Mike's Mid-Week Chat: How are Bears different for rematch?

Senior writer Mike Spofford answered fan questions in his weekly live chat

Chicago Bears DL Akiem Hicks

Hey everybody. Thanks for logging on today. Hope everyone enjoyed the bye weekend. Go ahead and start sending in questions and we can get rolling.

Hey Mike, the signing of Rasul Douglas prompted a question. Has any other team signed a player off the Packers' PS thus far this season?

I don't believe that's happened this year. It's happened in the past. Part of the new rules with the expanded practice squad is players can be protected on a weekly basis from being signed away. Each team can protect up to 4 of the 16 players per week.

Mike, does coach have a presser before or after practice today, and will we know anything about our big three possible returnees?

LaFleur is speaking before practice, so we'll see if he says anything. Otherwise, it'll just depend on what we see when we stop in for the beginning portion of practice that we're allowed to watch.

We're told that Josh Myers might come back from his knee injury/surgery. What was the nature of the knee injury? Cartilage, tendon, bone, muscle, meniscus, what was injured?

I haven't seen any specifics reported anywhere, and the Packers don't share that type of information.

Any updates on David Bakhtiari?

Rodgers said yesterday on McAfee's show that he didn't think Bakhtiari would be playing this week, but that's all I've heard.

Why is J. Jefferson always open?

You could ask the same question about Davante Adams. They're really good and can get open on their own, plus their offenses run route combinations that get them open sometimes too.

Thanks for the chat Mike. Do you forsee any profound changes after the bye, like new plays in the red zone or getting some rarely used players involved (Amari Rodgers). Changes in special teams?

I'm not anticipating any wholesale changes. I expect a new plan of attack in the red zone, but I don't know if we'll notice necessarily, because it could just involve using different run concepts or route combos in that area of the field.

Any suggestions on something new that will be used this week? Reminiscent of Mathews moving inside.

I don't think so. This team is 9-3 despite a litany of injuries. When Matthews moved inside in '14 after the bye the Packers were coming off giving up 44 points at New Orleans and getting dominated by the run game. Nothing that glaring needs to be fixed right now.

The Packers haven't been bitten by the injury bug quite like this year in some time.. but man have they gotten their money's worth with Lucas Patrick filling in when needed. What does he do best?

He fights and scraps, and he's very reliable with assignments and protection calls. Patrick isn't afraid to mix it up with anybody, and guys respect and love that. He's earned every stripe in this league.

Perhaps this will be a good week for Kurt Benkert though we'd prefer to see Jordan Love taking snaps, eh?

We'll see if Aaron Rodgers is going to practice at all. If he can't, the Packers would prefer Love to get the development time, obviously, but if the first unit is turned over to Benkert, that's a great opportunity for him, too.

When Jaire Alexander comes back will it be Jaire and rasul or jaire and Eric Stokes?

I'm not sure it'll matter much. The Packers have three corners on the field quite a bit, way more than half the snaps. When it's two corners, I would guess Alexander and Stokes, but we also don't know if Alexander comes back, how soon he'll be playing a full game or if he'll have a lighter workload at first.

Were you surprised the Ravens went for 2 instead of playing for overtime with their great field goal kicker ?

I'm always surprised at a bold call like that, but it sounded after the game like Harbaugh felt his defense was depleted at corner and he didn't like that unit's chances in overtime against Big Ben. Given all that information, the call made sense.

Question about field goals. Who calls for the snap? And could they try an Aaron Rodgers type hard count or are there too many moving parts, so to speak, for the timing to work?

I think it's generally a silent count. The holder gives a signal, and there's a timing mechanism for the snap to come. Earlier in the year, opponents were timing Corey Bojorquez opening his hand and getting a jump on the snap. The Packers have changed up the timing and avoided those protection issues since then for the most part.

Would you think the week off gives Mason Crosby a chance for a fresh start, so to speak? He needed the break mentally as much as some of the players needed the bye physically.

For sure.

Any updates regarding Randall Cobb's injury?

Nothing's been said. We'll see if he's at practice today.

I don't think the majority of us will notice any changes made over the bye. The only thing we'll notice is if stuff works or not.

True that.

