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Conditioning would determine pace of training camp


Zach from Woodstock, IL

What are the major changes that will occur because of the new salary cap system?

There are no major changes from the way it was. It's essentially the same system that was previously in place.

Rob from Oshkosh, WI

Other than this column, what do your duties with the Packers include?

They include writing other stories, too. They include coming back to work last night, participating in a conference call with Mark Murphy and writing a story about a potential labor agreement. They include going to the Packers Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday night and writing a story about it. They include covering practices, games and press conferences, and interviewing players and coaches. They include, to the chagrin of some, doing videos and subjecting myself to ridicule. They include creating story ideas and making story schedules and editing the copy of the other writers on the staff. Are you in HR?

Barry from Upland, CA

Love your column! My wife and I will be at Lambeau on 9/8 and was wondering what special pregame events the Packers are planning for opening night?

They'll have a singing group and probably fireworks, too. They haven't announced who the singing group is but I have no doubt it'll be a big-name outfit that I, no doubt, won't recognize because my musical tastes were arrested at some point in the 1960s. The Packers will make a big splash with the announcement of the pregame festivities for the opener, so hang in there a little longer.

Brent from Cedar Grove, WI

Do you think there will be an NFL team outside the U.S.? Would you like to see a team in Canada or London?

Yes, I do think the NFL will eventually have a team outside the U.S. borders, but I also thought the NFL would go to an 18-game regular season with a new CBA, and I sure had that wrong. I wouldn't mind seeing the game expand its boundaries. Growth is good for all of us. When I think back to how things were in the NFL when I started covering it, I'm amazed by the growth. I covered games in a lot of bad stadiums. Today's stadiums are castles. I covered games in open-air press boxes; imagine that in today's game. Some things are better, some things are worse, but we take the bad with the good for the sake of growth. When I started covering the NFL, the PR guy gave you a list of players that provided their names and their training camp room numbers and he told you to go knock on the door. So I knocked on doors and I often spent whole afternoons in conversation behind those doors. I've often told the story of seeing a veteran with two Super Bowl rings get cut by the "Turk" as I interviewed Tony Dungy in the hallway outside his dorm room; Dungy had just been traded to the 49ers. The "Turk" really did say, "Coach wants to see you, and bring your playbook." I miss getting that close, but that's the cost of success and I'm glad to pay it for the right to work in a game this popular. The idea of pro football going international is stimulating. I'd like to add that to the list of changes that have occurred during my time covering the game.

Brian from Sioux Falls, SD

Out of curiosity, how do players get paid? Is it every other week, twice a month, or just one lump sum at the start of their contract? Does it vary by team, by conference at all?

Players are paid their salaries over the 17 weeks of the regular season. They receive a stipend during training camp and the preseason. Some players, of course, have workout bonuses, roster bonuses, deferred signing bonuses, etc., and the dates for the payments of those bonuses are provided in their contracts. It's the same for every player in the league.

Jake from Willard, WI

There were many rookie quarterbacks drafted in the early rounds of the draft this year. Which quarterbacks do you think will start this year and who do you think will have the most successful career?

Start this year? The only way a rookie quarterback can become a starter this year is if he plays on a team with no hope of competing for a playoff spot and it just wants to get him on the field and begin his learning process as quickly as it can. I like this quarterback crop, but I'm one of the few who do. It was expected to be an all-time class, but it kind of fizzled last fall. So, did it fizzle because Christian Ponder had a sore arm and Jake Locker played on a bad team and Andy Dalton played in a kind of run-and-shoot offense? Or did it fizzle because the crop was exposed for not being as talented as previously thought? I think it's the former; I think this quarterback crop will produce long-term starters in this league. I like Ponder and I expect his arm to recover. I like Locker and I think coaching will fix a lot of his flaws. Cam Newton is intriguing. He can make all of the throws and he runs with smarts. I considered Blaine Gabbert to be the best of the bunch and now he holds the future of professional football in Jacksonville in his hands; he's just what they need. Colin Kaepernick really grew on me. He could be the difference-maker in San Francisco and he'll be playing for a coach who knows how to use quarterbacks. I love the Bears' selection of Nathan Enderle. That's a lot of quarterback to get at the bottom of round five. The Chiefs got a nice pick in round five in Ricky Stanzi. Dalton is smart, accurate and possesses leadership skills, but I'm not sure that I like him in a cold-weather division; does he have the arm to play there late in the season? If he does, the Bengals will have gotten a steal in round two. Ryan Mallett in the third round? That's a first-pick-of-the-draft arm; Bill Belichick will fix his head. T.J. Yates is another round-five guy; he's a big quarterback with a strong arm and that always works for me.

Lane from Longwood, FL

This minimum spending for the purported new salary cap poses a lot of questions for teams well under the cap. If a team is struggling to reach the minimum, I guess they could front-load a contract to reach the minimum, however, that would reduce future caps and the team could struggle to reach the minimum in following years. It could end up being the opposite of what was happening when teams were converting salary to signing bonus and mortgaging their future caps. Why should a team be forced to spend money when they're happy with their roster and the contracts of the players they've signed?

You're a bright man for seeing the flip side of being too tight against the cap; being too loose is a problem, too, because eventually you'll run out of core players to extend and then you run the risk of extending players that won't be with you but their amortization will, and that's dead money you don't need or want. Good caps are balanced. The core players are extended, the bottom-of-the-roster players aren't because they come under annual review and you must maintain flexibility with them. What most people fail to consider is that cap money is also real money. When you front-load a contract, that's money you have to take out of your pocket and, for teams with limited cash flow, that's tough money to find. In some cases, they might borrow that money to pay the players, and now they not only run the risk of dead money, they also run the risk of interest compounding on it. As I've said, this is the one thing about the salary cap system I don't like. It's a means for high-revenue teams to pass their player costs onto low-revenue teams. Revenue-sharing is meant to ease those teams' burdens, but it's only at a fraction of the cost. Teams have no choice but to spend, so they better find ways to increase revenue. For those teams that can't do it, Los Angeles is waiting.

Jeff from Conway, AR

I just wondered if you had ever seen this quote: "They both (bikinis and statistics) show a lot, but not everything." – infielder Toby Harrah.

How about this one? "A story is like a woman's skirt; it has to be short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject." – one of Vic Ketchman's journalism professors.

Chris from Coral Spring, FL

What is the single-biggest issue regarding the start of camp coming up?

Initially, I think it'll be conditioning. What kind of condition are these players in after a nearly five-month lockout? I think it especially pertains to the big guys. The answer to that question will determine how quickly teams can make up the ground they lost in the spring.

Mike from Wonder Lake, IL

What do you think about Bart Scott's comments about the lack of two-a-days as wimping out? Do you agree, or is it just a sign of the times?

I like tough guys. If I was a coach, I'd like to have a whole team full of those guys. I like it when guys say edgy things. I like that kind of personality. Bart sounds as though he wants to hit somebody. I especially like those kinds of players.

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