Packers finish prep work for Bears

On to Chicago

"It's all mental from here on out,"  Head Coach Matt LaFleur said as his first Green Bay Packers team completed on field preparations for Thursday night's rivalry opener against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

It's not only the 197th regular season meeting between as the late, great Public Relations Director Lee Remmel said "primordial enemies", it's also the kickoff to the NFL's 100th season.

The team stayed out of pads since the Pre-Season finale against Kansas City last Thursday night and stayed out of the rain today, conducting their final practice inside the Don Hutson Center.

The roster tweaking has continued since Sunday's final cut.

The team officially announced a trade with the New York Giants for a veteran, inside linebacker.    General Manager Brian Gutekunst reportedly swapped seventh round draft positions with the Giants in exchange for B.J. Goodson.  The 6-1, 245 pound, 4th year veteran was a fourth round pick out of Clemson in 2016.  He worked his way into the starting lineup in his second year but got hurt after seven weeks.    He came back to start 13 games last season.   Word from New York was Goodson had dropped on the depth chart this summer and was in danger of getting cut if a deal couldn't get worked out.    With several teams in the market for a veteran linebacker, Gutekunst feared he wouldn't get past Green Bay in the waiver process.

To make room, the Packers cut James Crawford who led the team in special teams tackles last year.    The only other two healthy inside linebackers on the roster are starter Blake Martinez and rookie Ty Summers.   Oren Burks was carried active but is at least a month away with a pectoral muscle injury.

Another injury surfaced over the weekend, severe enough to land third round draft choice Jace Sternbeger on injured reserve.    The Texas A&M tight end suffered a concussion during joint practices with Houston in early August and finally got back on the field for the Chiefs game, catching a two yard touchdown pass.  But later in the game, trying to chase down a deep ball, Sternberger said he got rolled up.   He was wearing a walking boot on his left foot Monday.    If the Packers designate him, he'll be eligible to return after 8 weeks.

The team is treading cautiously when it comes to the "official" injury report required by the league.   They had 18 players listed on Monday but only three did not participate in practice, Burks, Sternberger and Darrius Shepherd.  Two more names were added, making it an even 20 on Tuesday.   Tramon Williams and Alex Light were both listed as having limited participation.  13 players were full participants, including Jimmy Graham for the first time working through a finger injury.    The final report due Wednesday will designate players as out, questionable or probable.

It was a story line for weeks after Mike McCarthy got fired and it's continued right to the eve of Matt LaFleur's first game.    How much discretion does Aaron Rodgers have to change plays after they're called in the huddle and he gets to the line of scrimmage?

According to some, Rodgers brazenly changed plays called by McCarthy which strained the relationship.   Would he do the same with the NFL rookie coach?

During the spring, LaFleur said his offense doesn't have a lot of room for audibles and Rodgers was in line with that.  This week, LaFleur said Rodgers "has a green light" to change plays.    So which is it?   When the topic came up again in LaFleur's final press conference before the opener,  he was ready to throw up his hands....

 (Audio:  Matt LaFleur)

I guess we can assume Rodgers will make some checks Thursday night without going completely rogue.

Before departing for Chicago to cover my 79th game in the series, I'll post a detailed game preview.

Mark Daniels

I’ve got Green and Gold in my blood having grown up in Titletown and it’s been a treat watching and covering sports from the Packers to the preps for you in Green Bay for Midwest Communications.
As a kid, I chased Packer players for autographs, I’m still chasing ‘em now for quotes on the big play or big game. I’ve had the opportunity to cover Super Bowls, the World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, NBA playoffs and major championship golf over the years but I get just as much enjoyment following the college scene at UWGB or St. Norbert, the Green Bay Gamblers and high school sports.
Our prep coverage was honored as the best of 2007 reinforcing our commitment to give these hard working boys and girls their due.
My work has also been recognized by the Associated Press and Wisconsin Broadcasters Association with several achievement awards.
Outside of the studio, off the field or away from the gym, I’ve had the pleasure of helping dozens of organizations over the years. I’ve served as race announcer and master of ceremonies at the Bellin Run almost from it’s beginning, spoken to various service clubs and hosted charity golf events or team banquets.
My wife Kari and I have raised two active children which has kept us involved in both school and club athletics for nearly 15 years. Chances are you’ll see me on a golf course when the weather’s nice. My roots are deep and that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about this area’s sporting scene, and as I often say, “Watching kids play games helps keep me young!”
Thanks for listening and see you at the game.