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Bishop, House reason for concern


Nick from Water Mill, NY

Vic, I'm very confused. Is the Benson signing because of no confidence in Starks, Saine and Green? It seems the Packers have gone out of their modus operandi with all these signings, no?

They've been necessitated by injuries. You have to have a full complement of players to hit the practice targets of which Mike McCarthy speaks. When you lose front-line players, the tendency is to reach into the pool of veteran free agents, players who know how to play the pro game and can offer immediate assistance. Reggie Wells is such a player at left tackle, a position critical to protecting your quarterback. Marshall Newhouse's return is imminent, but you need to make sure you have what you need until Newhouse returns. The Cedric Benson signing, in my opinion, goes a little beyond the need for an emergency fill-in player. James Starks has a toe injury that's serious enough for him to be categorized as "week to week;" I haven't even seen him at practice the past two days. Brandon Saine is out with a hamstring injury, so it's obvious the Packers needed to sign a running back. Benson, however, addresses more than the need for an emergency back. I think it's fair to say he was the premier back among the free agents. He's topped the thousand-yard mark in each of the last three seasons, has rushed for nearly 6,000 yards in his career and is still young enough to fit into the prime years of his career. Coming off the loss in San Diego, I think there's a twofold message in the Benson signing: The Packers have an emergency need at running back, and they need competition at the position, too.

Tay from Sacramento, CA

A reader commented on the increasing rate of injuries: "Here is what's going on. The new CBA with its reduced contact has effectively taken out the needed conditioning. These skeleton-like practices give the guys no real conditioning in a real game-like style. Then they're expected to just kick into high gear and play a preseasoner." Agree?

I think there's some truth in that, but it's not the only reason for the rash of injuries. Desmond Bishop's injury has nothing to do with conditioning. That is a rare injury; I can't think of another catastrophic-type hamstring injury I've witnessed in my career. I can only remember covering one other player who required surgery on a torn hamstring. Bishop's injury causes me to think the players may have gotten too big for their bodies. I keep hearing about players being bigger, stronger, faster, but evolution doesn't work that quickly. The muscles and body weight are increasing in size, but the connective tissue and the bones are staying the same. As for the rash of pulls and strains, players just don't play through injuries as they once did. Their salaries and the space they occupy on their teams' salary caps require that their injuries be treated more cautiously. As for the reader's comments on reduced hitting: There's being in shape and then there's being in football shape, and a player isn't in football shape until his body is accustomed to hitting.

Chris from Voorhout, The Netherlands

Watching closing ceremony of the Olympics. Do you think the Super Bowl halftime show could learn a thing or two about selling a spectacle?

I didn't watch either one, so I don't care what they do. The early-morning, late-night routine of training camp made it difficult for me to see much of the Olympics. I was having lunch in San Diego last Thursday when the TV was tuned to a sport I had never previously seen played; I still don't know what the name of it is. It was kind of like full-contact basketball, but with a soccer net instead of a basketball hoop. It made me giggle. Who invents these things and is this what the Greeks had in mind? Badminton? Really?

Bart from Zenia, CA

How does the situation at left tackle play out?

Marshall Newhouse is due back from his concussion soon. Derek Sherrod will eventually become depth at the position. In the meantime, T.J. Lang could play there if necessary, and the Packers are trying to further develop depth at the position. Seventh-round draft pick Andrew Datko got a lot of work with the first-team offense on Sunday. Yeah, he struggled at right tackle on Thursday night, but the Packers see something they like in him because they continue to advance him and force-feed his development.

Brett from De Pere, WI

What on earth are we going to do? One of our best linebackers from last season, Desmond Bishop, is out for the year, Davon House's injury is sounding worse every day, our starting left tackle and our backup left tackle are both injured, and Greg Jennings is nowhere near returning. Please tell me everything is going to be all right, Vic, because I'm starting to go into panic mode.

I think you're feeding your frenzy unnecessarily, but your concern for Bishop and House is warranted. At the least, Bishop will be lost for an extended period of time, and that's a significant setback. Bishop was developing into a playmaker; it was easy to see the difference he made in the defense when he began practicing, after missing the early part of camp with a calf strain. House, in my opinion, was the player of the spring and summer; no player on this team had risen as high in as short a time. I think House is a true cover corner and this team needs him to make a full recovery. What the Bishop and House injuries have done is to have put the Packers in a position in which they can't afford another injury at either position.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

I'm sure you are already aware that only Sitton, Saturday and Genus are unfamiliar with the left tackle position.

It's the equivalent to baseball teams being heavy with shortstops. If a kid is good enough to play shortstop, he's good enough to play any other position on the field. Left tackle is the premier position on the offensive line. If a guy can play left tackle, he can play right tackle and either of the two guard spots. If he can shoot a ball between his legs, he can play center, too. Tommy Draheim is attempting to make the move from four-year starter at left tackle in college to pro center.

Ken from Boron, CA

Has the offensive line provided good, average or below-average run blocking for the past few years? Have we really had such mediocre talent at RB?

