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Here's one more thing, 'Start fast'


Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

In regard to Mike Neal, what do you think of the term injury prone? Are players injury prone or is it just an unfortunate coincidence?

I believe some players are better at playing hurt than others, but I don't believe in players being injury prone. Neal was an extremely durable player at Purdue. You don't play on the kind of injury he has because it would adversely affect his performance. He's just been unlucky. When I'm asked questions about players being injury prone, I right away think of Curtis Martin. He couldn't stay on the field in college. He rushed for 250 yards against Texas in the season-opener of his final college season, then got hurt in the first quarter of the next game and missed the rest of the season. He decided enough was enough and opted to declare eligibility for the NFL draft, and became a steal in the third round because the rap on him was that he was injury prone. Yeah. Over the next 10 years, he missed only four games and rushed for over a thousand yards in each of those seasons. He is one of the most durable running backs in NFL history and his next stop is Canton.

Wes from Mishawaka, IN

In a recent interview, Rodgers was asked about spreading the ball around to his weapons. He was asked specifically about the lack of balls thrown James Jones' way during the Saints game. Rodgers responded by stating he hopes he doesn't get asked about the low man on the catch totem pole and half-pleaded to have the media not hassle him with that question every week. Do you think the media will honor this plea? If they do not, do you believe the media would be serving as a catalyst for unnecessary drama?

Whoa! What's driving these questions? Fantasy football, right? Did the media invent fantasy football? Wes, half of the questions in my inbox after the Saints game were about Jones' lack of playing time. I'll make a deal with you: You get the fans to stop asking me about the low man on the catch totem pole, and I'll promise not to write about it.

John from Chester, NJ

It occurs to me Woodson's "egregious" reaction to the block may have been a reflex due to his previously injured shoulder. I cannot tell from the replay, but did the block by the Saints player continue past the point when the play had been blown dead?

I don't know and it's not a big deal to me either way. Woodson's reaction wasn't egregious and sometimes blocks continue past the whistle and sometimes guys lose their cool. It's football. It's a tough game for tough guys.

Konor from Winona, MN

I read an article on about how the Dolphins bought unsold tickets to their game to keep alive their streak of not having a game blacked out. When was the last time a Packers game was blacked out?

A Packers game played at Lambeau Field? I can't get accurate info on games played in Milwaukee, but I've been told that every game played at Lambeau has been sold out since 1960, which then left me to ask one question: What about the replacement-player games in 1987? I was told the blackout was lifted for those games. That means the answer to your question is Dec. 3, 1972, against the Detroit Lions. The game was sold out. So why wasn't it shown on local TV? Because all home games were blacked out prior to the 1973 Act of Congress that gave us the TV blackout rules the NFL continues to voluntarily enforce today. The old-timers like me remember. If it was at home, you didn't see it unless you were at the game. Super Bowl I was blacked out in Los Angeles, where the game was played. That's just the way it was and it had nothing to do with ticket sales. In my opinion, the most important weekend in pro football history was Christmas weekend, 1972. The Saturday playoff games were the "Immaculate Reception" and the Cowboys' dramatic fourth-quarter rally to beat the 49ers, and both games were blacked out in their home markets. That was the day pro football became America's national pastime. Everywhere you went, people were talking about those games. Then, the following day, the Redskins hosted a playoff game and it was blacked out in Washington, and that really honked off Congress. They rose to the defense of their constituencies and just before the next season began, they enacted a law that required the NFL to televise all games locally that were sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff. The owners went crazy, but all these years later, the NFL is still living by that Act of Congress, even though it expired a few years after it was enacted. Christmas weekend, 1972: It was the best Christmas present football fans ever got.

Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI

When I see teams in bad shape at quarterback, such as Miami and Denver, I am wondering why they experiment with past failures. With Mike McCarthy's tutoring expertise in quarterbacks, do you think it would be worthwhile for these teams to try a go with Matt Flynn or Graham Harrell?

