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It's a two-back league


Daniel from Evanston, IL

When was the last time the Packers had a 100-yard rusher in a game?

James Starks rushed for 123 yards in the playoff win in Philadelphia last season.

Jon from Norman, OK

Two interesting stats: 1.) The Packers have never trailed in the fourth quarter in their 13-game win streak. 2.) The Packers have outscored opponents in the fourth quarter by only 82-75 in those games. The second stat is what concerns me. It seems like the Packers don't have a killer instinct. They only look impressive when their backs are to the wall.

Huh? When have their backs been to the wall. This is the one I keep getting and I don't get it. I get complaint after complaint after complaint about the Packers not putting away their opponent, yet, whatever they're doing, it's working. They've won 13 consecutive games by getting a lead and successfully protecting that lead. I keep thinking about something a friend of mine, a very successful high school coach in Texas and Pennsylvania, told me when I asked why he was fired. "They got tired of winning," he said. What he meant was they got tired of winning his way. I never get tired of winning, anyway. Just win, baby.

Alex from New York, NY

Are you allowed to tackle the punter, if you get there in time? My guess is no, not until he has become a runner.

Of course you can tackle him; he has the ball. Until the ball leaves his foot, he is a runner.

Hunter from Richmond, VA

I've always kind of wondered, with all the equipment the players wear, are the players held responsible for knowing which colored jersey, what type of cleats, etc., they need to wear, or does someone else have all of the stuff and give it to them on game day?

It's like when you were a kid and your mother put the clothes you were to wear on your bed. When the players come into the clubhouse on the day of the game, all of their equipment is displayed at their locker stall, and it is arranged in a manner that is standard around the league. Towels are even folded a certain way. One of my sons was a ballboy and locker room attendant for visiting teams in Jacksonville. That meant he had to be at the stadium on Saturday when the equipment truck arrived from the airport. All the equipment had to be unloaded and wheeled into the visitors' locker room, unpacked and displayed at each player's locker stall in an ascribed manner. The biggest part of the job was always the towel-folding event. For a game when the visiting team was the Tennessee Titans, my son was told to fold the towels in a back room near the showers; this was early on game day. When he got to the back room he saw a mountain of towels awaited him. During the folding process, Jeff Fisher walked into the room with one of his coaches and asked my son to please leave the room so the coaches could have a private conversation. My son said, "I gotta fold all these towels." There was a pause, and then Fisher said, "Get out." Coach Fisher clearly didn't understand the importance of folding those towels.

Ryan from London, England

We all know Aaron Rodgers is bossing the offense but who is your Packers defensive MVP so far? Desmond Bishop? Morgan Burnett? Charles Woodson?

Woodson would get my vote. I don't know that the Packers would've won in Carolina and in Minnesota without his interceptions.

Dave from Sauk City, WI

I agree with you about the coach being a leader. What would you say the most important leadership quality is that the head coach must exhibit? Is it communication skills? Mental toughness?

Commitment is a big one, in my mind. The players need to see the coach is fully committed to everything to which he asks them to be committed. They need to see he doesn't ask them to do anything he won't do himself. Belief is a big part of commitment. The players need to see their coach has complete faith in his program and in them to execute it. Players don't want pep talks; fans do but players don't. Players wanna hear the coach tell them, "This is what we're gonna do and this is how we're gonna do it." They want a plan and a commitment to it. The plan is the coach's responsibility; the execution of that plan is the players' responsibility. That's the coach/player dynamic that works.

Scott from Lincoln, NE

With the Packers wanting to get the running game going, and Ryan Grant has historically been a back that gets better with more carries, are you a fan of the committee running back system the Packers are employing this year?

Most teams are using multiple backs. It's a game of specialization. There are guys who do this and there are guys who do that, and teams need to be able to do this and that. Arian Foster, last year's rushing champion, has Ben Tate. Rashard Mendenhall has Isaac Redman. Mark Ingram has Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Darren McFadden has Michael Bush. The Bradshaw/Jacobs combination led the Giants to a Super Bowl title. If you have an Adrian Peterson, a guy who can do it all, you don't need a No. 2, but the Vikings make sure they don't burn out Peterson. That's the way the game is today. It's a definite positive for the Packers that they have two dependable running backs.

Blake from Wayzata, MN

I sincerely hope you are wrong about Andrew Luck's priorities. He's already shown he has the tools to be one of the top NFL QB prospects in many years. To suggest that his choice to complete his degree at Stanford might affect his ability to succeed at the highest levels of the pro game is a bit harsh. To my eye, it suggests even more potential for pro success based on his leadership. As a fan of the game, he's the kind of guy I truly want to see succeed, no matter which team he goes to next year. Finishing at Stanford will be great for him in the long run and great for the NFL.

