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Everybody wants big guys


Anne from Suamico, WI

I'm becoming more and more convinced that you won't last too long in GB.

I hope you're wrong. I went through a full physical in June and I came away with a clean bill of health.

Kurt from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Which teams in the NFL would you like to see go back to their old uniforms/helmets?

The Rams; I liked the old colors better.

Travis from Green Bay, WI

So they only went with eight offensive linemen. Any chance if a guard goes down they switch Bulaga to the guard spot and throw in Newhouse at right tackle?

If you're asking if the Packers have enough versatility up front to make only keeping eight offensive linemen work, the answer is yes. There are literally four players that can play left tackle, and at least two of them can play guard. The Packers' line has been cross-trained for the purpose of being versatile, and that affords the opportunity to go low on the numbers. Be that as it may, I was surprised they kept only eight linemen.

Stephen from New York, NY

Have you gotten a chance to see Cam Newton so far? What are your expectations for him both this year and in the long run?

I haven't seen him, yet, but I'll get a good look at him in Week 2. He's what's called a "New Age" quarterback, which means he's as much a runner as he is a passer, and that's my expectation for him: I expect him to be a runner early in his career, as he develops his passing skills.

Robert from Milwaukee, WI

It is often said players to be cut will receive a pink slip in their lockers. I'm sure the Packers are more personal than that. What is the process when a player is let go?

I have never seen a player receive a pink slip; I think that's just a metaphor for being released. Everywhere I've been, players have been approached directly and respectfully when they've been released, and I have no doubt it's that way in Green Bay. Often, the coach will give the player an opinion on the player's chances of making professional football a career. He might tell him that if he keeps himself in shape and works at his craft, he can find a place in this league. I'll bet that if I ask John Kuhn, he'd tell me that's exactly the message he heard from Bill Cowher, and maybe even from Mike Tomlin, too. Pro football is a tough, hard-nosed business, but it's not heartless.

Zach from Washington, DC

What purpose does it serve to keep so many tight ends?

That's what we're going to find out. Obviously, the coach has plans for all of those guys or the Packers wouldn't have kept them.

Brenda from Sioux Center, IA

The trade of Quinn Johnson brought a question to mind: What are the specific attributes that separate a fullback from a tight end?

In terms of blocking, fullbacks are guards and tight ends are tackles. Fullbacks are generally shorter, thicker and are better at dropping their pads and blasting through a hole; you don't want somebody who's gonna get cut and stuck in the hole. Tight ends tend to be taller, longer and better-suited to match up against defensive ends and outside linebackers, players that possess a similar body type. In terms of pass-receiving, fullbacks are check-down and flat receivers, whereas tight ends have the size and speed to be deep-seam receivers.

Devin from Bowling Green, OH

So I heard teams and players on IR can work out an injury settlement? What exactly is that? I thought players on IR were done for the year.

They're done for the year as far as that team is concerned. If a team wishes to waive a player from its injured reserve list, he must be waived/injured. If another team claims him, they accept the injury liability for that player. If the player clears waivers, he comes back to the team that waived him and that team must either reach an injury settlement with the player or keep him on their injured reserve list until he's healthy. There are guidelines for injury settlements. A knee is worth this much, a shoulder that much, etc. If a player clears waivers and reaches an injury settlement with his team, he may then sign with another team without that team accepting liability for his injury, and he may play for that team in that season.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

With Graham Harrell being released, does that mean the Packers are going with only two quarterbacks this year?

Yes, the Packers are going with two quarterbacks, or at least until they sign a third quarterback to their 53-man roster. Harrell cleared waivers and was signed to the practice squad, where he spent much of last season.

Rene from La Habra, CA

Since Shaky Smithson and Lawrence Guy were put on IR, are they free to sign with another team like practice squad players? Also, do they still get paid when they are put on IR?

Players on the injured reserve list receive full salary. They are not free agents and they may not sign with another team.

Tim from Cudahy, WI

In deciding the final cuts, do you think Thompson factors in market demand for a position?

Yes, I think demand is a consideration. For example, everybody wants big guys; they are the players that are in greatest demand. That's why the Packers were able to trade Caleb Schlauderaff. Your chances of getting an offensive tackle of any quality through waivers are slim. Wide receivers are much more plentiful and you can usually get those guys through waivers.

