Kenny Golladay could be breakout star, key to Lions’ offense

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Kenny Golladay will lean back ever so slightly in the Detroit Lions’ meeting room and begin to speak. In front of him is an explanation of something they were going to work on or had just completed, and Golladay just isn’t quite sure of it.

So the second-year wide receiver takes his massive frame, pushes back and asks the receiver behind him a question. And Marvin Jones Jr. almost always has the answer.

“He’ll ask me a lot of different things,” Jones said. “Sometimes a play or sometimes what should I have done right there or what would you have done. Stuff like that. Whatever question pops in his mind, he asks.

“He wants to be that guy that’s dominant and stuff like that, and you see it transfer on the field.”

Dominance has been a big word in Golladay’s lexicon so far this training camp. While often choosing not to talk with the media, he did say in a rare-for-this-year interview that his plan was to “dominate every day and that’s just what I’m looking forward to.”

That’s come intermittently — but his presence is noticed. The Lions’ tallest receiver at 6-foot-4, Detroit selected him in the third round last year in part because of his jumping ability, catch radius and knack for grabbing the ball at its highest point. Combined with his speed for a bigger receiver, it made him a tantalizing early threat — something enhanced by his two touchdowns in both the preseason and regular-season openers in 2017.

Then he went quiet for most of the year, in part due to a hamstring injury that cost him five games of his rookie year. But the potential was intriguing. Then he started lining up on the outside during training camp opposite Jones with Golden Tate in the slot and had flashes of dominance again.

It’s reason to think he could be a massive key to Detroit’s offense this fall. Among receivers with 20 or more receptions last season, Jones was first in the league with 18.05 yards per catch. Golladay was fifth at 17.04 yards.

Having the two of them on the field at the same time with Tate, the NFL’s yards-after-catch leader among receivers last season, forms a dynamic combination most teams in the league don’t have.

“It is trouble for the defense,” tight end Michael Roberts said. “It’s so many options on both sides of the ball. If you put the two of them on the same side, it’s even more trouble. It’s just a well-balanced offense.

“You saw what we did, drafted a running back, brought in LeGarrette [Blount], took an O-lineman in the first round (center Frank Ragnow) so that’s obviously speaking to our run game, and that’s what they want — they want to run it. So it’s just becoming a very balanced offense and it’ll show soon.”

It’s also one that has the big-play capability because of Jones and Golladay — but specifically Golladay. With the three receivers on the field at the same time, teams will struggle where to shade a safety or straight up double a player. Focus too much on the short game with Tate and Theo Riddick and both Golladay and Jones win one-on-one matchups with corners. Focus on the deep threats and it leaves Tate and Riddick underneath to move the ball.

“Everything,” Golladay said, “works in together.”

Golladay becomes a bigger option, too, with the departure of tight end Eric Ebron. Golladay has the height (6-foot-4) of Ebron with better jumping ability. He also could siphon some of the targets that went to Ebron since the tight end combination of Roberts and Luke Willson is unlikely to garner the attention Ebron did last year. This could lead him to be the breakout player on a veteran offense with multiple pass-catchers at every position.

It helps, too, that Golladay grasps the game better than he did a year ago. He understands how to face longer corners and how important the details are to turn him from a receiver with potential into one of the better ones in the NFL.

“He’s understanding the game,” cornerback Nevin Lawson said. “He’s understanding where he needs to be. I can tell he’s focused.”

That’s on the field, where it’s shown through his play and his numerous grabs over Detroit’s defensive backs in the red zone and out of it. Then off the field, in the meeting rooms, he’s focused more, too.

And there, where he’s still learning, all he has to do is turn around to find the answers. Because sitting there is Jones. And that’s been a help, as he’s learning new parts of the offense under a different head coach.

“Just understanding the full concept of what we’re doing, which he’s learning, which has been good so far. Just really being consistent with all of that information,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “It’s one thing to kind of come in as a young player, learn a specific role, be consistent with just that information.

“But now once you expand the information, to make sure that is continually improved upon as that goes through.”

Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Rookie Jaire Alexander sees game through the eyes of a veteran

Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jaire Alexander doesn’t like to sit still. That much has become evident in the first-round pick’s short tenure with the Green Bay Packers.

