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Circle the Bears game


Bowe from Coarsegold, CA

Vic, when a player is suspended for four weeks and the four weeks are up, do the coaches have to cut a man from the roster to make room or can they choose to cut the suspended player?

Yes, the suspended player can simply be released and everything stays the same. Otherwise, somebody else has to be released, placed on injured reserve, retire, etc. Remember, there's a roster limit in addition to the 53-man active roster. The 80-man roster limit that includes injured reserve players is in force throughout the season. You can't have more players on your overall roster than 80. If putting someone on IR puts you over the 80 limit, then somebody has to be waived, either off the 53 or off IR.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, I have a theory about the emotions of a large majority of NFL fans throughout a typical season: Each defeat brings a combination of sadness, disappointment, anger and pain, and each victory brings not joy but only relief. Joy comes only after your team wins the Super Bowl. Do you agree?

I don't think that way and if what you're saying is true, then I feel sorry for all of the fans that suffer the season in that manner. There is no joy, only relief? Wow! I don't think that's healthy.

Jaime from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

You've said you're in favor of joint practices. Could you tell us what's typically done in them? What's the benefit in having them, and what keeps them from becoming an opportunity for espionage?

What secrets are there to protect? Everybody practices the same way. All teams do the same drills and employ the same basic plays and strategies that every other team employs. I like combined practices in the competition part of training camp because it's a way of seeing your players compete against players with whom they are not familiar. After a full spring of OTAs, players on the same team know each other's tendencies so well they can tailor what they do according to those tendencies. You start to see the same guys beating the same guys the same way every day. Every combined practice I've ever covered has been enlightening. They create energy and the teams I've covered have come away from them with more information about themselves than they otherwise would've gathered in a regular training camp practice. Combined practices also break up the monotony of training camp. In an ideal situation, two teams from different conferences have neighboring training camp locations, which allow for easy travel. In the old days, one team would host the other one week, and then they'd switch sites the following week. I think it's an especially good tool for getting a read on your younger players. I like combined practices more than preseason games because you control the action. The new CBA allows for combined practices.

Eric from Parker, AZ

Am I the only one concerned that Rodgers has only thrown one TD pass to two interceptions this preseason? I don't think this offense is ready at all and the addition of Cedric Benson makes it look like the Packers are confused with their identity. They are a passing team. Pass the ball. End of story.

Yours is the only e-mail I've received expressing concern for Aaron Rodgers' preseason touchdown-to-interceptions ratio.

Billy from Brookfield, WI

How does Cedric Benson look in pass protection?

I'm not sure. I'm still enjoying the sight of someone exploding into the hole. I'll do the pass protection thing this week. I gotta tell you: If Benson can pump some life into the Packers' running game, and give this team a legitimate threat for which the opposition must game plan, I'll look the other way on his whiffs.

Peter from New Smyrna Beach, FL

Hey, Vic, what key on your keyboard is most likely to fail first?

I'm hard on the J, U, Y, M, N keys. I once read a scouting report on my typing ability. "Strong right index finger. Can hit all the keys. Seldom looks at keyboard. Spaces with right thumb. Hunts and pecks number keys."

Jason from Summerville, SC

Was Hargrove's release based more on poor performance or his eight-game suspension?

The Packers don't provide that kind of information when they release a player. It's been my experience that when a player is released this quickly, the team had made up its mind and wanted to move on. In this case, I think it says they have young defensive linemen they like and want to develop.

Dejan from Waterloo, Ontario

Hey, Vic, you mentioned the "Run-and-Shoot" offense. I've recently been reading about it and it caught my interest. I heard it involves receivers adjusting on the fly. Can you give some more background?

It's a popgun offense that moved the ball up and down the field but struggled in the red zone and in short yardage because it didn't have any tight ends on the roster, which means it lacked muscle. It was a great offense for winning the battle of the stats.

Steve from West De Pere, WI

With the past franchise transition, is Jim Brown the all-time leading rusher for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, both, or neither?

When the Browns moved to Baltimore, they left their history in Cleveland, where it was inherited by the new Cleveland Browns in their inaugural season, 1999. When the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, they took their history with them, which prompted Johnny Unitas to say he didn't want to be included in the Indianapolis Colts' record book because he never played in Indianapolis.

Byron from Appleton, WI

What are those straps that many players wear up near their elbows?

When the strap is worn just beneath the elbow, it's probably for the purpose of preventing "tennis elbow" or alleviating the symptoms of it. Quarterbacks wear it. When it's worn above the elbow, the only apparent purpose is fashion.

Luke from Wauwatosa, WI

Could you speak to the backup left tackle position and if Sherrod will be in the mix this year?

That's a question reporters are now beginning to ask, without provoking an answer, of course. A decision on Derek Sherrod's future for this season could come today or on Friday. He can be placed on "reserve PUP" now and not count against the 75-man roster to which all teams must adhere beginning today, or the Packers could wait until Friday to make a decision on Sherrod. One way or the other, I think we'd have to assume he's going to remain on PUP into the regular season and continue his recovery from the broken leg he sustained late last season. If he remains on PUP, he'll have a window near midseason to join the active roster. If he's not activated then, he'd have to be put on the injured reserve list.

