Sun, 23 Jan 2022

Inbox: The excitement is always there

Packers
08 Dec 2021, 17:12 GMT+10

Rest, recovery and regeneration is a daily emphasis Wes Hodkiewicz

Jonathan from Saint Joseph, MO

Mike, don't ever compare Gardner Minshew to Teri Hatcher again. Even if its subtle. I'll be watching.

This was sure an interesting way to break into a new week of Inbox.

John from Stevens Point, WI

Bears week. Is it just me, or has the excitement over the twice annual meeting with the Packers' oldest rival diminished?

Not to be smart-alecky but I think it's just you. The rivalry is the rivalry. When Chicago is contending, there isn't a Packers fan alive who doesn't want to humble the Bears. And when Chicago is struggling, Green Bay and its fan base don't want to give no quarter. The excitement is always there and so are the stakes with the Packers now within reach of yet another NFC North championship.

Jarid from Lockport, IL

How about this bye week stat? Aaron Rodgers has never lost a home game coming off a bye in the regular season and playoffs. The only time they played the Bears after a bye during Rodgers' career he had six TD passes in the first half in route to a 55-14 victory.

That's a game I'll never forget. Rodgers was brilliant but that day also produced probably the best unscouted look coming out of the bye week in Packers history: Clay Matthews' move to inside linebacker.

Caleb from Knoxville, TN

Tell us a tale of two teams. How have the Packers and Bears each changed since their last bout?

They've both had injuries at key positions on both sides of the ball but the Packers have kept marching forward. Taking Kahlil Mack out of this matchup changes things but Akiem Hicks and that defensive front remains formidable. I'm also convinced David Montgomery is the Bears' No. 1 offensive weapon. When Montgomery is right and Chicago feeds him the ball, the offense is much different.

Shannon from Ovilla, TX

Now that the bye is over, except for Wes, Mike, Derek, and Dean who apparently don't get time off during the season, what is the status of De'Vondre Campbell for this weekend? As much as getting guys back from IR, having him available against the Bears is important.

It sounds like Campbell is doing well and asymptomatic, according to Matt LaFleur. If everything goes well, Campbell will be eligible to return to the facility on Friday. Like Rodgers, he'll have to get through that "ramp-up" period first.

Rachel from Appleton, WI

Before the relaxed practice-squad rules Rasul Douglas would not have been on a practice squad to start this season. How much of an impact do you think his being on someone's practice squad was to us signing him when we did? Would he have been as high on the call list before relaxed practice-squad rules?

That's a great question. There's no question it helped Douglas working within a program and getting practice reps, but I think the bigger thing is keeping your head above the NFL water. One of the issues the old practice-squad rules created was it made it difficult for teams to sign a veteran free agent in-season to the 53-man roster because they had no knowledge of the scheme and there's only seven inactive spots. Douglas has proven to be a quick study but the flexibility Green Bay has now with elevating their own practice-squad players and not needing a spot on the 53 allowed him a week to get acclimated. It's a win-win for everyone.

Kirsten from Madison, WI

Does the Packers' comfortable lead in the NFC North affect when the injured starters return? Does the lead allow the Packers to be more cautious than they would be if their playoffs participation was less secure? Or is it always, "The moment the guys can play, they play"?

The division title is nice and all but the Packers have much loftier goals. They're currently a game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 1 seed and first-round bye. If David Bakhtiari, Za'Darius Smith or Jaire Alexander are cleared and given the green light, the Packers will press the gas.

Rudy from Tempe, AZ

In particular, I am really excited for a potential Za'Darius Smith return. With the rise of Rashan Gary, and Preston Smith playing more like his 2019 self, I can see why Z has been a bit of a forgotten man. But come playoff time, I think he can be the reason the defense puts this team over the top. I think what Z does best is his ability to generate pressure up the middle going at it with guards and centers, which allows Gary and Preston on the outside. Yikes...that's scary for any QB :)

Again, let's catch our breath here and see what the week holds. LaFleur isn't promising anything quite yet. He's just offering hope and optimism. But as I said on my interview with Matt Ramage last week, I'd love to see how Joe Barry uses this version of Rashan Gary in concert with the Smith Bros. Because the possibilities are endless, especially on third down.

