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Packers' evolution not a mistake


Mike from Bridgeport, CT

A few weeks ago you mentioned making the playoffs as opposed to winning the Super Bowl as being one of the NFL's dirty little secrets because it fills your stadium. I couldn't agree more. To take it a level further, the goal is to win the division. It guarantees you a home playoff game. Gain homefield advantage and now we're talking. Of course, we've seen recent success by wild-card qualifiers, but how important is hosting playoff games to a franchise's revenue and long-term success?

If you mean to a team's immediate revenue, the answer is not much because the league takes all of the ticket money for postseason games. As it pertains to long-term success, hosting playoff games is critically important because it means you're winning and winning is at the root of all success. Winning sells tickets, sponsorships, concessions, parking, merchandise and a lot more. Losing is much more difficult to sell.

Kevin from Kennewick, WA

With all the questions about practice squad players, it's understood that to be picked up by another team they must be signed to that team's active roster. My question is if that player doesn't pan out the way the team that signed him had hoped, are they allowed at that point to put him on their own practice squad and is there a minimum time by rule they have to stay on the active roster?

After signing a player off another team's practice squad, that player must remain on your active roster for three weeks of the regular season. At that point, you may cut him and, should he clear waivers, sign him to your practice squad. It's a common practice. Coaches are using the practice squad as a supplement to their active roster. If injuries deplete their active roster at a particular position, they'll sign to their practice squad a guy or two that play that position.

Mark from Toledo, OH

This is more of a comment. One thing that has bothered me during all the league coverage in the past week is that commentators, when discussing the reasons for playing for the San Francisco 49ers, they throw around words like tradition and heritage. Really? The San Francisco 49ers? Look, I don't want to take anything away from Bill Walsh, maybe the best coach of all time. He invented the game, as we know it. And Joe Montana is always the top vote-getter for greatest quarterback (only because most living people didn't see Johnny Unitas). Over 13 seasons, the Niners won five Super Bowls, a great run. However, this is a franchise that did nothing in its first 35 years of existence and has been mostly a doormat in the past 17 seasons. Heritage? Tradition? These are words that should be saved for more deserving franchises.

Read on the 49ers' history, Mark. I think you'll be surprised by what you discover about their history and tradition. Did you ever hear of the "Million Dollar Backfield?" It consisted of Y.A. Tittle, John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry and Hugh McElhenny. They're all in the Hall of Fame. McElhenny, "The King," is the best running back nobody knows about. Pride is a wonderful thing, but we shouldn't allow it to cause us to look down our noses at other franchises. Five Super Bowl titles and "The Catch" are pretty good. Hubris goeth before a fall.

Donald from Jacksonville, FL

This year, more than any other year I can remember, strange things are happening. I have never heard so many reports of players voluntarily renegotiating their contracts for the betterment of the team. Also, many contracts are now being fully guaranteed. Are these changes a product of the new CBA? Can you elaborate?

We didn't have a salary cap. Now we do. That's why players are restructuring or extending their contracts. They are helping teams transition back to a salary cap system by helping their teams find the room they need to fit under this year's cap.

Teddy from Madison, WI

I get that the Eagles are trying to build their team to beat the Packers, but are Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie really going to help that much? In the playoff win, Jennings and Jones combined for just two catches for 17 yards. Meanwhile, we got 123 yards out of Starks on the ground and played the short-passing game with slants and screens, etc. I get that Nnamdi's man-coverage skills will free up a safety to play run and blitz, but Finley will return and command double-teams. Doesn't that basically make it a wash? The way I see it, we still have the same advantage over their defense that we did last year. Thoughts?

I've been averaging about 10 questions a day for the past several months, asking me if the Packers would try to sign Nnamdi Asomugha. Another team signs him and now, all of a sudden, he's unimportant? Accept the challenge. That's what makes this fun. The Eagles are gonna be a better team this year. I expect the Falcons will be a better team, too, as well as some other teams in the NFC. I also think the Packers are gonna be a better team because what we saw from Aaron Rodgers late last season was, in my opinion, his move up to the next level, and I think he's got another level or two left in him. The anxiety you feel about the Eagles is real. It's a healthy emotion because it breeds respect.

Tom from West Chester, PA

What I do not understand is why Ted Thompson would not even entertain signing Cullen Jenkins. For the past two seasons, he was their best defensive line pass-rusher. He played with a broken hand last season and still had seven sacks. He is only 30 and was a good influence on Raji and Neal. Neal is a big risk. Who do they have to step in? Did you ask Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson this question?

Let's do this: Let's wait until the end of the season, and then re-visit the matter and decide then if Thompson made the right decision. Is that fair?

