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Looking forward to big games


Suzan from Buckley, MI

My daughter asks why do they have to play games on Christmas? She says they should be with their families.

Tell your daughter, Suzan, that a lot of people in the football business and season-ticket holders, too, regard teams and the people they're with as extensions of their families. I know an owner whose team was moving into a new stadium a few years ago. His team has a rabid fan base, too, and moving fans' seat locations from one stadium to the next was a big job. The big complaint they got was the one thing they never considered: Season-ticket holders wanted to sit near the same season-ticket holders with whom they had sat for years and years. What the team found out is that those season-ticket holders had become best of friends, because they shared their seat locations in the stadium. They vacationed together, they went to each other's homes for the holidays, and in some cases their sons and daughters had even married each other. Football had made them families. Suzan, when the Packers host the Bears on Christmas night, I doubt there will be a fan in Lambeau Field that would rather be anywhere else.

Andrew from Schofield, WI

Can players on injured reserve go to team meetings and work out at the team facilities during the season?

Yes, but they are not permitted to practice with the team. They can observe practice, just not participate in any way. They can also leave the team and see you next year.

Fingal from Gothenburg, Sweden

Why is it important for a quarterback to be able to play behind the center and drop back? What are the advantages with a formation like that and what are the disadvantages with having the quarterback in a shotgun or a pistol formation?

Coaches that favor having the quarterback under center like the idea of having their quarterback's eyes downfield all of the time, which he can do when he's under center. In the shotgun, he has to take his eyes off the coverage and watch the ball as it's being snapped.

Cliff from Wolfville, Nova Scotia

With five tight ends, two with speed, the Packers have an opportunity to run a four-tight end, one-running back set. They could then play the tight ends tight and power run, or split the tight ends out and pass. This would create lots of mismatches, no matter what the defense does. Has this option been run up the flag pole, yet?

I don't know but it really excites me. You can never have enough tight ends. How about one tight, two split, and two in the backfield?

Don from Schofield, WI

Is this one of the deepest teams you've ever seen, in any era?

In this era? Yes. In any era? No. Salary cap era teams aren't nearly as deep as pre-salary cap era teams. They can't be; it's not possible.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

Do you think the league should have a more temporary injured reserve list? It's a shame to see players shelved on the IR for the weeks they'll miss.

I agree, but it has to be that way because there's no way for the league to accurately assess the extent of player injuries, therefore, the IR rules have to be as they are because if they went with a less-permanent application, the teams would cheat. Hey, that's what they did when the league allowed players to return from IR. Teams used IR as a reservoir for players that really weren't injured.

Gabe from Bloomer, WI

If you were Gregg Williams and you were trying to shut down the Packers offense, what is your first priority: coverage, pressure or confusion?

Williams will try to try to create a mix of the three, but getting pressure on the quarterback is always at the top of his list and everything he does will be with that in mind. He knows you can't let Aaron Rodgers sit in the pocket and train his eyes downfield. Williams had all offseason to design blitzes for this game and I have no doubt the Packers are going to see schemes they haven't seen on any of the Saints tapes they've watched.

Larry from Missoula, MT

How badly does the NFL want a team in Los Angeles? Will the Vikings build a new stadium with taxpayer dollars? Should they? I'd hate to see them move to LA because it would screw up our division and it is always a great pleasure to beat them.

The NFL wants and will have a team in Los Angeles. That's not the question. The question is what team or teams will it be? I, too, would hate to see the Vikings leave Minnesota. I hope they get their stadium.

Corey from Richland, WA

We are finally at the eve of the regular season. It is good to have you covering our Packers. What do you look most forward to during your first season covering the Packers?

I'm looking forward to covering big games. I'm looking forward to covering a high-profile game such as Thursday's season-opener. I'm looking forward to the Bears in Week 3 and the Falcons in Week 5, at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day and the Bears on Christmas night. I'm looking forward to covering postseason games.

Chris from Coral Springs, FL

Who was the meanest or rudest player you've ever interviewed, or maybe never had time for the interviews?

