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Maybe it's time for smaller, weaker

Get ready for today's salary cap primer


Mitchel from Columbus, IN

Why are you so taken with the 2012 game at Minnesota?

I felt like Robert Duvall in "The Natural." I kept waiting for Glenn Close to stand up in the crowd. On Adrian Peterson's 26-yard run that clinched the win, had he gone the distance he would've put his team into the playoffs and broken the all-time rushing record on his last carry of the season. Had he done it, I think the lights inside the Metrodome might've exploded. Art imitates life but, in this case, I got the feeling life was trying to imitate art. All I needed was a hat and a cigar.

John from Neptune Beach, FL

And if the draft were before free agency, which to me makes better sense, the Jags would have had Boselli and Ogden.

That's right, but it's not before free agency and that's why you have to draft from the top of your board, and the example you're using is also the reason the players don't want the draft to be conducted before free agency. If teams feel as though they've addressed their needs in the draft, they won't sign players in free agency.

Brian from Ames, IA

I keep hearing about how free agency is 20 years old this year. I am too young to know. What was there before free agency? How did players switch teams and get new contracts?

They didn't switch teams. A system that compensated teams that lost players in free agency, in effect, put the franchise tag on all top players because signing a player in free agency meant you had to return two first-round picks to the team that lost the player. Walter Payton is the best example. At the peak of his career, he didn't so much as create a ripple of interest, and the Bears never lost a wink of sleep worrying that they might lose him. Before unrestricted free agency, all players were, in effect, exclusive-rights players. By the way, my salary cap primer will appear later today. Give it a read. It explains what an exclusive-rights player is.

Jesse from Orlando, FL

You recently said one of your top three criteria for grading players was competitiveness. How does a scout rank competitiveness?

It's all over the tape, especially on the back of the tape of a lopsided game. Good scouts grade from the back of the tape, not just from the front of it. It's on the back of the tape that you find out about a guy's competitiveness. Watch him play in a game in which the outcome is no longer in doubt. Is he still playing hard? Does he take his one-on-one battle with the player across from him personally? Does he have pride in his performance? Does he play for the tape? If the answer to all of those questions is yes, then he's a competitive player. One of the hardest goal-line hits I've ever witnessed was in the 1976 AFC title game, in the final seconds of a game that had already been decided. It was a meaningless play, but Jack Lambert stepped up and rocked the Raiders running back. After the game, Lambert said, "Give me a six-pack and 20 minutes and I'll go play them again." That's the kind of competitiveness you want in a player, and you see it most in the back of the tape.

Dennis from Indianapolis, IN

I just read where Joe Flacco said, "It wasn't necessarily about the money. It was, at that point, about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here."

One of my all-time favorite George Youngisms is: "When they say it's not about the money, that's when it's really about the money."

Phil from Fort Wayne, IN

As far as tackling, let's try removing the facemask or going back to the one-bar facemask for the preseason.

Or a diving bell. If they add one more bar to the facemasks they're starting to wear in today's game, they might as well wear diving bells. The sublime or the ridiculous. A long time ago a wise man told me sports are either about the sublime or the ridiculous, and my job was to find both.

Drew from Dubuque, IA

I'm sure you intended winsome as a compliment when you applied it to Packers fans, but that particular word is often surrounded by an air of condescension. Was this a back-handed compliment? It reminds me of the way folks from the coasts describe everything in the Midwest as quaint, like they're patronizing a child.

The one thing I've sensed in the two years I've been here is a sensitivity for what others think. Where I'm from, nobody cares what anybody thinks, so we might have a little yin and yang going on here: I'm a say-what-I-mean guy writing for a be-nice-Vic audience. What I can tell you is this: I used the word winsome in the most flattering of ways. I love the picture Packers fans paint for me on Sundays at Lambeau Field. I was asked a question, and wild and waiting came easily, and when I considered what word that begins with w would describe Packers fans, winsome immediately came to mind. Frankly, I think it is the definitive word to describe Packers fans. I'm applauding myself on this one.

Trevor from Atascadero, CA

Just read an article about the Cowboys restructuring deals into signing bonuses. Based on what you're saying, they could be in a world of hurt over the next few years with a bunch of dead money?

