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Every week starts with a blank canvas

A ransom is worth it for the elite of the elite


Erik from Charlotte, NC

A rule the NFL should implement: four-game designated to return, for concussions only. I contemplated not writing this in, since now I don't have much of a chance of getting any royalties.

At some point, I could see the league carving out a roster/IR exemption for concussions, similar to what baseball has. But no, don't hold your breath for a check.

Robb from Merrimack, NH

Quick question based on the Shields/Lacy thing. What stops me from keeping them on IR until they are healthy, deem one to return, and cut the other in mind of signing them after, in an effort to gain a player that way?

This has been entertaining to read everyone's hopes and schemes to get both Lacy and Shields back this season. To play along with your (unworkable) scenario, if you cut Lacy when he's healthy, he becomes subject to waivers and is instantly a member of the Cleveland Browns, or whichever team has the worst record at the time. If you cut Shields, he becomes a free agent quite likely uninterested in re-signing with the team that just voided his rather lucrative contract and is forcing him to negotiate a new deal coming off a serious injury. In any event, let it go, folks. Only one of them is coming back this year, and perhaps neither will.

Tal from Ascot, UK

What's the most fun Packers' rivalry to watch that isn't in the NFC North?

I think most fans now would say it's the Seahawks, and some will always say the Cowboys. But I have to admit, I had some fun this week reviewing the recent Packers-Falcons history. Talk about some good ballgames.

Jamie from Rhinelander, WI

When you look at Brett Favre and the injuries he played through, then you see these new guys who can't play with bruises, it kind of makes you sick to your stomach. Get out there and play for the money you're making.

Easy for you to say. Personally, I don't judge. Favre was one of a kind, I'll say that. I also think his consecutive starts record is even more untouchable now with the concussion protocol in place.

Ben from Chicago, IL

For a punt returner signaling fair catch, if he waits until the last moment to signal, is there ever a point that is too late such that the fair catch is not granted? Also, how do the gunners know when fair catch is signaled when they are racing down the sideline attempting to beat the blocker?

It's the gunners' responsibility to know if a fair catch has been signaled or not. Since the returner can't be hit until he catches the ball anyway, he can wait as long as he wants.

Luke from Dorchester, England

How are all the stats in a game tallied up? Is it up to the NFL or are the teams playing accountable for their own stats? Do they just have a team of people whose job it is to watch the games and mark up all the statistics that are needed?

There's an official stats crew in every press box for every NFL game that keeps track of everything. The Elias Sports Bureau is the NFL's official statistician and will verify anything that needs verification via film study. Also, a team can submit a request for a stat to be reviewed by Elias, such as when the stats crew, for example, might give two players a half-sack each on a play, but the team believes based on the film that a full sack should be credited to one player. Elias makes those final judgments.

John from Omaha, NE

Are the overseas games more about expanding to England or giving America non-stop football from early Sunday morning to late that night?

The former, but if you ask me there's nothing wrong with the latter.

Todd from Appleton, WI

Having been a fan since Bart Starr was a coach, this is one of the few times I have very little idea what to expect from this team other than they will be ready to play. What is your feeling for the offensive game plan for Sunday?

I'm with you. I think there's a fair amount of unpredictability with the plan. I expect to see a lot of what we saw against the Bears, with more downfield shots thrown in. That's just my guess, but given the current injury situation, it seems like every week starts with a blank canvas. I can't wait to see what fills it up.

Jake from Racine, WI

I just realized it's the 20th anniversary of the '96-97 Super Bowl team. Is the team doing anything to commemorate that, or is the Super Bowl trophy in the stadium good enough?

I believe something is being planned for the 25th anniversary, five years from now.

Alex from Rockland, ME

What's your take on declining ratings? I've seen everything from the election to player protests to CTE. Personally, I've been turning off (non-Packer) games because they have not been entertaining. I see a correlation with the CBA and a watered-down product as a result of less prep time, especially in the early season. Too many commercial breaks and long delays to sort out penalties aren't helping either.

