'Performance comes first' in personnel decisions

GM Brian Gutekunst addresses trades, likes team direction while Head Coach Mike McCarthy stresses opportunity, preparing for Patriots

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GREEN BAY – General Manager Brian Gutekunst made two things very clear about the trades he made Tuesday at the NFL's trading deadline, sending safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and running back Ty Montgomery to other teams for draft picks.

They were performance-based decisions, and they're in no way any indication the Packers aren't committed to winning in 2018.

"Performance comes first. That's always the major factor in these decisions," Gutekunst said Wednesday morning, without saying Clinton-Dix had not resumed his Pro Bowl form from 2016 and that Montgomery's fumble with two minutes left last Sunday against the Rams was the lowlight of a disappointing season for the fourth-year player.

"I'm really excited about our team. I think we're humming at just the right time. We have some challenges ahead of us, but I'm really excited about where this team is headed."

Gutekunst also downplayed the notion the moves were about cleaning out potential problems in the locker room, though he did say everything is taken into consideration.

Clinton-Dix in recent weeks had expressed that he likely wouldn't be back with the Packers next year. He's currently playing out the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Montgomery's words Monday about not trusting teammates who questioned the motives behind his decision to run the fateful kickoff out of the end zone are the types of comments rarely heard in Green Bay.

"I'm not really into sending messages to the locker room," Gutekunst said. "Anybody who's ever played in the NFL understands it's a performance business, and if you don't perform there will be consequences.

"We've had some inconsistent moments. We've been up and down, but we've had some really good moments and I like the way we're trending. I like the way we're coming together. I like the way the locker room is coming together."

More roster moves are coming, because the Packers will need a third running back. The secondary is now thinner at safety, but the team's best depth is at cornerback, so there are in-house resources.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy emphasized that Clinton-Dix's departure opens the door for other players to seize an increased role. That includes safeties Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead, who have played a lot already, and second-year pro Josh Jones, who has been relegated mostly to special teams.

McCarthy wasn't going to give this week's opponent, the New England Patriots, any advanced hints as to how the defense will line up Sunday night, suggesting other options at the safety position could be on the table as well.

"I think it's obvious the way we play on defense, we have multiple personnel groups," McCarthy said. "What's most important is to the players that now have an opportunity. I'm excited to see these guys step up."

Receiver Trevor Davis is a candidate to come off injured reserve to help the return game, but Gutekunst did not confirm that would happen. He does expect the roster to be back to a full 53 players by the end of the week.

"Our locker room knows where we're headed," Gutekunst said, also emphasizing the communication with the coaching staff has been constant throughout the process.

"You're always going to see some inconsistencies before your team settles in to what it's going to be. I think we're getting close to that."

As if anyone needs to know what's next, it's the Patriots, on the road, in prime time, Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers, and a chance to prove what Gutekunst is saying – that taking the unbeaten Rams to the wire and coming up just short is a better indication of who the 2018 Packers are than the roller coaster the team rode through the first six games before the bye.

"It was a different Tuesday for us as a staff, having that going on in the middle of game-planning," McCarthy said of the trades. "But we're about the Patriots right now. It's a big game."

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