It depends on how far the money has been pushed out and who and how old the players are for whom the contracts were restructured. Conversions can work without danger if kept to a minimum and if not executed to create room to sign a free agent. That's when they become problematic because you're not only robbing Peter, you're paying Paul. You do too much of that and you won't even hear the train whistle. Please read today's cap primer.

Scott from Knoxville, TN

What if the scouting department feels they have found a player they believe no other team is targeting. It's the fourth round and he's on top of your board. Do you pick him or wait until the seventh round?

It's been done. John Stallworth came from a small school that didn't offer much in the way of film on him. There was one film of Stallworth and when it got to the Steelers, it got lost, if you know what I mean. Chuck Noll wanted to draft Stallworth in the second round. His personnel man said they could get him later. They did, in the fourth round. These days, tapes don't get lost. If you want a guy, you better go get him.

Darren from Toronto, Ontario

I may have bought my last copy of Madden. The game essentially only rewards speed and it's near impossible to detect any sense of grit or toughness on the defensive side. It doesn't even feel like real football any more.

Darren, if the guy on the other team is staring at you as though you were mean to his sister, and you know his family and they're not nice people, and the quarterback barks hike and hands Madden to you to carry across the goal line, that's when Madden is real football.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

What's your take on Le'Veon Bell? Bucky Brooks is big on him.

Bell's got the numbers. He's a big, chiseled back with good hands and balance. He's got all the measurables. What bothers me is that he's a high-cut, straight up runner. Hey, that describes Eric Dickerson and he was pretty good. It's just that I prefer pads-down guys.

Joe from Davenport, IA

How was that apology from Conor?

He's still honked off.

Conor from Milwaukee, WI

I stand by my comment; winsome is a terrible description of a Packer fan. Winsome: charming, often in a childlike or naive way. We are the oldest fans in football and you think we are childlike? Or naive? Our franchise has seen it all and our fans know every detail since the beginning of the franchise, yet, you think we are naive? You only answered my question because you like to facial people on the Internet. It was more of a personal note to you, which I will give you another; you are a better writer than you appear in this column. I wonder how many good questions rot in your inbox because you are too busy facialing people like me in your column. I know I sent you probably 150 questions that were decent, before you publish the one where I lose my cool with you. Unreal! I would not call you winsome if I met you, trust me.

OK, Conor, give me one word that describes Packers fans.

Sean from Chicago, IL

Vic, thank you for "Have players gotten too big for their bodies? I think they have." How many times do you see a guy go down with a knee injury now who wasn't even touched? You can make muscles stronger, but ligaments can't keep up.

I think the game might need to get smaller, weaker. I think it would be in the league's best interest to tilt the game to promote smaller, weaker. Fewer injuries would certainly result in less money wasted, while also promoting player safety, and I think a smaller, weaker game would achieve both, to some degree. I think we've hit the bigger, stronger wall of diminishing returns.

Patrick from Hamburg, Germany

Vic, you say football is not about kindness. So why give Rodgers or Matthews more money before you finally have to?

If you go too far, you run the risk of what Joe Flacco did: Go to free agency. You can franchise one, but you can't franchise both. Be tough, but be smart.

T. from Milwaukee, WI

I had to look up the word winsome when you mentioned it. I actually smiled when I realized what you were trying to convey. People really need to relax and analyze further. Why do you think you get so much hate and misunderstanding from certain people?

It's not hate. Even if it is, I'm OK with it. Hey, it's a game. As for definitions of words, I think all of us would be surprised by the hard definitions of words we've learned to use either too loosely or incorrectly. Notoriety is the one that drives me nuts. It is a derivative of the word notorious. Famous people are not of notoriety; infamous people are of notoriety. Yet, over and over I hear broadcasters misuse the word to describe a player as having acquired a lot of notoriety for his achievements.

Kyle from Chicago, IL

On the topic of winsome, in 2007 I went to the Packers-Giants game in the Meadowlands and sat in a section filled with Packers fans. Giants fans were brutal and relentless in their commentary for the entire game. The Packers fans cheered for their team and generally kept to themselves. After the game ended and the Packers had won, we all began to file out when one of the most aggressive of the Giants fans leaned over to his friend and said, "I can't even be angry at them; they're all too nice. I bet it would actually be enjoyable to watch a game in their stadium."

You got it.

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