Twas the Day After Christmas: Lori Nickel Packers chat : Packers Insider

Twas the Day After Christmas: Lori Nickel Packers chat

December 27, 2014 by  
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From LORI NICKEL, Journal Sentinel

~Journal Sentinel Packers beat reporter Lori Nickel answered questions in a Friday chat.

  • Q: steve, Madison – Hi Lori, I hope you and your family had a nice Christmas. I get how older players can hit a wall and regress but how can younger players like Bostick and Boykin regress? Thanks
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Steve, Christmas was great, and same to you. Thank you and everyone else for participating in this chat. I’m filling in for Bob McGinn this week. Chat was supposed to start at noon, but I’m going to start early because Mike McCarthy talks at 12:30, hope that’s OK. Let’s get started. After reading your question, I wanted to check a few stats first, out of curiosity. ~ Jordy Nelson has been targeted 143 times in 2014; Randall Cobb has been targeted 121 times; and Eddie Lacy has carried the ball 220 times. That’s 484 plays over the course of the season, or an average of 32 a game. The Packers have 939 offensive plays this year, or about 63 a game. ~ So, about half of all of the offensive plays are going to The Big Three (32 of 63). That makes it extremely competitive for James Starks, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams to fight for what’s left. And don’t forget about Aaron Rodgers’ 41 carries this season as a running back. ~ Those are all proven players and the rookie Adams is a high draft pick. They’re going to get their minutes, looks and plays in the big book. Now, also consider that Green Bay has remained healthy this year. Guys haven’t missed significant game or practice time with injuries. (Hallelujah!) ~ Is it possible with that you are seeing the Packers play primarily with this strong nucleus? And that other guys have been on the outside, looking in? I think so. Consider young receiver Myles White. Did he regress? Or is he on the practice squad this year after playing in seven games last year simply because of numbers and health? Having said that, we do know from Tom Silverstein’s reporting that Bostick hasn’t mastered all the tight end assignments and TEs coach Jerry Fontenot refuses to put him on the field until he does. “I need to feel more comfortable with the things we’re doing in practice,” Fontenot told Silverstein. “I need to see that he’s making split-second decisions, the right decisions. We’re still getting there.” I also wonder if Bostick and Boykin are the kind of players who do better if they get involved in the game earlier. Or more frequently. Jermichael Finley, if I recall, was a little like that. It is very hard to just jump in for one play when it is well known it will likely b the only play for the game. That can affect not only the performance of these guys in the game – but also their attitude, and approach, in practice. We all saw them this training camp. We see the physical talent is there. This, to me, from the outside, all looks mental – and understandable to a degree.


  • Q: michael, R Richland Hills, tx – I have heard Janis isn’t a great route runner, but there must be a package of routes he can run and his return work on special teams should help get him on the field. Do you think he will play this year, and if not, why not? The packers are getting nothing from Boykin.
  • A: Lori Nickel – Janis was fun to watch in camp and he’s obviously tough as heck to overcome shingles and just make this team in the first place. But I don’t see what benefit there would be to having him play much right now, just because of all the reasons I gave to Steve in the previous answer.

    Jeff Janis used his deceptive speed to get behind the Kansas City Chiefs for a touchdown in the final preseason game on August 28th at Lambeau Field. It’s very puzzling why he’s not been active for any games in a long time.


  • Q: Alice from Ormond Beach – Hi Lori, Merry Christmas and thanks for talking Packers with us on Boxing Day. Can the team afford to let Randall Cobb go as a FA? I think he should Jordy size money if necessary. If you agree. who is the next most important player to lock up?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Alice and same to you. The cruel result of how Green Bay has run things under Ted Thompson is that they can afford to let receivers go. Green Bay has survived the departures of Greg Jennings and James Jones, and both had incredible talent and contributions to the success (and record books) around here of late. Thompson replaced them with more good WRs. But I think Randall Cobb has some things in his favor. Cobb is very young and Rodgers really trusts him. You have to be a smart receiver to play in this offense and you have to follow directions well; he does that. The coaches really like that Cobb is tough, too. He is your shifty, nimble slot guy. Now, I’m not even sure if this year’s crop of college receivers will be as good as last year – and that may be a big factor in Thompson’s decision – but I am guessing that they will try to keep him around. ~ Meanwhile, Rob Reischel did an excellent free agent story on this just this week for Packers Plus, which you’ll find interesting: ~


