Preseason games are hardly exciting for the average NFL fan. Starters up and down the roster often play only a few series in August — sometimes less, in Aaron Rodgers’ case — and it can be brutal watching fourth-stringers duke it out in the second half of a game that is meaningless in the standings.
“I will say this: I didn’t realize I’d miss preseason games as much as I did,” Gutekunst told reporters in a Zoom videoconference on Sunday evening. “For us scouts, on Friday mornings and Saturday mornings when the new film comes in, we’re pretty eager to get on top of that and see how some of those young players are doing across the league.”
The life of a tape junkie is a thankless and unglamorous one, but it plays a critical role to the operation of an NFL team. Normally that means scouring preseason tape of the players in Packers camp or going over film of other young players from around the league, but Gutekunst explained just how much this summer forced changes to those evaluation processes: “It was different only in the fact that a lot of the ways that we would go through this week in terms of evaluating the players that might be on the market. We watched a lot more of 19 college tape because all of these rookies, that’s what we had to go on.”
Still, there are changes to this year’s roster rules that Gutekunst feels are positive for football teams in the long run. Perhaps the most significant involves the injured reserve list: Teams may now bring back any number of players off that list in a single season and they need only sit out for three weeks before being activated instead of eight. Gutekunst called the new rule “helpful,” adding that it is a good move for everyone involved; “It’s better for us, it’s better for the players. It’s better for the quality of football that’s being played that you can get good players back ... It’s something I hope they think about keeping.”
As for the team’s initial 53-man roster, Gutekunst addressed a few position groups and individual players, but perhaps his greatest praise on Sunday night was for a free agent signing from this spring. Christian Kirksey came over from the Cleveland Browns to help replace Blake Martinez, and it’s clear that Gutekunst feels that there is potential for a significant upgrade at that position. “He’s a very athletic player, he’s obviously proven a lot in this league,” Gutekunst said. “He’s healthy and I think he adds a bit of dynamic ability that we’ve been missing for a while.” That echoes some comments from defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who previously spoke positively about Kirksey’s coverage abilities.
The Packers still have some moves yet to make before their season opener in Minnesota next Sunday afternoon, as they are likely to move linebacker Kamal Martin and cornerback Kabion Ento to injured reserve. That could result in a few players on the practice squad being promoted to the 53-man roster or an outside acquisition or two coming in to supplement the roster.
Stay tuned to Acme Packing Company throughout the week as we follow all of the moves that the Packers make leading up to next Sunday’s opening game.