Skip to main content
Powered by

NFL significant step up for rookies


Lucas from Buenos Aires, Argentina

Today, in my country, it's "Friends Day" (I know it sounds silly) and wanted to say hi and wish you a happy day.

That's not silly. I like that. It's a good way to start today's column. We're all friends in this column because we all belong to the fraternity of football.

Vignu from Jefferson, WI

Who would you have on an NFL version of Mt. Rushmore? I'd have Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown.

Lombardi and Unitas are must-haves. They are truly faces of the game. I like Jim Brown, too. I'm torn between Jim Thorpe and Pete Rozelle as the fourth face.

Sean from Menominee, MI

I've seen you mention a couple of times about the salary cap floor and teams using contract structure or the risk of a signing frenzy in free agency to meet the floor. I assume this means there is a minimum amount teams have to spend. What would happen if a team didn't spend up to that amount?

They would be in violation of the cap rules and they would be subject to punishment, which would likely include a fine and or the loss of a draft pick or picks. If a team doesn't spend to the minimum, then the players are not getting their full share of the gross. The league has auditors to make sure that doesn't happen.

Mitch from Chatsworth, CA

Off topic a little but does a hole-in-one on an executive course, usually around 100 yards, count as a true hole-in-one and worthy of telling your golf buddies?

Yes, but don't tell them what club you used if you used anything more than a wedge or nine-iron. If you used, say, a five-iron and they insist on knowing what club you used, lie. You understand, of course, you have to buy a round of drinks.

Pedro from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Why didn't the NFL take away the Patriots' "Spygate" wins?

It was only known for sure to have occurred in one game. The league could've attached an asterisk to that win, but that would've been stupid, huh?

Tucker from Minneapolis, MN

"Academics are where the real big money is." I appreciate how well-informed you are. It seems to me a large segment of college football fans don't understand the point you've just made. I laugh when I hear people talking about how much money college football programs make for their schools. I would bet my left big toe the University of Minnesota loses money on its team. I do enjoy college athletics, but sometimes I wonder if maybe (from an education standpoint) we might be better off having club teams at the amateur level, rather than teams affiliated with universities.

I think the system would be fine the way it is if everybody would do just one thing: Abide by the rules and the spirit of college football. That's all. Do it the way Army and Navy do it and everything will be fine. Play the game with student-athletes that are committed to each endeavor and the current problems the NCAA is experiencing will go away. I don't expect coaches and athletic directors to enforce that kind of code, but it should be the expectation for the presidents and chancellors of their respective universities to enforce a code that protects the reputation of the university and the esteem of its students and alumni.

Dan from Annandale, MN

In regards to Randall Cobb returning kicks, will he be able to jump in right away and make an impact from day one? How much does it take to prepare to be a returner?

Can we give him until day two? Returning punts and kicks doesn't require a lot of playbook-learning, but Cobb will certainly have to adjust to a game that is played with more speed and skill than he experienced in college. The ball will fall from a higher spot in the sky and it'll fall faster and with more force and more spin on it, and the players charging after Cobb will be doing so with more speed and force than he has ever experienced. He'll step up his game accordingly and I think it's a fair expectation that he can do that in his rookie season, but don't dismiss the adjustment he'll have to make. I covered a player a few years ago who was drafted as a punt-return specialist. He was a natural in OTAs, but anxiety got him in its grip when the games began and his NFL career quickly came to an end. The step up from college football to the NFL is significant.

Scott from Wapello, IA

I must apologize for this is the first time I've come across your column, Mr. Ketchman, and I must say it contains some informative reading. For that I thank you. If this question has been asked before, I apologize. How many chances do you think players that break the law should be given? I realize each case has different circumstances but I was just wondering how you felt about it. When is enough enough?

This is a difficult question to answer because there is no blanket answer; as you said, each case has different circumstances. In my opinion, the question that has to be answered when making a decision on a troubled player is: Can I depend on him? In other words, if I stick by this guy and give him another chance, will he reward my trust with dependability? If you believe he will and if law enforcement has freed him, then put on the pads. When it gets to the point that a troubled player is likely to repeat his past, then he becomes a distraction to the team and a player that can't be trusted to perform his role and, at that point, he has to go. I don't expect football players to be Little Lord Fauntleroys. George Young was fond of saying, "It's not a game for the well-adjusted." I can live with that, as long as a player can be counted on to perform his role. An offseason scrape here and there? I can live with it. During the season, however, he better be all in and all football.

