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Packers-Saints opener lookin' good


Kevin from New Lenox, IL

I have to seriously disagree with you in regards to the players-only workouts that popped up during the lockout. You seemed to dismiss them as almost trivial. You cannot over-emphasize the importance of players getting together and building team chemistry. The fact that they did this on their own shows their passion and desire to be great. I believe team chemistry is one of the most important and underrated aspects of sports. For me, it was just a little alarming to hear that Packers players were not getting together for these players-only workouts. Even if they were just simple drills and workouts, they were building friendships and chemistry.

OK, let's do this. Somebody, please make a list of teams that conducted players-only workouts. When the season is over, let's look at the results. It's a scoreboard business. I don't wanna hear about building friendships; show me the results. Just win, baby.

Mike from Manitowoc, WI

Due to the lockout, do you think teams will put a higher number of higher draft picks on practice squads and, if so, will other teams be more aggressive in raiding other teams' practice squads?

Players on the practice squad are free agents. They can be signed by another team at any time, provided they join that team's active roster immediately. If you put a high-round pick on your practice squad, you are running the risk of losing him. I doubt teams will do that. As far as raiding other teams' practice squads, that's something rebuilding teams do quite often and I would expect that to continue. They use their own roster and practice squad and other teams' practice squads to audition players. Why not? You can find talent on practice squads. A lot of top players have spent time on practice squads.

William from Jacksonville, FL

For years, you grumbled about the "Underwear League" that were OTA practices. Now that you've had an offseason without them, do you see them in a new light?

I'm keeping an open mind. We're gonna find out in this season what they're worth. If there's no drop-off in performance, then they weren't worth much. If, on the other hand, the contribution of rookies is hamstrung by a lack of preparation time, then OTAs do, in fact, have worth. My problem with OTAs wasn't the time that was put into them. My problem with OTAs is the attention and respect afforded them. It was almost as though they had become their own spring league. We crowned top-performing players as "Underwear League" MVPs and we predicted great things for them, which was ridiculous because football is a contact game and OTAs aren't. When training camp arrived and the pads went on, we discovered that the star wide receiver of the spring couldn't get off the jam, or the star punt-returner got nervous when the "bullets" were real, or the hotshot quarterback dropped his eyes in the pocket when rushers didn't have to pull up. At the end of OTAs a few years ago, a coach was asked if anybody had won a job with their performance that spring. The coach stared at the reporter that asked the question, and then said, "In the spring?" That's how I feel about OTAs. I think they're great for teaching but bad for evaluating, and way too much evaluation is done in OTAs.

Brent from Cedar Grove, WI

One of the best parts of the free agency period is the signing of undrafted guys. Have you ever covered a player like Frank Zambo or Sam Shields in the past?

I've covered plenty of them. Donnie Shell was an undrafted player who collected four Super Bowl rings, was one of the best strong safeties in the history of the game and has been a multiple nominee for the Hall of Fame. I covered an undrafted player in Jacksonville named Montell Owens. In his rookie camp, he was so far down the depth chart at running back that he was moved to safety in the middle of camp when injuries depleted that position. I remember thinking to myself, "Poor guy; how hopeless does he have to feel?" Yeah, and then he made the team covering kicks and last season he was in the Pro Bowl.

Max from Atlantic Beach, FL

With so much time lost in the offseason, is it likely the power-running teams will be dominant in September?

I think it'll be just the opposite. Power football usually improves with time. Power teams usually play their best football late in the season. I think the scheme teams will dominate early in the season. I think there'll be an opportunity early in the season to overwhelm opponents with scheme, especially if you already have an accomplished group of players you've been able to keep intact. The Packers are such a team. So are the Saints. That should be every bit the headline game it was intended to be when it was scheduled.

Aaron from Denver, CO

How are the owners paid with shared revenue, by the league or directly by TV?

Teams at the bottom of the revenue rankings, based on the degree to which they qualify for a revenue share, are compensated from a pool of money that is created by teams at the top of the revenue rankings. There are payees and payors. The Packers have always been a payor since the program began as part of the 2006 CBA.

Tim from Fleming Island, FL

What did the fans really miss? We had the combine. We had the draft. We are going to have four preseason games and 16 regular-season games.

You're right. Do you remember what I said when the lockout began? I said don't get emotionally involved in this. Don't let the exchange of rhetoric cause you to pick sides because you'll feel betrayed when those two sides hug each other at the press conference that announces a new deal. Yesterday, as I watched Jeff Saturday and Bob Kraft hug at the press conference that announced this new CBA, I thought to myself, some things never change. We always knew it was going to get done because sane men would never allow something as successful as the NFL to be idled by rhetoric. All we had to do was be patient.

Mike from St. Paul, MN

What constitutes what day a team can start camp? I've noticed different start days for the teams.

Count back 15 days from a team's first preseason game and that's the day it may begin practicing. The Packers' first preseason game is Aug. 13. The Packers' first practice is Saturday, July 30.

Matt from Lisle, IL

I know the new CBA doesn't allow for two-a-day practices, but is there a way around that for coaches? (i.e. making the second practice "optional?")

In other words, find a way to cheat the spirit of the CBA, if not the actual rule itself. What is happening to us in sports? Why do we think it's OK to cheat? Here's my suggestion: Let's live according to the rules in this CBA and see what results. Maybe the players have a better idea. Maybe we'll get a safer game without sacrificing quality. Let's give them a chance to show us what they have in mind.

Chandler from Jacksonville Beach, FL

What are your thoughts on the rookie pay scale?

I still don't understand it fully. Apparently, there are limits to which first-round picks can be compensated, though I'm not absolutely sure what those limits are. I know fall-off-a-log incentives have been eliminated. Mark Murphy said contracts for first-round picks will be reduced by 30-40 percent. He told me, "Too much money had been going to unproven players," and I agree with him. Contracts to players drafted in rounds 2-7 will be unaffected; this is strictly a first-round thing and one of the features of the limits put on first-round money is that agents won't be able to move money away from the 2-7 picks to pay first-rounders. I like that.

Jim from Neillsville, WI

Under the new CBA, who are the Packers' free agents?

The following players are unrestricted free agents: Atari Bigby, Daryn Colledge, Mason Crosby, Korey Hall, Brandon Jackson, Cullen Jenkins, James Jones, John Kuhn, Anthony Smith, Jason Spitz and Matt Wilhelm.

Mike from Buffalo Grove, IL

What are your thoughts on the salary floor being at 89 percent? I think it will preclude a team from building like the Packers have built themselves. To have a true youth movement, doesn't part of that have to do with getting rid of high-priced veterans and going with low-priced rookies?

The floor should have no bearing on that. First of all, I was told there's a one-year exemption from the floor in this CBA. If Mike Brown doesn't want to spend to the floor this season, he doesn't have to do that; the league will pay to the players the difference. As Mark Murphy said in the editorial I did yesterday, the salary cap system is perfect for teams with a draft-and-develop philosophy. How do you reach the floor with young players? By front-loading contracts, which will buy you cap room down the road, should you wish to use it on a particular UFA that might be just the piece of the puzzle you need to get over the hump.

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