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Jordy Nelson's return was the definition of grit

The window is still wide open. Enjoy the breeze.


Tyson from Mililani, HI

2014 was a better team but this year made a better story. Also, I'm content with losing because the better team won, rather than having blown a big fourth-quarter lead. I'm hoping for a better ending next year. That's all we can really do, right?

You want the ride to last, but when it's over, there are six months to reflect upon it. Talking to players in the locker room on Monday, I think everyone realized how special this year's team was. The 2016 Packers accomplished a lot of things nobody thought possible. They rallied back from 4-6 to win the North and beat the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Disappointing? Little is guaranteed in the NFL, but the Packers' window is still wide open. Enjoy the breeze.

Jeff from Arlington, VA

After a full season of experience, what do you think of the Packers' draft class?

It's a promising group. Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry look like they belong on the defensive line. Clark, 21, is only going to get better and made significant progress. He battles to occupy his gap against the run. Lowry gave the Packers an unexpected push in the pass rush. Blake Martinez has a bright future. If you want to see how far an inside linebacker can go in Year 2, look no further than Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas. Jason Spriggs should benefit from a full offseason in the Packers' strength and conditioning program like David Bakhtiari and JC Tretter before him. He also proved he can play inside when Packers need him to. And don't forget about Geronimo Allison, either. The lengthy rookie played beyond his years this season. The Packers finished the season with 15 rookies on their 53-man roster. I'd expect to see a jump from that class in 2017.

Jon from Lynn, MA

Hi guys, no question today. I know every team has players that the fan base deeply connects with and loves to root for. Packer fans aren't necessarily different or special there, but I think I can speak for all of us when I say I truly love rooting for Jordy Nelson. Watching him battle on Sunday was one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. I'm so happy he's a Packer.

The fact Nelson played Sunday was the true definition of grit. Everyone in the locker room knew what the Packers receiver was dealing with, but Nelson wasn't going to sit out the biggest game of the season. He left it all on the field.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Guys, you mentioned that the Packers are practically unbeatable at home, yet in one of their most dominating seasons where they went 15-1, they fell flat on their face against the Giants at home. In fact since 2010, their home playoff record is 3-2 and road record is 5-4. That doesn't exactly translate to any type of stat we can rely on. I just think we need to be healthy and hot at the right time. That's the bottom line.

I don't deny health is important. It was one of the biggest strengths of the 2014 team that made the NFC title game. This is more than just simple statistics, though. There's value in playing on your turf and inside friendly confines. Atlanta's Georgia Dome and Seattle's CenturyLink are tough places to play due largely to the noise levels, not to mention the natural exhaustion of travel.

Lucas from Stevens Point, WI

Wes, I understand we need to take care of the cap for it to take care of us. However, I feel like this is the year we need to make a splash free agent signing, seeing Woodson was our last big-name signing (2006). We need CB help.

I've always felt one of the biggest misconceptions about the Packers in the Ted Thompson era is they don't make splash moves. Woodson was a once-in-a-generation talent in the prime of his career. Ryan Pickett, Julius Peppers, Letroy Guion and Jared Cook proved to be good signings, as well. At the same time, a byproduct of a successful draft-and-develop system is you're going to have a lot of talented fourth-year players to re-sign every offseason. Two years ago, that was Randall Cobb. Last year, Mike Daniels. The Packers already have re-signed David Bakhtiari. All three of those guys would have been top-level free agents at their position on the open market. It's just a reminder that re-signing players and signing free agents are the same thing.

Derek from Eau Claire, WI

On July 19, Spofford cited five reasons why the Packers' offense would be improved. 1) Jordy Nelson. 2) Jared Cook. 3) A renewed Eddie Lacy. 4) Depth at the third WR spot. 5) An intact offensive line. Pretty good list. Four out of five ain't bad!