Pete from Whitehall, WI

Do you think Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes would be as good today with all the don't-touch-the-receiver rules in place? A big part of their game was the fear they instilled on receivers.

Those rules were in place when Haynes and Hayes played, per the rules changes of 1978, and Haynes and Hayes would be as good today as they were in 1983, when they were the best cornerback duo in the league, maybe in the history of the league. I don't remember intimidation being a part of Haynes' and Hayes' games. They were pure cover corners, not knockout hitters. I think you're confusing them with Tatum and Atkinson.

Mike from Fort Wayne, IN

Team rosters are 53. Has it always been that way? Considering all the injuries, would the roster ever expand or is it an economic reason?

It's professional football; it's about the money. Any time you have a question, make that the answer. When I started covering the NFL, rosters were at 40. Following the strike of 1982, rosters were expanded to 49 for the next two years. I'm talking about game-day actives, which is really all that matters because you can replace people every week, which means you have an endless supply of talent available to you, just not on game day. What we found out in 1983-84 when the rosters were at 49 active on game day was that coaches didn't use all 49 players every week. Beginning in '85, the league went to 45 active and that's where it's been, with a third quarterback added in 1991, until this season, when a 46th active player has been added. Don't think in terms of 53. Seven of those players can't play on game day, and business owners aren't crazy about paying employees that don't work, if you know what I mean.

Gary from Philpot, KY

When you started as a writer, did you have to carry your own typewriter to the press box?

Everybody did; Royal portable was the typewriter of choice. We transmitted our stories on this heavy machine that was connected to the phone line. Your newspaper would have a phone line installed in the press box. You'd attach the paper on which you had written your story on this drum that rotated inside the sending machine. Compared to today, it would take forever for your story to transmit back to the newspaper, and not only was the reproduction awful and transmission was often broken, but the story had to be hand-set back at the newspaper. It's a joy working in the business with today's technology at our disposal.

Cesar from Santa Fe Springs, CA

I read your story about Lattimore and Jennings making the team. It's a feel-good story, but I have to ask: What are the chances the Packers will drop either of these guys and pick up a couple of players recently cut by other teams?

The chances are distinct and both guys know that. Ted Thompson recently said something that puts your question into perspective. Thompson said it shouldn't be called a "Final 53," it should be called a "Starting 53." I had never heard it put that way, but he's right on the mark. Personnel guys and coaches massage rosters every week, due to injuries, game plans, needs, performance, etc. There are only a few players on any roster, star players such as Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, that feel a sense of security. Jamari Lattimore and M.D. Jennings are in the league today, and they're not thinking one day beyond that. I loved interviewing them and feeling their joy.

James from Berlin, WI

How do some players make it through waivers and return to the practice squad when they appear good enough to play for anybody in the league?

Why claim a guy when you can wait to see if the team that cut him signs him to their practice squad? Hey, if they don't sign him to their practice squad, then they're telling you he's not good enough to make their "61." If they put him on the practice squad, then he's someone they like and that's more information for you to use in deciding whether you like him and wanna sign him. What's the rush? Wait until he's on the practice squad and then sign him.

Jeff from Bradenton, FL

Do you feel the Packers have a reasonable chance of getting back to the playoffs and why? Your column is extremely refreshing.

I wouldn't term it a "reasonable chance." I would call it an intense expectation. Why? Because they're the Super Bowl champions.

Jacob from St Joseph, MI

Flynn is a free agent next year. I don't expect him to stay on to be a No. 2. Is it a given that the Packers arrange a trade before he becomes a free agent?

I think the Packers answered that question when they only kept two quarterbacks on their roster. I think we're allowing one game to suggest panic that doesn't exist.

Otis from Pearland, TX

When a player is released, it is said he was visited by the "Turk." Where did the phrase the "Turk" come from?

The "Turk" is a fictitious character. He carries a big scimitar. I forget the name of the movie in which he was portrayed. Maybe someone can remember.

David from Maineville, OH

After winning the Super Bowl and so many players coming off IR after last season, the Packers have 10 rookies on the roster. Amazing! Is this what you meant by saying the Packers want to stay young and develop players and create competition during camp?

It's what I mean when I say it's a young man's game. Never get old.

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