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Competition at running back


Jeff from Stallings, NC

How are practice squad guys used in practices? Do they get regular reps or make up the scout team?

They do all of the things everybody on the 53-man roster does and, yes, the practice squad guys usually man the scout team.

RedDirtRandall from Hugo, OK

Is it true that NFL franchises have the rights to a geographic territory? I ask because I've heard the Packers' territory includes Milwaukee, which eliminates the smallest NFL market claim.

Yes, the NFL designates extended or secondary market boundaries for its franchises. In some cases, those extended market boundaries create harsh feelings about the games the people in the franchise's secondary markets are shown. For example, Orlando is in the Jaguars' secondary market area, which means the Orlando TV affiliate must show Jaguars road games, and that's been very unpopular with Dolphins fans in Orlando. Harrisburg, Pa., is in the Ravens' secondary market, which has long angered viewers in Harrisburg that wanna see Steelers games. I think that one has even resulted in some legal wrangling. Milwaukee is definitely within the Packers' market boundaries, but I'm not sure what that does to the team's market-size ranking because if you're going to factor Milwaukee into the size of the Green Bay market, then you have to factor Orlando into the size of the Jacksonville market and Rochester, etc., into the Buffalo market.

Rich from Southampton, UK

I think I remember you saying a while ago that salaries of players on injured reserve count toward the cap. Did I understand you right? If so, how much did it help the Packers having an uncapped year in 2010, given the number of players on IR?

I don't remember them signing anybody pricey as a roster replacement for an injured player, so I don't think the Packers needed an uncapped year to deal with the burden its long IR list would've put on its cap. Teams traditionally save IR room on their cap at the beginning of the season. If by the end of the season they haven't used that room, then they'll eat it up by extending somebody's contract or the like; teams that are good cap managers never let years expire with room still left on the cap.

Jay from Staten Island, NY

As of the end of Week 2 of the preseason, Chastin West was leading the NFL in receiving yards; however, we know there are five guys ahead of him on the depth chart at wide receiver. If the Packers decide to take only five receivers, is he eligible for the practice squad this year after being on it last year, assuming no one snatches him up off waivers right away?

Yes, he still has practice squad eligibility remaining. A player may spend three seasons on the practice squad, provided he hasn't been on the active 45 or, now, the active 46 for nine games in any one season.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

I just read an article about the Saints and their player-driven OTAs during the lockout. I couldn't agree with you more that most teams caught up during the first week of their own training camps. What occurred to me, though, was what a high-risk strategy this was for Drew Brees, who organized the OTAs. If the Saints lose two or three of their first few games, you've got to think the players will grumble about all that work for nothing. It should be an interesting first game of the season.

There won't be any grumbling. It was just good PR; a way for players to express their dedication. Fans like that.

Tim from Albuquerque, NM

We know the goal is to win every game, but do coaches look ahead to games on the schedule, calculate probable wins and losses and what record is necessary to get into the playoffs that year, and can they admit they do that?

I think they do it but they would never admit to it. The closest they'll come to a public admission of that is identifying a particular stretch of schedule as being critical to the team's success. I think if you hooked a coach up to a lie detector machine and asked him your question, the machine would likely burst into flames before he'd admit to what you're suggesting.

David from Reston, VA

Fumblerooski is my all-time favorite trick play. Can you explain how this play is executed?

After taking the snap from center, the quarterback quickly puts the ball on the ground. Everyone except a guard then runs in one direction, simulating a play to that side of the field, which draws the defense in that direction. The stationary guard then picks up the ball and runs with it. Nebraska is famous for doing it. My favorite defense against the fumblerooski play is the killthequarterbackrooski play on the next play.

Bill from Raleigh, NC

You didn't answer the question about the food when you travel with an NFL team. Does the team stop in restaurants? How does the team keep their players from being hounded by fans while they eat, wait in an airport, etc.?

Teams usually don't go into airports. Team planes are charters and they often park near the cargo area of an airport; the buses proceed directly to the plane. The plane is well-stocked with food and long flights become eating events. In the hotel, teams dine in the hotel's ballrooms. Taping and treatment stations are also set up in the ballrooms for the morning of the game. Players will eat breakfast and then get their ankles taped before they leave the hotel. Travel is a plane-bus-hotel thing. That's about all there is. The night before the game is spent in meetings and watching tape. The head coach might give a night-ending address to the team. If there's free time, players might go out to eat, but most trips are quick turnarounds and players just do their prep and hit the sack.