So imagine how difficult it was for the energetic young cornerback to have to watch last week’s preseason opener from the sideline while he nursed a groin injury.

That’s where a veteran like Davon House proved invaluable.

The eighth-year veteran played just 10 snaps against the Tennessee Titans and when his night’s work was done on the field, he went to work on the sideline. House stood at Alexander’s side often, helping the rookie see the game through the eyes of a veteran.

“I learned a bunch,” Alexander said. “Got to experience what a game is like — just trying to pay attention to the calls and the formations. See what the offense likes to run, and things like that. There were a lot of moving parts for me, so I was really concentrating on getting the play call and try to see myself in those positions.”

It left Alexander with an interesting conclusion.

“He says he can tell that the game isn’t as hard as everyone says it is — from watching it live,” House said. “Jaire isn’t a regular rookie. He’s kind of already in the flow of things.”

That may come across as cocky and perhaps even foolhardy; then again Alexander was the one who earlier in camp picked off Aaron Rodgers and started to call it a confidence builder only to stop himself and admit he has “plenty of that.”

It also could rub a veteran player the wrong way, but House said that’s not the case with Alexander.

“Everyone likes him; very likeable kid,” House said. “He’s eager, very coachable. We feed off of him. The energy he brings to the locker room, to the field when he makes plays, it’s always positive.”

There’s some merit to Alexander’s stance about the difficulty of the game, especially considering what he’s used to in practice.

“It is hard, but it isn’t as hard as what we’re going against in practice,” House said. “You’re going against A-Rod, Davante (Adams), Jimmy Graham, and then you see other teams and it’s not even close to what we go through in practice, which makes it easier.”

At some point, perhaps as soon as Thursday’s second preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Alexander will get his chance to show just how easy the game comes to him. He returned to practice in a limited capacity on Sunday but couldn’t guarantee he would play against Pittsburgh.

Until he does, expect him to be at the side of House or one of the other veterans.

“That’s something we’ve always promoted,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It makes you proud, but that’s something our guys do a really good job of. … Our younger players closing that gap with the veteran players is vital to the success of our football team and getting ready for [Week 1 against] Chicago, and our guys do a great job of that.”

Photo: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire

Would unlikely Khalil Mack trade make sense for Lions?

Every week during the preseason, we’ll be taking some of your questions for a Detroit Lions mailbag. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email

Now, on to this week’s questions.

Michael, there’s definitely a difference with Matt Patricia instead of Jim Caldwell. Practices are more intense. There’s more running. The pacing is different and, obviously, the defensive scheme is different. Every coach is going to bring his own philosophy and that has been obvious.

As far as specifically Miles Killebrew, I don’t think what Patricia is doing with him is that much different than what Teryl Austin tried to do with him. Austin attempted to put Killebrew in the best position, which was a sub-package player who was essentially a hybrid linebacker/safety. It seems like that’s what Detroit is looking at Killebrew as again. The difference this year is that Killebrew – in my opinion – hasn’t looked quite as good. Now there’s a long way to go between now and the regular season, but the combination of adding Tracy Walker as a third-round pick as well as the flexibility of Quandre Diggs and the re-signing of Tavon Wilson has put Killebrew in a tough spot, roster-wise. It’s why I’ve consistently mentioned him as a possible trade target. That would only increase if this coaching staff believes in Charles Washington as much as the last staff did, particularly on special teams.

But Detroit is trying to put Killebrew in a bunch of different spots right now to see which one, if any, fits best. The Lions did this with a lot of players in the past; Austin happened to be quite good at that. Don’t think the comparison to Kyle Van Noy is accurate because Van Noy was always going to be a player who was better in a 3-4 system – something obvious in New England. If Van Noy was still a Lion now, I think he would have found a role in this defense.

On the face of it, it seems insane, Ben, but with every day Khalil Mack doesn’t report to camp and if the Raiders really believe they can’t sign him, it could be possible that Oakland would try to make a deal. First the logistics on that. For any team to trade for Mack, it have to be convinced it could sign him to a long-term deal. Unlike Major League Baseball and the NBA, NFL general managers and head coaches hoard draft picks like the rarest of diamonds. And if I’m the Raiders – again, this is me being the Raiders­ – I’m asking for a reasonable amount of draft picks for Mack. So there’s that. I also would do everything I could, if I were the Raiders, to try and retain Mack.