In a zone-blocking scheme, the onus is on the running back to find the lanes and cut back into them. James Starks is not a mediocre talent. Starks is one of those rare big guys that have sharp edges. He's got all the physical tools you could want in a running back, and his tools make it difficult to quit on him. Alex Green didn't have a full rookie season before he tore up his knee. Mike McCarthy praised Brandon Saine in the spring and he was having a strong training camp until injuring his hamstring last week. Now Cedric Benson has been added and he immediately increases the talent level. Let it play out.

Dillon from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I can't seem to understand why people are continually saying the at-home experience is taking over the stadium experience. I'm 20 years old and have been a Packers fanatic since birth, and for the last couple of years I haven't wanted anything more than to go to a game at Lambeau Field.

No one is thinking of Lambeau Field when they talk about the threat TV is posing to stadium attendance. They're thinking of those teams that have ticket-sales issues, teams that don't have waiting lists, as the Packers, Steelers, Giants, etc., have. The Packers also have something else most teams don't have. They have a home stadium that is a draw in and of itself. Fans come to see Lambeau as much as they come to see the Packers. There are people camped out in the parking lot who don't even go to practice. They sit out there in their lawn chairs, cook and eat. Why? Because Lambeau is the place to be. Because they would rather sit in the parking lot at Lambeau Field than they would on their back porch. I saw this once before, on the hillside at Steelers training camp that overlooks the practice fields and the mountains in the distance. Fans would continue to sit on that hillside and picnic between practices. The crowds grew every year, to extraordinary sizes, in some cases estimated at 20,000 or more. It would be hours before a practice was to begin and the hillside would be packed with fans, just sitting there and basking in the summer sun. Why? Because it was the place to be. For Packers fans, Lambeau Field is the place to be. Other teams can only dream of creating such an identity.

Will from Mt. Laurel, NJ

Any chance recent rules changes due to concussions are actually resulting in more concussions, or do we chalk it up to concussion awareness?

It's concussion awareness; we're ultra-sensitive to that type of injury now. Diagnosing it is difficult, so if a player bumps his head and gives any indication of being woozy or having a headache, the doctors are going to shut him down.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Who submits the depth chart that is posted on the website? Will it provide insight to the final 53?

It comes from coaching and it's little more than a roster of players organized in a politically correct manner. It offers no insight into the prospects for the final 53. When the regular season begins, the depth chart is updated weekly and it offers strong insight as to what the playing order of players is likely to be for the next game.

Evan from Stevens Point, WI

Vic, during the game vs. the Chargers, I noticed the Packers had two players, one on the defensive line and one on the offensive line that were each wearing number 77. Can you explain that?

The roster size is at 90, the Packers have retired five numbers and have put others out of service, and when you apply the NFL's standards for assigning numbers by position, you start to run out of options. This isn't anything new. It was like this back in the '70s, when camp roster sizes were unlimited and teams were taking 150 guys to camp.

Aaron from West Allis, WI

I agree, the defense has improved, but not to the degree I'd like to see. It bothers me that the Packers spend more time on fundamentals than most other teams, yet, our team doesn't appear to have any. The secondary consistently looks confused, always seeking out someone to blame, just like last year. We still cannot tackle. Take the House tackle behind the line for instance. He took the opponent down with his shoulder, with absolutely no effort to wrap up. The announcers of the game praised him for a great tackle. Had the receiver bounced off that tackle, they would have said that was a terrible tackle. I had to mute the game because it seems like the announcers have no idea how to play football. I'm interested in the one great play Hayward made, because I missed it. I only saw him repeatedly playing catch up, and never looking for the ball. I know it's preseason, but I don't think these kinds of things will improve. They are fundamentals, and if they haven't improved in training camp, I just don't see it happening. The defense overall didn't impress me. On a bright note, Perry is a beast. I look forward to more games, but at this time, I am worried. Should I not be?

The fact that you can spend so much time worrying about all of this would indicate there is very little in your personal life to occupy your concerns, and that's a good thing. Worry on, Aaron.

Rick from Appleton, WI

Vic, we know the Packers will be awarded compensatory draft picks for departed free agents Matt Flynn and Scott Wells. Ryan Grant is also a free agent and is currently unsigned. Suppose he stays unsigned until several weeks into the season and then a team picks him up (which may well happen). Will Green Bay then qualify for a compensatory pick for him?

No; here's the rule. As of June 1, a team's eligibility for compensatory pick consideration for one of its unrestricted free agents expires, unless it tenders him at 110 percent of his previous year's salary. If they do that, they'll retain compensatory pick consideration, but it's seldom used because the player is likely to sign the tender, and if he's still on the market at that point, you could probably sign him for a lot less than 110 percent of his previous year's salary.

Jordan from Tuscaloosa, AL

Fact of the day: From 1967 to 2002, a running back won the offensive rookie of the year award 29 times. In the following nine years, it has only happened twice.

The game is changing. Cam Newton swept the offensive rookie of the year awards last season. In the old days, it was unheard of for a quarterback to rise to fame that quickly. The old saying was that it took five years to develop a starting quarterback.

Justin from Rochester, MN

If a player (Bishop) sustains an injury in the preseason that is serious, but not necessarily season-ending, can he begin the regular season on the PUP list?

No, once a player participates in a practice, he is no longer eligible for the physically unable to perform list. In Bishop's case, the Packers' options are to carry him on the roster or place him on injured reserve.

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