Final Week of Camp - That's What Cheese Said

Matt LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst spoke with the media this week to discuss the looming roster cut-downs taking place on Saturday. 

We have officially made it to September. On Saturday, the roster will be trimmed from 80 players to the 53-man active roster and 16-man expanded practice squad. Then, in less than two weeks, the Packers will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings for Week 1 of the regular season. 

The Packers will be practicing Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before roster cuts will be made in-person the following day. General Manager Brian Gutekunst and Head Coach Matt LaFleur met with the media to discuss the looming roster decisions. 

“We’ll meet with every guy personally,” LaFleur said of the roster cuts. “I think that’s, you owe that to our players. These guys have put in a lot of hard work.”

While theoretically the Packers are trimming the roster less than normal, going from 80 to 69 as opposed to a traditional 90-man roster to 63, it’s still a conversation that weighs heavy for LaFleur each season. 

“It is my least favorite day of the year,” he said, adding that you develop relationships with guys off the field. “You’re taking somebody’s dream away from them potentially, or at least momentarily.”

Gutekunst explained his own thought process and what goes into building a 53-man roster.

“It’s not always about picking the best 53 guys, it’s about picking the guys that make the best team,” he said. 

The conversations about the roster have been going on since the players reported to camp, with Gutekunst calling it an “ongoing conversation” from the beginning. 

What makes this roster cutdown day unique is the secretive nature of the process. Without having preseason games to evaluate, it’s harder for the other teams in the NFL to truly get a sense of the talent that’s being left off each roster. 

“Obviously all the teams have a lot less to go off of, as far as when we do make the final roster cuts, the guys that we do expose to the rest of the league, it’s not like they’ve got four preseason games and 200 snaps to evaluate for the other teams,” said Gutekunst, adding that it’ll be “interesting” to see what activity takes place in the next week around the NFL. 

Gutekunst was also asked about the way he constructs his roster typically and how he evaluates two players that could be considered equals. If one player is younger with more upside but is less-proven right now, how does he weigh that against an experienced player who doesn’t have age on his side but has a deeper knowledge of the game?

“It’s a young man’s game, we all know that. So I think that our decisions, which aren’t easy, is to try to put the best 53 and 16-man practice squad together that make the best team,” he said. 

For Gutekunst, roster evaluations also include player projections, so not only considering how a player looks right now, but how they might develop by midseason and what type of impact they could have on the roster later on. 

Even still, both LaFleur and Gutekunst made sure to emphasize that this isn’t just about the 53-man roster this year. 

“The way we’re kind of focused on our roster, it’s a 69-man roster this year because everybody better be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” said LaFleur.

“The guys on your practice squad, at some point during the year, I would expect those guys to be on the field and helping you,” added Gutekunst. His expectation is that all 69 players the Packers retain will be called upon at some point to get this team through an unprecedented NFL season. 

Gutekunst continued by saying that the process of adding street free agents to any roster this year is “cumbersome” and requires more steps than it would in a traditional season. 

The coaching and scouting staff didn’t have preseason games to evaluate talent league-wide, but the Packers were able to practice inside Lambeau Field three times this season, just like they would in a regular training camp with two preseason games and Family Night. 

While Gutekunst established that nothing can truly replace preseason games from an evaluation standpoint, the live reps inside of Lambeau this past weekend did give his team opportunities to evaluate the depth on the roster. 

“We’re always evaluating our roster and have an idea of what it could look like,” added LaFleur. “If we’re not seeing something from a certain individual, we’ve gotta put him in a position to make sure we get the evaluation we need.”

With only three practices left, those evaluations are becoming especially critical for the fringe players on the roster. 

“I think we’re always looking and searching for those types of guys, guys that you can plug and play at different spots,” said LaFleur, emphasizing having the “luxury” of flexibility on offense to play guys in a variety of places. 

As the Packers go through a final week of practice before roster cutdowns begin Saturday, the schedule has transitioned into more of a game week schedule to help players get into the game week rhythm. After cut downs on Saturday, the team will have a week to prepare for the Vikings before they’re on a plane to Minnesota to kick off the regular season. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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7 points

Comments (9)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 01, 2020 at 12:32 pm

I always feel for these young men who don't make the cut. A lifetime of work comes to an end just like that.

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Coldworld's picture

September 01, 2020 at 04:20 pm

Particularly tough when you never got a normal off season or even preseason snaps to learn and display.

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PeteK's picture

September 02, 2020 at 07:24 am

Beware of the Turk! Always enjoyed the stories of players that were cut and then went on to play for other teams. Unfortunately we had two, Taysom Hill and Vince Biegel, that escaped us.

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NickPerry's picture

September 01, 2020 at 04:23 pm

"For Gutekunst, roster evaluations also include player projections, so not only considering how a player looks right now, but how they might develop by midseason and what type of impact they could have on the roster later on."

Something handed down from Wolf, to Thompson, and now Gutekunst. The Packers are ALWAYS looking towards the future, not just what you can do for me this Sunday or next. THIS is one of the biggest reasons why the Packers have had only 4 losing seasons in the last 28 seasons.