You got it all wrong, Blake. I threw in Mike Reid's name to give you an idea of what I was trying to convey, but you've misunderstood. I think finishing college is great. I think Peyton Manning did the right thing, although staying in school has been a bad decision for a lot of players. Jake Locker might've been the first pick of the draft if he had come out. Greg Romeus would've probably been a first-round pick but he stayed in, blew out his knee and fell to the seventh round. We're not talking about a player at dear old State. We're talking about a player who is a true scholar and we're talking about Stanford. We're talking about a player who will have very attractive options coming out of Stanford. Blake, there are Rhodes Scholars and then there are Roads Scholars, and it has been my experience that Roads Scholars make for better football players because they are desperate to play the game. You need to either be desperate or have a desperate love for football to be successful at this game. My hope is that Luck has a desperate love for the game, because he certainly won't be desperate coming out of Stanford.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

I saw James Jones say he was fined $5,000 by the league for throwing the ball into the stands after a touchdown. Is that standard policy in the NFL?

Yes, it's standard policy. The league doesn't want players throwing footballs at fans in the stands. They don't want some unsuspecting fan getting hit in the face by a ball that has been thrown at them by a player. I think you can probably figure out why.

Gerardo Murrieta, CA

I was wondering if you have anything planned for when you guys get to San Diego. The Packers have a huge fan base on the West Coast.

There will be a "Packers Everywhere" gathering. will announce details of the event.

Peter from Manitowoc, WI

The Packers have scored 69 third-quarter points while giving up just 10. Are the adjustments they make at halftime what makes them so good?

It might be. These guys can coach. I think we all need to appreciate that fact.

Corey from Lake Charles, LA

Someone told me Tony Dungy suggested that if the Colts draft Andrew Luck they should release/trade Peyton Manning. I told him that would be the worst decision the Colts could make. I suggested they follow the way the Packers did it with Aaron Rodgers: Draft Luck and sit him behind one of the all-time great quarterbacks so he can learn.

It's not realistic for a team to carry the biggest veteran quarterback contract in history and the contract of the first overall pick on the team's salary cap at the same time. If you're going to pick Luck, I think it's time to commit to the future. Manning would return nice draft-pick compensation, even coming off the neck fusion, provided it checked out. The combination of picking Luck and trading Manning could result in another long run at the top for the Colts. It's what I would do.

Andy from Green Bay, WI

How discouraging is it for teams to know they will be playing in January in Wisconsin?

Nobody wants to play in Lambeau Field in January, except the Packers, of course. I don't know if it's discouraging, but it's something every team in the NFC playoff hunt wants to avoid.

Dan from Provo, UT

Do you get to ride on the charter plane with the team to their away games? What is the experience like on those flights? Who sits where? Is there a meal? Are all seats assigned ahead of time? Do players bring luggage?

I get on the plane. I put the little bag that holds the previous day's clothes in it in the luggage compartment above my seat. I sit down in the seat that has been assigned to me. I open my laptop and write my stories as quickly as I can so I can send them back to the staff that will post them for the fans to read. The flight attendants know by now not to even ask if I want a meal.

Kevin from Orlando, FL

I am a student at the University of Central Florida and I have been thinking about pursuing a career in being an analyst of some sort for football, whether it be as a broadcaster or a writer such as yourself, because I love football and specifically the Packers to no end. I just wanted to know some of the opportunities a career like that could give me, and what I should study while in college?

It would help if you're a player and you go on to a long and successful NFL playing career, because former players are eating up all of the analyst jobs on TV. If you're not pursuing a playing career, just a career in journalism, then I worry about encouraging you too much to pursue your dream because I had advantages that are not available to young, aspiring reporters such as yourself. Since I graduated from college, the number of daily newspapers in America has shrunk dramatically and the number continues to decline. The Internet is the obvious replacement for the newspaper industry; that's where you should turn your attention. I know of no "football analyst" college curriculum. Go to a journalism school, where they will teach you news reporting skills, and then apply those skills to a career in sportswriting. If, however, you're torn between journalism school and med school, I heartily encourage you to pick med school.

Rafe from Brentwood, TN

You mentioned the league gets all the postseason gate revenue. So the home team in the playoffs gets only concession and parking revenue? Is there any other advantage to hosting a playoff game?

What's good for the league is good for its 32 teams. That's the concept. It's called leaguethink and it's what made the NFL great.

George from Aracatuba, Brazil

Do you have any favorites from the music that's been used for NFL Films?

Yeah, "The Autumn Wind." The sound of it still sends chills up my back. I was a young reporter during those "Holy War" games. I remember sitting in the press box at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, where the Raiders had this little brass band stationed in the end zone, and they would play that song as the Raiders' individual units would come onto the field for pregame. It was 45 minutes before the game, the press box was already full and silent, and there was a tension in the air I've never felt at any other time, including Super Bowls. This was no hype. This was the real thing. It felt like the moments leading up to a heavyweight championship fight. I felt as though I was about to cover something bad. Every time I hear that song, I think of sitting in that press box and that band and the tension in the air.

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