And it sure looked like he was on his way to a perfect sweep with how Lacy played in the first five games of the season. You also have to tip your cap to an offensive line that was exceptional for most of the season despite Corey Linsley starting year on PUP, Lane Taylor replacing Josh Sitton at the end of training camp, and T.J. Lang's foot injury.

Seth from Norristown, PA

Insiders, I've been impressed by the questions you've posted in the days since the NFC Championship loss. It seems that people have been fairly even-keeled in response to an emotional end to the season. 1) Has this been a fair cross-section of the questions you have received? 2) Have we been more understanding of the loss because we understand the immense effort it took just to get this far? 3) Is this a sign the fan base is maturing? If the answer to all three is yes, Vic, Mike, and Wes should be commended by all of us for the work they have put in over the years.

Yeah, I've been pleasantly surprised by how everyone is handling this. It's definitely disappointing to not get to Houston, but everyone seems to have a good grasp of how incredible it was the Packers ended up in this position to begin with. That was a doozy of a season when you consider the Week 4 bye, the midseason skid and the injuries the team still had to overcome during the eight-game win streak.

Haillie from Washington, WI

Hi guys, I have a question about Rip's fumble. Shouldn't the ball be marked where the ball was when he was down? The ball did not break the plane. I remember an interception the Packers made where the player caught the ball at the 1/2-yard line and slid into the end zone. The ball was placed at the 1/2-yard line.

I didn't quite understand the aftermath of the fumble, but I know the officials said he didn't possess the ball until he was in the end zone. Dean Blandino then confirmed that on Twitter, so I guess there you have it. The two situations you outlined are different because you have to possess the ball on the interception for it to be a turnover. There's more subjectivity when it comes to corralling a fumble.

Jared from Philadelphia, PA

During the offseason can players return to the team facilities and run practices? Have you ever heard or seen a team run a non-contact scrimmage or something similar during their break, or do most players just go their separate ways until camp?

Players are allowed to stay in town and use the team facilities to work out. I know Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Jayrone Elliott and a few others stayed in Green Bay last offseason. However, the CBA stipulates that NFL teams cannot conduct any formal and organized training until the start of the offseason program in April.

Luvas from Atlanta, GA

Does the team have one last film study where they watch and critique themselves in their final game? Or are those type of activities over now that the season is done?

It's over. The team holds a final meeting and exit interviews, and players are allowed to slip into their offseasons. I'm sure the position coaches will refer back to things that happened in Atlanta with the players who return to the team in 2017.

Ethan from Plant City, FL

I was dreading the walk from my seat to my car, on Sunday. To my pleasant surprise, instead of being heckled, I had multiple great receptions from Falcons fans. They were much more humble than expected. For that reason I'll quietly hope that Atlanta gets its first Lombardi. I'll admit I did have a good chuckle at how many times the Atlanta offense was motioning for the crowd to quiet down. When the Packers offense is at work in Lambeau, you could hear a pin drop.

I have a lot of respect for the Falcons. They do things the right way with players who say all the right things. It's funny, though. Despite being in a big market, they don't get a lot of natural hype. The past two years at the NFL owners meetings, I've been startled at how few media types occupy Dan Quinn's table at the coaches' breakfast. Regardless, I've been impressed with how Quinn handles reporters. I look forward to an entertaining Super Bowl and wish them nothing but the best.

Jerry from Kansas City, MO

We watch football to be entertained. While the Pack didn't go all the way this year, the past two months were the most fun I've had watching football since I was a little boy and I'm thankful for the young men whose lives and jobs were on display for all of us to see and cheer on.

We definitely all got our money's worth.

John from New Richmond, WI

How many years left do you see Rodgers in Green Bay? When will the Packers decide to go after their next starting quarterback?

He turned 33 last month, man. I've said this before in this space, but be careful pressing the fast-forward button.

Kevin from Cologne, Germany

Hey Insiders, in hindsight do you think it would have been the better move to activate Lacy instead of Dorleant? We would have gotten our pounding runner back just in time for the playoffs. Because I live in Germany, I have to get up at night all the time to watch the Packers play, but I love this team and I think it was a great season.