  • Q: CoachPlyoGuy, Winona MN – Hi Lori. Thanks doing this! Tom writes frequently about Lambeau Field and the Packer’s comfort level and advantages of playing there. We know that in 2014 the Packers score a lot of points there and not nearly as many on the road. Las Vegas’s odds makers only give the home team 3 points; I’ve heard them say it in interviews on TV. I have vivid memories of the packers Getting drilled at home in January by the Falcons, Giants (2x), and 49ers. Two of those games were under brutal weather conditions that one would think would favor the Packers. So, what’s up with that?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hey Coach Plyo ~ I actually wrote about this for the Packers story today, so nice timing! Aside from what I already wrote in there, I will tell you, the December and January games (and even November) here have been miserable for the Packers in recent years. Awful. In ’09, ’10, ’13, I can remember writing about the nasty temps or heavy snow for the Packers. Temps with a high of zero, stuff like that. And I think living here can actually be a disadvantage sometimes. That’s right. You get SICK OF IT. All that stuff about living in a snow globe and working in the Frozen Tundra and how you get used to it? Bubkus. You don’t get used to a cold car first thing in the morning. Or salt tracked in to stores, homes, offices. The sinus infection from being inside all the time in dry, forced air. The wind that whips around Lambeau and slaps your face like a wet towel. Or the 16 hours a day of pitch black darkness around the Winter Solstice. Brutal. It matters and people who say it doesn’t must not A) live here or B) ever do any kind of regular activity outside (skiing, shoveling not snowblowing, hiking, ice fishing, hunting, or running, jogging or walking, etc). It takes a certain kind of ornery personality to live in these conditions (much less revel in them) and all these Packers from California and the South are in for a real shock. And by south, I mean any city below Bryan Bulaga’s hometown. I think opposing teams, with their non-frozen joints and nothing-to-lose attitude, can actually come in to this Polar Vortex and survive once in awhile because they only have to deal with it for four hours. The whole reverse psychology thing, once in awhile, has relevance, and we’ve had some brutal Januarys for the Packers in the last decade. ~ Now, aside from all that, the Packers have said they want playoff games at home this year anyway. And the temps have been extremely mild in December – just when the Packers took their act on the road. I think it all comes down to this: In 2012 the Packers lost at Seattle in the Fail Mary game, and when it was all said and done, ended up with just one home playoff game against the Vikings. I wonder if the Packers think it cost them the home field advantage and the Super Bowl that year. Wicked winters or not, home teams win more often than not and Green Bay wants other teams to come in here and beat them because they’ve been on fire here all year.


  • Q: Barbara, Marion, WI – Lori, Since the Packers have launched the “Get Loud Lambeau” campaign for this week’s game, (& yes, gloves & mittens negate the clapping sounds), why don’t they give the fans some type of noisemaker gadget? Are there rules about what they can give out as fans are coming in to Lambeau? Thanks~
  • A: Lori Nickel – Barbara, really good point in the gloves and mittens… I have never heard of any rules but I am sure there are some regarding horns or whatever. Still, a great idea on your part.


  • Q: Lennie Durow, San Diego – Hey, Lori. Hope you had a great Christmas and thanks for taking our questions. Please tell us the recent increase in John Kuhns touches doesn’t mean MM will once again hand the ball off to him in the playoffs with his drive stopping 3rd and 3 situations where kuhn gains 1/2 yard. I know the fans love yelling “Kuhn” but the 1-2 carries we give him in big playoff games year after year never work.
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hey Lennie – Same to you, I hope you had a nice holiday. We know McCarthy likes that call and Kuhn has the full trust of Aaron Rodgers. One of those four carries against Tampa seemed to have the element of surprise. And James Starks just couldn’t get it rolling that day (7 rushes for 3 yards total). I wouldn’t be surprised with Kuhn getting the carry once in awhile, but yeah, I’m sure everyone wants the ball in Lacy’s hands now going forward for as much as possible. Including John.


  • Q: jim, cumberland – with rodgers being hobbled somewhat one would hope that Lacy and Starks will be used more in the run and pass game do you feel that harris will get some more work in the game also thanks Jim
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Jim, no, I don’t. Nothing against Harris. I’m guessing Rodgers will play though whatever is bothering him and two backs in this offense is more than enough.