I can't recall a player that was rude or mean, although I'm sure there have been a few, but what I can remember is that Greg Lloyd was the most intimidating player I've ever interviewed. He knew it and he loved it and in a perverse kind of way, I did, too. I would ask him innocent-sounding questions that I knew would honk him off and produce a testy reaction from him. It became a game. I remember asking him at a training camp media day, "Greg, what thoughts do you have, if any, on the upcoming season?" The other reporters started laughing before he answered the question, and then he answered: "Just to get the hell away from you guys," which created an explosion of laughter. I have a reporter friend who saved the tape of that answer for years; he might still have it.

Dean from Waukesha, WI

It's common knowledge that teams sometimes use the IR as a way to hang onto young players with injuries that are not really season-ending.

If a player is injured and, again, there's no way of quantifying that injury, the team has no choice but to put the player on its injured reserve list, at least until the injury is healed. At that point, they can waive him. Seriously, teams don't play games with IR nearly as much as they once did. Yes, it's a place to put a young player who's missed practice time due to an injury and doesn't have enough time to catch up, but injured is injured. As long as the rule stays the way it is, meaning the player is gone for the year, I don't have any problem with teams storing players on injured reserve. They acquired him, they have plans for him, and he's getting paid. Plus, your roster can't go over 80, injured reserve included, so it's not as though you can corner the market on talent.

David from Sammamish, WA

You've often talked about how you don't expect the Packers to trade Flynn, which I totally understand, but doesn't the league year officially start in the summertime?

No, it doesn't. The league year begins on the first of March, or thereabouts. Three other things begin simultaneously with the start of the league year: free agency, trading and enforcement of the new year's salary cap. So, at midnight on the first day of the league year, you must be under the cap and you can't trade players to get under because it all happens at the same time. In Matt Flynn's case, his contract with the Packers will expire before the league year begins, which means before trading is permitted. That means the Packers must either do a new contract with him between now and then, or he will become a free agent. I don't think they will trade him before the trade deadline.

Phil from Ardmore, OK

What exactly did the Packers get when they traded Quinn Johnson and Caleb Schlauderaff?

The compensation is undisclosed, but I think we can assume it's conditional and it likely involves low-round picks.

Peter from Wausau, WI

I read that Aaron Rodgers actually received hate mail after Favre left and some have been less than kind to you. Can we assume these people are Bears or Vikings fans and should they be asked to step up and admit it, so they are not confused with true fans?

Bears fans and Vikings fans say the darndest things.

George from Mineral Point, WI

How much of an impact would Graham Harrell have had as far as information for one of our division rivals, had one of them picked him up?

Oh, he could provide a wealth of information. Once upon a time, there was an unwritten rule that forbid division rivals from doing that kind of thing. Doing it was a sure-fire of getting your quarterback hit late and low. I remember Tom Coughlin claiming Jim Miller off waivers from the Steelers, right before the Jaguars and Steelers played. A day or two after the game, Coughlin cut Miller, and I warned Tom that it would not be well-received in Pittsburgh. The next time the two teams played, Keenan McCardell crawled off the field on his hands and knees after the first play of the game. Lloyd got him; big-time cheap shot to the head away from the ball. After the game, Lloyd told reporters McCardell had called Lloyd's house that week and had threatened his wife, which is the most preposterous thing I had ever heard. You don't pick up your rivals' quarterback, empty his head and kick him to the curb; not in this game.

Philip from Hooksett, NH

Will Mike Neal start vs. the Saints?

I don't know the answer to that question, but if you're looking for encouraging news about the condition of Neal's knee injury, I would draw encouragement from the fact the Packers didn't go heavy at his position in shaping the roster. It would seem they expect him to return to action soon.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

Could you explain the difference between a "conditional" and an "undisclosed" draft choice, in terms of trading players for picks?

They're apples and oranges. Undisclosed means the team's not going to provide details of the trade agreement. Conditional means the player that was traded has to satisfy certain conditions of the trade, such as play time or times active on game day, etc., for compensation to be owed.

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