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Packers are the standard; they're the target


Jay from Squam Lake, NH

You said in a recent column regarding roster cuts, "Most of these guys will resurface somewhere else in the league." With 22 cuts from every team in the league, how is this possible? Want to clarify your answer?

You start with eight practice-squad players that will be added to each team. That takes each team up to 61 players in their locker room, not counting players on any of the reserve lists. Right away, some of those 22 guys that were cut are going to be signed to practice squads. Along the way, there will be injuries, players will be signed from the practice squad to the active roster, and players from the ranks of those that were cut that are still on the street will take the place of those players that were moved up from the practice squad to the active roster. The big haul in reclaiming players from the list of those that were cut comes immediately following the season, when rosters swell to 90 "active." Teams scout the ranks of the street free agents intensely and compete to add the best of those players to their offseason rosters. I would expect that very few of the players the Packers released this summer will get on with their life's work. NFL rosters are very, very fluid.

Jay from Chicago, IL

Do current NFL players smoke or is there an unwritten rule that players don't for their career?

How about the rule of common sense? I can't remember the last time I saw a player smoke a cigarette, yet, when I was a young reporter, ashtrays were mounted on each player's locker stall. It was common for players to smoke. It was common for coaches to smoke. Players, coaches and reporters smoked on the team charter. It was part of the sports culture. Then came a period of transition. I remember lighting a cigarette on a bus ride to Cleveland. "Put out that cigarette," a wide receiver named Jim Smith barked. I rubbed it out. A few minutes later, a cloud of smoke flew over the top of my head, and I thought to myself, "Oh, Smith's gonna bark at that guy." But Smith said nothing. Another cloud passed overhead, and again Smith said nothing. I had to know who was sitting behind me, inviting the wrath of Smith, so I turned to look. It was Jack Lambert, and he was smoking and laughing, and Smith said nothing.

Robert from Monroe, MI

It seems to me our schedule is favorable due to the fact that we have five away games in domed stadiums and we play very fast on those surfaces. What's your opinion, Mr. Vic?

I think that's a good observation. Yeah, the Packers play a dome style of football. I don't think that means that a team that plays in cold weather can't win in cold weather, but the Packers' style of play means it can and has won big games, and in the postseason, in domes.

Richard from Davis, CA

Would you say the Packers follow a BAP strategy in filling out the practice squad, or do they take other factors like positional need into account?

Ted Thompson recently said practice squad decisions are based first on talent and second on position.

Randall from Zarczyce Duze, Poland

Vic, I understand the trend in the NFL has been to the passing game and the passing statistics are piling up, but could you ever see it reversing with emphasis on defense or more focus on running the ball?

Not in my lifetime.

Charles from Statham, GA

How does the waiver process work? We hear of a player being cut and then having to clear waivers before they can be signed to the practice squad. What happens if multiple teams want to claim someone off waivers?

Teams wanting to acquire a player that's been waived have 24 hours to put in a claim for that player. At the end of the 24 hours, the league awards the player to the team highest on the waiver order that put in a claim for the player.

Alan from Holtville, CA

You said getting run on feels bad, but I think more than that, it hurts our chances of creating turnovers. We are a defense that thrives off the interception, and a team that can run on us limits those opportunities. Do you agree?

That's one way of looking at it. Having your offense spend the afternoon on the bench isn't a good thing, either. What I mean by feeling bad about being run on is that getting pushed out of the way eats at the very core of a football team. It threatens its manhood. Stopping the run isn't as schematically important as it once was, but it feels every bit as bad as it ever did.

Kris from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, who was the last Packer to wear the number one?

Curly Lambeau is the only Packers player to have worn the number one. It appears Curly had a plan.

Brandon from Ellenwood, GA

Why is it important for the commentator to let the TV audience know what college conference the officials are from when officiating a non-conference game at a neutral site? Does it really matter what conference the officials are from?

We are a suspicious people, aren't we? I guess it's been passed down through the generations, and for good reason. Once upon a time, it was common for teams to get "jobbed" when it crossed regional lines. I'm not going to point any fingers, but let's just say there was a heavy price to pay for Gettysburg. That stigma remains. It wasn't always a north-south thing. Notre Dame felt it was jobbed out of the national title in 1964 on a holding call at USC in the final game of the season. The next time Notre Dame played at USC, they hung a 51-0 "job" on the Trojans, just to make sure they had overcome all obstacles.

