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Tough decisions loom for Packers after productive summer

Green Bay must trim roster to 53 by 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday


GREEN BAY – The Packers have plenty to ponder on the eve of the NFL's mandatory roster reduction at 3 p.m. CT on Tuesday.

As much as the training camp headlines seemed to center on Green Bay's transition at quarterback, the summer of Jordan Love also featured hotly contested competitions at nearly every position group on the roster.

Over the next 24 hours, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his personnel department must sort out the Packers' initial 53-man roster and 16-man practice squad that will follow soon behind it.

Gutekunst always says tough decisions are welcome this time of year and a collection of talented veterans, impressive draft picks, and hungry undrafted free agents made certain this year's verdict will be no cakewalk.

In the meantime, players on the bubble of all 32 teams wait to find out their football future. Rookie running back Emanuel Wilson said he plans to lay low the next two days while continuing to write in his daily journal like he's done all camp.

"I write down everything that's going on in my head," said Wilson, who led the NFL with 223 rushing yards this preseason. "There's a little river over there by the hotel and I'll go walk around down there and sit there and pray, and just let God handle everything."

Training camp is a hard process for every NFL player, but especially so for rookies pulling late nights at the hotel to digest the playbook and learn the installs for the next practice day.

In Grant DuBose's case, three months of mental reps kept him going while a lingering back injury prevented him from practicing until Aug. 7.

The 6-foot-2, 201-pound receiver rallied to finish with three catches for 35 yards in the preseason while impressing in practice. DuBose said he has family in town to keep him company until Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, Saturday's preseason finale against Seattle was the first time DuBose's mother, Jacqueline, has been to Green Bay.

"I got my family here, so I'm just going to go out with them," DuBose said. "The next two days, I can't really worry about it. Worrying is a dead thought, you know what I mean? You gotta let the chips fall where they may."

And then there's undrafted rookie Malik Heath.

One of the darlings of camp, the former Ole Miss receiver has recently been running with the No. 1 offense and even started alongside Christian Watson and rookie second-round pick Jayden Reed on Saturday.

Heath finished the preseason as Green Bay's leading receiver with 12 catches for 146 yards. His 15-yard catch across the middle from Love on Saturday keyed a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive for the Packers' starting offense.

"Getting in with the ones, it was mind-blowing coming from undrafted," said Heath, who led Ole Miss last year with 60 catches for 971 yards (16.2 avg.) and five TDs. "Starting with the ones, that's how you know I did a lot of great stuff and I stayed down. I stayed humble."

Saturday's preseason game had a fitting end, as third-string quarterback Alex McGough and a slew of undrafted free agents helped the Packers pull out the 19-15 victory over the Seahawks.

McGough first hit rookie receiver Jadakis Bonds on a 52-yard pass that set up Nate McCrary's 1-yard TD run to take the lead with a little more than four minutes remaining.

Undrafted safety Benny Sapp III then iced it for Green Bay when he picked off Seattle quarterback Holton Ahlers in the end zone.

A former seventh-round pick by Seattle in 2018, McGough had two separate stints with the Seahawks before resurfacing with the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League.

He punched his ticket back to the NFL after steering the Stallions to a second consecutive USFL championship while earning MVP honors and leading the league in most major passing categories.

The 27-year-old quarterback will wait patiently to find out if Green Bay keeps a third QB on its 53-man roster for the first time since 2020, but whatever happens, Saturday was an exciting way to end the preseason for himself and many roster hopefuls.

"That's what preseason is for," McGough said. "It's for guys that might not get the chance to play in a 17-week regular season. It's awesome that guys like Benny and Malik and all these guys are making plays that have game-winning implications. Really happy for them all and couldn't be more excited."

Hovering in the balance is the Packers' streak of 19 consecutive years of having at least one undrafted rookie making the Week 1 roster. Seventeen players are in contention for that honor this summer, including Wilson, Heath, and Sapp.

Sapp's path to the NFL closely mirrored that of his father, whose career spanned eight seasons. Like his namesake, Sapp starred at Northern Iowa before going undrafted in April.

He hopes, like everyone on the bubble, for his phone to remain silent on Tuesday.

"I know that I proved that I can play in the NFL, no matter the circumstances that I had in the past," Sapp said. "I walk by faith. I really don't care what's going on in front of me, I'm just going to keep pushing. I'm going to keep stacking days."

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