  • Q: Jeff Delvaux, Altoona, Iowa – Six years in a row into the playoffs. One of the things I haven’t read about is the raid on our front office, especially in the personnel department, that is, John Dorsey, Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider. Yet, we’ve been picking in the 20’s in the draft for at least 7 of 8 years. Doesn’t that say a lot about Thompson’s ability to find very good players and McCarthy’s coaches making these guy’s so competitive year after year. Of course, I know it starts with Rodgers. But I’d like to hear what you see and how we’ve survived to be a contender despite this philosophy which isn’t unique to GB but not followed by many teams it seems.
  • A: Lori Nickel – You’re right. And, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have spoiled the fans. This just doesn’t happen, typically, and it should be really impossible for a small market team. Ask your friends in Michigan, South Florida – shoot, even San Francisco – if they’d take a run like this in their lifetime, much less immediately after the Favre era. Tom Silverstein wrote about your topic last year (here is the link:~ ~ The thing that I notice is the type of guy that comes in to Green Bay. These guys are pretty boring. They don’t even have one single flashy WR or DB. The best quotes out of that locker room come from the bigs – the linemen, and only after years of service, when they’ve earned it. That means there’s very little drama and that also gives you insight to the personality of the team (starting with McCarthy). This is a very tightly knit group, at least the guys who play and contribute a lot. They don’t trash talk, they don’t grumble on the side. Whatever grievances they have – and they must all have some – they keep private. So, I think while Ted tracks vertical leaps and cone shuttle times and all that on his scout sheet, he looks for teammates first. Football can turn in to a very individual sport on teams that stink, but Green Bay has – in addition to all the things you mention – functioned almost like a college team. All for one, one for all. After that, the staff here has, as you said, made everything work. Huge credit to them.

    Will Randall Cobb follow Jordy’s path and re-sign with the Packers, or will he follow Greg Jennings and take the max money somewhere else? James Jones wanted to stay, but the Packers didn’t try and keep him.


  • Q: Jeff, Mercer – Hi Lori, great to see you out here… with all the potential free agents the Packers are going to have do you find it strange to hear Randall Cobb say nothing is happening right now on a deal for him? and on Sunday do you think the Packers will try to pound away more with Lacy or spread the Lions out with 4 or 5 receivers and beat the Lions down the field before the rush gets to Rodgers? thanks…
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Jeff, thank you! I like Randall a lot – but I don’t ever believe anyone, ever, when they say nothing is going on. They have nothing to gain by talking contract stuff right now, nothing but distraction. That would turn in to a media frenzy with weekly check ins because that’s what we have to do as reporters, follow that up. So whether true or not, it is wise of Cobb just to keep quiet. Unless he wants to give me the scoop. Kidding. Cobb really isn’t to that kind of stuff, that’s not his personality anyway. Also: Some guys really do tell their agents they don’t want to hear the day-to-day stuff, too. … As for the game plan, I really think if 12’s leg is OK, they throw like usual and they play uptempo and they wear the defense down. If he’s hobbling, well, they … oh, it is Rodgers. He’ll play through it. Lacy has to factor in to the plan too, of course.


  • Q: RP, Boise, ID – Lori, wondering if the lackluster performance by Rodgers the last 2 weeks has something to do with him coming down with the flu in Buffalo and then still recovering in the Buc’s game. I know when I am under the weather my game is off and I don’t have 300 pounders chasing me.
  • A: Lori Nickel – RP, I don’t recall him saying that, but – it makes total sense to me, especially in the Tampa Bay game. You can’t breathe well, so you don’t get the same oxygen in to the body, etc, – that’s a detriment right there. Then there are all the other symptoms that prevent a good night of rest, or digesting nutrition properly, have to play a role. Adrenaline can only overcome so much. And there is something else that’s weird that I have learned, in talking to people like marathon runners and top trainers for other stories I’ve written. They all swear their immune systems are exceptional. They don’t get the regular, common cold stuff; but when they do get sick, they tell me they get really, really sick. I wonder if that’s what happened to 12. Just got clobbered with some super strain of something. Also, it seems like 1/3 of the people around here are sick, ask any teacher or pediatrician. It’s been going around. Thanks for reminding me to take my Echinacea.