Doug from Neenah, WI

Good morning, Wes. When can we expect to hear some news about Josh Myers? Is he working out with the team yet? Thanks.

LaFleur didn't have an update on Myers other than he won't practice this week.

Michael from Pound, WI

Gentlemen, pro football is played by some of the most physically imposing, athletically gifted people on earth playing one of the most aggressive, demanding sports ever. They are living out their dreams, most making exorbitant amounts of money. And yet league-wide we find some of the most giving and kind individuals. To read the back of their helmets or shoes or listen to them talk about their causes and charities sets a societal example from a place you would not expect in my view. Thank you.

I implore you to check out the "My Cause, My Cleats" videos as they're released this week. There are some amazing causes and organizations represented.

Laura from Pittsburgh, PA

Who is your MVP so far this season?

It's wide open. My instant reaction is Jonathan Taylor, Kyler Murray or Aaron Rodgers.

Josh from Oshkosh, WI

Every year one Packers vs. Bears game is in primetime, and usually is Sunday Night Football on NBC. Yet every year the result is the same. I don't mean the Bears COULDN'T beat the Packers, but they rarely do, and usually it is not in the primetime slot. Why do the networks insist on making such a boring series a primetime staple?

The storylines write themselves. Oh, and Aaron Rodgers is good.

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David from Oak Hills, CA

What is preferable? Clinching the division with a month to spare, knowing that a top-four seed is already guaranteed? Or having the pressure in your own division until the end of the season with "no time to let off the gas"?

The cart comes after the horse, I feel. One way or another, the Packers need to win these three NFC North games to have a shot at the top seed.

Samantha from Montgomery, IL

Why does it take so long to get season tickets?

I take it you've never stood in line on Black Friday for a Playstation before.

Daniel from Allen, TX

I wanted to throw a holiday thank you to Mike and Wes for two things. One is for not engaging in hyperbole like so much of the national media these days. Second, thanks for your patience with the submittals on next year's cap. I'm numbers oriented, and I was one of those people looking at it before this season even started. You guys are right - worry about it next year.

Correct. We're already down the river. The Packers can't do much about their cap situation next year, but what they have right now is a chance at a Super Bowl.

Doug from Lafayette, OH

Who's going to get the practice reps behind center this week?

It's a huge week for Kurt Benkert. He'll probably get more first-team reps Wednesday than he's taken since signing with the Packers in May. Love previously stated he is vaccinated, meaning he could be back on Saturday if he's asymptomatic and passes through the protocol. In the meantime, we'll have to see whether Green Bay makes a call to Blake Bortles or someone else to get a second arm for practice this week if Rodgers sits again.

Jesse from McLean, VA

Was No. 21 considered to be retired with Charles Woodson's HOF induction?

If it was, then Eric Stokes and the equipment staff didn't get the notice.

Conor from Chicago, IL

Have there been increased COVID cases from teams coming off the bye week? Seems like it's starting to become a factor yet again.

I mean, it's become a factor everywhere, not just NFL locker rooms. Adam Schefter said there were 11 positive cases Monday. This will continue to be a challenge for teams to navigate, no different than injuries or winter viruses. You have to be smart and diligent. Prevention and mitigation will be key for contenders.

Doug from Parker, CO

Before 1960, the Packers would have played an entire season with almost half another to go. That doesn't include the playoffs. After 1978, they would only have two games left, not five. I can't imagine how these players have the physical stamina and mental toughness to get out of bed Monday morning. Let alone practice. What does the team do to help the players (strength and conditioning coaches must be busy this time of year)?

The Packers don't have designated STAA days like they once did under Mike McCarthy but rest, recovery and regeneration is a big part of the process of getting ready for games. Most players do a lot away from the facility, too, to take care of their bodies. It's a daily emphasis. It has to be, especially now with a 17-game regular season.

