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You can't predict those moments

It's through adversity a team often finds its true destiny


Tom from Sydney, Australia

I feel a team's identity is a product of their collective experience over a period of time. In my mind the injuries this season don't muddy the identity of this team, they define it. To me the identity is "Next man up!" And I love it!

It's through adversity a team often finds its true destiny. The Packers have been tested early this season, but it could very well benefit them in the long run.

Bobby from Barnegat, NJ

In the Patriots-Bucs game Thursday night, Chris Hogan was awarded a receiving touchdown when he never actually landed in the end zone. Can you please explain why this was ruled a touchdown, and how it's different than catching a ball while falling out of bounds in the end zone?

He caught the football and the ball crossed the plane of the goal line. Unlike falling out of bounds, his feet don't need to touch the ground for Hogan to establish possession as long as the ball isn't juggled.

Derrick from Fairmont, MN

With the signing of Martellus Bennett this offseason, I expected to see some more field-stretching vertical seam routes to put pressure on safeties, harkening back to the days of Jermichael Finley. Thus far, we've seen him primarily used on short drag routes with a chance to break some tackles and turn it into a bigger play. Are these short-yardage routes currently a product of the health of the offensive line and having to "chip" defenders to buy more time in the pocket?

For all the comparisons that have been made between Bennett and Finley, it's important to remember they are different tight ends with different strengths. Bennett is more in the mold of a traditional in-line tight end. He's arguably the best blocker Green Bay has had since Bubba Franks. Aaron Rodgers agrees the Packers need to get Bennett more involved early in games. There's still time with three more quarters of the regular season ahead of us.

Fred from La Crosse, WI

I think Nick Perry should always play with a club.


I can't think of anyone who has played better with a club than Perry. Maybe Spoff can think of someone. Perry would prefer to have both hands, but he's made it work. You're doing something right when you have sack celebrations tailored to your club. **

Keagan from Tomahawk, WI

I know you are going to say he's earned more playing time, but when will we see more of Josh Hawkins? The guy earned more playing time in the preseason and has continued to perform. If the goal is to get the best 11 on the field then he should be out there every snap.

I'm a big fan of Hawkins. He's fast, hungry and possesses tremendous arm length for the position. Those traits earned him a roster spot last year, but his growth and maturation have kept him there. He's everything you want in a former undrafted free agent.

Hunter from Grand Rapids, MI

With injuries to Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams, could we see Aaron Ripkowski getting reps at halfback?

That's always a possibility, though the Packers have more natural ball carriers on the roster now than they did when Ripkowski was called into action late last season.

Walter from Long Beach, CA

So gentlemen, who are your offensive and defensive MVPs through the first quarter? No. 12 on offense, obviously, but Kenny Clark has to be the DMVP. He has opened up everything for everyone else. Just eats up the blockers. Dean is a close second. They do so much that allows everybody else to get in there and make plays. I think I'm going to buy a Clark jersey instead of a Daniels this year.

Rodgers would easily be the Packers' offensive MVP with how he's adapted his playstyle to all the injuries on the offensive line. While Clark is a good choice, I'd have to say my defensive MVP is Morgan Burnett. I don't think he gets enough credit for what he does, especially now that he's wearing the communication headset. Daniels probably still owns the most dominant performance of the year with his performance against Seattle in Week 1 (seven tackles, 1½ sacks and a forced fumble).

Kyle from Cedar Rapids, IA

Encouraging to hear many injured players returning to practice this week. How's our tackles' status for this Sunday?

Both are listed as questionable. Unless the Packers provide an update after Saturday's practice, we'll probably have to wait until 90 minutes before kickoff to know whether either tackle will play against the Cowboys.

Kyle from Toronto, Canada

Which division do you think has the strongest rivalries? Obviously the NFC North is a top contender, but I think the AFC North has some pretty brutal games as well.

I'd say it's between the two North divisions, though the NFL's longest rivalry (Green Bay and Chicago) makes me lean toward the NFC version. AFC North is extremely unique with the shared history between Baltimore and Cleveland, and Pittsburgh's rivalries with the Bengals and Browns. They're both very gritty, blue-collar divisions.

Nolan from West Salem, WI

I love that when the Packers run a two-back set it's Aaron, Aaron, Aaron in the backfield.

I totally missed that. Great observation.

John from Holland, MI

I really enjoyed the story about Burnett assuming the defensive communication role. What happens if he's not on the field or injured? Does someone else get the helmet? How is the communication handled then?

Thanks for checking it out, John. Like everything in the NFL, there's always a Plan B. There is a backup helmet available if Burnett isn't on the field. My guess is either Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Blake Martinez would be the player listening to Dom Capers from the coaches' box.

Howie from St. Ignace, MI

The label of offensive-minded or defensive-minded coach has always puzzled me. Doesn't an offensive-minded coach have to understand defenses to beat them and vice-versa?

You have to be balanced, but I think every coach has his home base. For instance, Mike McCarthy gained a reputation for being a developer of quarterbacks during his time as a position coach and coordinator. Dom Capers coached the secondary for 14 years in college and the pros before getting his first DC job in Pittsburgh.

