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Let's see that game-changing speed


Chris from Phuket, Thailand

I was at training camp and like how the players run the ball to the end zone after plays. Even Rodgers did it on Tuesday morning after a run. What's the story behind doing that?

It's how players build conditioning into practices. During camp, reps are spread out, and snap to snap a lot of players are waiting their turn. So when they do get the ball, they take it all the way to exert more energy on a given play.

James from San Francisco, CA

I don't follow any other teams, but it seems to me that the Packers try to make use out of as much of their roster as possible by cross-training and rotating in different combinations of players. Is this the way of the league now, or are the Packers doing things other teams don't? Are the days of the "starting 22" over? Aside from QB and OL, does the term "starter" mean anything anymore?

Not really. Pick your phrase. It's a sub league. It's a matchup league. It's a week-to-week league. There are times a team will run four wide on two-thirds of the snaps, then next game shift to two tight ends for a majority of plays, depending on the opponent. Offensive personnel groupings dictate defensive responses. Snap counts matter more than starting lineups.

Bruce from San Antonio, TX

Mike, as a sports writer, I'm interested in your view of the Chicago Cubs presenting Steve Bartman his own World Series ring. Do you think it's to make the Cubs organization "feel good" or do you agree with Linda Cohn's remark of "ridiculous"?

For a man who has understandably avoided any public attention for the last 14 years, if the gesture were truly genuine and agenda-less on the part of the Cubs, they would have done it and told no one. It would inevitably get out, but if the PR becomes organic it would mean more.

Matthew from High Point, NC

"I don't care...I'm trying to win a Super Bowl, so then we can all smile and have a great time." Love Coach Whitt's demeanor when setting the roster. The best man will play.

Speaking of agendas, that's Whitt's one and only. And yeah, I got your location into today's column on purpose.

Chas from Phoenix, AZ

Long time reader, and always shut out, but I have a statement that might create some talk. If you catch a pass in the end zone you have to have two feet down, (or other parts of your body). However, if you run it in you only have to cross the plane of the goal marker. Why? I've watched the Packers for almost 55 years and still don't understand why a runner doesn't have to even step a foot in the end zone to count. I miss Vic, but enjoy you guys a lot!

Welcome to our party. It's about possession. The runner already has possession of the ball. The receiver has to establish possession in bounds, whether he's along the sideline or in the end zone.

Duane from Sheboygan, WI

Since the subject of Linsley's prodigious strength has come up recently, I would like you to remember the finest Aaron Rodgers touchdown to be wiped out by penalty. Against the Bears, Sept. 28, 2014, Linsley had his hands inside and pressed the defender into the air, rotated his body, and the defender went down. This cost the team a TD that would have made Aaron's career highlight reel. Maybe it was holding, but it wasn't a pathetic grab from a beaten player – it was strength and leverage catching a little too much of the ref's attention. Do you remember that play as an unnecessary error by Linsley or a picky call that ruined a great Packer touchdown?

I remember talking to Linsley in the locker room after that game, and he was incredulous it was called a penalty. After seeing the film, Rodgers felt exactly the same way.

Nick from Chicago, IL

I have fallen in love with Josh Jones, and my fiance knows it. His attitude, professionalism and grit is leading me to buy my yearly jersey with his name on it. What's the biggest thing you're looking forward to Josh Jones bringing to the table? Outside of being the hybrid safety.

I want to see what his speed looks like in live action. I know he can hit. Not many guys 6-2, 220, can run 4.4. Does he play that fast? It'll reveal itself in a catch-up situation, when the ball is in the air. Nick Collins had game-changing speed at safety, and he could find it when he needed it.

Ken from Fitchburg, WI

I attended practice earlier this week for the first time in many years. One thing I noticed was how much better Aaron Rodgers was than the backups in a footwork/throwing-on-the-run drill the QBs ran. The other QBs would slow down or have to move forward to throw accurately to the receiver. Aaron threw at top speed and hit the coach in the chest every time. Do the backups have a ways to go or is Aaron just that much better at throwing on the run?

The gap between Rodgers and his backups is not an indictment of the understudies. Rodgers spoils us.

Geoff from Omaha, NE

Happy Friday! It seems like each year the NFL emphasizes a rule or two. What rule or rules are they emphasizing this year?

We'll find out this afternoon, when we get our annual media session with some league officials. Keep an eye out for the story.

Luke from Lake Delton, WI

Any word on when we will be seeing the Curly Lambeau-era throwbacks this season?

Hal from Lanesboro, MN

Thinking about the Hall of Fame Game, it got me wondering if having the game cancelled last year threw any kind of monkeywrench into Coach McCarthy's training plan for the season (knowing how he prides himself on planning for the long haul) and if it then had any impact on our early hit-and-miss success last season.

No. The starters weren't going to play much, if at all, in that game. The cancellation mainly delayed the first live-action impression of the younger players.

