GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers created a bit of a stir when they hosted Missouri quarterback Drew Lock for a formal visit to Lambeau Field a week before the draft. The NFL Network reported that the Packers had also wanted to bring in Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, but a scheduling conflict prevented it.
On Monday, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said that the visits are important for medical evaluations and follow-ups from the NFL scouting combine, and then smiled a bit and said there’s another reason to have one:
“And then sometimes there's just some subterfuge thrown in there as well," he said.
But when it comes to the quarterback position, Gutekunst made it clear how he feels the position should be vetted each draft — and not necessarily because it needs to set up an immediate passing of the torch from Aaron Rodgers.
“I think the whole succession-plan thing, I think is a little bit overhyped or whatever,” Gutekunst said. “I go back to when I first started and certainly when Ted (Thompson) came back (from Seattle in 2005), we value that position extremely highly. And I think every year we spent a lot of time on quarterbacks and try to figure out what kind of players those guys are going to be in the NFL. I think it’s really, really important to us because if you don’t have one it’s really tough to win in this league.
“So, you know, for us it’s just about each and every year trying to decide which of the guys that could potentially be starters in this league and difference-maker-type players. And then if you ever have an opportunity to take them sometime in the draft and it’s the best thing for your team I don’t think you can hesitate with that, you know? Again, we’re lucky to have the best player in the NFL playing that position right now. But at the same time, just like I was talking about before, your needs can change just like that. So, I think it was just doing due diligence. There’s always questions, specifically with those guys, maybe that are a little more thorough and more in depth that you’ve got to get to the bottom of and so we were trying to do that.”
Madison back in good form
At about this time a year ago, Gutekunst drafted guard Cole Madison out of Washington State with the No. 138 overall pick in the fifth round. By the start of training camp however, it wasn’t clear if Madison would ever play for the Packers after he decided he needed time away from the game.
But at the start of voluntary workouts on April 8, the 6-foot, 5-inch, 308-pound guard returned to Lambeau Field in what Gutekunst called a “pleasant surprise” Monday.
“I think he was very appreciative about the way we handled things last year,” Gutekunst said. “We're excited to see what he can do for us because he had a really good offseason last year before everything transpired. Very optimistic.”
Gutekunst said first-year Packers head coach Matt LaFleur and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich each liked Madison as a prospect a year ago with their respective teams in Tennessee and San Francisco, leading the club to believe he’s just as good of a fit for their new blocking scheme as he was for the previous regime.
“He came back in great shape,” Gutekunst said. “He’s been working and there’s no limitations on him from that sense. It looks like the 6-5, 300-pounder that we drafted. I’m very optimistic to see him progress this year.”
Clark option to be picked up
The Packers will soon make sure the centerpiece of their 2016 draft is locked into place for at least another year by picking up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Kenny Clark.
The club has yet to formally do so, but it is imminent.
“That'll probably happen here,” he said. “We haven't done it yet, but he's obviously a dominant player for us in our defensive front. I think the best is yet to come.”
Clark, 23, had a breakout year last season in recording a career-high six sacks in 13 games.
Former Packers running back Reggie Cobb, who played for Green Bay in 1994, died Saturday at age 50. After a seven-year playing career that also included stops in Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and with the New York Jets, Cobb got into the scouting profession in Green Bay. He had been working in the scouting department in San Francisco.
Gutekunst took a moment at the start of his news conference Monday to acknowledge Cobb.
“Reggie was a running back here years ago, he was also an intern in our scouting department,” Gutekunst said. “Really good guy, kind of an extension of our family in the scouting world. Very close to some of our scouts. So just would like to pass on some condolences and sympathies and prayers for his family."