Ryan from Webster, TX

I was wondering when, if at any time, does the communication between the quarterback and coach get cut off?

Communication is halted with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock, or when the ball is snapped, whichever comes first.

Nathan from Hopkinsville, KY

According to the site's roster, the Packers still have roughly 85 players on it. Is this because of the new CBA? When is the next cut due?

Due to the special circumstances the lockout created, the league expanded training camp rosters to 90 for this season. The first cut will be to 80 by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30, which is Tuesday.

Hayden from Seattle, WA

How much better are the home teams' locker rooms compared to the away teams'?

They are the difference between a house and a hotel room. You live in one, you spend a short time in the other.

Benjamin from Saint Marys, GA

Tim Masthay has been punting out of his mind since the last half of last season. Who is the greatest punter in NFL history, in your opinion?

Ray Guy is the greatest punter in NFL history. There was a real good one from just up the road from where you are: Bobby Walden.

Justin from Orlando, FL

Are you hearing this talk from some writers about Grant fighting Dmitri Nance for his spot?

I agree that there's a competition at running back. This is a tough business. You have to prove yourself every day. That's especially true as a player's salary increases. Look back at what I said yesterday: "You have to look at the salaries of those guys because their worth to the team needs to be the equal of what their performance in training camp projects to return."

Peter from Minneapolis, MN

How come NFL rosters consist of 53 players per team but come game day they only dress 45?

This year, 46 players will be permitted to be active on game day. That's what the CBA says; it's per an agreement between the owners and players.

Dennis from Brook Park, MN

Years ago, when Abe Gibron was coaching the Bears, they lost a game because of a missed field goal attempt on the final play. Gibron told reporters after the game, "I've got two placekickers on this team, one that misses from short range and one that misses from long range." Vic, you have been in and around this game for so long you must have some great head coach quotes. Can you share some with us?

Here are a couple of my favorites: When asked why he took a certain defensive end out of the game after the first quarter, Chuck Noll said, "Because he was being blocked." Chuck had a wonderfully dry sense of humor and he knew just when to use it. Tom Coughlin, on the other hand, is a wordsmith and sometimes his very formal use of the language made for hilarity, such as his use of "callous disregard for the ball" in describing fumbles. My all-time favorite Coughlin moment, however, is from draft day. After selecting a player whose past included being thrown out of one college as the result of a dormitory fire, Coughlin stood up in front of the media and said: "Now, we all know about the unfortunate incident involving a dormitory room and an incendiary device." I couldn't stop laughing, which caused him to shoot me a dirty look.

Tucker from Minneapolis, MN

What's the most mentally challenging position to play on defense? What position is most physically challenging?

Free safety is generally considered to be the most challenging mentally because the free safety is often the player that makes the coverage calls. I would consider the nose tackle in the 3-4 or the tackle on the nose of the center in an "over/under 4-3" as the two most physically demanding positions because those guys are getting double-teamed.

Gary from Philpot, KY

In the 3-4, who do you think is more important, the outside pass-rusher or inside linebacker. I don't think A.J. Hawk gets the credit he deserves.

The rush-backer is the star of the 3-4. The whole thing is designed for him to make plays. If you don't have a playmaker at the rush-backer position, the scheme won't work.

Greg from Pittsburgh, PA

I have a feeling the offense will greatly improve this season, but it will be offset by the defense, as the loss of Jenkins, directly or indirectly, will prove to be a problem. Am I off base?

It's as though the Packers just lost Lawrence Taylor or Joe Greene. I think we are grossly overrating the impact of one player.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

Has a player ever confronted you about being upset with one of your columns? I think I would faint if an NFL player walked up to me with an upset look on his face.

Players used to do that all the time, but I haven't seen it happen in a long time. Why did it happen then but not now? I think it's because players back then spoke more frankly and, of course, you know what tends to happen: meaning gets lost in translation. Today's players know when to turn the script on; they're coached on what to say. Yes, I've been confronted, but I haven't fainted, yet.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

I saw the article you wrote about Wynn. His coach and Raji think he could be a solid player. What are your thoughts on him?

My thoughts are that the preseason is for all of the Jarius Wynns in the league. This is their chance to make the big time. This is their chance to realize their dream. They are the drama of the preseason, and I enjoy watching and chronicling their pursuits.

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