Kevin from Tucson, AZ

Mike, as preseason begins for the Pack next week, what are some nuanced aspects of the game us casual fans can look for besides following the ball? One-on-ones? Route-running? I want to elevate my game-watching this year.

The only meaningful thing to watch in the preseason, for me, is the one-on-ones. When I can, I pick a player and focus on him several snaps in a row. Is he winning his matchup? How does he react after getting beat on a play? Who's his competition? It can give you a sense of who belongs.

Nick from Sturtevant, WI

Maggie from Kenosha had a good question about rookies in training camp vs. preseason. This got me thinking. With all the talent that needs to be evaluated during preseason games, does everybody "on the fence" get their shot to prove themselves? What if a talented young rookie gets his time on the field, but never sees any meaningful action due to the pace of the game? Is it understood that players WILL make plays in preseason, or do many very talented players go unnoticed?

Everything is on film, therefore it's meaningful in some way to evaluators, but some players will get more snaps than others. The cliché "making the most of your opportunities" wholeheartedly applies in the preseason.

Robert from Joplin, MO

Larry has a crooked finger and Wes has a flat butt. What is Mike's body abnormality?

My belly button didn't go inside until I was almost done with high school. Does that count?

Tom from Rochester, NY

When you look at the film of last year's games once Linsley came back as the center, a high percentage of his snaps were either off target and/or very slow getting back to Aaron. Was that injury-related, and have you noticed if his snaps in camp this year are more accurate and quick instead of floating back?

I don't think it was a significant issue either way last year, but you aren't the first person to mention it. I specifically watched several shotgun snaps on Thursday night and saw nothing of concern.

Chris from Lexington, KY

What have you liked out of the rookie RBs so far?

Plenty. They all have power, and they all can catch out of the backfield. Williams is in the early lead based on how the reps are currently being distributed, but the first preseason game is still six days away.

Daniel from Davis, CA

Hi Spoff, one of the knocks on Dean Lowry when he was drafted was that he relied too heavily on his bull rush and lacked pass-rush diversity. We've heard a bit about Lowry's athletic progression this offseason, but how about his moves?

I think he's still discovering what can work, and what he's good at, as he lines up in different spots across the line. Building a repertoire doesn't happen overnight. Nick Perry was pretty much a pure bull-rusher for a few years, but his game is much more well-rounded now. It can take some time.

Mike from Chicago, IL

Hey guys, read an article about Goodell not wanting the Super Bowl played outdoors in the future. It said he preferred the game be played in perfect conditions and not affected by the elements. I could not disagree more and I'd like to think Vic would agree. Your thoughts?

I wish the Super Bowl were never played indoors.

Jimmy from New Richmond, WI

Hey guys, so when teams have to make the cut to the final 53, how long does it take for a player to clear waivers before they can start being signed to teams' practice squads? Also, is the waiver order basically the same as the draft order based on last year's record?

Rosters must be reduced to 53 players by 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 2. The waiver period lasts until 11 a.m. CT the next morning, so 20 hours (though it's 24 hours at all other times). The claim order is the same as draft order, until Week 4, when it switches to inverse order of current record.

Joey from Santa Ana, CA

I'm a huge fan of football. It is my favorite sport to watch, and I bleed green and gold during the season. I have found myself to be conflicted though due to a recent article about CTE. "Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school." More research is needed obviously as the brains that were donated were from people who showed possible signs of CTE, potentially skewing the results and not giving a broad enough sample size. Nevertheless, the results are alarming. I know the NFL has changed over the years with player safety in mind, but I'm afraid it isn't enough. I'm left wondering how I can still watch and enjoy the sport I love above all else even though there is a decent chance that a lot of the players I am watching will suffer later on in life. My question is how do we, as fans, come to terms with these realities?

I don't know, and I'm not saying that to be a smart-aleck. You're not alone in your conflicted state. Regarding player safety, you said you're "afraid it isn't enough." Maybe not, but we don't know that, either. As I said last week, we need future research on the players from the player-safety era to gain more understanding. We know more now than we ever have, and we're learning still more all the time. I try to look at that as encouraging for the future of the sport.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Do you think with this group of talented rookies and free agents in camp, we have a chance to do something really great on special teams? Last year, the Packers didn't do much at all in that department.

I'm not as focused on the rookies in that regard, actually. I like the Packers' outlook if all the "veteran" special-teamers make the squad – Elliott, Janis, Fackrell, Brice, Evans, Martinez, Tripp, etc. I see most of them on the 53, but there's no guarantee they all will be. Cobb and Davis are good options in the return game. Primarily, I want to see the special teams prevent explosive returns. The coverage was solid most of last year, but one bad day of breakdowns against Indy cost the Packers an eminently winnable game.

Matthew from Allentown, PA

"The Waltons." How winsome of you both.

I'm don't normally throw inane commentary on Twitter, but after a long day and night yesterday, I couldn't resist. G'night, Grandpa.

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