Hey Mike, this question may have already been answered and if so, if so, just ignore but last week against the Rams, they went for two and were penalized for delay of game moving the ball from the 2 to the 7. At that point, could they have decided to kick the extra point? Would the ball have been moved back to where they normally kick from plus the added 5 yards?

Yes. After the penalty, if the Packers had decided to kick the PAT, the LOS would have been the 20 and the kick would have been 38 yards instead of 33.

Will De'Vondre Campbell play Sunday?

He's eligible to come off the COVID list on Friday, and LaFleur on Monday sounded optimistic about his chances of being cleared then. He said Campbell would be involved in all the defensive meetings via Zoom this week.

Mike, just wanted to thank you for the extra WYMM regarding Donald.

Yeah, I figured what the heck. I focused on the defensive line in the original WYMM off the Rams game, but when I went through the offensive film, some of that stuff vs. Donald was pretty interesting, especially on the one TD drive.

Besides execution, what changes do you think could be made to elevate all phases of GB's special teams?

Coverage-wise, they're doing fine for the most part. Obviously we know the FG unit has been a struggle. How do they get something from the return game? I don't think there's any magic schematics they're going to pull out. Mo Drayton constantly harps on the techniques and assignments, and he's counting on his guys to keep improving and provide a boost. The weather will be a big factor with catching punts from here on out, though, except Week 18 at Detroit.

With Cobb injured, will this be the week Equanimeous St. Brown really breaks out in the pass game ? I know they love his blocking in the run game.

St. Brown has proven he will be ready when called upon, so if Cobb isn't back and St. Brown's role increases, the coaches know he'll be mentally prepared for however they want to use him.

Any thoughts on the Badgers playing Arizona State in the Vegas Bowl, given their history?

It's been a bad trip down memory lane to re-watch the video of the end of that game out west 9 years ago. What a debacle.

So I'm guessing the Lions won't just lay over and let us rub their bellies after what they showed against MN? :)

Dan Campbell has those guys playing hard every week. Sure, they've taken a few on the chin, but most of their games this year have been decided in the fourth quarter. There is truth to teams learning how to win, and that goes for everyone -- players, coaches, etc.

There's been a lot of II talk about the center facing the defense in the huddle. I wonder if that plays a role in the Packers catching the defense w/ 12 men.

I doubt it. I think that's mostly Rodgers.

Thoughts on the Bears D sans Mack?

That's a huge missing piece. Akiem Hicks is always a monster in the middle and he wasn't healthy during the first meeting. He played, but you could see he reinjured his groin at one point. When he's healthy, he's a tough customer. But that defense isn't the same without Mack.

Regarding going for 2 with no time left. I wanted McCarthy to do the same in the playoff loss to Arizona a few years back. They were being out played throughout the 4th quarter so, i didn't like their chances in OT. Would you agree?

A lot of folks have talked about that. Janis hurt his back on the Hail Mary and the way McCarthy described it, based on the personnel available, he wasn't confident in a 2-point call right at that moment, so he kicked it. To me, it was totally understandable.

Since Rodgers has tested for positive for Covid, is not subject to be put on the Covid-19 list again for how long? Will it last until after the SB?

His testing exemption ends in early February, between the NFC title game and Super Bowl, I believe.

The packers still need to declare Za'Darius Smith and Jaire eligible to practice upon return from IR, right? Are we at a full roster right now?

Yes, they do. The roster is currently at 52 I think. But players coming back from IR have a roster exemption period where they can practice before being officially activated to the 53.

What does Dalton provide for the Bears that Fields does not and vice-versa.

Dalton provides experience. Fields has the running threat. But I don't think their offense scheme-wise changes much with either QB.

What does the weather forecast look like for Sunday night? With 3 more home games, I sure hope there's some cold temps

Mid-30s on Sunday during the day, dropping into high teens for a low. So it'll probably be in the 20s most of Sunday night's game.

Mike, what's the Bears' injury situation?

The one everybody's focused on is the QB, whether Fields will be back. Otherwise, I'll be looking at their injury report when we get the first one later today because I really don't know.

Cardinals has a tough stretch and Tampa only has 1 tough opponent left how do you like our chances at the first round bye?

If Tampa doesn't lose to Buffalo next week, I think the Bucs will finish 14-3. I do think the Cardinals will lose at least one more. But I don't think the Packers can afford any more losses, frankly.