With that being said, if I’m Bob Quinn, I’m at least poking around while I’m in Napa, California, this week to see what it would take to trade for the star pass-rusher. There’s no question Detroit needs pass-rush help, and the team’s top pass-rusher, Ezekiel Ansah, is playing on the franchise tag, has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and turns 30 next year. Trading for Mack – depending on what it would cost – would give Patricia an elite pass-rusher and give Detroit’s talented secondary an established pass-rusher to create havoc. Do I think it would happen? No, I don’t. But if I’m Quinn I’m at least asking about it just in case.

Bennett: Rodgers has arm talent, Brady easier to play with

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady is the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, and in the eyes of former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett, he is deserving of another distinction: the easiest quarterback to play with.

Bennett, who finished his 10-year playing career in 2017 catching passes from Aaron Rodgers and Brady, compared the two in an appearance on “The Doug Gottlieb Show” on Wednesday.

“I think that no one has more arm talent than Aaron,” Bennett said on the program. “Aaron can do pretty much anything with the ball. I feel like Tom is really precise, easier to play with. I’d say [it was] easier to play with Tom than anybody else.

“He just makes the game easy, like what he expects, where he wants you to be, and where he’s putting the ball. It’s just repetition. He does so many repetitions with you, whether it’s mental reps, physical reps, or walk-through, he’s always letting you know. He communicates the best of what he expects.

Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

“The communication between him and the receiver is probably on the highest level of what you like to do, what he likes to throw. If he sees something, if you ask him to do something, he’ll try it, and he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go with that.'”

Bennett, 31, played for the Dallas Cowboys (2008 to 2011), New York Giants(2012), Chicago Bears (2013 to 2015), Patriots (2016, 2017) and Packers (2017).

In 16 regular-season games with the Patriots in 2016, he caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns.

In 2017, Bennett played in seven games for the Packers and had 24 catches for 233 yards and no touchdowns before he was waived with a shoulder injury.

In his interview with Gottlieb, he deflected a question on who was the best quarterback he’s played with, but he said his time in New England stood out in one regard.

“I had the most fun in my NFL career playing for the Patriots … because they didn’t worry about anything else but football,” said Bennett, who is now focused on a career as a children’s author. “In some of the other workplaces, they worry about how you dress, what you look like, all this other stuff. You come to work to play football, the only thing coaches should be talking to you about is football. Everything else is ridiculous.”

Lions DE Ansah off PUP list

Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions have removed defensive end Ziggy Ansah from the active/physically unable to perform list.

The Lions announced the move Monday. They have not said what injury caused Ansah to go on the PUP list.

Ansah hasn’t played a full 16 games since the 2015 season. He is back with the Lions for this season on the franchise tag.

Ansah played in 14 games last season and finished with 12 sacks, including three each against the Giants, Bengals and Packers. Detroit drafted him in the first round in 2013.

Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

Hit that injured Aaron Rodgers would be a penalty this year

Courtney Cronin
ESPN Staff Writer

EAGAN, Minn. — If the hit Anthony Barr laid on Aaron Rodgers last season — which broke the Green Bay quarterback’s collarbone — took place this season, it would be deemed a penalty.

According to NFL official Pete Morelli, who explained the league’s rule changes to a group of Twin Cities media on Thursday, Barr’s hit would fall under a point of emphasis the NFL has instituted for 2018. It would be a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.

Rule 12 in the NFL’s 2018 rulebook details player conduct. Under Article 9, which explains the rules around roughing the passer, the manner in which a quarterback in a defenseless position (which is just after he’s completed throwing a pass) is tackled is the point of emphasis.

The rule states the following:

“A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as ‘stuffing’ a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above, When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player’s arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.”

According to Morelli, everything boils down to whether a defender uses his full body weight to bring down a quarterback any time he is in a defenseless position.

“Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down on him (the quarterback),” Morelli said. “The Aaron Rodgers would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of the pocket, established and all that. But if he’s running, that’s not the same.”

On the play in question, Rodgers rolled out of the pocket to his right and launched a pass. Barr took the two steps required before wrapping the quarterback up by the waist and tackling him.

Upon being tackled, Rodgers braced himself with his right (throwing) arm as he hit the turf. Barr brought Rodgers to the ground and rolled off the quarterback’s left shoulder within seconds of completing the tackle. Barr was not penalized.

