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Gotta have star LB to play 3-4 defense


Gerald from Karlsruhe, Germany

All cut-blocks at the line of scrimmage are punished with at least one game (and salary) off or more, if the opponent will be injured. If somebody risks the end of a season for another player, then it is fair enough that he risks much more money (and maybe his starting job).

So, you can't hit a guy on the head and you can't hit a guy on the legs, either. It's beginning to sound ridiculous. It's football; you will get hurt. The whole idea of the game is finding the guys that are good enough and tough enough to avoid injury. If I'm a ticket-buying fan, I don't wanna pay to see guys suspended; I pay to see them play. This whole game-softening movement is starting to wear on me. I'm sensitive to the head-shot stuff, but I don't wanna see football become a safe game. It's the danger that attracts me.

Steve from Ithaca, NY

Should Ray Guy be in the Hall of Fame?

A punter? Are you serious? A punter?

Daniel from Houston, TX

Is there any way the general public can get their hands on game tape? I'm not talking about the televised version, I'm talking about the birdseye view that all of the people who are associated with the NFL view. I think it would be cool to own game tape of games that will go down in history and a good way to study the ins and outs of how a play develops.

What you're describing is what's called "coaches' tape" and it is not available to the public. It is shot by the respective video departments of the league's 32 teams and there are strict guidelines as to how it must be shot and distributed among the other teams and the league. Once upon a time, coaches exercised gamesmanship with game film, but those days are over. Doing that will get you fined these days.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

Who is your pick to win the British Open?

Rory McIlroy.

Ken from Penticton, BC

Brady's success in the postseason is far superior to Manning's, even though in the regular season both teams are pretty comparable. How much, do you think, the fact that Manning calls his own plays affects his postseason performance? I think it has a lot to do with it. Brady just has to think about the job at hand and play with what he's given, where Manning has taken on a greater amount of responsibility, to his detriment.

I don't think that's it.

Paul from Oxford, NC

Does Mike Spofford really feel that the metallic tinsel and Jumbotrons of Cowboys Stadium are better than Lambeau Field? Or did he lose the coin toss on which point of view each of you guys were going to cover?

I took first pick on the "Lambeau Field or Cowboys Stadium?" debate, mostly because I had covered a Cowboys game at the new stadium, whereas Mike hadn't. Trust me, Cowboys Stadium was not the same for the Super Bowl as it is for Cowboys games. The whirl of activity for Cowboys games is nonstop and, frankly, I found it to be distracting. During breaks in the action, they kept showing these go-go dancers on the video boards. I didn't get it, but then I happened to turn my head to the right and there they were, dancing on individual platforms suspended in one of the end zones. I struggled with it. I am, of course, old-school. Anyhow, Mike was assigned the task of making the case for Cowboys Stadium and I thought he buried me. He made solid points in defense of Cowboys Stadium. Hey, it's professional football and it's driven by money, and Cowboys Stadium is a money machine. I don't like it but I fear it is the wave of the future.

Earl from Winnipeg, Manitoba

I love the column and I love your "this is my opinion, like it or leave it," attitude. Allow me to set off a firestorm on your column, since I'm tired of the Brady vs. Manning debate. They are both in the twilight of their careers. Even New England drafted a QB this year, which brings me to my statement. I think Aaron Rodgers is the best young QB in the league, but I don't think he had the pure talent alone when drafted to play at the level he is playing. If Rodgers is drafted and starts the same year, I don't see him even coming close to performing the same he did his first two years as a starter. A young QB, in my opinion, needs a year to mature, and a year of miserable play can ruin a talented young man's confidence and career.

There are people in the game that agree with you. I don't have a strong feeling either way on the subject, except to say that when you draft a quarterback in the first round, he's gonna be "The Man" sooner than later. I covered John Elway's pro debut. He was horrible. He was so bad he had to be benched at halftime. His passer rating as a rookie was 54.9. It didn't ruin him, did it? Likewise, Terry Bradshaw was a starter in his first-ever pro game. He was sacked for a safety in that game and his passer rating in his rookie season was 30.4. Two quarterbacks, six Super Bowl titles. See what I mean? It's all in who you are and what you got inside. In my opinion, Rodgers would be the same quarterback today had he been a starter right away, but he was still in recovery from an ACL and there was a minor shoulder concern that might've caused him to drop in the draft. Time to heal was a good thing for him.

Harry from Waupaca, WI

We all know how important good defensive linemen are in the 3-4 defense. Look at two of the biggest plays in the Super Bowl, Matthews' hit for the fumble and Collins' interception for a TD. Both were set up by great plays by defensive linemen. We also know how important the linebackers are. My question is: Which do you think would be most important to draft first, if you're building your 3-4, defensive line or linebacker?

If you're a best available player team, you draft the BAP, regardless of position. If you're drafting according to the value of the position in a 3-4, then linebacker would be the pick because linebackers, especially those with sack-you, strip-you ability, are the stars of the 3-4. The thinking in the 3-4 is that you can find defensive linemen, maybe even cornerbacks, more easily than you can find star-quality linebackers. In the 3-4, defensive ends aren't pass-rushers as much as they are hold-the-point, two-gapping run-stuffers. Nose tackle is a critical position in the 3-4; you have to have one to play the 3-4 successfully, but nose tackles aren't pass-rushers, either, so you can usually find a heavy-in-the-pants anchor for the middle more easily than you can an every-downs, pass-rushing defensive lineman. Those are the guys that are really tough to find and that's why I like the 3-4, because you don't have to over-draft every-downs, pass-rushing defensive linemen. Cornerback? Everybody wants a Charles Woodson, but you play a lot of zone in the 3-4 and you can play around not having a Woodson-type cornerback. What you can't do without is a star-quality, pass-rushing linebacker. If you don't have one, you shouldn't be playing the 3-4.

Tom from Richmond, VA

Any conversation about contentious coach-quarterback relationships would be incomplete without mentioning Dan Reeves and John Elway. Apparently Elway chafed at Reeves' micromanagement of him during the pre-Shanahan era. Just wondering what your take is.

That's common. The coach wants the offense run his way and the quarterback, especially back then, wants to run it his way. Each man has a vision for the offense and often those visions conflict. I don't have a problem with that. I don't need warm and fuzzy in football. I like it when personalities clash. This is a game for strong-willed men.

Denny from Tampa, FL

With some rebuilding and less-gifted teams having to deal with a possible short training camp, if any, should the owners wave a blackout to try to keep the future fan base that may have already been affected by the prolonged CBA?

Give away the product? No. You've got a good team in Tampa. It was a win away from the postseason last year. What rebuilding? It's rebuilt and ready to go, it would seem. I'm not buying any excuses for not attending games.

Julian from Memphis, TN

With the recent court ruling, does this mean the players are still under the union they decertified a few months ago? It seems Mr. Smith never left the negotiating table at all.

I'm having trouble understanding the difference, too. What's different? Same players, same leader. I guess you're only a union if you say you're a union.

Donald from Jacksonville, FL

Do the blackout rules apply to preseason games? If they do, have they always?

The answer is yes to both questions.

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