I'm excited to be attending the game against the Browns on Christmas day. Any chance that one could be flexed?

No, that one's set in stone. The NFL has two games on Christmas Day, Packers-Browns in the late afternoon and Colts-Cardinals in the evening. Those aren't changing.

Were you as surprised and pleased with the Hunter Renfroe JBJ plus prospects trade between Brewers and Red Sox as I ? Sure hope Mets do not steal Stearns from us soon.

Just getting rid of JBJ's contract was a coup for the Brewers, and to replace Garcia's power in RF with Renfroe was big. Huge move by Stearns, who yeah, I hope he sticks around for a long time.

Some of the penalties lately make it difficult to watch the games. Roughing the passer, pass interference and especially the blind side block call against the Saints are very frustrating. Your thoughts...

It's frustrating because different crews apply different standards to the calls, and it shouldn't look so different. That's why I've harped for years on making safety calls like RTP, blindside blocks, contact to head/neck area, etc., reviewable, so these major penalties have a consistent standard of application. Maybe it wouldn't work. They tried to make PI reviewable a few years ago and it was a disaster. But for my money the rules have become so complicated and convoluted they're asking human officials to monitor too much at once. That's the bottom line for me.

I was wondering if you have any distinct recollections of Lawrence Guy while he was with the Packers. He seems to have fashioned a very decent NFL career for himself.

He has. A long forgotten seventh-round pick by Ted Thompson over a decade ago. I remember him being here, but not much else. He didn't play much during his short stint here, but it goes to show not everyone's career is defined by that first year or two.

Has it been revealed how 12 actually hurt his toe?

He didn't say other than he hurt it working out while coming back from his stint on the COVID list.

I'm curious if you think not having Robert Tonyan to pose a passing threat in the middle of the field has left our receivers more tightly covered? I'm not immersed in stats and all-22 analysis, it's just a feel, but it seems there has been less room in the passing game.

I don't think so. Tight ends over the middle can be big weapons, but so can slot receivers taking their place. The Packers have plenty of scheme and good players to work with. Of course it was a blow to lose Tonyan, especially with all the TDs he caught in the red zone last year, but I wouldn't say the offense has suffered considerably because of his absence.

Any idea why Aaron Jones is not making the big runs this year?

The running game in general just hasn't been as in sync and reliable as the past couple of years. Part of that is losing quality guys on the offensive line and all the shuffling around. It is hard to find continuity. When the running game is reliable, eventually one of those runs breaks big. But when everything is hit or miss, your chances of breaking a big one diminish.

Like this years rookies overall. The big question for me is Amari Rodgers. Hasn't been able to find a role on offense and a big disappointment on ST. Why the struggle and do you think he can be an asset this year or next for that matter?

There were a lot of high hopes for Rodgers, and he had plenty himself I'm sure. The Packers will carry those high hopes forward because they believe in his talent, and there's still time for him to make a bigger impact this season. Development is constant, though not necessarily in a straight line in this league.

The video team is doing a great job on the "My Cause, My cleats" series. Please thank them!

Yeah, that's some cool stuff. I marvel at the work of our video department because I'd be totally clueless sitting down at an editing machine trying to figure out how to do that.

Maybe there's no answer to this: I forget the game last weekend, but as the DB was going in for a perfect form tackle to the ball catchers mid-section while he was turning his head up-field, WR sees the contact coming, lowers his head taking away the tackle zone, they make helmet-to-helmet contact and the DB gets flagged for a personal foul. What's a guy supposed to do?

Exactly. That's why those calls need to be subject to review so stuff that is totally an accident can be treated differently than something clearly avoidable.

Who's your favorite guest that the Manning brothers have had on? I got a kick out of David Letterman's commentary during Monday's game

I actually like it best when they don't have a guest. No offense to any of the guests, many of whom have been good, but I'd rather just listen to Peyton and Eli jaw back and forth about the game, what they're seeing, and the brotherly ribbing they give each other. I think it's very entertaining.

Kudos to Aaron Jones for his NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nomination.

Absolutely. The players take a lot of pride in that award/nomination, as they should. I really hope Jones can advance through the process and possibly make finalist this year.

All right folks, I've got to sign off and get downstairs for LaFleur's press conference. Thanks for all the questions today. Talk again next week. Best, Mike

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