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College football losing its underclassmen


Jon from Green Bay, WI

Just curious if you would share some thoughts as to the reason you use the words wanna and gonna.

Because that's how people pronounce want to and going to. Who doesn't do that? I do that. Sometimes I think Webster's should give word status to wanna, gonna and gotta, to mean want to, going to and got to. I want this column to have more of a conversation feel to it than for it to read as a document, so I fracture the language from time to time for the purpose of making the column read as we speak and give it a folksy feel. I can do it the other way. Here you go.

Jeff from Saint Paul, MN

I like watching old footage of players and games from the distant past. I don't have any trouble with the old uniforms or old equipment, but I find it really hard to watch any action played on the old Astroturf. I can't believe I once thought that stuff was cool.

It was not cool. The fields the players play on today are so much better than what they played on during the hard artificial turf days. Even the grass fields are better. I wonder what the player reaction would be today if they had to play on one of those old, hard Astroturf fields, such as the ones at the Vet, Three Rivers, Riverfront, the Astrodome. Those fields gave birth to a whole new culture of football injuries, beginning with "turf toe." I can remember interviewing players and seeing gruesome-looking scabs on their elbows from falling on the Astroturf and getting skin burns. Teams had to be vigilant in caring for those open wounds because they could spread staph through a locker room. I can think of one player who played on artificial turf and whose career was ended by a staph infection.

Peggy from Bloomer, WI

The day we heard Donald Driver was going to be on "Dancing with the Stars," my husband and I had to discuss it. My husband feels it is a show for has-beens and, therefore, he lost some respect for DD. I disagree. I would think the stars each have their own personal reason for appearing on the show. Since you claim it is your favorite show (really?), what are your thoughts about the show and would you be on it?

I'd love to be on the show, but I'm not a very good dancer; I just love to watch dancing. That's why I want a celebration circle, so I can watch a lot of dancing.

Brian from Louisville, KY

Why is it that talented players like Luck and RGIII, whose talents can be measured by their tape, get invited to the combine, but players like Bobby Rainey from WKU, who nobody knows, doesn't get invited to show why he finished third or better in rushing yards the past two years?

Because Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are going to be the first two picks of the draft and that means they're going to be the highest paid guys in the draft and, for that reason, the NFL wanted to get them to the combine and take a real good look inside their knees, if you know what I mean.

Tim from Spotsylvania, VA

Vic, I still don't understand why a guy in Matt Flynn's position would agree to be franchised and then traded. Presumably, he and his new team would need to come to a gentlemen's agreement before the Packers would franchise him. Why would he do that?

First of all, I'm not sure that any of that is going to happen. Secondly, I think you might not fully understand the procedures of the franchise tag. A player that's been franchised doesn't have to sign the tender; he can't be traded until he signs the tender, so he clearly has the right to refuse a trade. If he's franchised, he can't play, of course, until he signs the tender. The leverage is with the team. Once he signs the tender, his salary is guaranteed, and that's when the leverage shifts to the player. He can be traded at that point, but what team is going to trade for a player who won't sign with them, so, in essence, the franchise player is still in control of his fate. Mike Spofford and I are going to do a point, counterpoint on the franchise tag today, for the purpose of looking at the pros and cons of using the franchise tag. You might want to read it.

Tim from Rosario, Argentina

I can think of one player that moved from offensive line to defensive line. Vince Lombardi acquired an offensive lineman from the Cleveland Browns, noted his quickness and moved him to defensive end: Willie Davis.

Good one.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

As a sports movie fan, I think I've got a perfect example that helps dispel the myth you're talking about regarding game speed. In "Invincible," when Vince Papale is trying to make the team in training camp, he is faced with the reality that he is not beating the other players in drills. He doesn't dig down deep or will himself to be faster. He goes into the equipment room and swaps out his pads for lighter gear. I liked the fact that, tucked into the midst of this romantic, feel-good sports story, was this great example of the cold, hard facts. He didn't need to be more determined. He just needed to be faster.


Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

Can a franchise tag be used more than once in a year?

No, once a team uses it on a player, they've lost the use of the tag for the remainder of the year, even if they negotiate a long-term contract with the player right after franchising him.

Nathan from Indianapolis, IN

I am very fond of West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin, but I haven't seen much about him. What are your opinions of him?

He has great straight-line, sustained speed. Does he have a quick first step? Can he get off blocks? Can he get bigger and stronger? Is he an every-downs player? Those are the questions that have to be answered before you can make him a high pick. One more thing: How will he be utilized? You have to have a plan for him. The team that can answer those questions will get a player with an extremely high ceiling. He's a major risk/reward pick, as are most pass rushers.