The rule, according to Morelli, applies to a quarterback whenever he’s in a defenseless position, which could be in the pocket or whether he runs and sets up again outside of the pocket.

“If you roll out and get set up, you’re still a passer,” Morelli said. “But if you’re rolling out and throwing and a guy’s chasing you and tackles you, you’re not defenseless. They get two steps and they can tackle you. Becoming defenseless is setting up again outside the pocket.”

Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Packers LB Jake Ryan out for season with torn ACL

Green Bay Packers linebacker Jake Ryan has a torn ACL, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ryan, who was slated to start at inside linebacker, was carted off from practice with the injury. It is likely he will miss the 2018 season.

The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 drill late in Sunday’s practice. Ryan pounded his fist on the ground as he received medical attention.

The injury will accelerate the need for rookie third-round pick Oren Burks to play a bigger role on defense. Also, defensive back Quinten Rollins has worked at inside linebacker in the sub packages, and the Packers are high on undrafted rookie linebacker Greer Martini of Notre Dame.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

Last shot? There’s a lot to prove for Packers’ Ty Montgomery

Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Ty Montgomery showed up to training camp in style last week, when he rolled into St. Norbert College in a bright yellow Polaris Slingshot and looked ready to put the disappointment of last season behind him. Perhaps that’s why it took him so long to come up with the right word or two to describe what his 2017 felt like.

Five seconds passed. Then 10.

Finally, Montgomery offered this: “A frustrating misunderstanding. That’s the way I would put it.”

It was supposed to the Green Bay Packers running back’s first full season at his new position. Instead, it turned into an injury-shortened year that fueled more questions about whether the converted receiver could handle the switch.

The frustration came from this: Early in the season, his transition looked complete when after three games he led all NFL running backs in playing time with 23 more snaps than the second-most-used back, Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, even while he nursed a wrist injury. Then came a rib injury — multiple broken ribs he says now — that took him out of action for a week. He returned to play four more games before he took another shot to the ribs.

His season was over after eight games, but this is where he believes the misunderstanding comes in. It wasn’t the ribs that ended his season but rather the wrist that eventually required surgery, and he believes people simply chalked it up to a lack of toughness and durability needed to play running back.

“I think there’s a lot of people who assumed or never expected me to be able to do it anyway, but I don’t think a lot of people understand what I was playing through or what I was doing,” Montgomery said. “And they questioned my durability or my abilities. There’s nothing I can do about breaking my ribs. I don’t know how many guys could play running back with broken ribs. It was just unfortunate. I was ready to have a big year.”

Instead, then-rookies Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones emerged as starting-caliber running backs, leaving Montgomery as a near afterthought. That is, until this offseason, when based on how snaps were divided during OTA and minicamp practices it once again became apparent that Montgomery remains a significant part of coach Mike McCarthy’s running-back-by-committee plan.

“I feel really good about the running back group,” McCarthy said. “I think Ty’s transition has been pretty special. Not only what he’s done from a position change but you look what he’s done to prepare himself — you look at his body and the added muscle that he’s put on. Ty and just the other young guys, I think it’s going to be a very, very competitive position.”

It’s also a critical year for Montgomery, who’s in the final season of his rookie contract. His first task is to show he can stay healthy — something he has done in only one of his three NFL seasons.

After that, it’s all about what he can do for the offense.

Perhaps the committee approach will help in both regards. Although no one will say what that actually means in terms of reps, early in camp Williams has gotten the bulk of the work with the starters during normal down-and-distance situations while Montgomery has handled the two-minute and no-huddle drives where his receiving skills could come back into play. Jones, who must serve a two-game suspension to the start the season, dropped out after two practices with a hamstring injury.

“I mean, I feel as though I’ve put some good things on film, but every year is a big year,” Montgomery said. “I think what’s important for me now is being healthy and being on the field while healthy. I think it would obviously benefit me if I don’t have to play through an injury and I can just be myself. Having a son in the picture now, my wife and I, I have a new perspective on a lot of things. Call it motivation. Call it whatever you want, but I have a difference in my purpose that feels natural.”

Ever the positive thinker, Montgomery admitted even he needed a boost last season when the injuries set in. That’s when practice squad linebacker Ahmad Thomas, one of his good friends on the team, stepped in.