I think you're viewing football through green-colored glasses. Henne threw for 416 yards in a loss on Monday. Kyle Orton threw 20 touchdown passes and had an 87.5 passer rating last year on a team that didn't surround him with much in the way of support. The quarterback can't play defense, block for himself and catch the ball, too.

Robert from Lookout Mountain, TN

I've always wondered why when a quarterback spikes the ball it is not called intentional grounding?

Because spiking the ball for the purpose of stopping the clock is permitted, as long as it is executed in a strict manner. It must be forward and immediate, which makes it a legal forward pass and clear that the ball was spiked with one purpose in mind, to stop the clock.

Joe from Pontypridd, UK

In a discussion on why the NFL has become such a pass-happy league, I was insistent that there have been a number of rules changes over the years to favor the passing sissies; however, when asked what these changes were, I drew a blank. What are the main reasons in your opinion that the passing game is so dominant?

It begins with the rules changes of 1978, primarily that offensive linemen would be permitted to use their hands in blocking and defenders would not be permitted to contact receivers beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage. In other words, offensive players were permitted to hold but defensive players were forbidden to do the same. Then came a series of don't-hit-the-quarterback rules, and for the 2004 season the NFL instituted a "major point of emphasis" in enforcing the five-yard, no-chuck rule. If defenses somehow overcome these obstacles, the only thing left to do is to start taking defenders off the field.

Lee from Circus City, OK

Can you explain a wheel route?

Yeah, it's a fancy name for the old "out and up." I guess that was too easy for fans to understand, so somebody decided they needed to put a new name on the "out and up" so fans would think he knew something they didn't. Simply put, a "wheel" route is executed when a receiver runs toward the sideline as he turns back to look at the quarterback, and as the receiver nears the sideline, he turns and "wheels" up the sideline. Once upon a time it was called "down, out and up," and then it was a called a "chair" route because the path of the route resembled a chair. Don't be intimidated by football terminology. In nearly every case, when you find out what it means, your reaction will be, "That's all it is?"

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," he mentioned that positions tend to go out to dinner with each other on the road, and he thought it helped with team chemistry, which he felt was important. You've mentioned in the past that you buy into talent, not chemistry. What do you make of his statement? Is he referring to a different aspect of chemistry than you have discussed? Love the column, by the way.

Chemistry is a good thing. It's good for players to have a feel for each other, but it starts with talent. If you don't have a locker room full of talent, it won't matter how good your team's chemistry is. I've covered teams that had a family feel to them, and they didn't win, and I've covered teams that clearly had an edge to them in the locker room, and they won. Late in the 1996 season, the Jaguars were 4-7 and coming off a thumping when Tom Coughlin cut Andre Rison on a Monday morning. When I went into that locker room at lunch time, the tension was palpable. I felt as though a fight was going to break out. There were split factions in that room and I thought to myself, "They won't win another game." Yeah, they almost didn't lose another game. They won seven in a row and nearly beat New England in the AFC title game. You know what chemistry is? Chemistry is winning. When you're winning, you got chemistry.

Mike from Dallas, TX

Why do so many media types have such a short memory? Is it because of the fans? I was listening to a pundit recently who said that Ray Lewis was the best middle linebacker ever. Now don't get me wrong, Lewis is incredible, but better than Nitschke or Butkus?

I don't know if he's better, but I'm dead certain he's just as good. Ray Lewis is as good a middle linebacker as this game has ever seen.

Steve from Larsen, WI

I expect the Packers to bring Cam Newton back to earth and make him look more like a rookie quarterback, but I am worried. Are you?

I'm intrigued. I'm really looking forward to this game, and I couldn't have said that when I first looked at the schedule last spring. Yes, I expect the Packers to win this game, but if Newton gets going early, the energy in that building will rise and that could be problematic. One of the things in my 10-things editorial probably should've been "Start fast." Maybe that should be the No. 1 thing. By getting off to a fast start on Sunday, the energy levels would level and the pressure on Newton would intensify, and that's not a good thing for rookie quarterbacks.

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