Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst shines light on his 53-man roster decisions

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst during Green Bay Packers Training Camp Thursday, August 2, 2018 at Ray Nitschke Field in Ashwaubenon, Wis

GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst has been putting his imprint on the Green Bay Packers since he was named the club’s general manager in early January, but Saturday was his first opportunity at shaping a 53-man roster and practice squad to head into regular-season games.

On Sunday, Gutekunst broke down his thought process on several key decisions. Here are the highlights:

On potential trade discussions with Oakland about linebacker Khalil Mack:

“Yeah, I would never talk about the discussions I had with another team, about anything. There’s been a lot of trade discussions that have gone on over the last few days, actually the last few weeks. I’ll say as you go through those, you know, a lot of discussions happen more than deals get done. A lot of times it just ends up what a certain team might be looking for you may not have and those are some of the things that happen. But, we were able to make a few trades over the last week and I thought it helped our football team.”

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On his general philosophy regarding making a big move:

“My thought process is always winning. Does this help us win? And if it does, then we’re going to pursue it and see if we can make it work. Again, I’ve talked about things being a puzzle and you have to make it fit, and you certainly don’t want to put yourself in a bind going forward. But we’re here. We’re here to win now, you know? I think as you go through that, it’s really about that. Does this certain decision, this certain player, does it help you win? And if it does, then we’ll attack that and see if we can make it work, you know? Again, when you go through those things it’s a two-way street. It has to work that way. That’s kind of how I look at it.”

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On it being an easier decision to cut previous draft picks now that he’s the GM:

“I can’t really speak of it because all the guys that are here, I was invested in if that makes sense. I’ve been here. I’ve been part of those drafts. I guess I don’t look at it like that. Maybe if I was somewhere else or if you move on from a team, maybe it is. I can’t really answer that question because I was as invested in all our guys as anybody.”

On keeping eight wide receivers:

“I thought we had a really competitive receiver room this year. I think everybody had a chance to make plays and for the most part they did. I think it’s a really good room and we’re expecting them to help us. But it was really just a matter of quality.”

On keeping just four outside linebackers:

“It’s a puzzle and there’s 53 you can kind of keep on the active roster and then you can keep on the practice squad. So I think you guys have gotten some of our practice squad additions. We were able to keep two outside linebackers on our practice squad, and so a total of six in our 63. And that’s a little bit more the way we look at it and as we were going through, we were just trying to keep the best 53 that would be available for this week’s game. And again, it’s a fluid situation that changes day by day.”

On keeping just two running backs:

“I think that’s maybe still in the works a little bit, but the two that we kept we like. And then Aaron (Jones) going on suspension, that’s not a great thing for us. But that kind of put us in that spot. But that may be a little bit of an evolving position for us, as well. That’s the thing about our roster right now, nothing’s set in stone. It’s still fluid and it will be all season. That’s just kind of the way it is in the NFL.”

And no fullback:

“I think first of all, you always want someone to be able to play in the backfield and two-back sets, I think that’s important. At the same time, you look at it – analytically look at it how many snaps per game those guys are on the field, I think you have to weigh some of that in there as well. I think that’s why we’re constantly preaching versatility with our players. The more you can do can help you stick around. Obviously, the tight end and fullback position, they do crossover a little bit.”

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Tim Boyle (8) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

On Tim Boyle:

“You guys watched the preseason games. He’s been able to come in and run the offense and make plays from Game 1 to Game 4. Like all young players, there’s been some ups and downs and inconsistencies, but I thought he’s really been able to hang in there and make big throws in some big moments. He’s come in and worked hard, been very professional and is really trending in the right direction. He’s going to get a little bit less playing time from here on out but it’s going to be interesting to watch him grow.”

On any players who may move to injured reserve now, with the ability to return:  

“I would like to think that all the guys we have will be playing for us sometime this season, but we’re working through a couple things right now.”

On the health of linebacker Oren Burks:

"He’s day-to-day right now. I don’t think it’s anything we’re concerned about long term.”

On completing his first roster construction in the GM chair:

“I’ve obviously been through the process many times before. Obviously, our process hasn’t changed much. But I thought it was really lively, I think it was really working with our guys and coach and getting to kind of the final answers and stuff, I thought it was great. Again, this is never an easy time because you’re telling some really good football players and guys that worked really hard that you’re having to move on. But at the same time I thought the process was good.”

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