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A deeper look at that sixth wide receiver


Jacob from New Bremen, OH

The grass is being mowed and striped, hunting season is around the corner, fall is in the air, college football starts up, the final preseason games are behind us, the Packers will be playing soon, and I could not be happier. Before we know it, I will be watching the Super Bowl wondering what went wrong or excited at a chance for another ring. Time to sit back and enjoy the best time of the year.

I was thinking along those same lines the other day when it hit me: I liked snowy, cold-weather football a lot more when I lived in Florida.

Mike from Brunswick, GA

I read an article about outrageous rule changes the league should think about. One of them was allowing offensive linemen to hold (without taking the guy to the ground) in the tackle box, as long as the Mel Blount rule is ditched. More time to throw for the quarterback, less room for the wide receivers to get open. Crazy? Genius?

A few years ago, when the concussion mania began, I was in favor of bringing back bump-and-run coverage. My reason for that was that it would decrease the space between receiver and defender, and take away the collision that is the result of the defender sitting back and timing his and the ball's arrival to the receiver. Then the league introduced the "defenseless receiver" rule, and that made a return to bump-and-run coverage as a safety measure unnecessary. I think we need to let the game alone for a while. I think we've interfered with it too much and we need to let it catch up to the changes we've introduced. The game will always evolve. It always has.

Tim from Indianapolis, IN

Now that the NFLPA has done a 180 and approved the midseason IR rule, I have read that Desmond Bishop is ineligible because he is already on IR.

Teams have a one-day window, today, to bring players back off the injured reserve list, which is what the Packers would have to do with Desmond Bishop. To be eligible for the midseason injured reserve rule, he would have to come off IR and put back on the active roster, and stay there until final cuts are made, at which time he could then be returned to IR and be eligible to come off near midseason.

Ryan from Nashville, TN

Now that the NFL moved the trade deadline back to Week 8 instead of Week 6, I'm worried the NFL might start turning into Major League Baseball. There will be buyers and sellers at the trade deadline each year, shipping big names out for draft picks. Do you see this happening?

Two weeks would cause that kind of shift? You might be right, but I tend to think not. For all the years I've covered this league, teams have shown a reluctance to trade, and I think it's been even more distinct in the salary cap era because trading a player can mean accepting a sizable sum of dead money on your salary cap. I don't think the league, however, would be opposed to creating a trade deadline mania. It would likely fuel the fantasy football mania, and fantasy football is one of the league's best brands.

Jake from Los Angeles, CA

Hey, Vic, I have to assume there's some sort of statute against this, nor would it be the most ethical move, but if a player who is on IR gets healthy during the season, what is to stop a team from releasing that player and then re-signing him to the active roster?

The rules.

Spencer from Littleton, CO

Have you ever seen players willingly leave the league in order to pursue other careers or dreams? If so, in your opinion, which has been the most noble reason for leaving? I'm thinking Pat Tillman might be the best example.

Tillman is certainly a noble example. Mike Reid was one of the two or three best defensive tackles in the game when he quit to become a concert pianist. That's kind of different. Jim Brown retired to become an actor. How about Mike Henry? He retired to become Tarzan.

Sven from Green Bay, WI

Vic, what do you like most about the game of football?

I like it when it makes my heart pound. You know the feeling. The game is on the line. It's one play to win or lose, and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest. That's when you really know you're alive. I don't know why football does that to me, but it always has and it still does. I was in the hospital a few years ago after I had a heart attack, and I was watching one of those minor bowl games with one of those names that don't mean anything to you, and one of the teams was lining up a walk-off field goal. At the same time, an attendant came in the room to take my pulse and blood pressure. I could feel my heart pounding and so could the attendant, who immediately became alarmed. My wife told him, "It's just the game that's got him excited," but the attendant said rules required that he do an EKG. The kick was good and so was the EKG. The big loser was the insurance company.

Mike from Altona, Canada

Vic, if you're signed to the practice squad, do you have to stay with that team the whole season?

Nope. You're free to sign with any team in the league at any time, and you don't even have to tell the team you're with that you're leaving.

Rob from Elkhorn, WI

The defense appears improved, our backup quarterback justifies the team's belief in him, and our team is relatively healthy heading into the opener. What fabricated worry could Packers fans possibly flood your e-mail with this morning?

I think the 247 yards rushing the Packers allowed the Chiefs merits concern. I don't like that at all. I know it's a pass-the-ball, stop-the-pass league, but there's something about getting whipped up front that feels bad.

Ryan from Charlotte, NC

Vic, who had the most surprising performance for you on defense last night, and what impact do you think it will have on the roster finalization?

Sean Richardson helped himself, but Erik Walden is the guy who jumped out, again. I crowned him preseason MVP, and I think he deserves the distinction. He wasn't roster challenged, but the arrival of Nick Perry certainly challenged Walden's playing time, and I think his performance in training camp and in the preseason will have earned him a lot of playing time when he returns from his one-game suspension. I'll give you another guy who deserves playing time based on the way he played: Evan Dietrich-Smith. He was outstanding last night.

Daryl from Junction City, KS

Who was your player that made the roster because of last night's performance? I liked Boykin's performance. I thought he became the sixth wide receiver.

Do the Packers really need a sixth wide receiver, or did you just catch a case of wide receiver fever? I think one of those young offensive linemen earned himself a roster spot last night. If Derek Sherrod stays on PUP, the Packers will need to keep one or two of those young guys up front, and I thought they all played well last night. If the Packers keep a sixth wide receiver, I think Tori Gurley's value on special teams makes him the strongest candidate. Look at it this way: Why keep a guy if he's going to be inactive every week, which is what would happen to a sixth wide receiver, unless he's a special teams star? If he's just a pass catcher, then I think a sixth guy's place is probably on the practice squad.

Kyle from Chicago, IL

All questions about Harrell gone after that performance?

All worries are gone; that's what his performance last night did. It soothed Packers fans' worries. Now he may return to the bench and watch Aaron Rodgers lead this team to the postseason. That's the way it has to be for this to be a good season.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, now that the new IR rule has been accepted, do you feel differently about Bishop's future this year? Or do hamstring injuries like his simply take too long to recover from following surgery?

We're going to get the answers to those questions today, because the Packers won't bring Bishop off IR and back onto the roster unless they believe he has a reasonable chance of recovering soon enough to help the team this season. Remember what Ted Thompson said on Tuesday: "It's going to take a long time."

Richard from Davis, CA

You said "the salary cap can be a means for high-revenue teams to transfer their player costs onto low-revenue teams." How do they use the cap to do that?

The salary cap and its minimum are determined by revenue. The more revenue a high-revenue team generates, the more every team in the league has to pay its players. So a high-revenue team is driving player costs up for low-revenue teams. That's why revenue sharing is so important. If the low-revenue teams get the expense but not the revenue, they will quickly become uncompetitive and then we truly would have a league of haves and have nots.

Scott from Jacksonville, FL

What impact will the officiating situation have on the regular season, if any?

Change almost always creates an impact, positively or negatively. Replacement officials will have an impact because they represent change. The better question is: Will we accept its consequences?

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