Brett from Madison, WI

I read somewhere that the average life of an NFL stadium is somewhere around 30 years. In a few decades, once every other team has replaced their stadium, do you think Lambeau will be the last open-air, non-dome stadium?

Not a chance. There still will be stadiums without domes or retractable roofs. I mean Cincinnati currently doesn't have an indoor practice facility. I also have a difficult time seeing teams in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Miami, Seattle and San Francisco throwing a dome over their fields.

Bill from Bloomfield Hills, MI

Great wins over the Cowboys always involve a last minute "miracle." Ice Bowl, Dez no-catch, Rodgers to Cook, Brown's interception. Do you expect a close one Sunday with something as memorable?

I could see it being close, but you can't predict those moments. They happen organically. It's what makes this game special.

Blaine from Bagley, WI

Do you think a salary cap would help baseball or hurt it?

I'd start paying more attention. While many things factor into football's overall popularity, parity is one of the NFL's greatest strengths. For the most part, your team is a few savvy offseason moves away from being a playoff team. That process can take years to accomplish in MLB, and even then, small-market teams struggle to keep the band together.

Rich from Grand Rapids, MI

I agree that the coach of the year is often an award to the team with the most "splash" during the year, and that the award does not reward consistency, which is harder to achieve. If you stop and think a minute about what McCarthy has been able to do over the past few years in coaching an offense that has been severely hampered (if not decimated) by injuries, you cannot help but marvel at his game-planning, his halftime adjustments, and his willingness to take chances (starting a WR at RB, a backup center at LT) that others might eschew.

That's a great point. It immediately brings to mind the 2013 season. How McCarthy and his coaches managed to keep the ship afloat with Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), Randall Cobb (leg), Clay Matthews (broken thumb, twice) and Nick Perry (broken foot) all banged up is beyond me. Green Bay still managed to finish third in total offense that year in spite of Rodgers' absence.

Spencer from Harbor City, CA

As a Packer fan in Los Angeles, I did not care for either the Rams' or Chargers' return to the city. The Rams are playing in an oversized stadium, so I'm not surprised by their struggle to fill seats. The league cannot be happy the Chargers are having to cover upper-level seats in a 27,000-seat stadium in order to "sell out" their home games. How tough is it on players to not feel welcomed in their own stadium? It appears as though they will have 16 away games.

This was my concern when two NFL teams landed in Los Angeles since you have to start from scratch with not one, but two fan bases. The Rams get the small benefit of having previous ties to LA, but the Chargers seem to be kind of hovering in the ether at the moment.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI

Mike, I see that Dallas' All-Pro LT Tyron Smith missed practice with a back injury. The same injury that kept him out for two games last year. If he's held out Sunday, how much does that change what the Packers do defensively and what can you tell us about their backup LT Byron Bell?

It would be a game-changer. It would put Dallas in a similar predicament to the Packers, who have been dealing with the absence of David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. Smith is one of the best left tackles in the game, but the Cowboys also are getting used to a new right tackle (La'el Collins) after Doug Free retired this offseason. Bell has experience. He's started 72 of the 82 regular-season games he's played in, but he wasn't on a team in 2016.

Jeff from Watertown, WI

I have to believe that whether you love Tony Romo in the booth now or you hate it, we all want to know if there's a chance he's calling the game on Sunday. Is he?

Romo is calling games for CBS, so the next opportunity would be in Week 11 for the Packers-Ravens game. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are calling Sunday's game in Dallas for FOX.

Jeff from Raleigh, NC

I'm a regular reader but it's the first time I've submitted a question. I was checking out the stats of the Bears game and noticed that Rip was credited with a tackle. Was this a mistake or did the Packers actually use him on defense? If so, what position did he play and was this a result of the many injuries?

Ripkowski's tackle came on special teams.

Greg from Franklin, WI

I saw a roundtable discussion where they take opposing sides and argue their opinion strongly. One argued that he had actually watched the game and the other admitted to not catching the game he was yelling his opinion about. Have you ever considered being a talking head in lieu of spending all this time researching and writing?

It's easy to talk. I prefer to think.

Nick from Denver, CO

So did Wes purposely put in a Tom Petty reference or was it just a coincidence? RIP. Great artist.

My dad raised me on Tom Petty. I wanted to include a little Easter egg in Inbox Thursday since nobody asked anything about it directly. RIP.

Richard from Madison, WI

  1. For this one week (and probably this one week only), Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady will be tied for the most regular-season wins ever! Should we do something historic while we wait for Aaron to catch up?

Maybe bake a cake?

Dylan from Houston, TX

Is it a relief or is it frustrating to be talking about suspensions, identity, and coach of the year awards now that we're four games into the season? We could always reignite the Ty Montgomery number questions if it gets to be too much.

I'll gladly take anything over the Montgomery number questions.

Mike from Roscoe, IL

Aplomb. "Insiders, I like the way you handle even the most frustrating Inbox questions with aplomb." Thanks, I learned a new word!

Hang around Mike Spofford long enough and you'll learn a thing or two. I know I have.

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