Tom from Winthrop Harbor, IL

I see where a number of teams are planning on resting their first strings in the last preseason game. Will the Packers do the same? What are your thoughts on this? Risk of injury vs. one last chance to get ready for the regular season?

I covered the game that started this mania for not playing starters in the final preseason game. It was a game in New England in which Bill Belichick rested all of his starters, and it was not something the league liked because it further fed criticism of preseason games as being less than competitive. I remember thinking to myself then that, in a copycat league that loves to do what its winners do, everybody is going to start resting their starters in the final preseason game. Mike McCarthy has declined to reveal his strategy for Thursday's game. I think you do what you feel is necessary. If you think your starters are ready to go, you rest them.

Andy from Madison, WI

What is the process for cutting a player? Who lets the player know he is cut, is there a meeting, and what is generally covered in the meeting?

Different coaches do it different ways. Usually, the coach will have the player summoned to the coach's office, or maybe to the GM's office, or to both. At that point, the player knows what it means. The coach, GM or both will thank the player for his contribution and encourage the player to stay in shape because they might recall him during the season. A lot of coaches will encourage players to continue the pursuit of their dream. They'll tell them that being released is a fact of life for most players and that a lot of star players began their careers by being released. It's not a heartless process. By the same token, it's a tough game for tough guys and every guy that enters professional football knows it's likely he'll get the call at some point in his career. They're ready for it.

Charlie from Misawa AB, Japan

If you had to choose the most difficult position to play, quarterback excluded, what would it be and why?

It would probably be left tackle or left cornerback/shut-down corner, because both positions are on an "island" against the opponent's best pass rusher and pass receiver.

Henry from Jacksonville, FL

If you were listing the positions on a roster in order of importance, would the backup quarterback be above any of the 22 offensive and defensive starters?

No, but should the starting quarterback become lost to injury, the backup quarterback would immediately become more important than the other 21 starters on the team. You don't need him until you need him, but when you need him, you really need him.

Alex from Northfield, IL

Vic, now that the Seahawks have named Russell Wilson the starter, is there any chance the Packers would consider trading for Matt Flynn?

I don't know the answer to your question, but given the Seahawks' investment in Flynn, I would think the asking price would be a little high, especially this year. The Seahawks gave Flynn $10 million in guaranteed money, $6 million in signing bonus and $2 million in salary in each of the next two years. The $6 million would stay on the Seahawks' cap, should they trade Flynn. The salary would go onto Flynn's new team's cap, so a trade would be very doable cap-wise for the team trading for Flynn; not so good for the Seahawks since they would have squandered $6 million in real money and in cap room. Plus, just because Wilson has been named the starter in the preseason doesn't guarantee that situation will stay that way. I would expect that at some point this season, Flynn will be the Seahawks' starting quarterback.

Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

So do you like Vic So'oto the linebacker or Vic So'oto the tight end more?

He beat a linebacker and a safety to make those catches, and they were clean grabs. Who knows? Babe Ruth started out as a pitcher.

Josh from Springfield, IL

Back in the Lombardi days, the coaches had to rely on an advance scout to watch upcoming opponents, and coaches used that report to build their game plan. In these days of quick access to all opponents' game tapes, I don't know if the role of advance scout even exists anymore. If coaches and players can watch game tapes of upcoming opponents, is there any value in sending a scout to watch the upcoming team?

The role still exists but the role of the advance scout is to provide more in the way of information than the game tapes would reveal. For example, the advance scout will determine what the chain of command is for sending plays into the game. What coach has the communicator? Is he the play-caller or only the messenger? Is the play-caller up or down (press box or sideline)? How efficiently are plays communicated and how orderly is the sideline? With all due respect to the almighty all-22 view, it doesn't tell all.

Mark from Seattle, WA

Vic, do you ever see the league emulating college football and finally getting rid of preseason games?

I think the league would like to, at the least, reduce the number of preseason games, but the players aren't willing to move a portion of the preseason into the regular season, and the popularity of the NFL has created a revenue monster that is holding the league hostage. We go through this debate every year at this time and I've decided the best way to approach the preseason is to bite down on a leather strap until it's over. I don't see a resolution. It's just something we have to grin and bear.

Dan from Kenosha, WI

I really want your predictions, from the head, not the heart, your likes and concerns.

I like the Packers offense; who doesn't? I think it's rounding into regular-season shape and I think Benson will make it better. My main concern is for the need for immediacy on defense. The Packers are facing a very difficult opening month of the season and they need for their young players on defense to be up to the task. I think that's especially true for the Bears game in Week 2. Home division games are critically important. I think that's a circle game.

Alexander from Ostend, Belgium

Do you consider rosters in the general season too big?

I would favor a reduction of the overall roster by two or three, and I would favor a separate five-man quarterback roster, for the purpose of encouraging teams to identify and develop players at the most important position on the field. The league's future is in the hands of its quarterbacks, and it bothers me that most coaches are trying to find ways to only keep two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. It bothers me that the most important position on the team is occupying less than four percent of the roster, while tight ends are occupying nearly 10 percent of the roster. The practice squad allows for a developmental quarterback, but the team risks losing that player and all of the development they put into him. A separate quarterback roster would nullify that potential, and I think we would see a lot of college spread quarterbacks, given the opportunity for patient growth, develop into pro-style quarterbacks.

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