“He sent me something, the Chinese Farmer Parable — where [when something happens] you don’t know what’s good or bad,” Montgomery said. “Outside looking in, obviously it sucks to get injured. The positive is before I got injured, the younger guys weren’t getting very many reps. I remember seeing a stat where I had more snaps than any back in the league. The positive that comes from it is now we know what we have in these two guys.

“It opened up the conversation of what more can we do with Ty? I think that’s a positive that comes from this. He doesn’t just have to play running back; he can do both.”

Patricia implements more physical workouts

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matt Patricia had players lay down on the ground, offense on one side, defense on the other. At the whistle, they popped back up and the offensive player — the ball carrier — then had to try to beat the defensive player one-on-one.

On the first padded day of Detroit Lions practice Sunday, they ran a modified version of the Oklahoma drill — just one example of the physicality and intensity under Patricia, the first-year Lions head coach, who is trying to change the culture of a team that hasn’t won a division title since 1993.

To do so, Patricia said at some point the Lions will tackle to the ground — a stark difference from former coach Jim Caldwell, who rarely had live tackling during practices. Patricia does want to keep his players upright for the most part, but he recognizes there are times that tackling has to happen.

Just to be prepared.

“At some point you have to go live. You have to be able to experience that both offensively and defensively because you don’t want to do it for the first time in a game,” Patricia said. “You have to be able to get in good position. There’s certainly a manner in which we can practice in pads where we can thud each other up and be in a good hit position and know that from the strike standpoint everything is clean and we’re in good space but then not really follow through or try to finish at that exact moment.

“But at some point you have to transition into the finish and be able to make sure you understand what that feels like and that we’re doing it the right way.”

It led to Patricia calling Sunday “the most exciting day of the year,” because it’s the first time his team is able to put on pads and actually have more consistent contact. It’s also the first time he had a team under his control in pads for the first time.

Patricia said while working in pads is something that is made a big deal of, he believes players should always want to play in pads for both protection and to get used to it since they’ll be wearing full pads during games. It also forces players to get to another conditioning level because of some restrictions pads place on players.

The potential for more tackling and contact is just one area where Patricia has changed Lions practices. Detroit does more running under Patricia than it did under Caldwell — including running laps for mistakes made in practice, something the defense had to do at least once Sunday.

On Friday, Patricia opened his first training camp practice by working on goal-line strategy because of the importance Patricia places on it in games. The Lions offensively struggled in goal-line and short-yardage situations in 2017, something general manager Bob Quinn said after the draft bothered him during Caldwell’s final season.

Now, as the pads go on, they can work on that even more. The players noticed an increased energy having pads on as well. The linemen can hit. The players move just a little faster. For the third straight day, practice ran at least two hours.

“It’s definitely physical and that’s what we want to be, a physical team,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “So we’re out here working hard and the most dominant team wins every Sunday, so that’s what we have to be and that’s how we practice.

“And we’re all taking to it.”

Packers GM won’t sit still in quest to ‘hang a banner’

Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kelly Heim barely looked up as Brian Gutekunst showed a visitor out of his office. And why would she? It was one of a dozen times on that day alone when the executive assistant to the Green Bay Packers general manager watched him pass her desk, which sits just outside Gutekunst’s office.

Say this much about the first-year general manager: Nearly seventh months into the job it has become evident to those who work on the third floor at Lambeau Field that he’s not one to sit still or stay holed up in his office. His spacious but simply decorated office — with a few Packers-related photos on the wall and a lone freshly-watered plant on the table between the black leather couch and chairs — has Gutekunst’s name on the door, but it’s not where he prefers to work.

Rather, Heim often can find him down the hall, a few doors down in the draft room, where Gutekunst still manages to watch his share of film.

“Kelly will tell you, I spend most of my time in there,” Gutekunst said in an interview Thursday. “That’s our work room, so to speak. It’s where our pro board is up, our college board is up and we have a really nice set up in there.”

‘Don’t forget lunch’

He spent the early hours of that morning before the Packers hit the field for their first practice of training camp in there watching college film and studying some 2019 draft prospects. He followed that with a review of some potential players in the league now who might become available. He then conducted his first staff meeting of camp to review assignments and expectations for all of his scouts during training camp.