John from Green Bay, WI

Hey, Vic, the increasing number of underclassmen choosing to go to the NFL worries me. We've seen other college sports suffer because the talent chooses to leave for a lucrative professional contract. How has college football kept its players and stayed relevant for so long, and what can be done to keep it that way?

You are, obviously, a student of the game. I don't know if you read what I had written on this subject in the blog, but it is an issue of major concern with the personnel people. These are guys that love college football and the relationship the league and college football have enjoyed. They don't want to see college football become a three-and-out proposition, but that's exactly what's happening. The new CBA's rookie pool rules were expected to encourage players to stay in school, but it appears to be having the opposite effect. There are 65 underclassmen in this draft and that's an alarmingly high number that is expected to increase next year. Why are they coming out early? To get to their second contract as quickly as possible, because that's where the money will be. It's an amazing fact of life that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is the classic sports example of it. Nobody wants to see college football diminished in quality, but we're looking at a senior class now that's going to be minus the best players from its recruiting class. The senior class of college football is going to be a collection of college lifers, so to speak. College basketball has had to deal with that problem for the past several years, but basketball is a two-man game, football is a 22-man game. When I was a kid, college freshman were ineligible to play varsity; schools had freshman teams that played their own schedules. We would go to the freshman games on Friday night; it was a big deal. Woody Hayes said that for every sophomore you had in your starting lineup, you lost one game. College football was a junior-senior game then. Now it's becoming a redshirt freshman and second-year sophomore game. This is a problem with which college football must deal. It'll get the NFL's help, but apparently not the NFLPA's, which is pushing the NFL for underclassmen approval for the NFLPA's new all-star game.

Brian from Winterset, IA

The Packers need to do everything in their power to draft DT Dontari Poe of Memphis. I know the Packers are looking for help in their pass rush, but a 6-4, 350-pound guy who can run a 40 in 4.87 and bench 225 pounds 44 times is the best defensive player in this draft. What do you think?

I think I'm going to give you a speeding ticket. Did you know about Poe before Monday? Did you watch him play last fall? I didn't and I can't help but wonder why nobody said to me, "You have to see this kid from Memphis." As Tony Pauline said to me, the team that wants to draft Poe needs to know why he had trouble getting off blocks and can that be fixed? He's a short-legged, long-body guy. How does that pertain to his pad level? I have a feeling that if a team can get Poe's pad level down, he's going to be a dominant NFL player. The draft is two months away. Poe is going to be put under a microscope between now and then. There's no need to speed.

Cody from Marshfield, WI

I understand the Packers are very, very good with their money situation. By not going to free agency for, say, Mario Williams, and trying to find new talent, is it somewhat hurting the team if the drafted player doesn't perform?

Not nearly as much as it'll hurt the team if the signed free agent player doesn't perform. Ask the Redskins about Albert Haynesworth.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

A pass rusher as an inside linebacker? I've always heard that ILB was not a glory position in the 3-4. Is that not the case?

The outside linebackers are going to get more opportunities to rush the passer, but if you have inside guys that can rush the passer, you can do a lot of creative things with them, especially if the outside guys are getting the bulk of the pass-blocking attention. A blitz up the middle will often flush the quarterback right into the outside guys' arms; it'll also require blockers to be dedicated to the inside guys, lessening the focus on the outside guys. Yes, the outside position is the glory position because it gets the bulk of the sacks, but a lot of inside guys in a 3-4 have achieved fame: Randy Gradishar and Levon Kirkland immediately come to mind. The Ravens have played 3-4 from time to time with Ray Lewis inside. James Farrior has been a star for a long time. Tedy Bruschi was an inside linebacker in a 3-4. Patrick Willis is an inside linebacker in a 3-4. Players, not plays.

Kellen from Long Beach, CA

What's the difference between an unrestricted free agent and a restricted free agent?

An unrestricted free agent has accrued four or more credited seasons and is free to sign with any team in the league without his original team having to be compensated. A restricted free agent has accrued three credited seasons and is free to sign with another team, but his original team may retain the right of first refusal and right to compensation according to the level at which they tender the player.

Bill from Sheboygan, WI

Can the Packers place a first- or second-round tender on Matt Flynn?

No, he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I just found out the Packers have two undisclosed draft picks from trading Caleb Schlauderaff and Quinn Johnson last year. When do we find out what picks these are?

Just prior to the draft, when the league provides its master list of draft picks.

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