Gilles from Rumelange, Luxembourg
According to NFL.com, almost 92 percent of fans are against the new kickoff rule. I think it's nice to see a returner take it back to the end zone. On the other side, I can also understand that they try to protect the players, although it's still football. Can the NFL change the rules again and go back to the old rule?
Sure they can, and I have no doubt the kickoff rule will be revisited by the competition committee and during owners meetings in the offseason. I'm sure the NFL is collecting data pertaining to the new kickoff rule and it'll weigh safety gains against loss of action in deciding whether to retain it, reshape it or return to the old rule. I don't like the new rule. I think a lot of action has been taken out of the game, plus, we're still seeing injuries on kickoffs. Alex Green was just lost for the season on a kickoff play. If I had to vote right now, I would elect to go back to the old rule, but I think we need to let this whole season play out before we decide on the rule's fate. I don't think we'll see the real impact of the new rule until we reach the cold-weather games, when the ball won't make it to the back of the end zone. The kickoff-return will make a triumphant return in November and December and special teams coaches will have to react accordingly.
Matt from Fort Wayne, IN
Looking ahead to the 2012 NFL draft, who do you view as the top offensive (besides Luck) and defensive players in the draft?
On offense, top prospects include Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro, Michael Floyd and Matt Kalil. On defense, Quinton Coples, Zach Brown, Dre Kirkpatrick, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Thompson, Alfonzo Dennard, Luke Kuechly, Dont'a Hightower, Jared Crick and Devon Still.
John from Holland, MI
Can you give us any insight into the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and Coach McCarthy? Is it all business or is it more than that? Does Aaron ever get involved in the game-planning or is that strictly handled by the coaches?
The relationship? One is the coach, the other is the quarterback. Yeah, I would describe it as a business relationship, but coaches and their quarterbacks are inexorably linked and they develop a bond that is unique to that between the coach and players at other positions. Game-planning is done on Tuesday, the players' day off, and it is done by the coaches, but Mike McCarthy and Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin know what Rodgers likes to do and they'll shape the game plan accordingly.
Matt from Jacksonville, FL
I used to be able to vividly imagine the setting when you described your office at the stadium here. I enjoyed hearing about the smell of damp grass creeping in at this time of year. Any chance you could set the scene for me in your new setting?
In Jacksonville, my office was just down the hall from the locker room and the tunnel to the field. When the doors to the tunnel were open, and that was often the case, it was almost like working outdoors. It always let me known I was covering a football team and I liked that very much. My office at Lambeau Field is on the third floor. There are no field smells, however, it only requires a few steps to walk out a door and through one of the portals to the seating area in the stadium, and I often stretch my legs by making that walk. On good days, I'll sit down and look at the field, and I always look at the spot at THE end zone. That's my point of reference for the Packers. It always lets me known I'm covering a football team, and I like that very much.
Matt from Grand Rapids, MI
Mason Crosby is on a roll right now. His critics say he's too inconsistent. Do you see his success this season as a sign of long-term success?
Do his critics know he's 14 for 14?
Mike from Bussey, IA
When a player is fined by the league for an in-game infraction, does the player really pay the fine or does the team sometimes pick up the tab? Also, what happens to the money?
The fine is deducted from the player's paycheck. The league has an army of auditors that make sure everything is on the up and up. The league donates fine money to charity.
Keith from Annawan, IL
I realize the Packers are a passing team. My question is if the run-game really started to shine in a game, would they stick with it or, just because they are a great passing team, would they still throw more? I like all phases of the game, but I guess I have always liked to see a good running game.
My guess is Coach McCarthy would stick with the running game for a while, but he's never going to abandon the pass. It's just not in his football personality to, as he calls it, "run uphill," which means run against a defense that's stacked against the run. Some coaches like that. They believe in the philosophy of imposing your will by taking what you want, not what the defense is giving you. They believe that's how you break an opponents' spirit. That's old-school stuff. McCarthy is a contemporary coach. He's off the "West Coast" tree. I see a lot of Bill Walsh in Coach McCarthy; he got it from Paul Hackett. "Less Volume, More Creativity" is one of Coach McCarthy's slogans. It means do more with less, and I think it's an interesting concept as it applies to strategy. He believes firmly in the concept of execution, which is a players, not plays philosophy, but Coach McCarthy is obsessed with pencil-whipping his opponents, and I clearly see evidence of that happening. He's a good study. This is not a simple man. There is great depth of football knowledge and acumen behind that play-call sheet.
Kyle from Chicago, IL
I'm wondering what qualifies for a player to be ejected? Week 1, Woodson threw an uppercut and didn't get ejected. This past week, T.J. Lang was blatantly kicked and the guy wasn't ejected.
How about the Ravens player this past Monday? He was ejected for pushing a player in the facemask. Devastating. If you wanna get an appreciation for where the game was and where it is, find some video on Jack Tatum and George Atkinson. What you'll see is head shot after head shot after head shot. You'll see Atkinson punch Russ Francis in the nose, break his nose, and play on. You'll see things that'll make your jaw drop, and those things happened on play after play in every game back then, and seldom was there a penalty or a fine, and I can't ever remember an ejection.
Sean from Round Lake Beach, IL
How impressed were you with Christian Ponder?
I was really impressed with him following his junior season. I thought he would be a strong candidate to be the first pick of the draft the following year, but he injured his arm early in his senior season and was never right the rest of the year. It was expected to hurt his draft stock, but the Vikings stepped up for him after the Jaguars traded ahead of the Vikings and drafted Blaine Gabbert. I have a feeling Gabbert would've been the Vikings' pick had he been available, which just goes to show you how delicate the draft is in how players fall to certain teams. One change in how one domino falls creates a chain reaction. Based on what I saw this past Sunday, Ponder's arm is healed and he's back to where he was as a junior at Florida State. The Vikings got a good one.
Jeff from Saint Paul, MN
Wow! You must have a lot of influence in the NFL. When Charles Woodson was fined for his punch after the play, he had to fork over $10,000. The cost to Brian Robison for his indiscretion? Double!
It's only logical.
Tyler from Pierre, SD
What's your take on McCarthy's, "We're a scheme defense" comment?
I am not aware of that comment but the 3-4 is a scheme defense. It's loaded with blitzes, stunts and twists. It disguises coverage to the point of blitzing corners and dropping nose tackles. That's all high intrigue. Be that as it may, players have to execute those schemes.
Steve from Ithaca, NY
Why does every team dedicate a spot to the long-snapper? Is it that specialized of a skill? Why can't the traditional center do the job?
Yes, it is that specialized of a skill. When I first started covering pro football, the starting center was usually the long-snapper. Ray Mansfield and Mike Webster did the long-snapping on the first teams I covered. These days, a lot of starting centers couldn't get the ball back to the punter. Why? Because long-snapping is a specialized skill and that means starting centers aren't being asked to do it and nobody practices what they don't have to do. It's that way in college football, too. Coaches want their special teams players – kickers, punters, holders and snappers – practicing together on a separate field. Coaches want their special teams players to spend a whole practice on their craft, not just a few minutes. That's why it's a specialized skill.
Brian from Ames, IA
All Packers fans remember Holmgren bolting from Green Bay after two Super Bowl appearances, despite having a young franchise quarterback. What would keep a guy like McCarthy in Green Bay? Will he stay and build a lasting culture like Pittsburgh and New England have? We all would like to see him be around for another decade.
His heart will keep him in Green Bay. This is where he wants to be; that's the difference. You're not gonna lose this one. I promise you.