Dustin from Jacksonville, FL

You're right about college money. Florida and Wisconsin both spent over $1 billion last year alone on research. Texas spent over $630 million. What do they get in return? Gatorade quickly comes to mind. Many of our advances are made at universities and they hold onto those patents. Sports are big because they keep boosters happy and if boosters are happy, their wallets tend to open a little wider, but the sports themselves make schools very little money, a few million a year for the perennial contenders.

What value would you attach to the discovery of the cure for polio? Its research was grant-funded. Is that better than winning a Heisman?

Brent from Cedar Grove, WI

Can you please explain the new rules and penalties for violent hits?

It's real simple: When you've got a guy lined up and you're about to cut him in half, don't. If you do, expect your next paycheck to be a little light.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

Everyone is anxious for the free agency period to get underway – it should be a frenzy – but we don't hear much talk about undrafted free agents. Are there any guys you think we should keep an eye on? Is it a big deal to scouts that they will be signing guys months after the combine?

It's a very big deal and there are a lot of good football players that weren't drafted. Here are some undrafted players that intrigue me: Boise State safety Jeron Johnson, Cincinnati wide receiver Arman Binns, Richmond defensive lineman Martin Parker and Texas Tech defensive lineman Colby Whitlock. Parker and Whitlock are potential two-gappers that could play end in a 3-4. The undrafted ranks are full of players that are too small or too slow, or maybe they played at a lower level of competition and that caused teams to shy away. Maybe they're tweeners and innovative coordinators such as Dom Capers know exactly how to use them. Sam Shields is an undrafted player. James Harrison is an undrafted player. Richard Dent was an eighth-round pick, which means that in today's game he would've been an undrafted player. Smart personnel departments are more concerned about the panic for undrafted free agents than about the panic for unrestricted free agents. Why? Because when you hit home runs in undrafted free agency, you don't have to turn as hard to unrestricted free agency.

Phil from Albuquerque, NM

What would be your top 10 players for an expansion draft (assuming all NFL players are available)?

The first thing you do is clean out the ranks of all the young quarterbacks, which is to say the Aaron Rodgers', Matt Ryans, Josh Freemans, etc. If you still have a pick left, you pick Darrelle Revis. If you still have a pick left after Revis, you pick a left tackle or premier pass-rusher.

David from Platteville, WI

Who is the Packers' player rep?

Aaron Rodgers.

Craig from Swindon, England

Just read about the merger and draft wars between the AFL and NFL (as advised) and was wondering if you think we will ever see something similar?

No, I don't, for a few reasons: 1.) The NFL is too strong to be vulnerable to an upstart league. 2.) New, viable markets don't exist as they did in 1960. Our country was in a postwar baby boom at that time. New markets were emerging in the south and in the west, while the NFL was still pretty much a league of Northeast and Midwest teams. The AFL put teams in growth markets, such as Houston, San Diego (after one year in Los Angeles) and Denver. Had the NFL not quickly expanded into Dallas and Minnesota, the AFL would've gained footholds there and a merger would've likely occurred even more quickly than it did. Other than Los Angeles, we don't have a viable market in which to expand, unless you count Toronto and London. The AFL saw an opportunity and seized it. I don't see that opportunity today.

Kevin from Pewaukee, WI

As I see it, the start of training camp is going to be a mess. No rookies will be allowed to report because they don't have a contract. This will be a huge setback for any rookie. Do you think the league will allow exceptions to the rosters, as was done when players went to the European league?

As I've said, I'm expecting some sort of roster exemptions, due to the special circumstances. You're absolutely right about the rookie situation. We're waiting to find out what a new CBA will mean to rookies in terms of pay scale and how that might impact the speed with which they can be signed to contracts, but I don't expect high picks will be signed overnight, and if they are forced to miss even more practice time, the expectation for their contribution this year should be lessened even more. All we can do is wait to find out how the league is going to handle this situation. Will they treat training camp as they treated OTAs, which would require teams to insure non-contract players against injury? Or will all players be required to be under contract for the start of camp, which is what I would expect? Soon, we'll have answers; maybe we'll start getting answers today.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.