Getting Lacy back in-season wasn't an option. Mike McCarthy made it known Lacy and Sam Shields were out for the season when he announced Dorleant would be designated to return. It was Dorleant or nobody. Thanks for pulling the all-nighters and reading the Inbox, Kevin. Guten tag!

John from Clovis, CA

If four plays go our way, we win that game in my opinion. If (1) Crosby makes that field goal, and (2) Rip keeps both hands on the ball, we score a TD the next play or two. If (3) Jake Ryan can hold onto the fumble, and (4) Gunter catches the INT, that's two touchdowns ATL doesn't score. That's a total of a 24-point swing solely off of four plays, with the point total becoming Packers 31, Falcons 30. What do you guys think?

A lot of if and buts, but that's kind of how the game played out. Two fumbles and two near-interceptions both fell the Falcons' way. It's not to say it would have changed the outcome, but I would have liked to see how Atlanta would have reacted to a turnover.

Adam from West Henrietta, NY

Why do free agents say they "have no control over what happens next"? It is the player in the end who decides what offer to take. Doesn't it drive you nuts? How about some accountability?

Because they don't have control in most cases. There are so many variables when it comes to free agency. For starters, it takes two to tango. The interest has to be mutual and then you have to factor in other teams' potential interest in a player. Fans see players, but often not the people underneath the facemask. It's like any walk of life. This is about taking care of your family and doing what's best for your future.

Mike from Tubarao, Brazil

You can keep denying it, but we were one Casey Hayward re-signing away from the big game. As Spoff said, "You never have enough cover corners."

I appreciate all the Hayward supporters who have come out of the woodwork after his seven-pick season. Hindsight is the best.

Peder from Rockford, MI

Insiders, after all the suggestions for Rodgers to throw the Hail Mary on fourth downs, I had to chuckle on the third-down bomb Sunday. And a net of 55 yards no less. So you guys do have a direct line to McCarthy! Tell him to insert the fumblerooski for me! Thanks.

Don't think that didn't cross my mind when Rodgers threw it. I thought to myself, "Well, Inbox sort of got what it wanted."

Eric from St Louis, MO

Has any other team started the season 4-6 and made it to the conference championship game?

This is my next project. I'll get you an answer in Friday's Inbox.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Wes, Mike says it would be a close call between you two in a typing contest. Come on, you're my age, we grew up with AIM, Myspace, and Facebook, I believe in you. I'm on Team Wes. How many WPMs? Us fans love stats.

Typing is one of the few things I'll say I'm good at. My mom was a typewriting state champion when she was younger, so it was kind of engrained in me at a young age. I haven't tested myself in years, but I used to be able to touch 100 WPM. I still wouldn't say I'm faster than Spoff, though. He's a pretty well-rounded writer, LeBron-esque. USA TODAY's Nancy Armour is still the fastest typist I've ever seen. She could transcribe McCarthy as he spoke without any error.

Tristan from Washington, DC

Now that you've done a full season with the Packers, I'd like to hear you describe some of the differences between covering the team for a newspaper and for the team? Did you ever feel like you were more of a mouthpiece than a reporter? Do the other beat writers tease you at all for the switch? It seems on Twitter they are skeptical of team-employed writers.

Nobody told me what to write if that's what you're asking. I was pleased with the amount of latitude I was given in my coverage this season. I didn't feel like my stylistic approach changed much. My goal always has been to tell good stories, and explain what makes players and coaches tick. I want to make this complicated game as easy to digest as possible for readers, so they can understand the motivation behind certain plays or actions. I've always tried to keep an even-keeled mindset because so much can change. There are so many writers who get stuck on hyperbole and the here and now. You lose credibility for getting too high or too low in my opinion, so I just try to be balanced. None of the other reporters teased me, either. My wife and I made a decision we wanted to stay in Green Bay long-term and this was the best option for doing that. They understood that. Nine months later, I'm still happy to be here.

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