Dan from Tampa, FL

Your response to Brian's question from Friday about media in the locker room got me wondering: In pre-COVID times, was the 45 minutes per day of media availability required for every player, only particular players, or on a rotating basis? Separately, but in a similar vein, how is it decided which players speak to the media post-game? Obviously, No. 12 is a standard, but for the others, do they volunteer or are they tapped by the organization?

We had a pretty good routine going in the Packers' locker room, especially as the season wore on. You could grab guys as they walked through. It wasn't even about "interviews," per se. Sometimes it was great to just chat with players and get to know them a little better. I don't know the exact process for post-game but it's pretty much been all the central players and playmakers this year.

Bruce from Jackson, WI

I had two observations to Wes's response to Lori from Brookfield this past weekend. First it was subtle but you said, "It's neat to watch LaFleur settle into all the other aspects of the job," meaning (and I agree) we haven't seen his best yet! My second observation asks the question did Mike/Wes take the red pill or blue pill? Is Lori a "pseudonym" used to ask the question you have the perfect answer for? Or do any of us in the II exist outside of Mike's/Wes's keystrokes when needed? My head hurts. Maybe the answer will be revealed in "Resurrections." Either way... Beat the Bears! GPG!

Oh, Lori is real and...an amazing being.

Jeffrey from Eveleth, MN

Well guys, with 10 days at home due to a hot case of Covid, your column truly is the highlight of my days. Answer a few extra questions this week please. Thank you.

Ugh, I hate to hear that, Jeff. Praying for speedy recovery.

Brian from Sussex, WI

I was OK with the Lions going for it on fourth down with four minutes left from their own territory. Having the ball last is a huge advantage in a league that favors offense. Punting sets the Vikings up to make a four-minute drive to kick a game-winning field goal. Make the fourth down and Lions set themselves up with an opportunity to run out the clock. Don't make it, they still get the ball back with enough time to score, plus know if they need a touchdown or FG.

Also, throw out all the rules with the Lions. They were 0-10-1. What did they have to lose? Detroit isn't a team fighting to keep its playoff hopes alive. Wait, on second thought, don't reply to that.

Bill from Brooklyn Park, MN

Ever seen anything like WFT's remaining schedule? Five straight division games (Dal/@Phi/@Dal/Phi/NYG)? I don't remember anything even close, even back in the days when eight of a team's 16 games were division games. The schedules for Dallas (four of the last five) and Philly (last four straight) are nearly as division-centric. I get the allure of ending the season with division games but this is a bit over the top, don't you think?

I reckon so.

Sebastian from Slinger, WI

OK, Tom Brady threw a pick-six on Sunday. How many has he thrown in his career?

I couldn't care less, Sebastian. This isn't Insider Brady-box. Google it.

Mark from Keyser, WV

If you had to pick the top three Packers of all time at each position who would they be?

Siri, pin this to Outsider Inbox 2022.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

Hi Wes, we're the Patriots in the AFC East. It seems like forever we've been much, much better than the competition with AR as our QB. I know it will come to an end some season, but not this season. King of the North! They will bend their knee again. May the playoff push be with us. May the odds be ever in our favor. We'll have another division title going for us and that's nice. Yes, I know, we're pretty lucky.

Just be sure to enjoy the ride and live in those moments. Because someday they'll be a memory.

Chris from Eau Claire , WI

With the best of the NFC taking the weekend off, what did you think of the showdown between the best of the AFC on Monday night?

Blustery mess is the only thing that springs to mind.

Dennis from Appleton, WI

At one point in the Monday Night game, the Patriots ran the ball 32 straight times! Incredible!

You gotta give the Patriots a lot of credit. They understood what they were up against with that wind and made the necessary adjustments. That game wasn't going to be won on the scoreboard. It was going to be won with field position and protecting the football, and the Pats did that. I joked on Twitter Monday night that New England's 45-3 run/pass ratio reminded me of my days covering high-school football. Bill Belichick proved why he's one of the goats Monday night.

Dennis from Parrish, FL

How does a quarterback win the Rookie of the Year Award by throwing three passes for nineteen yards?

By doing what he's asked to do when he's asked to do it. If you haven't been watching the other 12 games, Mac Jones has been exceptional in my estimation, especially playing in an environment with astronomical expectations.

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