Bobby from Upland, CA

Vic, be honest, do you really know anything about football or do you have people who do all the research for you? Or do you just enjoy the things you remember?

I greatly enjoy the things I remember. They are my most valued possessions. Memories make us rich.

Michael from Mason, TX

A few days ago you mentioned "split contracts." What exactly does that mean?

It means a team doesn't have to pay the full salary of an injured player who has a split contract.

Matt from Albany, NY

Vic, how far in advance do teams start planning for the next year's draft?

Soon after the college football season begins, the area scouts are in the field and pounding their beats.

Blaine from Bloomington, IN

There were a few players coming into the preseason that we were excited to see what would happen. What was the difference that you witnessed that led to the decision of cutting them and some of the others?

This is a performance-based business, so it always starts with that, but there are several factors that come into play when cutting a roster. One of those is this: Is a player likely to be claimed or signed by another team? If the answer is no, then he's a guy you can "keep" without keeping him. The intent is to maximize the depth of the talent available to you. If you think a guy you cut will remain available to you, then that might be an advantage you want to exercise. Just because you cut a guy doesn't mean you don't want him. There are a lot of accomplished players in this league that went through the cut-sign, cut-sign process. The roster is fluid. As Ted Thompson says, the "final 53" is never final.

Steven from Weiser, ID

How much of an impact is Alex Green expected to make at running back this season?

I think our expectations should include a tolerance for the recovery he's making from knee reconstruction.

Paul from Roseville, CA

If my math is right, the Packers kept 10 rookies on the 53-man roster. What is the typical average for most NFL teams?

I don't know what the league average is for this year, but in recent years it was common to see teams keep 5-7 rookies on their 53. The Packers are a draft-and-develop team. That philosophy tends to favor youth.

Del from Sterling, IL

When was the advent of the zone-blocking scheme and who were the first one-cut backs? Who were the best one-cut backs?

Alex Gibbs is widely known as the father of the zone-blocking scheme. He used it successfully at Denver, where Terrell Davis was extremely successful in it. Gibbs brought the same system to Houston, where Steve Slaton was a star in it. It's a system that has made stars out of no-name backs.

Tim from Cincinnati, OH

Who is Barclay, Don?

He's the winner of the young offensive linemen sweepstakes. When OTAs began, I was impressed by the number of good-looking rookies the Packers had on their offensive line. Early on, Barclay and Shea Allard impressed me. In training camp, I was intrigued by Greg Van Roten. Barclay is a product of a spread offense at West Virginia that employed huge line splits. The one thing you know about an offensive lineman coming out of that system is that he can move his feet, because they have to be able to block in space. That's a good thing when it comes to getting out ahead of the back in the stretch play.

Robert from Kent, OH

Vic, with the season ready to begin, what teams do you think present a challenge to the green and gold?

Stay in the division. The Lions and Bears are for real. The Packers are the standard in the division. They're the target. Everybody will be ready to play their best football against the Packers. You don't have to look far to find challengers.

Steve from Toronto, ON

I know your preseason MVP is Walden, but how can you not give it to Boykin?

What Jarrett Boykin did to make the Packers' roster is nothing short of fantastic. He was cut by the Jaguars after their rookie camp. He was signed by the Packers as a tryout player in their rookie camp. The Jaguars are a team trying to rebuild their wide receiver corps and the Packers are a team with arguably the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, so what realistic chance did Boykin have of making the Packers' "final 53"? His is truly a rags-to-riches story. These are the stories that define training camp. I forget what happened in the preseason games, but I never forget the Jarrett Boykins.

John from Duluth, MN

We all know about the guy who beckons each cut player to the office when it's time to trim the roster. What about the bubble guys who make it? Did someone call, for example, Boykin and tell him he made it?

I don't know for sure what the answer to your question is, but I've never known the "Turk" to call the guys that made it, only the guys that didn't make it. In the old days, cuts were made on Labor Day, so some players had to wait the whole weekend to find out whether or not they made it. Tony Dungy tells the story from when he was a rookie, of thinking they'd call the guys that made it. When nobody called Dungy, he was sure he had been cut. He was despondent for two days, until finding out he made the team when he reported to practice on Labor Day and the helmet hanging at his locker stall had two numbers on the front where there had previously been none. Welcome to the majors, Mr. Hobbs.

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