And that was before he went down to the practice field at 11:30 a.m. and before another round of meetings and film sessions in the afternoon.

In between, Gutekunst carved out part of his afternoon following practice to open his door for one of his first sit-down interviews since he was introduced as GM on Jan. 8.

“Well, I’m a scout, so don’t forget lunch,” Gutekunst said with a laugh. “That’s very important to us.”

Like his mentor and predecessor Ted Thompson and like Ron Wolf who first hired him in Green Bay in 1998, the 45-year-old Gutekunst sees himself first and foremost as a scout. His first full-time assignment was to scour the East coast for college players. Two years later, he moved to the all-important southeast region before Thompson made him the director of college scouting in 2012 and then director of player personnel in 2016.

He has so many more responsibilities now, but Gutekunst said the best piece of advice he’s received from other general managers was simple: Don’t forget your roots.

“My favorite thing about the job has always been sitting down and watching tape,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of guys in the league that have been in this chair and that’s the one thing they said — that you’ve really got to protect your time because otherwise it can get away from you.”

‘Like a seasoned veteran’

That may have manifested itself during Gutekunst’s first draft, and team president Mark Murphy watched it all unfold — from the trade back from No. 14 to No. 27 with the Saints, who gave up a first-round pick, and then the trade back up to No. 18 with the Seahawks.

“He handled it like a seasoned veteran,” Murphy said.

That wasn’t the way it was viewed after the trade down.

“I received a number of emails from people saying ‘What’s going on? Same old stuff! What are they doing?'” Murphy recalled. “At the end of the day though you sit back and you look at it, we traded however many down, we ended up getting a player we really like. We ended up getting a first-round pick next year.

“I thought that took courage. And the other thing it’s been great to see the relationship between Brian and Ted, kind of the protégé working now closely with the mentor, where Ted has been a mentor to him in a different way for years, and now as an adviser it’s been good to see. But I thought Brian really had command of the room and respect of everyone in the room.”

Gutekunst readily admits that the transition for him has been easier than perhaps it is for other first-time GMs because he’s worked alongside most of the people on the third floor for years. That includes coach Mike McCarthy, who’s entering his 13th year as head coach. Although McCarthy now reports to Murphy — a change in power structure that was made this offseason — the coach-GM relationship between McCarthy and Gutekunst appears simpatico.

‘Confidence in his opinion’

Gutekunst hasn’t even been through a full NFL calendar cycle yet, so any judgement on his performance should be reserved.

But at this point, it’s clear he’s a significant part of what some inside Lambeau Field call a recharged environment. Gutekunst’s approachability, far different than Thompson’s reclusiveness, certainly contributes. So does his willingness to be more aggressive than Thompson was when it comes to player acquisition.

It’s perhaps why a move as unpopular as the release of Jordy Nelson this offseason — “That was exceptionally hard, one of the toughest things,” Gutekunst says now — has not been a black cloud over the team.

“I think the biggest thing with Brian Gutekunst is the confidence he has in his opinion,” McCarthy said. “Whether you agree or disagree, there’s confidence. There’s obviously substance behind it. And that’s something I’ve always appreciated [from] Brian, even at a young age. So you look at his history through scouting and particularly the jobs that he’s had, certainly the southeast and all the way up through the director, there was always a work ethic and confidence. So those are two traits I’ve always admired.”

‘Hang a banner’

When Gutekunst first joined the Packers, they were coming off the Super Bowl XXXI title. He and then-scout Alonzo Highsmith were hired within days of each other.

“The guys who were already here had won that Super Bowl back in 1996, and we hadn’t,” Gutekunst said. “We kept telling ourselves that we’ve got to hang a banner, and we only hang them for one thing.”

Gutekunst finally experienced that during the 2010 season, when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV. But for him, things start over now that he’s in charge.

“You can’t leave here and not have a banner hung because that’s what this place expects,” he said. “I think everybody who works here feels that responsibility, which is cool.”

And with that, he headed back out of his office and down the hall. There was a 4 p.m. meeting with his scouts to go over the practice film, a 6:05 p.m. team meeting with the players and then back to his office to clear some paperwork off his desk and then “and then try to see the kids before they go to sleep.”

“I get my steps in that way,” he said.

Photo: Mike Roemer/AP Photo