Good luck to all the players currently trying to fulfill their dreams!

Now lets go kick some ass!!

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optimisticfan's picture

September 02, 2020 at 09:20 pm

Maggie,
Thanks for disseminating some info to give us fans a hint (even if it is slight during this tight-lipped TC).

MLF about fringe players, “I think we’re always looking and searching for those types of guys, guys that you can plug and play at different spots.” That to me speaks to Lovett type players making the 53 even if they haven’t shown a ton in TC based on their potential and need for backup to match MLF’s schemes.

I think GB keeps a lot of RB, TE, H-back, FB players and leaves a bunch of WRs on the PS.

So 53 could be:
(listed in the position group most often used outside of STs):

Offense (26)

QB: Rodgers, Boyle, Love
RB: Jones, Williams, Dillon
TE: Lewis, Sternberger, Tonyan
H-Back/FB: Deguara, Lovett
WR: Adams, MVS, Lazard, Ervin, Shepherd, EQ
OL: Bahk, Jenkins, Linsley, Taylor, Turner, Wagner, Patrick, Runyan, Nijman

Defense (24)

DL: Clark, Keke, Lowry, Lancaster, Hester then sent to IR and a cut DL from another team added
OLB: Z. Smith, P. Smith, Gary, Garvin, Tim Williams
ILB: Kirksey, Martin, Burks, Barnes
Corner: Jaire, King, Sullivan, Samuels, Jackson, Hollman
S/Hybrid: Savage, Amos, Greene, Scott

Teams: Crosby, Scott, LS

16 PS:
D. Williams, Begelton, Kumerow, Malik Turner, Malik Taylor, another WR (if 2 cut DLs from other teams or a CB are worth signing), Baylis, Hanson, Nijman (once Veldheer resigned), Leglue, Ramsey, Summers, Ento, Sunderland, Tipa Galeai, +1 other

PUP: Stepaniak
IR: Hester (for a return later if/when needed), Bolton, M. Adams

Important new rules:
1) Unlimited numbers of players can return from IR after 3 weeks of being on the list (so a WR gets a hammy they go to IR for 3 weeks and we elevate Turner or Begelton etc to the 53)

2) Teams can designate 4 players a week on the PS to shield from being poached off the PS by other teams.
So above Hanson, Nijman?, Ento, Dexter Williams could be kept if they make it to the PS

So basically you can always keep your best 57 guys, plus as injuries or illness strike players can go and come back from IR or COVID IR relatively quickly

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Guam's picture

September 02, 2020 at 08:22 am

Pretty good 53 Optomisticfan. My only variations might be five WRs and one more DB and keeping Summers over Barnes, but it is so difficult having not seen them play at any point.

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Brad.S's picture

September 02, 2020 at 02:34 pm

Pretty good 53 IMO, but my guess on offense is 5 WR with EQ being in and Turner and Shepard out for the initial cut and C Jake Hanson making the 53 instead of a 6th WR. If there's a guy they want to put on IR after the initial cutdown, I could even see four WR being on the initial 53 and adding the 5th WR immediately after that (Kumerow or one of the guys you listed). I think Jake Hanson is more likely to get picked up on waivers, and the Packers may see him as the starting center next year, so I'm guessing they don't want to lose him. With that momentary 4 WR initial roster, they might put M Adams on the short term IR, but I think they need to have him on the initial 53 to bring him back; or they may have given up on him.

On defense, if they like M Adams better than Hester, they might keep Will Redmond as a 5th safety instead of the 4th ILB, figuring that Raven Greene provides some backup as a hybrid ILB if two in-game injuries happen until picking up an injury replacement or elevating someone from the PS. My guess is the same guys you list at OLB, CB, and S make the team. Thanks for your 53!

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optimisticfan's picture

September 02, 2020 at 04:28 pm

You make some good points. As far as who would make it past waivers and onto the PS. My best hunch would be these guys would have a better chance making it to PS:
Kumerow, EQ (or any of the lower end WRs), Hanson, Nijman, D. Williams (and maybe Ento)

I would guess that these players would be snatched up:
Redmond, Hester, (maybe Ento)

If they wanted to keep M. Adams then yes they could put him on the initial 53 then immediately put him on IR and elevate a WR to the 53 instead. We shall see if they want to keep him.

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Brad.S's picture

September 02, 2020 at 09:07 pm

I agree that Kumerow and any of the other lower end WRs would probably make it to the PS, except possibly EQ. D. Williams would probably make it to the PS, and even if he didn't, it wouldn't be the end of the world. My guess is that Hanson would get snapped up. It's hard to tell on Nijman; he was undrafted, but athletic and OTs are so hard for all the NFL teams to find. I'd guess that Ento would make it to the PS, esp. since he's missed a lot of practice.

I agree that Redmond would probably get snapped up. Hester might get snapped up by a team with a DE injury or where someone didn't pan out like a team hoped.

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