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OTAs good for rehab, evaluating personnel


Garrett from New Knoxville, OH

I was watching NFL Network the other day and they were saying the 2006 draft has had 26 Pro-Bowl selections from it. In your opinion, what year was the greatest draft of all-time?

Vic: I'm partial to the 1995 draft, which produced a treasure trove of home-run picks in the first round. Thirteen of the 32 picks became Pro-Bowlers and the first round included such stars as Tony Boselli, Steve McNair, Warren Sapp, Ruben Brown, Ty Law, Korey Stringer and Derrick Brooks. The third round produced Curtis Martin and Antonio Freeman and the sixth round turned out Terrell Davis, the dominant running back of the late 1990s. The Packers picked Adam Timmerman in the seventh round; how's that for a quality late-round pick? The 1974 draft produced five Hall of Famers: Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, Dave Casper, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. That was also a year in which the players went on strike during training camp, which allowed several undrafted free agents to make it onto rosters and become long-term fixtures. The 2006 draft, as you've mentioned, has produced an avalanche of Pro-Bowlers, but how much of that is the result of so many alternates playing in the game because the players voted into the game opted out? I mean, are Vince Young and Jay Cutler, for example, really Pro-Bowl players?

Belto from Canton, NC

Really like the mock draft board: two long-haired warriors blitzing quarterbacks for the next 10 years sounds like a good idea to me.

Vic: I didn't give consideration to length of hair in making my picks.

Joel from London, UK

I'm enjoying hearing what you have to say when I check in to What are your thoughts on Brandon Jackson? With Grant coming back and Starks sure to be in the mix, is there a future for him in Green Bay even as a third-down back?

Vic: Jackson is a good football player. That comes through right away when you hear the regard the coaches have for his blitz-pickup skills and overall dependability. He's a guy you want to have on your team, but I think we have to wait until the draft is concluded to get a better feel for what his future is with the Packers. He's scheduled to become a free agent, so what if the Packers draft a running back high? This is a unique situation because this will be the first time the draft has preceded free agency; Jackson is the classic example of the effect of the change in the order.

David from Sammamish, WA

I went to that preseason game in Seattle. A 47-year-old drunk lady attacked me for being such a good Packers fan. Yep, it's on youtube.

Vic: Gee, I hope you're OK. You're probably aware of a very sad situation in California, where a man was attacked following a baseball game recently and beaten so viciously that his skull was fractured and he remains in critical condition. The man's crime, it has been written, was that he wore a Giants jersey to a game in Dodgers Stadium. When I was in Jacksonville, fans would often write to me during the season to tell me they were going to this game or that game and they would ask me how the fans were there. I would then suggest that they not wear any identifying merchandise and that they sit and watch the game quietly, to which they would then respond with the kind of I'll-fight-'em reaction I knew would follow. After the game, they would write to me and tell me in great detail how they were mistreated, threatened, etc. I'll tell you this: Not once, have I ever had someone write to me to tell me how they were mistreated in Green Bay. When the Jaguars played here in 2004 and a few fans were fortunate enough to get tickets and experience Lambeau Field, they wrote to tell me how warmly they were received. I hope we never lose that here because what goes on in most stadiums is a sad commentary on the state of our culture.

Jason from Stanley, WI

How do you think Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant will come back from their injuries?

Vic: All indications are they will make complete recoveries, but we can't be sure of that until we see them on the field. One of the things that's potentially troublesome about the lockout is that the players coming off injuries are not at team facilities participating in professionally directed rehab. OTAs offer the rehab guys a chance to work along the sidelines with the trainers in a true football setting. I have no doubt Finley and Grant and all of the other rehab players are doing what they can to prepare themselves for the season, but nothing beats being on site.

Randall from McAlester, OK

You mentioned you'll be glad to see the preseason go to two games. As a fan, I'd prefer that, too, but if I was a coach or GM, I'd want four preseason games to evaluate the rookies and free agents, since practices don't include much real tackling anymore. For example, last preseason, Shields did not emerge as the third cornerback until the end of the preseason. Your thoughts on this?

Vic: When the idea of reducing the preseason to two games first surfaced, I figured I'd hear a lot of mumbling and grumbling among personnel people, and coaches, too, about time lost to evaluation, but I haven't. I haven't gotten any sense from scouts, personnel directors or coaches that reducing the preseason to two games is going to cause a problem distinguishing the prospects from the suspects. What I have detected is a concern for the reduction of the spring practice season. OTAs provide a forum for seeing how players move in a competitive setting. OTAs won't tell you if a guy will hit – you have to wait for training camp to find that out – but OTAs will tell you if a guy has the athletic ability to play in the NFL. If he's a corner, can he turn his hips? If he's a linebacker, can he scrape and square his shoulders? If he's a defensive lineman, can he bend at the knees? If he's a wide receiver, does he have another gear? At some point, the scouts and coaches have to see evidence of those skills, and I don't think we need four preseason games to make that determination, but the combination of the loss of two preseason games and a major reduction of the spring practice season might create a problem.

David from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

I was reading your response to AP awards being voted on before the playoffs. Are these awards not awards for the regular season? If you were to wait until after the Super Bowl, then would you not assume the Super Bowl head coach should always be the coach of the year?

Vic: More awards? No, please. Hey, is giving the award to the guy that wins it all such a bad thing? No, let's give it to the guy who loses his first playoff game; yeah, that makes sense. The award, in my opinion, should be for a coach's full body of work, and that includes the regular season and the postseason. If it's for just the regular season, then call it the "regular season coach of the year award."

Kevin from Salem, NH

I was very curious if you think this year's draft will be similar to 2005. I ask this because in 2005 they had Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers projected as the top pick, where Smith was chosen first and Rodgers 24th. Do you think there will be a player that will play the waiting game and be picked a lot later than he is projected?

Vic: Two ingredients for a top-rated player falling in the draft are a run at a particular position that causes top players at other positions to fall, and an injury concern that turns teams away from a player. Both ingredients are present in this year's draft. There is going to be a run on defensive linemen in this draft. Their ranks are deep and when they start to go, there's going to be a panic among teams in need of defensive linemen that they may not get their guy and that's going to cause a gold rush for them, so to speak. So, what player will fall? We'll see. In Aaron Rodgers' case, there were concerns about an arm injury, plus, he was coming off an ACL injury. They contributed to his fall. Da'Quan Bowers is likely to fall in this year's draft because of an injury concern and some team might have a great player drop right into their lap.

Dave from Newark, CA

In 1934, the NFL ball was slimmed down by five percent. It stayed that way until 1982, when it became five percent slimmer again, now having a short circumference of 21 inches. Isn't this the real reason for the modern passing game?

Vic: It's part of it. Look at the way the old guys threw the ball; everything was a lob. Why? Because the ball was shaped like a pumpkin. As the ball became more a precision-like instrument, the passing game became more precision-like in its execution. I can remember from a long time ago, when college football allowed its conferences to design the ball with which its teams played, seeing the ball one of the western conferences used. It might have been the old WAC ball and it nearly had a nipple on each end of it, which made the ball easier to catch, I was told. OK, now go to the old Big Eight fields, where they mostly ran the ball in an option attack. Look at the crowns on those fields. They gave new meaning to the words "running downhill." It gave backs such an advantage coming off that crown that it made them tough to scout because they weren't going to have that advantage in the NFL. It also made quarterbacks in that conference tough to scout because throwing off a crown has a tendency to make passes toward the sideline sail high. Yeah, you can impact the game dramatically by playing with the ball and the field.

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