that particular scheme if you don’t? Or does he need that kind of player for his defense to be at its best?

Skill sets help, but that hybrid role looks like a permanent fixture in Pettine’s scheme regardless, based on how it was utilized last year. The Packers deployed no fewer than five different guys in that spot last year (Kentrell Brice, Raven Greene, Josh Jones, Ibraheim Campbell and Eddie Pleasant). This is a major opportunity for Greene right now.

Eli from Yardley, PA

Not considering guys that consistently built a strong case for a roster spot each week of preseason, is there anyone that comes to mind that didn't appear to be making the 53-man roster during the final week of preseason, then put on a once-in-a-lifetime performance in the final game to command a roster spot?

I’d say James Crawford won his job last year in Kansas City. Jake Schum also did enough back in 2016 to stick as the Packers’ punter. It can go the other way, too. Vince Young lost his spot back in 2013 in the very same stadium.

Reid from Wichita, KS

Are you as excited as I am to see how the different positions affect the offensive cuts for LaFleur/Gutekunst in their first year together? In particular, how four tight ends and a fullback will impact how many QBs (two or three), running backs and receivers are kept? It feels like there will be at least three or five players on the offensive side that will be hard to see go.

That’s the game every GM plays this time of year. It’s not “Madden.” There are no do-overs, so every decision must be thoroughly researched. It’s a complicated process. As Gutekunst mentioned, sometimes it comes down to deciding between a fourth tight end and a sixth defensive lineman. By 3 p.m. CT Saturday, you just try to do the best that you can.

Matt from Frisco, TX

How about making kickoffs optional? The kicking team can either waive the kickoff and the opposition gets the ball on the 25-yard line or they can kick off. This would solve the onside kick issue and potentially protect the players from injury.

You might be on to something there. That’s something to think about.

Mark from Appleton, WI

With the inchoate talk of eliminating punts and kickoffs, would you think the game of football would evolve into simply the game of ball?

There will always be a “foot” in football because field goals are a key component of the game and punts aren’t going anywhere. The risk of injury is so much lower on punts than kickoffs because everyone starts on the line of scrimmage. The problem with kickoffs is it features 11 professional athletes clashing with 11 other hard-charging competitors.

Dean from Leavenworth, IN

Yesterday there was a question on waiver claims after the final cut down to 53 and a corresponding cut to make room for the claimed player. For a bottom-of-the-roster rookie or UDFA and his family that would be a particularly cruel blow to have a spot in your grasp and then have it taken away 24 hours later. Any stories on when you've seen this happen in GB or elsewhere?

Myles White spent three summers in Green Bay before finally making the Packers’ initial 53-man roster in 2015…and then was cut the next day to make room for James Jones. That’s the hard part of the business.

Steve from Kansas City, MO

While we all can agree booing Luck showed a certain lack of class, his decision was as poorly timed as possible. The team is being given absolutely no time to work around the loss. Had he quit prior to the draft or free agency, the Colts could have worked some kind of replacement plan to try and save their season for their fans. I'm not saying they could have done much to replace such a talent, but they should have been given that chance.

If only the Colts had a quarterback with knowledge of the system and starting experience on the roster. Oh wait, they do. Jacoby Brissett is the replacement. I also love how everyone is overlooking the fact Luck has seen little to no improvement with his calf and ankle injuries. Even if he didn’t retire, Luck wasn’t coming back next week.

The Packers practiced to prepare for their matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Eric from Reedsburg, WI

What is your take on the Colts not trying to recoup Andrew Luck's salary? Classy move or poor cap management?

Classy move by both sides. Luck could’ve strung them along and kept collecting paychecks, but instead he did the admirable thing and stepped away. It’s nice to see the Colts reciprocate.

Jim from McLean, VA

Bravo, Troy Aikman. Bravo.

It only took 30 years but I think Aikman finally won over some Packers fans. As someone who experienced some horrific injuries in his own career, Aikman was spot-on in his analysis of the Luck situation. Luck didn’t quit mock trial – he retired from arguably the most physically taxing sport on the planet.

Luke from La Crosse, WI

So what's worse? Fans booing Andrew Luck as he walked off the field in retirement or fans booing Aaron Rodgers walking on the field in the wake of Favre's "retirement"? How soon we forget.

Both? The worst part is Rodgers and Ted Thompson would’ve never heard the end of it had Rodgers not become a Super Bowl-winning, two-time NFL MVP quarterback. Never forget that fact.

Matty from Durango, CO

What a difference 30 years makes? In 1990, we loved Chuck Cecil's bone-rattling hits. Now he'd be fined so heavily he'd owe the NFL at the end of each game.

You only know what you know – so you live, you learn and you evolve. Goalies didn’t always wear masks in hockey. Groin strikes were once permissible in the UFC. It was imperative for the NFL to remove punishing hits to the head-and-neck area for the long-term health of the players.

Ren from Chicago, IL

How was the crowd atmosphere in Canada?

Better than I thought it was going to be. While it wasn’t the largest preseason crowd in NFL history, the stadium catered to those who were in attendance. It was kind of like a mini CenturyLink with its design. It honestly felt more occupied than the preseason finale last year in Kansas City.

Jon from Sparta, WI

Does an injury settlement payout count against the team salary cap?

Yes.

Dan from Allen, TX

Scenario: If the NFL removed two preseason games, but did not add any more regular-season games. Question: Could collective bargaining include negotiating a dollar amount added to each regular-season game ticket to make up some or all of that revenue?

I don’t know, but owners aren’t in the business of leaving money on the table. If the money is in their pocket in 2019, they’re going to do everything to ensure it’s in the same place in 2020…and then some. That’s why I think it’s more likely we see a 17th game instead of increased ticket prices due to two fewer preseason games.

Tom from Sturgeon Bay, WI

Any chance for a little competition between Mike, Wes, John and Larry to see who can pick the most players to make the initial 53-man roster? Maybe even Mike and Wes vs. John and Larry?

I don’t publicly pick a 53 anymore. It’s just not good business, but will do it privately and tell you Tuesday how many I got right. If any of the others want to join in, we certainly can compare notes on Monday.

Sebastian from Erlangen, Germany

Do teams practice for wet weather, such as hosing down players on the field during practice, to simulate rainy game conditions?

Uh, no.

Brandon from Pleasant Prairie, WI

Just want to clear the air and make sure everyone is on the same page. Once the regular season starts, are all the Inbox bans lifted as a happy gesture that football is finally back?

Inbox doesn’t parole banned readers just because the regular season started. At least, this Inbox writer doesn’t.

Daniel from Lakeland, FL

The NFL has witnessed striking changes is certain aspects – the size and speed of players, amazing growth in the sophistication of the passing game, for examples. Going forward, what do you see as areas of the game ripe for fundamental change over the next decade?

You mean besides laser goal posts and first-down markers? We’re in midst of a true renaissance. Running backs are in vogue again and quarterbacks are protecting the ball like never before. I’m curious to see how defenses respond to it – or if they even can with how the game is being officiated these days. I think that’s the next frontier.

Harold from Greasy Corner, AR

Matt LaFleur's sideline challenge dilemma could easily be solved by replacing the red flag with a laser gun. Just point and shred the ball. That will stop play.

The Laser Era is almost upon us.

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