  • Q: Steve Warnecke, Virginia Beach, VA – How much of a factor will the suspension of Center Raiola play? Will Clay and others have an easier time reaching the pocket?
  • A: Lori Nickel – As soon as I heard of his suspension, I thought, game, set, match, Packers. Green Bay’s defensive line did OK in the first matchup against the Lions. Now Lions rookie Travis Swanson is expected to play center, and the Packers basically sent a Fan Manifesto to Packer nation to be extra loud Sunday so the Lions can’t function on offense. That could affect a play or two. Corey Linsley had some ups and downs at that Seattle game, remember that? Rodgers chewing him out in the second quarter for a bad snap? But I don’t think he had any false starts – so that was good, and a credit to him. We’ll see how Swanson manages in a big game like this, on the road, against a Packers defense that went nuts a week ago. Hello, Clay Matthews, your new Inside Linebacker. Losing Raiola, the Lions also lose a leader – and remember they’re already missing Nick Fairley. He missed practice this week and isn’t expected back. Now, I see that Calvin Johnson has missed some practice time with that ankle. (Although this is from the Detroit Free Press: “Johnson appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears, but after taking a few plays off he returned to the field and said after the game his ankle shouldn’t be an issue going forward.”) . … But the real issue will be whether or not Green Bay’s offense had made enough adjustments to play the Lions better this time around. And how Aaron Rodgers’ calf is feeling Sunday.


  • Q: Evan, Waukesha – Hope you had a great Christmas, do you think the Lions will use the same scheme they did to cover Nelson and Cobb. If yes, will the Packers try to utilize Davante Adams like they did against the Patriots? He has had a few drops the past two games, does he still have Rodgers’ confidence? Thanks!
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Evan, and same to you. That was not a good day for the WRs. Was it them? Or was it the Lions secondary? After the game, McGinn wrote: “CB Darius Slay has made remarkable strides in his second season. He played like a No. 1 cornerback, brimming with confidence and talent as he contained Nelson.” Cobb was ripped for being mediocre in camp and letting it carry over in to the season. Nelson got nowhere. I would expect to see more from Nelson and Cobb in this game, first of all. That’s the starting point. They should find some single coverage sometime. They shouldn’t have to turn to third and fourth receiver options right away. Adams just needs to get the drops out of his head. Adams had four passes thrown to him at Tampa Bay and (2 catches) and four to him at Buffalo (1 catch), indicating to me that Rodgers has in no way lost confidence in him yet. Watch Aaron sometimes. If a RB fumbles, I swear he gets the ball back in the next play or two 90% of the time. A WR drops? He gets another chance, too. Some drops are physical too. I’ve actually been working on an Adams profile story and you know, the one early he dropped at Tampa Bay was a bullet. He’s still getting used to that from 12. The second one he lost because he was just drilled as the ball came to him; there’s got to be some understanding on the team’s part about that. In fact, some of his teammates have come to his defense big time – especially Nelson – when Adams has been asked about his drop in an otherwise excellent New England game. Nelson tries to intervene with reporter’s questioning. Adams believes then he had earned some of Rodgers’ trust, and Aaron hasn’t stopped going to him since.

    The Lions and Suh dominated the Packers in week three back in Detroit.

    The Lions and Suh dominated the Packers in week three back in Detroit.


  • Q: Brian, Sherood – Hi Lori: I’ve often wondered what the players do in the off season for conditioning? Do you think they’re following you into cross-fit, yoga/pilates? Also how prevalent is chiropractic, massage etc for players?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Brian. Funny enough – as popular as yoga has been with several Packers, Jordy Nelson told me recently he hates it. It actually made him feel worse and didn’t help with his flexibility at all. But a lot of players like yoga, starting with Rodgers. I’ve written a few stories on this topic; I hope it is OK that I post the links: ‘Friday schedule change helping players recover from daily grind of NFL’ ~ ~ ‘At Packers training table, nutrition has become a science’ ~


  • Q: Dave w, Santa Ana ca – Hi Lori, nice to see you get this opportunity. Do you believe that first year players such as Adams, Rogers, Clinton-Dix etc “hit the wall” at this point. Seems to me that if they aren’t injured, and are getting enough rest and good nutrition, they should be just as effective as the veterans. Agree?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Thanks Dave. Totally agree. But now, it is a mental struggle for rookies. Focus is everything. Now is when the season feels really long. They should almost look at the Lions as a non-division opponent and study. And study. And study.


  • Q: jim peddle, az – do the packers ever practice tackeling they suck inthat dept
  • A: Lori Nickel – I had to look. Green Bay has 1,008 tackles this year, 11th in the league. But I know that’s not what you mean. Bottom line? I’ve always wondered if you give up a little in the sound, sure, fundamental part of tackling if you are almost always trying to strip the ball and cause a turnover. Packers have 18 interceptions in the NFL (tied for sixth), just 11 forced fumbles. But they are often going for the ball instead of the ball carrier.