Tom from Richmond, VA

How do you feel about no two-a-days?

I don't like it. I think it's a big loss for low-round picks and undrafted free agents that made their mark in two-a-days by being tougher and more spirited in their pursuit of a roster spot than other players that were drafted higher or had bigger names. You want examples? I can give them to you. I can't help but wonder how many Donald Drivers won't make it now because they won't have as many opportunities to prove themselves. Ted Thompson says he's new-school, and I think that's a wonderfully intelligent thing to say because personnel directors and head coaches have no choice but to be new-school if they want to succeed in today's game. Well, I'm old-school and dumb, and it's my belief that we're changing too quickly. It's my belief that we're throwing out too much of the old and we're throwing it out for a lot of wrong reasons. Player safety is a good reason for change, but it's become a one-size-fits-all reason for everything. I think we're hiding behind it. In a lot of ways, it's become an excuse. Football is a tough game for tough guys. Two-a-days identify the tough guys.

Shannon from North Little Rock, AR

Randy Moss? Hall of Fame? A wise man said that if you have to make an argument for a player's inclusion, then maybe that player doesn't belong. Thoughts?

In my opinion, the main task of the Hall of Fame selection committee isn't to put people into the Hall of Fame, it's to keep them out. The Hall of Fame is the place for the most elite performers in the game's history. Election to it must never, ever be softened. In my opinion, when a player is nominated for election, every attempt should be made to find reasons and build an argument for not electing him. When you can't find reasons to keep a guy out, that's a guy you wanna put in. I can find reasons to keep Moss out.

Jon from Arlington Heights, IL

Love the column! With teams going more and more toward the passing game, they are getting lighter as well. It seems to me that, one day, a GM is going to have the philosophy that he can build a team of big guys and dominate the game that way once every other team goes for quick but light. You agree?

It could happen, but not in the foreseeable future. I'm learning a lot from covering the Packers. I'm learning about the new game of professional football because the Packers have clearly embraced it and they are the reigning Super Bowl champions. One thing that has struck me about the Packers is that this is not a big football team. They do not knock your eyes out with size and that's because the Packers' schemes trend toward smaller, more mobile players. The 3-4 trends toward short, squat linemen and lighter, quicker linebackers. Zone-blocking tends to attract the same kind of bodies; guys that can slide and re-direct, instead of drive and mash. Running backs need to be able to catch the ball on the run, and you'll find more of those guys in the 200-220 range than you will among the pounders. The Packers are the modern game. They evolved more quickly than the competition, and that's one of the reasons they're the champs. By the way, it wasn't by mistake.

Jeff from Lakeway, TX

How is Jermichael Finley doing?

Based on what I saw at last night's practice, he's doing very well. His participation is still limited, but I watched him closely in a passing drill last night and I couldn't help but stare. Wow! What a talent. He's the one guy whose size and body type grabs your eye. He's the guy I'd want getting off the bus first.

Jake from Torrance, CA

Are the Packers still the best team in the NFC this year, or is it the Eagles now? I would say the Packers are, just because of how poor the Eagles are at linebacker.

The Eagles sure have gotten the attention of Packers fans. I've gotten a ton of e-mail from readers that want to say the Eagles aren't reason for concern. Thou doth protest too much?

James from Waukesha, WI

I have always wondered what the difference is between all the free-agent titles, so to speak. For instance, what differentiates a restricted free agent from an unrestricted free agent? Also what does being tendered mean for a player?

The difference between an unrestricted free agent and a restricted free agent is one accrued season. A player becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires following four accrued seasons. A player becomes a restricted free agent when his contract expires following three accrued seasons. An exclusive-rights player is a player with two or fewer accrued seasons and whose contract has expired. A UFA is free to sign with any team in the league, but he can be tagged a "franchise" or "transition" player, which carry with them provisions for compensation to the team tagging the player. An RFA is often tendered an offer by the team that owns his rights. The level of that tender offer determines the degree to which the player's team would be compensated should the player sign a contract from another team, and the level at which the player would be paid should he not sign with another team. An exclusive-rights free agent has no choice but to play for the team that owns his rights, or not play.

Neil from South Range, WI

I know we are only a few practices into training camp, but what are your early impressions of Cobb? I like what I've read about him. Your thoughts?

He's a natural football player. Everything comes easily to him. All that's left to know about him is, in my opinion, does he have the speed to be special?

Mike from Freeport, IL

Are the Packers going to make a splash in free agency after not resigning Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz?

The ranks of big-name free agents are thinning. I wouldn't be surprised should the Packers sign a player or two in free agency, but I'm not expecting a splash-type signing.

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