I've heard all the same things. I think once the election is over and the playoff chase heats up, the ratings will return, but hearing Mike McCarthy chime in last week in an interview with a national writer on the CBA and quality of product issue got my attention. I'm not as tuned into that in general because no matter how good or bad the game is, my job doesn't change much, and my job is my focus.

Mike from Des Moines, IA

When it comes to declining ratings the NFL may want to consider the possibility that there is a generational shift they need to account for, specifically in how people consume media. I'm in my mid-thirties and my family and our friends don't subscribe to cable. Almost all of our TV consumption is streaming. The same is true for younger friends and relatives, but moreso. Having games exclusively on NFL Network, ESPN, and even eventually the major networks will become untenable at some point in the future. If the league can't find a financially feasible way to permit every game to be streamed live online it will not be able to sustain its audience.

All valid points as well. That's precisely why we're seeing the league experiment with streaming Thursday night games on Twitter, and I believe the Sunday night game is streamed online occasionally, if not regularly, as well. If the current ratings decline is more than just a blip, this is definitely an issue to watch closely when the broadcast contracts are next up for renewal.

James from Lake Havasu City, AZ

Hey Insiders, this last overtime tie had me thinking about the overtime rules in the playoffs. I know it's the same as far as each team gets a chance to possess the ball, if the first team kicks a field goal. What if the first overtime period ends in a tie? Do they do another coin flip and same rules apply for the second period?

No. If the clock expires in the first overtime, 15 more minutes go on the clock and play resumes where it left off, with the teams simply switching directions. Same as between the first and second, or third and fourth, quarters. I believe Ravens-Broncos in the 2012 postseason (January 2013) was the last double-overtime game. The one I'll never forget as a kid was Dolphins-Chargers in the 1981 AFC playoffs. Absolutely incredible game.

Chase from San Jose, CA

From an overall perspective, I like the mystery that comes with ties. You don't know till the season's over whether that tie helped or hurt you.

Seattle or Arizona, or both, will be throwing a wrench into the NFC playoff picture because of that tie. Count on it.

Steve from Plainfield, WI

So No. 5 has not been worn since 1988 and no record of No. 1 worn since 1926. Are these jerseys unofficially retired for Hornung and Lambeau? What would happen if a player tried to claim either?

They aren't officially retired, but for all practical purposes they are. If a player wearing one of those numbers in training camp were to make the team, he almost certainly would be assigned a new number. Ted Thompson makes those decisions.

Paul from Chicago, IL

If you were going to make a power ranking list right now, which teams would be heading up the top and the bottom of the list?

New England and the winner of Sunday night's Dallas-Philly game would get my top two spots, with the Packers-Falcons winner in the next tier that would include Denver, Seattle, Minnesota, and maybe Oakland and Kansas City. At the bottom is obviously Cleveland, with the arrows for San Francisco and Jacksonville pointing decidedly downward.

Bob from Colby, KS

Guys, when Atlanta traded up to draft Julio they gave a hefty ransom to do so. What was the ransom? In hindsight, did they do the right thing or was the cost too steep?

In the 2011 draft, the Falcons traded with Cleveland to move up 21 spots to No. 6 in the first round to take Jones. In addition to giving up the No. 27 pick that year, Atlanta also surrendered picks in the second and fourth rounds in 2011, plus picks in the first and fourth rounds in 2012. So it was two ones, a two, and two fourths for Jones. At the time, it seemed incomprehensible to make that deal for a wide receiver, but Jones is now, hands-down, the best player at his position. He's the elite of the elite. Packers CB coach Joe Whitt Jr. said the other day he's one of the top five players in the league, period. There are only so many true difference-makers of this caliber, so to me, the cost was not too steep. I'm sure Vic would disagree with me because Jones is not a quarterback, but I would argue if Ricky Williams had been the next Jim Brown, what the Saints did in 1999 would have been worth it, too.

Hilmi from Ankara, Turkey

Mike, I noticed your writing style is getting a playful touch. Is it because you can let loose now that Vic is gone-ish, or you are trying to fill the sarcastic older guy role?

I'd rather keep you guessing. Gone-ish? That's a good Halloween word. Have a good weekend, everybody.

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