  • Q: Jerry, South Australia – Lori, I know it is a big dream, but could you discuss how it would be possible to get a Wisconsin boy back to Green Bay in JJ Watt? I realise that he just signed a 5 year deal, but could it happen?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Jerry – I know. What a great player. From what I hear, the community of Houston adores the guy. But you probably already know the answer…


  • Q: Michael, Naples, FL – Thank you for the chat Lori. It appears to me that there is not an NFC play off team that position to position across the roster is any better than the Pack and with several positions are not as good. Will come down to game plan and obviously execution. In your opinion, what is the weak link and primary ares of concern going into play offs?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Michael, I agree. Well, I thought of one, maybe, assuming none of the big playmakers get hurt. I think about physical defenses like Seattle, Buffalo (the line) and most definitely, Detroit. I don’t think Green Bay shies away from the fist fights, but I do think Green Bay’s offense relies on such precision (route running, timing, protection, intelligent players) and can get disrupted when a WR doesn’t get a free release or when Rodgers is picking himself off the ground four, five times a game. Now, Eddie Lacy? Forget it, he’s a snow plow. But defenses that go after Green Bay’s other skill positions with brute force may cause just enough of a disruption beat the Pack.


  • Q: Grace from SF, CA – Are your reporting assignments different in scope than the other sport reporters at the JS? If so, how?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Yes, very different. I am no longer a ‘beat’ writer for the Packers. I rarely cover the day-to-day news (who is hurt, who is hot, whose time is next from the practice squad). I’m supposed to come up with features and profiles and story ideas that are unique and original. Sometimes I do, sometimes… Well. That is very challenging, since there are so many good reporters on the beat and it is very competitive. Away from the Packers, I also write sports features and cover games when needed.


  • Q: doug g, san Antonio – Hi Lori-great job all year! I am curious about Scott Tolzein. It seemed the battle for #2 was “paper-thin” close. Not only did Tolzein end up being #3, but as far as I can tell, he is never even active. How do you think this might play out next season? MM seems to really like Tolzein, but he is not playing at all. Thanks
  • A: Lori Nickel – Thanks Doug G. I guess when you have two decent backup candidates, you always go with experience when you are in a Super Bowl hunt, and Flynn’s track record is there. While he’s worn green and gold. From Green Bay’s perspective, there is nothing bad about letting Tolzien sit around for a year and learn.


  • Q: Dave – CA Packer Fan – When a team is close to their own goal line and the quarterback drops back to pass, but has to scramble and is downed with half of the football beyond the goal line and half of the football behind the goal line is it ruled a safety and if not, where is the ball placed?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Normally, I would ask a coach. I want to say safety but then I looked at the rules below and my brain started to swell. You should ask the other three if you want a real answer, especially Tom, since he does the in-game blogs. Here is the link to the rules if you want:


  • Q: PackerPatrick, Folly Beach, SC – Do you think there will be any changes on “Special” Teams this weekends game and the playoffs?
  • A: Lori Nickel – You mean Cobb as punt returner? Mike McCarthy has said he’s going to go with his best, and Cobb is the best. It’s got to be hard to put him out there, but I am sure the coaches (or Cobb) can’t think that way. And basically every game just gets more important from here on out, so why not.


  • Q: mark, milwaukee – I have a funny feeling about the game on Sunday vs. Detroit. What are your thoughts on how this game is going to be played?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Whew, good question. I’m waiting on the McCarthy press conference before I make my prediction for the paper. Part of me thinks Packers will run away with it, part of me thinks they could be in real trouble. I like the Lions, fun to watch them this year. I do wonder if the referees let ’em play a little. I hate making predictions…lions sack rodgers 3


  • Q: Colleen, Appleton, WI – Hi Lori! Clay Matthews is having a great year. To what degree do you think the change in where he’s playing is responsible for that productivity?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Colleen, thanks you you for the question, we will wrap up here on the chat. Sorry about the weird formatting – every time I used an apostrophe we got ???. I don’t know why. Anyway, I think Clay is having a great year because of that, because he didn’t resist the change and most importantly – he’s been healthy. I hope to write about that for the playoffs. Thanks everyone for your questions and your patience.

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